Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and biotechnology/ material science are a few fields recognised as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).
Technology is fundamentally impacting every aspect of our lives. This holds great promise for curing or preventing disease, improving agricultural output and enhancing the quality of life in many ways. However, there is no neutral technology, which makes us deliberate the key ethical dilemmas: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/how-can-we-enjoy-the-benefits-of-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-while-minimizing-its-risks/
- Should technology be developed in the first place?
- How far should we advance this development?
- How should technologfy proceed?
- How will the effects be monitored?
- How can we protect human dignity in an algorithm-based society?
- Do we need to teach ethics to robots?
- Do we need to teach ethics to robots?
Industry 4. 0h-YES
The fourth industrial revolution has the potential to increase global economic levels and the standard of living for people all over the world.
This is largely due to the gains in productivity and efficiency; therefore, more products will be produced with less effort. As the supply increases, the price of the products will fall, which means people can get the same product but pay less for it. People will no longer suffer from “Inadequate supply”. In fact, according to a utilitarianism standpoint, there is great potential to bring happiness and satisfaction. This can be evidenced by looking retrospectively at the introduction of industry 3.0. There was a huge breakthrough after the introduction of automation and computers, which, consequently, clearly led us into ground-breaking developments. Now, with the advent of industry 4.0, having data in storage systems where information can be autonomously exchanged without the need of human intervention, translates to industries taking a huge leap in the improvement of the manufacturing processes.
The technology in industry 4.0 permits the latter’s machines to communicate directly with the manufacturing/business systems, and other departments. Hence, those machines can rapidly adjust their performance accordingly while interacting with different systems. Moreover, smarter and automated machines significantly reduce human intervention, which in return, improves the workers working environment because they have less pressure and can finish their job quicker and easier. This point can be evaluated from a care ethics viewpoint. Here, “people’s abilities and limitations impact moral decision-making” (https://www.vlereader.com/Reader?ean=9781444395709). With the implementation of automation, this no longer becomes an obstacle and the right procedure will be followed. This is especially important because a company will be associated with various other parties and institutions, so relieving the pressure from human judgement should be the correct course of action.
In the traditional manufacturing system, many products are manufactured in a specific way which is very inflexible. On the other hand, in industry 4.0, products can be made by various methods. Very complicated geometries can also be produced, using technology like 3D Printing. Therefore, personalised products can be manufactured such as customised earplugs, teeth guards, even bone implants. These personalised products open new markets and improve people’s well-being. This could potentially take us down a route of ‘eudaimonia’ or the highest good and, “According to Aristotle, the good life is the final goal of human action.” (https://www.vlereader.com/Reader?ean=9781444395709). This is only applicable if the intent is good such as preventing/curing disease or introducing biological mechanisms as stated above. In this way, industry 4.0 can help lift humanity and reach a new moral consciousness. However, this virtue ethics could be just as easily manipulated as through ethical egoism where the founder of a large company may find loopholes to act for self-interest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_egoism
Industry 4.0 introduces robot-made products that substitute employees for the sake of reducing the costs of labour. According to the founder of the Kantian ethics theory, Immanuel Kant, “good will” dictates whether an action is morally acceptable, reducing labour to increase profits is not considered morally acceptable. Reducing employees could result in the decrease of jobs and the increase of unemployment thus snatching millions of families of their primary income for the sake of increasing multi-billion-dollar companies’ profits. With an ever-growing population, which is considered the youth’s world, the upcoming generation will suffer from a lack of jobs. According to D. West, there are 1.7 million robots being used industrially all around the world. Japan is leading the way with 300 000. The question then arises: Is it morally acceptable to cut out a family’s income in order to increase billion-dollar companies
profits? Since the aim is to reduce cost of labour, this leads to cutting people off their jobs, which is not considered an action of “good will”. The primary winners will be company owners who gain from the increase of profit. It is true that by introducing robots, the price of the product will decrease; but, who is it decreasing for? The world already suffers from an increasing inequality between the rich and poor in developed countries, industry 4.0 is only going to widen the gap.
With the advancements in information technology, there are big threats to privacy and people have less control over personal data. The meaning and value of privacy gives rise to problems concerning power, law and ethics. For example, there is a problem with ‘Big Data’. The data entered by the user could be used to make decisions from observing their behaviours i.e. sites visited, browser history etc. (ref https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/it-privacy/)
From a duty of care standpoint this breaches the philosophy completely because there is no moral obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others. This ultimately introduces the question: should the technology be developed? Nowadays people have almost all their details stored online so maintaining privacy and safety is imperative otherwise the consequences could be severe.
Since the use of big data is only benefitting a small number of people and not the remaining percentage. This does not satisfy the majority of the population, therefore can be considered unethical by utilitarianism.
Although there are several drawbacks, following the Machiavellian maxim, “The end justifies the means”, we are for the development of industry 4.0.