A technological and ethical revolution

Monday, 3 december 2018 | Redacción CEU

What seemed science fiction yesterday, is now conventional. Distances are shortened, information is democratized, trips last less, tasks are simplified... Society also changes as technology transforms our routine. People talk, interact, eat, work, travel and organize themselves in a different way. Our world is no longer similar to the one of a few decades ago, and this transformation is far from reaching its zenith. There are many changes around the corner, and they may further alter our life model: the arrival of self-driving cars, the power of artificial intelligence in different fields, the data revolution, the breakthrough of robotics, the nanotechnology development,... Many of the future changes are not visible on the horizon yet, but they can be guessed due to the unstoppable progress of new technologies. How to react to them? What role do companies have in this context?

 

When it comes to change, legislation tends to move slowly. Most of these advances will come to our lives before they have been analyzed and evaluated by the strict weighing scales of law. Even when it is able to respond in a quick manner, it may have such little information and experience about them that it will not be able to foresee some of their potential problems. That is why companies will have a fundamental role in the promotion of technological development. Since, on many occasions, just following the rules will not be enough. It will not exempt companies from their responsibilities. Even if they are not legally responsible, they will always be morally and socially.

Main points of conflict

According to the consultancy Gartner, the job of one in five workers will be related to artificial intelligence in 2022. This data no longer surprises anyone, if we take into account that there are machines which can invest for us or robots that can conduct an interview for the selection process of a candidate. In fact, recently the media has echoed the debate within the UN on the danger of killer robots. Of course, this is one of the most extreme and controversial cases, but it warns us about the need to have a strong commitment to human values when it comes to developing and implementing advances in technology.

Not only will companies have to set limits on the use and development of technologies, they will also have to take into account to what extent their boost can affect customers, workers, and ultimately, all people who have direct or indirect contact with them. A large sector of the population is suspicious of the potential benefits of technology. According to the data of the II edition of the Survey on social perception of innovation in Spain that was carried out by the Cotec Foundation and Sigma Dos, half of Spaniards consider that technological innovation increases social inequality and destroys employment. Companies have a fundamental role in this field, they are the ones that must ensure that no one is left behind and that they work in a way that aligns them with a more inclusive society.

Technology moves at such speed that it is normal that the uncertainty about the future generates a certain fear among the population. For example, a McKinsey study claims that 45% of jobs could be automated. This analysis is supported by others like the one of the Institute for the Future (IFTF). This study revealed that 85% of current jobs will not exist in 2030 as we now know them today. In fact, many of them would not have been invented yet. Much of the future of both work and our life model depends on how companies face this process of transformation.

 

A technological and ethical revolution

A strong business culture

All companies have a corporate culture. This is not always evident or coincides with the one that is defended. Whether it is implicit or hidden, it is always revealed in the day-to-day business activity. On many occasions, although it may seem incredible, the goals which are set by the company and the guidelines that govern its behavior are not the same. This is an aspect that in addition to bringing failure forward, it evidences the lack of attention on something that is emerging as a priority issue: the care of shared values and business ethics.

As we have mentioned in other articles, the business culture has a close relationship with success. Even if a company that does not hold these values can survive in the short term, in the long term, it will be harmed by its lack of interest in how it affects what surrounds it. On the other hand, business culture is crucial to design and implement responsibility strategies. In the prelude to this process of integral transformation which is experienced by our environment, it is essential to delve into what has not been paid enough attention to so far. Unwritten rules, business premises, fundamentals and shared values have never been as critical as they are now.

We are in a time of change and that means that we have to make many decisions: Who is ultimately  responsible for the "decision" that makes a machine? Where are the red lines in the development of technology? What automated processes should be supervised? How to do it properly? Which data can be used and which cannot? What tasks should a robot not perform? Is it right to use a certain technology for a specific goal? These questions need particular and accurate answers and they cannot be found if they are not based on ethics.

The CEU IAM Business School provides current and real training that tries to respond to the exponential development of technology and the changes which are experienced by societies and   business networks. Our Global MBA not only aims to prepare the leaders who will have to be able to face the challenges of the new business world, it also pursues to offer an education based on sound values and ethical foundations.