Assessing the artificially intelligent workplace:
an ethical framework for evaluating experimental technologies in workplace setttings
2023 – Experimental technologies, including AI and robots, are revolutionising many types of work. For example, the logistics warehouse sector is witnessing a wave of new technologies, such as automated picking tools, collaborative robots and exoskeletons, affecting jobs and employees. Notably, it is not always possible to predict the effects of such new technologies, since they have
inherent uncertainties and unintended consequences. Hence, their introduction into workplaces can be conceived as a social experiment. This paper aims to sketch a set of ethical guidelines for introducing experimental technologies into workplaces. It builds on Van de Poel’s general framework for assessing new experimental technologies and translates that framework into a more specific context of work. We discuss its five principles: non-maleficence, beneficence, responsibility, autonomy, and justice. Each of these principles is applied to workplaces in general, and specifically to the logistics warehouse setting as a case study. A particular focus in our discussion is put on the distinctive potential harms and goods of work.
Currently, when new technologies, such as AI and robots or different forms of automation, are being implemented in logistics warehouses and many other workplaces, the focus is usually primarily on efficiency, productivity, and cost reduction. However, like many other technology ethics researchers, we advocate the view that human factors and ethical aspects are equally important and that regulations regarding new technologies in workplaces should be enacted and enforced.
When it comes to implementing the types of ethical principles we have described above, two mechanisms could play a key role in practice. One is the development of legislation and concrete regulation. Another, more informal mechanism that can play a role is the emergence of social norms
regarding new technologies (e.g. regarding AI, big data, robotics, VR/AR, 3D technology, sensors, digital twinning, etc.). Importantly, however, is engaging employees in the process of change and deployment of new technologies….. Enabling employees to improve their skills, having well-distributed tasks, and shared rewards for good results will not only help them to have a sense of control, but also ‘enhances innovation-adoption, and reduces resistance to change and risk-avoiding defensive behaviours.
Ziagul Hosseini, Sven Nyholm, Pascale M. Le Blanc, Paul T. Y. Preenen, Evangelia Demerouti (2023). AI and Ethics, https://doi.org/10.1007/s43681-023-00265-w