Morality and Technology
MORALITY AND TECHNOLOGY 8
Shouldcompanies take responsibility of the welfare of people laid off dueto the introduction of information systems?
Theintroduction of technology in the workplace has come with manyadvantages to companies. The most significant factor is the declinein the workforce required, leading to a reduction in the overheadcosts of the companies. However, the introduction of technologies hasalso led many companies to lay off members of staff, as work done byseveral people can now be done by one person operating the machine.The replacement of people with information systems has raised themoral and ethical question as to whether companies ought to takeresponsibility by the unemployment caused by the introduction of thesystems in their companies.
Thisquestion is based on the concept of ethical and moral practices whendealing with humanity. The concept questions the replacement of humanlivelihoods with machines, so as to increase profits. Most companiesreplace human resource with machine as machines reduce the overheadcosts to the companies in the long run (Verbeek,2011).The idea of the morality of replacing human resource and livelihoodsfor millions of people for higher profits comes into play (Rooksby,2007).This idea has been applied in discussions on the morality ofintroducing information systems on companies.
Toinvestigate this morality, this discussion will apply two theoreticalframeworks that touch on the decisions of deciding what is allowedand what is wrong. The consequentialism and deontological theoriesbest explain on how to decide on how companies ought to handletechnology and its employees. The consequentialism theory states thatthe ultimate aim of morality is to come up with the most suitableoutcome of a situation. The good outcome is the outcome that bringsout the ultimate value of people and brings happiness (Kamm,2007).The companies in this case thus must do what is valuable to humanitywithout hurting the profitability of the company. Happiness in thiscontext is equated to maximization of pleasure and the absence ofpain (Kamm,2007).The trouble in this case is how to keep employees happy when tryingto improve efficiency when introducing information systems.
Thedeontological theory, on the other hand, is concerned with doing theright thing irrespective of the consequences. According to Kantiantheory, doing right is doing the right thing despite theconsequences, and this right ought to be something that can be copiedand applied elsewhere (Kamm,2007).The deontological theory holds that human beings ought to be utilizedas a way to the end and not an end in itself. The theory places humanbeings at an advantage in that all actions must be of an advantage tohuman beings.
Consequenstialismpresents the problem of measuring happiness and in replacing humanresource with information systems does not necessarily bringhappiness to the organization (Waller,2005).It brings efficiency, which satisfies the management as the role ofmanagement is to reduce costs and increase profits. In this case,therefore, it would be morally correct to keep the employees on, orfind them alternative jobs, so as to place human value ahead ofprofits. This shows that the company’s management needs to find away of ensuring that it takes care of the problems of the employeeswho might be fired due to the introduction of information systems.
Thedeontological theory is the most suitable as it is focused on doingwhat is right and can be applied in other areas. The theory looks atwhat can be applied universally and applying it because it is theright thing to do. The management in this case ought to find ways ofensuring that those who lose their jobs get well compensated due totheir replacement with machines. The management wins by introducingthe information systems, which increases efficiency and those who endup in unemployment are not just laid off without adequatecompensation. The acceptable action in this scenario is to compensatethe employees well so that they can support themselves after beinglaid off. The taking responsibility for the unemployment is caused byintroduction of information systems (Foot,2009).
Theintroduction of computers is the most recent example of informationsystems that resulted in unemployment. Computers have gradually takenup most of the activities that used to carried be out by human beingsthrough the introduction of software that can carry out many tasks.The introduction of computer systems combined several tasks into onesystem and this resulted in unemployment across the world. Computersare cheaper to maintain than human labor eventually, and this is whatinformed the decision to replace a large work force with fewcomputers (Edgar,2002).Computers caused unemployment because they could efficiently combineseveral tasks and be operated by one person. The use of computersthus rendered many people useless as their duties could now be doneby few people for a short period.
Additionally,the introduction of a closed circuit television (CCTV) networksreduced the need for many security people in different areas. TheCCTV systems are capable of observing many people at the same timeand they require a few people to operate and observe. The systemsreduced the need for security officers in monitoring areas and peoplefor purposes of ensuring security (Edgar,2002).They also increased efficiency as they can capture what human beingsmay not capture. The systems, however, resulted in unemployment ofmany security officers as a few cameras took up the jobs of manysecurity officials.
