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Ethics Paper: The Emergence of Autonomic Technologies

0 April 18 2018, 08:42 in Business Essays

Ethics Paper: The Emergence of Autonomic Technologies

There are a growing list of technologies that are used by industries and other labor sectors such as algorithms, robots, augmented reality, 3-D printing, machine-to-machine interaction, and driverless vehicles offer services that have wide range of tasks (West, p. 3). As such, the use of these technologies is wide-based and their significant scope helps transform and shape the existing processes in business, workforce and personal lives. The main purpose of using emerging technologies that aid in automation of services and processes is to ease the lives of people and improve their overall business, manufacturing and personal dealing (Kessler, p. 12). As a result, technology is advancing to become sophisticated, creating substantial impact on the workforce. However, the question of whether or not autonomic technologies provide benefit or burden to the current workforce is a cause of concern for many non-supporters (Kemal, p. 18). In light of the issue, we are going to discuss the different types autonomic technologies used today and how they provide benefits and/or balance the burden to various work sectors. In the final part of the paper, we will use Justice Ethics Test to examine if using automation has a fair distribution of benefits and burdens for the people.


The Benefits of Automation in different Fields

Robotics – they are expanding in number and use especially in first world, developed countries where industrial robots have been part of the labor force (Kessler, p. 12). In the past years, there has been a substantial increase in the use of robotics by various industrial companies. The Center for Technology Innovation (2015) published a report showing that the number of industrial robots currently in operation increased from 1.2 million in 2013 to 1.5 million in 2014, and this is expected to increase to an estimated 1.9 million by 2017 (see figure 1). Distribution of robotics use of top 5 countries includes the following: Japan with 306, 700, North America with 237,400, China with 182, 300, South Korea with 175,600 and lastly Germany with 175,200. Lastly, the robotics sector is expected increase from a 15$ million worth of production in 2015 to around $67 billion in 2025 (West, p. 3).

Data from Center for Technology Innovation showing increase in robotics use from 2013 to 2014, and the expected increase by 2017.

Computerized algorithms – computerized algorithms are mostly used in stock exchange where they provide transactions faster than humans do. For instance, high-frequency trading programs by machines allowed people to submit, sell, or buy orders, and computers do the task of matching them with their preferences (Kamel, p. 2). All of these are done in seconds even without human intervention. It fast-tracks everything while at the same time detect market differentials or trading inefficiencies even at the lowest scale. Complex mathematical processes that are programmed as algorithms allowed computers to do such tasks at fast-paced speed (Kamel, p. 2). Accordingly, mathematicians/programmers that are highly skilled in making this type of analysis are usually employed to aid in creating computer algorithms.

Artificial intelligence – commonly known as AI, artificial intelligence are machines that has simulation response similar to that of the traditional response made by humans (West, p. 3). AI is capable of incorporating judgment and critical reasoning into everyday decision-making, making them highly usable in various areas like transportation, finance, telecommunications and aviation. The use of AI in expert systems helps anticipate difficulties or problems before they come up, making this autonomic technology useful for simulations necessary for exploration, manufacturing, development and healthcare. At this point, the benefit of using AI is that they can aid humans supplement in their own level of expertise with more improved functionality and productivity (Kemal, p. 18).

Machine to machine communications – Long considered to be useful in the field of healthcare, machine to machine communications, where remote devices or sensors are utilized, include automated vital signs monitor, ECG and other recording systems. However, as technology advanced, these information can be transmitted instantly to medical doctors even if they are not physically present in a healthcare facility (Kessler, p. 12). That said, machine to machine communications enable faster approach to healthcare where services become possible even without the physical presence of doctors. This is known as telemedicine, and this type of autonomic technology does not necessarily replace human functioning, but rather improve the systems in which humans operate (Kemal, p. 18). However, there are also areas of medicine where automated machines replace human labor, such as in the field of rehabilitation, but this is still limited in functioning since it is still better to provide health services with the presence of a human physician or any members of the allied health community (Kessler, p. 12).

Autonomous vehicles – driverless vehicles and even autonomous drones are now creating markets for purposes that require human intervention such as driving cars. The driverless cars are an example of machines that can be driven without human intervention, which result to fewer road accidents and better mileage (Kemal, p. 18). Car manufacturers like General Motors, Audi and Tesla are marketing driverless cars that are programmed to perform driving beyond the capabilities of human. While this technology seems to reduce drivers needed to do day to day jobs, it increases manpower needed to manufacture such machineries that require extensive time and effort to build. Drones, on the other hand, are used for various purposes. Several countries are using drones as part of policing (Rus, p. 6). They can be used as crowd control whenever there is extreme violence from demonstrators or mob attacks. Enforcers control drones that are armed with cameras and pepper spray to round up mobsters or disperse rioting crowds without sacrificing the safety of police officers. Law enforcers claim that drones are effective in restoring peace and order, and they make policing easier and safer both for the police and the civilians. With regards to real estate, entertainment, wildlife management, rescue operations and agriculture, people use drones for a variety of purposes (Kemal, p. 18). These include, but not limited to, monitoring pests and infestations in plantations, photographing properties, securing hard to reach rescue areas, managing wildlife and capturing better angles and spots in film-making. These purposes provide ease of access to areas that are sometimes impossible for humans to reach and track, or those areas that can put a rescuer’s life at risk (Kemal, p. 18).

