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Social Ethics, Technology, and the Future of Work

Imagining the future of education and work without technology is quite impossible. Thanks to online learning sessions and remote work set-ups, education and work can be instantly accessed globally. Artificial intelligence spares individuals from the administrative burden of their roles, and robotics guarantees a drastic improvement in health and safety from construction sites and warehouses. Technology has a vast potential to enhance people's lives and raise general employee well-being.

But there is also the prediction that technology will displace some professions. According to a PwC survey in 2015, 30% of jobs are at the potential risk of automation by the mid-2030s. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this technological transition has accelerated in numerous industries. Additionally, 53% of individuals are anxious about job loss due to automation, according to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer. However, while new technology is invented daily to make work more manageable, it also risks harming employees. For instance, apps and software that focus on improving communication and collaboration have led to an "always-on" culture, leading to a troubling rise in levels of worker burnout. None of the aforementioned results are beneficial to society or business.

Due to the importance of technology for the future of work, individuals and organizations involved in its development have a crucial role to play. Future technology developers will have the ability to influence and alter the lives of millions of individuals whom they will never meet. Such a position in the future workplace has a lot of responsibility.

Businesses driven by technology and civil society can benefit from ethics to better understand how these rising technologies affect the human condition. However, ethics is not a task we should swing by once an afternoon. It is an ongoing activity – conversations regarding how technology shapes or changes our lives as creators, leaders, users, and non-users. We have a good chance of realizing technology's potential as a constructive force in the future of the workplace if we make this discourse an essential component of its development and use.

Tech's New Time

Perhaps since the first wave of the Industrial Revolution, ethics is often not the first to be prioritized in technological evolution. The "move fast and break old things" culture that tech evolution promotes can make it challenging for us to take the time to consider the ethical implications of a new product and engage with a diverse group of stakeholders. In a research published in 2019, an organization named Dot Everyone discovered that 63% of tech employees in the UK claimed they would like more time to look at the ethical implications of their products.

The rapid development of tech evolution also makes it difficult for policymakers, workers, and even civil society to catch up. It can be challenging to strike the correct balance between encouraging innovation and preventing harm. Additionally, the tech pipeline is highly complicated, as it includes a wide range of characters and many new technology features that are challenging even for experts to comprehend. This issue has led to a vacuity of accountability – no one can pinpoint who should be held accountable for a particular part of tech evolution when things go wrong.

But as was mentioned earlier, change is starting. More and more tech professionals are considering the social implications of their work. Investors and consumers are becoming more and more critical of the tech sector. The businesses that take the time to think about the ethical ramifications of their offerings and engage with a diverse range of stakeholders will be the ones that will attract the most outstanding talent, customers, and investors in the future.

Bringing Ethics into Tech Evolution

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a crucial chance to reconsider our relationship with work and technology and to begin creating a future of work that puts people at its core.

Businesses and corporations can begin thinking beyond fixed ethical principles and values statements to get ahead. Instead, ethics should be viewed as a continual activity. They should ensure that tech governance mechanisms are in place to support ethical concerns throughout the digital innovation process and that these are tied to overall corporate governance principles.

Stakeholder engagement is a crucial topic to concentrate on. To reflect the broad influence of technology, businesses must broaden their definitions of stakeholders. This entails bringing in non-users and other unexpected groups early in the innovation process who may challenge a team's blind spots, hearing their unique viewpoints, and keeping continuous feedback loops with them. It's a helpful paradigm because issues frequently occur when a mismatch between various stakeholder groups occurs. This is the core of ethics; it requires ongoing discussion with the goal of better comprehending other viewpoints.

To decide which duties should or shouldn't be performed by technology, corporations, governments, and civil society need to come together to discuss the future of work. Humans excel when it comes to tasks that call for creativity, empathy, and critical thinking. Some analysts believe that labor-intensive businesses may expand despite being far from mechanized. According to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup, communication, customer service, and collaboration were among the most sought-after "human" skills.

Instead of viewing automation as an exercise that directly saves costs, we should be asking how automation can be used to enhance the uniquely human parts of work and improve long-term relationships with others. We can begin to define the function that technology and people can each play in a successful future of work by working together.

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