Monday, 23 september 2019 | Redacción CEU
New advances always generate uncertainty. Change is not easy, especially when we experiment it at full speed. However, the technological development and its dizzying pace are leaving a footprint in the world we live in. On the one hand, we enjoy numerous benefits: vacuum cleaners work alone without any human control, kitchen robots prepare meals with little support, our smartphones’ apps inform us of where our cars are parked, we raise our voice at home and a virtual assistant meets our demands,... On the other hand, this new distribution of tasks raises red flags: What does it mean to delegate more and more activities to AI? Where are the limits of this technological revolution? Do we really understand how this type of technology works? Do virtual assistants work as a worldwide spy network? Will robots end up stealing our jobs?
When talking about the future of technology, all our concerns are raised. For decades, the world of fiction has been warning us of the apocalyptic future that could await us: in books like A happy world, movies like Matrix or series like Black Mirror, to name a few. In fact, some of these productions have not been entirely wrong. While we are far from living in a dystopia of epic proportions, it is true that, when technology advances, ethics must be more present than ever. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing some important areas of our freedom.
One of our biggest concerns in the new digital era is the preservation of privacy and security. Nobody likes to think that someone is watching, listening or recording what they are doing at any moment. On the other hand, there are many who think: Who can be interested in what I do? I have nothing to hide! Although our data seems harmless or insubstantial, it is really valuable. Those who have access to it may know what we need, what expectations we have, how we behave, who we prefer to be with, who we plan to vote for and, even, what we are most afraid of. That is the reason why it is reasonable to ask ourselves: To what extent is someone making use of our data?
Last year, Facebook was involved in one of the largest investigations which has ever been conducted into a technology company. The case, which was initiated as a result of the misuse of the data of 87 million users by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, led Zuckerberg’s company to accept a commitment of transparency and a historic fine of five billion dollars. On top of that, the company's reputation has been questioned recently again, due to an alleged new security breach that might have affected 419 million of its users' number phones.
Facebook is not the only tech corporation that has attracted the attention of the press because of privacy problems. Last month, Apple apologized for listening in to the conversations of its virtual assistant "Siri". The firm did it after it came to light that a team of external workers were responsible for listening and analyzing users’ conversations. The company has formally announced the cessation of this practice and the establishment of new standards for its virtual assistant. In addition, Google and Amazon have also initiated changes to their privacy policies due to similar cases.
The relationship between robotization and unemployment is another concern being raised among the population. The study called How Robots Change the World carried out by Oxford Economics concludes that for every robot that starts to work in the manufacturing industry two people lose their jobs. According to this analysis, during the last 19 years this trend has done away with 400,000 jobs in the industrial sector in Europe, being Spain one of the most affected countries (from 3.11 million workers in 2002 the country moved to 2.58 in 2016). In fact, the study’s forecast is not optimistic: a loss of 2 million jobs in 2030.
If we had to think about what would be the worst action that a robot could conduct, we would surely point out killing. But who would be able to program a robot to carry out such a task? The truth is that there are already autonomous weapons that do not need human beings who control them to kill. They make these kinds of decisions without emotions such as compassion or the ability to adopt a complex ethical approach. This type of technology has many detractors, from numerous organizations to the UN itself. However, an international agreement has not been reached about its use and development yet.
Undoubtedly, technological development is a symbol of progress, but as long as it is accompanied by strong ethical values. How to get these to be reflected in the industry? We have listed a significant number of cases that may concern us, but, in parallel, work is being done on the development of increasingly consistent legislation (like the GDPR), as well as on new disciplines that are born such as legal tech. Employees themselves and trade unions may also play a key role in this technological future. This is defended in an article by Maria Jesús González Espejo, the professor of the Master’s Degree in Legal Tech of CEU IAM Business School.
Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of matters such as compliance and new types of leadership. To successfully face the changes that await, organizations have to be flexible and innovative, but, above all, they must develop a strong ethical sense and take care of both their human capital and their environment. That also implies ensuring the protection and safety of everybody.
CEU IAM has designed an International MBA which is fully adapted to the requirements of the current business environment. Its main goal is to train the leaders who, in the near future, will boost their businesses within a changeable and global scenario, by ensuring that they have everything they need to do with clear values and remarkable ethics.