3-D printing – Also known as additive printing, 3D printing is a process in which a software send design plans to printers thatare particularly programmed to design files that are uploaded into the computer. These plans are used to make exact replica of those products or goods. At present, additive printing is used for a single material that is needed to be copied or replicated (Rus, p. 6). This has altered goods production, manufacturing and delivery in a global scale. In the past, manufacturers/companies that use create a design plan from one place and then ship it for days to weeks in order for other locations to receive the plans before they can replicate it. With 3-D printing, shipping can be reduced, improving the logistics of companies in the long run. 3-D specifications can be emailed anywhere at any time (Howard, p. 32). The receiving end can simply download the data, and place that data in the software to immediately produce copies in an instant. With this technology, customers even if they are from the other side of the world can receive their orders fast even if the design will come from another country/location. As of 2015, the 3-D printing technology is limited to basic item designs intended to manufacture goods/products made from single material like metal or plastic. Makers of this autonomous technology are planning to expand the capabilities of 3-D printing to multi-faceted designs made of more than just one material (Rus, p. 6). Although this technology decreases the number of people and factory workers doing print jobs, it is expected to expand digital arts, 3-D programming, and other related jobs that require highly-skilled individuals.


The Impact of Automation on the Current Workforce

In the examples above, the rapid increase in emerging technology use only suggests that they have a significant impact on workforce. As the renowned economist McAfee claimed, "we are facing a time when machines will replace people for most of the jobs in the current economy, and it will come not in the crazy distant future (Howard, p. 32)” This "distant” future is happening now and its impact on workforce is felt both beneficial and somehow problematic. Particularly for middle class jobs, technology can be easily used to substitute labor, affecting income and employment. As technology accelerates, machines will create a number of products/services/goods far better for a bulk of consumers, and this could result to ordinary people not finding jobs, inflating unemployment rates dramatically (Keay, p. 25). And even if supporters of automation technology argue that technology can help bring new, better jobs instead of destroying them, these jobs are fewer and will require highly-skilled individuals to complete such task (Kamel, p. 2).

Economists on the other hand believe that automating technologies – robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning – can improve productivity, accuracy and efficiency of business and industrial operations in many ways. In other words, they can perform tasks and replace humans necessary during times of recession especially for large companies who want to stay afloat instead performing budgetary cuts or bring down employment numbers (Kemal, p. 18). This will increase revenue in the long run without the need to create new jobs or cut down on number of current employees. Despite the use of technology in various sectors, the growth of employment is still on a rise. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (p. 3), new positions are being created, starting from 15.6 million in 2012, and is expected to grow annually by 0.5 percent until 2022. In the figure below, the distribution of employment per sector from 2012 to 2022 is shown.

Figure 2 shows that healthcare and social assistance industries rank the top of employment with an estimated growth of 2.6 percent annually; this is translated to around 5 million new employments between 2012 and 2022 (USLB, p. 4). Other areas where growth is expected over that decade are construction, leisure, finance, education, statistics, transportation and mining. Apparently, all of these sectors are using automation technology as part of their production/manufacturing. This means that technology advances help bring about new jobs instead of destroying them contrary to what the opponents of automation commonly claim.

If there is one burden that automation may bring to our society, it is the fact that demographic groups would be affected (West, p. 3). Differential impacts based on income, race, ethnicity, gender or age will be a question since most of the training needed to create automation-related jobs are highly technical or require specialty skills. Young people will face challenges at this point because they are at the dawn of their working careers, and the shift to automation training will mean that they need to acquire relevant expertise ahead of their time. Thus, they should get training in science/technology and other related fields early on before they can land a skill-based job (Howard, p. 32). The same can be said in terms of race, gender and literacy, in which unemployment rates are somehow high. Getting training on automation have different requirements (like advanced computers and high-speed internet connection), making it more costly for people living in developing countries to accomplish such feat (Keay, p. 25).


Justice Ethics Test

Question – Is using automation provide equal distribution of benefits and burden among the people?

In automation, everyone has an equal value and a fair claim to a share. This is true given that stakeholders and company owners shifting to automation for their business processes as well as the highly skilled people employed to program automation works have equal claim to a share.

The benefits and burden discussed above show how the value of automation is equally distributed among the people. Robotics and artificial intelligence aid humans improve their functionality and productivity. Automated vehicles help detect and monitor, as well as improve the peace and order/safety of the public. 3-D printing and machine to machine communication create more outputs faster with the least manpower requirements, and improve healthcare services to people even without the physical presence of a physician.

Although the main burden of using automation as of the moment is the availability of jobs to well-trained people and the projected demand for highly-skilled people to do programming or build software necessary for automation, this can be averted by investing more for the future population in terms of education, policies and equal distribution of skills.


As technology continues to become sophisticated and advanced, industries are turning into automation to make processes more efficient, accurate and faster. From an ethical perspective, automation helps advance humanity, replacing human tasks that are more dangerous and sometimes reduce errors, which is beneficial not only for the industry but also for the consumers purchasing services, goods or products. But this is often at the expense of human jobs. On a more positive note, it should be noted that automation help spur new jobs, particularly those that require high skills and training.Companies must learn how to mitigate their job loss, while policy makers must invest in the future in order to compensate for the growing and advancing labor industry.



Kamel, Pepe. "Artificial Intelligence and its effect on the workforce.” Ireland Technology Blog. West Brussels: MetricImpact. 2017.

Kemal, Dervis. "A New Birth for Social Democracy.” Project Syndicate. Washington: Brookings Institution. 2015.

Keay, Andrea. "The Rise of Social and Autonomic Robots.” London: South by Southwest. 2015.

Kessler, Sarah. "The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse.” Quartz. Las Vegas: AP Publication. 2016.

Howard, Phil. "How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.” Yale: Yale University Press. 2015.

Rus, Daniela. "How Technological Breakthroughs Will Transform Everyday Life,” Foreign Affairs. 2015.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employment Projections: 2012-2022 Summary.” USBLS.2013.

West, Daryll. "What happens if robots take the jobs? The impact of emerging technologies on employment and public policy.” Center for Technology Innovation. Brookings. 2015.

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