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Ethics in fourth industrial revolution

3 questions about the ethics of technological developments

"Technological progress is key to the fourth industrial revolution."

Transformation always comes with new questions: are robots taking over our jobs? Will artificial intelligence become smarter than we? Besides the many advantages that Industry 4.0 brings, there are some ethical issues that need to be addressed. We give it a try to answer three of them.

Question 1: which technologies should be developed, and more important, which not?

Technological progress is key to the fourth industrial revolution. 3D printing, robots and internet of things are essential in the change of the manufacturing industry. However, with the development of new technologies also come ‘bad’ ones. Think of autonomous lethal weapons or militarized robots. In addition, technology to alter climate changes exists, but the effects are still unclear.

Our answer: of course, technologies that help to optimize our processes are important to develop. However, it is very hard to prevent technologies from being developed. Governments could adopt laws to regulate the development of certain techniques. Still it will be difficult to reverse the techniques that are already developed. In addition, all positive developments might have a bad side, and the bad ones have a good one. The distinction is blurred.

Question 2: how far can we go?

Curing diseases with technology is coming closer and closer. It might be possible that in the future, every disease can be healed. Also, extending human capabilities is no longer something from the movies. Changing DNA is – although rarely used on humans – a possibility. The same holds for artificial intelligence. We know it exist and we know it can optimize production processes. The possible effects of artificial intelligence however, are completely unclear. To which extend should we embrace these technologies?

Our answer: although some technologies are very important and could help humanity in curing diseases that are now deadly, we should be very cautious in using them. If we just implement everything, the consequences are incalculable. That especially holds for human health, but is also applicable to artificial intelligence.

Question 3: who will determine which technologies will be developed?

Research and development are very important for commercial companies. Therefore, investments in techniques that can be commercially used are large. On the contrary, public enterprises are dependent on money the government provides. This is not always divided equally between sectors. Therefore, not all technologies that might help the society are developed while others are, just because of the availability of money.

Our answer: governments should investigate what areas need extra money to develop significant technologies. Another option is to find investors that are willing to put money in developments they believe in. Just waiting what happens and accepting technologies by default, is not in any case the smartest thing to do.

Source
WE Forum

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