John, an AI consultant has been working for a certain electric car company. The company in question has in the recent past been dealing with self-driving cars. Intensive testing has been done on the cars and the company feels they are now ready to be launched to the market. Problem is john as the manager of the AI part of the cars does not feel like the cars are actually ready for release and proposes various accident scenarios be modeled to test how well the cars can deal with them. On the other hand the company at large is confident in the cars and wants to launch it and to them john's concerns are just water under the bridge (Beauchamp, Bowie & Arnold, 2004). Briefly, this is what the report aims to look deeply into i.e. the ethical dilemma facing John, some of the consequences that can arise to both the consultant and the car customers should a wrong decision , actions that can be taken be made and consequently some of the recommendations that can be given in this scenario.
The primary issue is in this case whether John should sign off the project and give the cars an approval to pass the road tests (which consequently implies they can be released to the public).
Should he sign off, there is a possibility that the cars may not be able to handle some life and death situations and thus this move will be putting the life of the customers (and other road users) at risk (Beauchamp, Bowie & Arnold, 2004). On the other hand, failure to sign off means the car company's competitors may launch their cars before them, which would take away most of their expected customers. The case thus aims to answer the question, “What should John do?”
The main reason why company makes the decision of manufacturing a certain product is so that they can satisfy a certain human need that humans are willing to pay for. Among the many attributes the said product should have are safety and unrivaled quality. Having said that, it would be wrong for the car company to release a product that is not 100% safe for use and in so doing put people at risk (Bernoth, Dietsch, Burmeister & Schwartz, 2014). In the case of John, as the one responsible for the actions of the AI parts of the car, should accidents occur and injure the user(s) of the car, he will be liable for this. It would thus be prudent for him not to allow the cars to be released at this time until modeling is done and the car proven safe (Board, 2014). The company may decide (or not) to replace him which is fine since he has played his role.
As the project manager of the AI system, John is responsible for ensuring the AI system works as per the requests of the car company. He has communicated the progress of the car learning and its current state to the CEO and the IT managers of the company (Board, 2014). He is also responsible for informing the two on any shortcoming encountered and his fears as far as launching the car is concerned; something he has already done. Being that he is just a contractor who has completed the duties he was hired for, whatever happens from here is all in the hands of the car company and he is not obliged to hold back the release. In this case, he will be required to approve the project (Leicester, 2016).
The world is full of people who would do just about anything to get ahead. To them, it does not matter whether or not they hurt people on the way; money is their only goal. This is just not right. A look at the case at hand, the lives of people in a society are being put in the line of fire (Crane & Matten, 2016). Yes, the company may make more money from this move but what happens to the buyers of these cars, their loved ones should anything happen to them? Same case with the company. Its reputation will be at stake (Ferguson, Thornley & Gibb, 2016). The AI consultant may also lose his credibility in the field. Putting all these factors in place, the best thing to do in this case is to wait, develop the car until it is completely secure (Crane & Matten, 2016). As for late launching, it is often said that good things happen to good people. The company's clients will always be there whether they launch late or not.
In this segment, the Australian code of professional conduct will be applied to the case in question. Below are values and their corresponding requirements that are applicable in this case:
1a - This requirement dictates that whatever decision John is to make should be in the interest of the public, before all others.
1c - John is obliged to raise his concerns about release of the car before it is completely safe for the buyers.
2b - As an IT professional, John is responsible for the safety of clients who use machines that have been developed from some/ all of his works. Same case applies to the car company.
3b - He will be responsible for letting the public know that the cars are not safe in the event the company decides to go ahead and release the cars without waiting for the modeling phase to be conducted.
3e - He will be required to give a comprehensive overview of the issue at hand to the car company concerned parties. In this overview, he will give a clear description of modeling why modelling is important and the resulting consequences should this step be ignored (Ferguson, Thornley & Gibb, 2016).
4c – He will need to follow the set standards for AI systems while developing the system.
4f - Accept responsibility for the AI systems (this should however be applicable after the company has addressed his fears)
6f - John will be required to make a decision that ensures that a substandard good that could endanger human life is released not to the market. This is because the ICT field will definitely suffer in terms of reputation tarnishing because of this.
In a situation where the John does approves the AI components while fully aware that this move could lead to consequences such as an accident, he still will have acted under the ethical code of conduct (Ferguson, Thornley & Gibb, 2016). This is because inasmuch as he did approve, he had prior communicated the situation of these components to the client. This is as far as his powers go and beyond this, he had no control of whatever the created system would be used for. The company was fully aware of the possibility of the cars not being able to respond to certain situations and still went ahead and put them in the hands of the public (Grant, 2016). For John, he is not liable or whatever happens beyond this point.
From the above analysis, the most probable way for John to solve this dilemma is to not approve the AI components until the modeling is done and the cars are seen to be fit for public use. He would however need to come up with measure that ensures that this phase is completed in the shortest time possible and the company does not suffer major loses as a result of this move (Grant, 2016). Some of the reasons for this decision include:
From the analysis done above, it is clear to see that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to dealing with an ethical dilemma. In making such a decision, one needs to consider not only what will be pleasing to the client but also to all other stakeholder more especially the public, who should be treated as the top most priority in any scenario. In the case at hand, the AI consultant is thus left with few choices from which the most appropriate would be not approving the components. Of course this will not sit well with his clients but it’s better than putting the lives of thousands (or even millions) of people in harm’s way. A tough decision but worthy nonetheless.
Beauchamp, T. L., Bowie, N. E., & Arnold, D. G. (Eds.). (2004). Ethical theory and business.
Bernoth, M., Dietsch, E., Burmeister, O. K., & Schwartz, M. (2014). Information management in aged care: cases of confidentiality and elder abuse. Journal of business ethics, 122(3), 453- 460.
Board, B. A. C. (2014). Professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts. Retrieved April, 7, 2016.
Crane, A., & Matten, D. (2016). Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. Oxford University Press.
Ferguson, S., Thornley, C., & Gibb, F. (2016). Beyond codes of ethics: how library and information professionals navigate ethical dilemmas in a complex and dynamic information environment. International Journal of Information Management, 36(4), 543-556.
Ferrell, O. C., & Fraedrich, J. (2015). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Nelson Education.
Grant, R. M. (2016). Contemporary strategy analysis: Text and cases edition. John Wiley & Sons.
Leicester, N. (2016). Ethics in the IT Profession: Does a Code of Ethics have an Effect on Professional Behaviour?.
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