Is technology replacing us? Sometimes it seems that way. Driverless cars are said to be almost ready to take over the wheel from you and me. A couple of years ago, IBM's Watson supercomputer won TV's "Jeopardy" quiz show, defeating the top-ranked human opponents. And the world chess champion has little chance against the top chessplaying software.
Those are the headline-grabbers, but most of the time, technology isn't replacing us, just making us better at what we do. Let's take the chess example. Several years ago, world champion Garry Kasparov lost a match to a computer called Deeper Blue. That was a milestone, but it wasn't the end of the story. It turns out that the best chess is not played by humans, and it's not played by computers -- it's played by both, working together. This has been the case in recent "freestyle" chess tournaments, which are open to human players, computers, or both. The top freestyle tournaments have been won by "centaurs" -- humans aided by computers. With a centaur, the computer does the heavy number-crunching to come up with a few suggested moves, but the actual decision is made by the human player(s).
This type of arrangement will probably be the norm for the foreseeable future, or at least that's the picture painted by Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT's Sloan School of Management, in his book, The Second Machine Age. Brynjolfsson argues that instead of worrying that we'll be displaced by technology, we should simply take advantage of the ways in which it helps us make better decisions. This trend was identified in a prescient 1960 article called "Man-Computer Symbiosis," by J.C.R. Licklider:
The main aims are to let computers facilitate formulative thinking as they now facilitate the solution of formulated problems, and to enable [humans] and computers to cooperate in making decisions and controlling complex situations without inflexible dependence on predetermined programs... Computing machines will do the routinizable work that must be done to prepare the way for insights and decisions in technical and scientific thinking. 
Sounds a lot like today's Business Intelligence and data analytics, doesn't it? Regular readers of this column know that BI systems are useful because they expand the information available to decision makers -- they're not a substitute for human judgment. When auditors use BI to facilitate Continuous Audit, the system is looking at a company's transactional data to identify potential irregularities -- but the job of making a positive ID is still up to the human auditors.
What does this mean for the executive or manager? Today's BI products give you better insight into how your business resources interact to produce results; this allows you to focus on the higher-value task of decision-making. But even the best software tools need to be used flexibly -- they should serve, not control, decision-making. Just as you sometimes have to overrule your GPS and stay on the Interstate instead of taking a shortcut, even the most powerful BI and analytics systems are just ways to help humans make better-informed decisions.
 Licklider, J.C.R., "Man-Computer Symbiosis." IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, March 1960.