New Technology and New Ethical Dilemmas: A Closer Look at Ethics and the Future of Work

The electric car manufacturer Tesla recently released a beta software update that introduced a “rolling stop” feature to their vehicles’ Full Self-Driving systems. It allows Tesla cars running on autopilot to drive through intersections without stopping if the vehicle does not detect other cars or pedestrians nearby.[1] Not only is a “rolling stop” illegal, Tesla owners have also reported incidents where they nearly hit pedestrians, parked cars, and other hazards while testing the new update in their own vehicles.

Tesla has already issued a recall to remove the software update from over 50,000 vehicles, but the ethical debate surrounding self-driving cars has only been spurred to new heights. Is it ethical for Tesla to test their self-driving software on public roads using their customers instead of trained safety drivers?

This is just one example of how new technology and A.I. can spark conversations about ethics. As we look forward, what are some of the ethical dilemmas businesses must consider regarding their employees, customers, and the future of work in general?

The Ethical Challenges Related to the Future of Work

The intersection of humans and technology is where businesses find new ethical challenges. Could a company reduce labor costs by replacing workers with automation and A.I.? In some cases, the answer is yes. However, shouldn’t the company consider the individual and societal implications of such a move? Depending on the company’s size, hundreds, or even thousands, of employees could be laid off.[2]

As new technology and A.I. are introduced, certain jobs will become obsolete. This will create a skills gap. Many experts predict a major STEM worker shortage in the coming years because of technological advances. Creating upskilling and reskilling opportunities that allow employees to adapt to changing work environments is an ethical solution, but some people will still lose their jobs.

This is only one of many ethical challenges companies need to face. Others include:

  • Should businesses use A.I. and surveillance technology to monitor the workplace? On the one hand, the collected data can help leaders optimize workflows and performance, but on the other hand, it can put unneeded pressure on employees and negatively affect mental wellbeing.
  • Should businesses use A.I. algorithms to speed up the recruiting process? Currently, companies are using A.I. to parse through resumes and offer recommendations for candidates. However, is it possible these technologies could amplify societal biases and overlook qualified candidates?[3]
  • If an employee works remotely, does that change the ethics behind the standard eight-hour workday? Working remotely gives employees autonomy, however, it also gives employers 24 hour access to their employees.[4]

In some areas, technology is moving so fast that it could be outpacing our ability to understand the full effect it will have on employees and our society. Workforce leaders need to give due diligence to the ethical implications of new technologies.[5]

How Should Businesses Tackle New Ethical Dilemmas?

The good news is that 75 percent of organizations say ethics related to the future of work are important for their success. However, on a less encouraging note, only 14 percent say they are ready to address the ethical challenges that will develop as new technology and A.I. are introduced, meaning there is a readiness gap.[6]

How should businesses tackle ethical challenges then? According to Deloitte research, a proactive approach to solving challenges related to new technology starts with changing the question from “Could we do this?” to “How should we do this?” For example, a business could use A.I. and automation to reduce labor costs, but how should they do it? Ethics dictates that it should be done in a way that doesn’t fully focus on cost savings through headcount reduction. In the case of A.I. and automation, upskilling or transitioning employees into new positions is the more ethical answer.

Optimizing your workforce is crucial for facing all the ethical questions new technology brings. AllSTEM has the experience to help you find skilled science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) candidates to support your organizational goals. To find out more, visit AllSTEM at https://www.allstemconnections.com.


[1] https://youtu.be/j1nn5e7Yiyo

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2020/ethical-implications-of-ai.html/#deloitte-services

[3] https://connect.comptia.org/blog/ethical-issues-in-technology

[4] https://smallbusiness.chron.com/turbotax-taxes-13771756.html

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceweinstein/2021/06/22/in-the-workplace-of-the-future-how-important-will-ethics-be/?sh=6f0c44378b60

[6] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2020/ethical-implications-of-ai.html/#deloitte-services