Theintroduction of computers offered no alternatives to the people whowere laid off as they became redundant in the offices and thus, theyhad to be released as they did not have any duties in the companies.The introduction of CCTV cameras, however, had alternatives as thesecurity officials were redeployed in other sectors of the securitysystem. The security officials had other alternatives, as opposed tototal unemployment (Verbeek,2011).The unemployment was thus minimal and this saved the securitymachinery from having to find how best to lay off employees whilestill remaining conscious about their well being.
Theintroduction of computers reduced the overhead costs for mostcompanies as computers are cheaper to maintain than employees. Theintroduction of computers also increased accuracy and efficiency, assystems perform better than human beings. These reduced losses forcompanies. The introduction of CCTV systems reduced crime rates asthe cameras are more accurate than human beings. The cameras alsostore information, which can be retrieved when necessary and used indifferent fields (Edgar,2002).The CCTV systems also improved on efficiency as few people arerequired to work on the systems.
Themost important message from the Damon Horowitz talk is that theintroduction of technology does not have to be devoid of humanity.Technology ought to respect humanity through privacy. Companiesshould not use people’s data to further their agenda. It isimportant to respect privacy and the use of technology must notviolate basic human privacy (Horowitz, 2011). The use of technologyought to be guided by morality as people have a moral obligation todo what is correct always. The challenge comes in when people need tomake a choice between right and wrong. The important thing is to havea moral framework and guidance so as to decide what the right thingis to do with people’s data and what is wrong.
Thetechnology introduced in the company must also not be placed ahead ofhuman needs. Horowitz agrees that the truth is what is important andobjectivity must be the guiding principle when using technology. Themoral truth and ethical values ought to have clear guidelines onapplication (Horowitz, 2011). Horowitz is also of the opinion thatthe truth may be calculated mathematically so as to establish theethical principles of human values objectively (Horowitz, 2011). Thepurpose is to maintain objectivity when faced with different issuesas this is the only way to make moral decisions.
Itis true that the truth can only be established though objectivity(Horowitz, 2011). Objectivity in the use of technology helps peopleto establish the truth and remain ethical in the application oftechnology. It is also true that something that is ethically correctis intrinsic. The consequences of an action are what reduces painsand maximizes pleasure. The purpose of ethical practices is inpromoting humanity through the intrinsic value of doing what is right(Horowitz, 2011). It is also true that when choosing what is correctto do is based on increasing the value of humanity as the purpose ofethical principles is to promote humanity.
Itis also true that ethics is hard to understand as ethics cannot beapplied by machines (Horowitz, 2011). Machines are controlled byhuman beings and thinking capacities and thus, they ought to be theresponsibility of human beings. The moral implications of technologyare as a result of human thinking and not a collection of systems(Horowitz, 2011). Humanity is the core of morality and this includesthe impact of technology on humanity. Technology must have a humanvalue and ought to promote humanity and not undermine it.
Itis, however, not true to apply mathematical principles in themorality debate. The mathematical principles deal with naturalphenomenon that may not be applicable in humanity. The principles ofmathematics deal with absolute values yet morality and ethicalprinciples do not have absolute terms. Morality and ethics are aboutdoing the most correct thing in a given situation and this changefrom one situation to another (Rooksby,2007).Morality has no absolute truth, which can be used in the applicationof mathematical principles. Humanity is based on weighing optionsthat result in the most pleasure that can be attained in a situationand reduction of pain.
Inconclusion, the application of technology in the workplace ought tobe guided by the principles of morality. These principles protecthumanity by maximizing pleasure and reducing pain. Technology oughtto facilitate humanity and not undermine it. Morality guides theapplication and introduction of technology as technology has a directeffect on humanity and thus, the value of humanity must be placedahead of technology. However, morality cannot be calculated likemathematics and this means that morality cannot adopt mathematicalprinciples.
Edgar,S. L. (2002). Moralityand machines: Perspectives on computer ethics.Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Foot,P. (2009). Moralityas a System of Hypothetical Imperatives. In S. M. Cahn, & P.Markie,Ethics: History, Theory, and Contemporary Issues.New York: Oxford University Press.
Horowitz,D. (May 2011). “Moral Operating System.” Ted.com.UnitedStates: Ted Conferences, LLC.
Kamm,F. M. (2007). IntricateEthics: Rights, Responsibilities, and Permissible Harm.New York: Oxford University Press.
Rooksby,E., & Weckert, J. (2007). Informationtechnology and social justice.Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub.
Verbeek,P.-P. (2011). Moralizingtechnology: Understanding and designing the morality of things.Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Waller,B, N. (2005). ConsiderEthics: Theory, Readings, and Contemporary Issues.New York: Pearson Longman.