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Artificial Intelligence and the Feeling Economy

December 2019: AI is projected to perform the majority of problem-solving tasks and analytical thinking in future work scenarios. These shifts emphasise the need for education systems and Human Resource Management (HRM) strategies to adapt and support the development of people’s feeling and empathetic skills in the workplace.


A growing body of research suggests that problem solving and analytical thinking, which is currently part of many people’s daily work, may be executed by AI in the future. It has been asserted that this could catalyse a transition from our current ‘thinking economy’ to a future ‘feeling economy’. The study suggests that emotional intelligence and the ability to influence social attitudes and behaviours will be more challenging to replicate via AI. Thus, emotional intelligence may become the primary driver for successfully managing workplace relations and activities. To substantiate these observations, a new study finds that emotional intelligence already drives compensation growth. It finds that in comparing people’s intelligence and personality traits relative to their income, most low-wage workers are underpaid, and highest-paid professionals are overpaid. Nonetheless, the difference in pay is driven by requirements of emotional intelligence and adaptation to the ‘feeling economy’.

Implications & Opportunities

The findings guide businesses in their hiring and HRM strategies. It suggests that business should focus investments into developing their employees’ interpersonal relationship skills, emotional intelligence, negotiation skills, and people management abilities to develop critical skills and to adjust to the requirements of a ‘feeling economy’. The paper further recommends adaptation of education strategies at all stages to accommodate these shifts and to recognise the need for developing emotional intelligence as core element of education systems.


Research into emotional intelligence and the requirements of a ‘feeling economy’ remain in their early stages and should be seen as exploratory models of future work requirements. Further, the transition from a ‘thinking’ to a ‘feeling’ economy is predicted to concentrate on developed countries and should be seen within the context of geographic requirements. Arguably, it also underplays the ability of AI to simulate emotional intelligence.


Huang, M.-H., Rust, R., & Maksimovic, V. (2019). The Feeling Economy: Managing in the Next Generation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). California Management Review, 000812561986343. doi:10.1177/0008125619863436

The New York Times. (2019). If People Were Paid by Ability, Inequality Would Plummet. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.