Business ethics: a priority need to integrate automation and organization

Etica aziendale: le 5 sfide principali dell’automazione

Every company that wants to adapt responsibly to the technological push should contemplate a code of ethics, a priority requirement for integrating automation. Automation processes, of course, facilitate quicker and more effective activities, simpler and immediate procedures and, at the same time, represent an important factor for changing human work. 

This is why it is essential to face these changes with the help of an ethical code, which includes dealing with the efficiency of the company and the well-being and technical preparation of its employees.

Machines cannot replace human work. In fact, new figures are increasingly needed to facilitate interaction with computers.

Intelligent automation involves the use of software and hardware tools that make work easier and more efficient and enable the achievement of the business purpose at reduced costs. Naturally, investments will be needed which, in the short, medium or long term, with the implementation of the planned changes, will free up resources for other strategic investments, triggering a cycle that will make constant updating the norm.

Better performance with automation

etica aziendale

As mentioned, the automation of processes will ensure better performance, a substantial reduction in expenditure and a constant and more careful control of company procedures. In addition, by eliminating the possibility of human error, this optimizes the company product or service.

Furthermore, the automated activities, depending on the scalability, will be able to increase or even reduce, as needed, in a rapid and effective way. If we wanted to apply the same concept of scalability to people, once the maximum possible result has been achieved in the given working hours, if it is essential to increase production, this will have to be achieved through support. This involves selecting other personnel, supporting them in turn with the resource responsible for the activity and waiting for the time necessary for them to become independent. 

Yet, it would be sufficient to assign more time to the machine to be allocated to that specific activity or, where parallel work that absorbs the largest volumes is necessary, acquire new automaton. In fact, software can easily be replicated, work 24 hours a day and guarantee speed and precision in the activities of its competence.

The ethical question: the 5 main challenges

From private life to work life, the whirlwind development of artificial intelligence highlights an ethical question. The first unknowns to which we require adequate answers are how to proceed in the planning and implementation of AI and how to deal with the resulting changes.

As mentioned, sociologists and experts on phenomena and trends related to digital innovation have highlighted five main ethical challenges. They concern: the relationship between trust and control that exists between the human being and AI; the shift of responsibilities resulting from the replacement of human activity; the danger that this substitution will reduce the possibility of man’s choice; the possible consequent devaluation of human skills and abilities; the risk that the machine replicates human errors and defects and not simply good qualities.

These challenges must be overcome if you wish to avoid a technology that is badly managed and out of control.

How much trust can you place in a machine?

In the relationship with artificial intelligence, one must consider its difference from us, in terms of a lack of feelings, ideas and intuitions. It ensures the mere performance of a task. How much trust should one place in this, and conversely, how much control should be allocated to AI and human beings? 

Who will be responsible for any errors in the automaton?

In view of the exponential development of AI applications and the consequent decrease in human responsibility, where a malfunction occurs, who will have to answer for it between the programmer, the manufacturer or the owner? This issue certainly requires resolution, where this is not easy, especially in light of differing rules and regulations between states. 

Who gets to make choices?

The rise in trust and delegation of tasks to machines results in increased decision-making power and, specifically, reduces this in the case of the delegator. Think, for example, of home automation systems and ‘intelligent’ voice assistants, which regulate lighting, heating and more in apartments, even if based on parameters set by people. Here is another fundamental issue that will require the intervention of the legislator who, with the help of an expert, will have to draw the dividing line between the usefulness of entrusting tasks and functions and the loss of control over them. 

 

Devaluation or loss of human skills and abilities

The natural consequence of an increase in the levels of automation and trust in artificial intelligence is the debasement of some human skills and abilities. Consider, in particular, some craft activities, from plumbing to carpentry to the creation of artifacts, which, once automated, will no longer be transmitted from the master to the worker and the latter will not learn the trade.

Transferring human error and imperfections to the machine 

Can the human being who is the creator and programmer of a machine transfer imperfections to it? Discrimination in terms of race, religion and gender can be transmitted by the system that receives them, without any filter, whether ethical or rational. Science and technology have no feelings nor intuitions. They are neither good nor bad: it is people who define them, through their use. Therefore, when considering the risks to be faced in the field of AI, it is useful to remember the manifesto of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein against the danger of nuclear power in 1955, and the most recent warning of the Polish physicist Rotblat, who, in withdrawing the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, declared: “Remember your humanity and forget the rest”. 

The ethical question is an integral part of digital transformation

These challenges represent the prerequisites to be taken into account when creating a corporate code of ethics and defining specificities and limits in the use of intelligent automations that support or replace human work. In implementing intelligent automation solutions, it is imperative to consider the ethical ramifications linked to this issue, since digital transformation represents a revolution in the entrepreneur-employee relationship. Increasing awareness of such is required by subordinates and top management of the company alike.

Technology can represent a risk, but if one deepens an understanding of this, it will prove to be a huge opportunity to increase the competitiveness of a company exponentially.

The ethical question will therefore form an integral part of worker training and must aim at preserving the professional figures of today and building those of the future.

This question can be analyzed by looking at the implications on a short or longer term basis.

The short-term problem is the so-called ethical reorganization.

It concerns workers replaced in their job by intelligent solutions. The company ought to implement a professional recovery path that follows the digital transformation trend. It must apply change management policies correctly, in order to guarantee an understanding of the activities to be carried out and favor the retraining of workers.

The medium and long-term problem concerns the training of young people in relation to the work of tomorrow.

 

Many universities are adapting faculties and programs to this epochal change and institutions will increasingly have to favor the alignment of education in light of changing technologies. The flexibility required by the world of work will reward the training systems that will be able to adapt to it more quickly.

Thus, at the beginning of 2019, LinkedIn emphasized the greater importance of the most requested soft skills in the world of work. This analysis highlights the significance of creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management, compared to hard skills linked to the so-called vertical skills and, therefore, to a specific area and sector.

Such soft skills, of course, entail human attitudes that cannot be replicated through automaton.

Professional ethics, in the era of industry 4.0, must emphasize their development and consolidation aimed at adapting education and adopting correct change management and training policies. This will facilitate the integration between man and automaton, in a world inexorably projected to the digital.

A technological evolution, therefore, that combines ethics, efficiency and safety is among the main objectives for companies and institutions in the near future and, succeeding in this, such organizations will ensure awareness and responsibility, where nothing will be left to chance.

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