The implementation of ICT systems and automation of workforce in organizations have created profound concerns for the employment of humans and have been highlighted in majority of media sources. The identification of the case studies of companies such as Foxconn, Amazon and examples of small scale organizations and a critical review of the different cases from the perspective of classical ethical theories such as Deontology, Utilitarianism, Contract theory and Virtue theory. Despite the wide uproar in the media over replacement of human jobs by artificial intelligence, there have been substantial criticisms that point towards the minimal impact of automation on downsizing and reforms in employment (Dekker, Salomons & Waal, 2017).
As per Hammond, the discussion on the ethical issues from the perspectives of the ethical theories would provide viable insights into the credibility of the decisions identified in the different case studies. Furthermore, the outcomes of reviewing ethical issues could also be helpful for drawing justifiable and logical conclusions necessary for resolution of ethical issues. The big question to be resolved in context of this assignment is, ‘Are AI and robots a threat to human employment?’ Some of the common ethical issues which are observed in context of ICT applications include references to privacy, ICT professionalism, intellectual property, community and identity, social inclusion, cyber-crime, security and employment (Hammond, 2017). Employment could be perceived as a major ethical issue in context of the case study due to the application of robots and artificial intelligence for automation of human tasks (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2015). The ethical issue pertaining to employment could be reviewed from the perspective of the four theories in order to determine the rightfulness or wrongfulness of the action of employing robots.
Deontological theory suggests that actions should be guided by moral obligations and the impact of categorical imperatives can be perceived clearly in the case of this theory. The categorical imperatives identified in the ethical theory of deontology include the formulation of universality and formulation of humanity. The imperative of universality is directed towards the assumption that a particular action or principle of action followed by an individual could be assumed as a general rule without contradiction that. The general rule implies that similar actions could be validated in the case of similar scenarios (Kant & Categorical Imperatives: Crash Course Philosophy, 2017).
The ethical concerns of employment identified as a response to the automation of human work processes with AI and robots could be reviewed from the perspective of the formulation of universality that preferences of one organization for automation of its complete workforce could lead to establishment of benchmarks for other organizations to lay off their workforce. However, this can be contradicted on the grounds of formulation of humanity involved as a categorical imperative in deontology.
As per Hammond, the formulation of humanity refers to the factor that humans cannot be used as mere means and can be used only as means to accomplish something. Therefore, organizations with the intentions to replace their human workforce with robots and AI should emphasize on the factor that employees could be assumed as mere means when replaced with AI and robots (Hammond, 2017). Another prominent perspective that can be drawn forward from the critical reflection on deontological theory reflects on the prospects of humans becoming mere means in context of employment due to the large scale employment of robots and artificial intelligence.
The issue of employment identified from the case study could also be reviewed from the perspective of utilitarianism which is also accounted as a profound ethical theory. The principle of utilitarianism is based on the fact that actions are measured on the grounds of pleasure produced by the action. However, the classification of utilitarianism into different forms such as act utilitarianism which could be observed on the grounds of morality of actions is determined by the measurement of good actions that bring good outcomes for a greater number of people (Osawa et al., 2017).
On the other hand, the rule utilitarianism accounted for a wider exposition on the ethical theory of utilitarianism which emphasizes on adhering to certain precedents which lead to the most favourable outcomes for the higher number of individuals possible (Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy, 2017). Therefore on the grounds of act utilitarianism, the employment of AI and robots improves the productivity of the organization and leads to favourable outcomes for a large share of employees in the organization. However, the concerns of the employees that lose their jobs due to this initiative should also be taken into concern for determining morality of actions. Therefore rule based utilitarianism could be applied in the case of ethical issue of employment to reflect on the measures for relocation of the replaced employees (Trevino & Nelson, 2016).
The application of the virtue theory for analyzing the case of probabilities for extinction of human employment due to the large scale introduction of robots and AI for automating human work processes could also be a viable opportunity to identify recommendations for improvement. The profound implication of virtue theory could be observed in the terms of humans as pursuers of virtuousness (Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy, 2017).
According to West, the definition of virtue theory is guided by the objective of Eudemonia which can be depicted as a state where an individual accomplishes a sense of self-achievement. The application of virtue theory in the case of concerns raised over human unemployment due to automation could be a feasible contributor to the resolution of concerns of unemployment anticipated by humans (West, 2015). The different sectors where employment could be subject to risks include references to the ability of humans and the inherent desire to acquire a flourishing life which would enable them to retrain themselves in different skills.
The motivation for accomplishing basic needs as well as realizing basic social requirements could also imply refraining from automation of tasks which are required inherently to establish social contact (Osawa et al., 2017). Therefore, the ethical issues anticipated in context of human employment could be addressed through observing precedents of the virtue theory. Examples of companies which have ensured flexible growth in inclusion of AI and robots in the workforce alongside ensuring substantial improvement in the human workforce indicate that efforts for retraining of human workforce would reduce the concerns of complete decimation of human employment in the coming years.
The issue of employment is observed as a major ethical dilemma in context of the case study of implementing AI and robots in modern workforce. It could also be reviewed from the perspective of contract theory which suggests the presence of contracts to ensure that specific agreements are made to validate morality of actions.
The application of contract theory in resolution of the ethical issue related to employment of AI and robots could be adopted by organizations in which they could provide contracts to human employees citing relocation incentives or retraining and placement opportunities for them (Contractarianism: Crash Course Philosophy, 2017). The prospects for realizing the application of contract theory feasibly in the case of the ethical issue of employment for humans in event of the large scale automation initiatives could be validated on the grounds of trust between the parties in the contract which ensures that employees are able to appreciate the inclusion of robots in the workplace as a reduction of their workload (Dekker, Salomons & Waal, 2017). The contract theory could also be utilized for developing trust of employees in the automation initiatives on the grounds of opportunities for accomplishing complex objectives rather than working on redundant and repetitive tasks.
The review of the case study of large scale employment of robots and AI in contemporary industrial and service based functions provided credible insights into the ethical issue related to human employment. The review was supported by references to four prominent ethical theories which were subsequently helpful for drawing recommendations for resolving the ethical dilemma.
Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #38. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrvtOWEXDIQ
Contractarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #37. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Co6pNvd9mc
Dekker, F., Salomons, A., & Waal, J. V. D. (2017). Fear of robots at work: the role of economic self-interest. Socio-Economic Review, mwx005.
Ferrell, O. C., & Fraedrich, J. (2015). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Nelson Education.
Hammond, R. (2017). A Future Without Work? A.I. Robots and Employment.
Kant & Categorical Imperatives: Crash Course Philosophy #35. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bIys6JoEDw
Osawa, H., Ema, A., Hattori, H., Akiya, N., Kanzaki, N., Kubo, A., ... & Ichise, R. (2017, March). What is Real Risk and Benefit on Work with Robots?: From the Analysis of a Robot Hotel. In Proceedings of the Companion of the 2017 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction (pp. 241-242). ACM.
Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2016). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. John Wiley & Sons.
Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved 15 September 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a739VjqdSI
West, D. M. (2015). What happens if robots take the jobs? The impact of emerging technologies on employment and public policy. Centre for Technology Innovation at Brookings, Washington DC.
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