It’s easy to lose track of what’s important in times of excitement and progress. Corporate Australia cannot push ethics to the backs of their minds when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. Our advancement should be guided by the parameters of fairness and equality.
What brings about an ethical crisis?
We spend months theorizing these occurrences after they happen. They dominate the news; Royal Commissions are announced; organizations spend thousands on experts to come in and pinpoint exactly what went wrong.
While the causes are diverse, there is one feature that typically unites these incidents – an opportunity ripe for exploitation.
When humans are presented with the chance for advancement, we take it. And rightly so! We would be stupid not to capitalize on it. The problem is that our devotion to the opportunity can make us blind to the issues that manifest within.
The classic example is industrialization. The Industrial Revolution promised a transformation of worldwide living standards. We were so set on securing the financial benefits offered that we, until recently, ignored the impact on the environment. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have acted on this chance for growth; but what I am saying is that a sustainable approach might have benefited us more in the long run.
The same applies to AI. Unless executives take a more measured approach to growth, the future will be riddled with crisis-level unfairness.
Take economic inequality as an example. It is estimated by McKinsey & Company that 78% of time spent on predictable physical work such as welding will be displaced by AI. The figures for other types of work are much lower. Upon considering the fact that employees doing predictable physical work tend to be lower paid, we could find ourselves in a position where the gap between the rich and the poor is far greater than it already is.
Research by Anton Korinek and Joseph Stiglitz confirms this fear. They argue
“the primary economic challenge posed by the proliferation of AI will be one of income distribution.” In essence, there are classes of people who may be left behind if executives do not consider them when designing their organization’s approach to AI.
Of course, it would be wrong to ask executives to ignore the benefits of AI so that the existing order is maintained. Central to an executive’s job description is adaptation – when change is coming, it must be embraced. However, this growth needs to be balanced against the need to keep society fair and living standards high. Otherwise, we could find ourselves face to face with another global economic crisis. This is not good for anyone.
But how can executives ensure that their organization’s approach to AI is sustainable?
The answer: a set of ethical checks and balances to ensure that we are more measured in our approach to this opportunity.
‘Learning’ is at the core of IBE’s briefing on the fundamental values under girding the ethical use of AI. This works on two fronts. On one hand, organizational decision-makers need to be educated about the consequences of using AI so that they can take personal responsibility for negative externalities. This will ensure that we do not live in a system where no one is accountable for emerging crises. On the other hand, employees must have the opportunity to learn new skill sets so that they are able to earn a living in a radical new world. We cannot leave them vulnerable to a change we are bringing about; it is our obligation to give them every opportunity to benefit from the future.
This world is one of competition; it is our responsibility to give our organization any edge that we can. But executives must realize that adaptation does not mean impulsively clawing at an opportunity, fearing that it might disappear. It means preparation with an eye to the future. Any good executive can see that our embrace of AI must be balanced against the interests of employees whose jobs might be taken by machines. If it is not, we stand on the edge of a crisis that could completely undermine the benefits of AI.
Executives are smart and principled. Guide your organization into the future without losing touch of the values that separate you from a mindless robot.
Sustainable and ethical adaptation are the foundations of any Complete Leader. Please share this message wherever you can. Contact Melinda Fell for more information.