Industry 5.0: The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence

Marcell Vollmer

While there are real-world artificial intelligence (AI) applications for enterprises today, there is still much more potential and development for AI, which holds promising benefits for companies in every industry. Still, while there are plenty of compelling arguments for the promise of AI adoption, there are also pitfalls, as well as societal and ethical implications to consider. These technologies blur the traditional boundaries between human and machine while constantly creating new, dynamic business models.

Now that we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, companies are defining and implementing the digitalization of industrial processes. New business models are emerging – driven by AI and intelligent machine learning – and collaboration is becoming increasingly important not only between disparate business functions but also different companies. The next wave of the industrial revolution needs to define how society as a whole wants to work together with technology and how the rules of human-robot or human-machine collaboration can be shaped when decisions are made based on artificial intelligence.

Whether consumers are aware or not, AI and machine learning are already impacting ordinary individuals every day, including through apps and services such as Uber, Airbnb, and Google. While there AI technology has shortcomings in its current state (e.g., detecting objects in images or describing visual scenes), machine learning is already used effectively in several industries, including cybersecurity, warehouse automation, and agriculture. In cybersecurity, for example, machine learning is learning what is “normal activity” for today’s enterprises to alert businesses automatically when anomalies or suspicious threats occur.

Not only can machine learning protect companies from security threats, but it can also be used to detect and mitigate human rights violations. For example, businesses can use machine learning in the supply chain to identify sustainability or modern slavery hotspots in high-risk communities and work to create solutions. And if there aren’t solutions, they can tap into sophisticated business networks to identify new suppliers that can meet their sourcing needs without the ethical setbacks. In healthcare, AI algorithms in medicine can allow doctors to better understand and analyze data, as well as create individualized treatments tailored to a patient’s unique genetic structure.

According to the 2018 Digital & Technology Periscope, AI, along with machine learning and deep learning, is expected to be the No. 1 technology that will impact humanity over the next five years. According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly one in five Americans knows someone who has lost a job due to automation. This fear related to empathy for job loss certainly cannot be dismissed. However, in the workforce as a whole, new jobs will be created that will exceed the jobs reduced by automation. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicts automation will create 58 million new jobs by 2022.

Industry 5.0 is closer than we think. Considering the incredible cost and efficiency benefits in adopting AI, businesses will need to identify the ethical issues associated with these technologies and provide solutions in advance of implementation to ensure benefits do not come at the price of negative societal or economic impact.

As we embark on the next wave of the industrial revolution, businesses need to define how they want to work together with machines and how the rules of these technologies can be leveraged to achieve desired outcomes. For example, what level of human oversight is necessary when trust decisions are made by artificial intelligence, such as voice-controlled assistants or self-driven cars? One example of the ethics around this topic is the fact that vehicles must make decisions in the event of an unavoidable collision. It is the classic “trolley problem” – should one person lose his or her life to save the lives of five? And how can we expect a computer to make that decision when humans have yet to come up with a perfect answer?

While there are controversial issues associated with the widespread adoption of this technology, the development of artificial intelligence will lead to benefits for companies that – when implemented ethically and cautiously – will overcome potential drawbacks. To do so, we must establish a clear framework and rules for the development and use of intelligent technologies. As Andrew Ng, a former senior scientist and assistant professor at Stanford University, points out, “Artificial intelligence is the new electricity.” This marks the beginning of Industry 5.0.

Consumer demand for ethics-driven business practices offers companies an opportunity to provide a customer experience that fulfills the human need for meaning.

This article originally appeared on Money Inc. and is republished by permission.


Marcell Vollmer

About Marcell Vollmer

Marcell Vollmer is the Chief Digital Officer for SAP Ariba (SAP). He is responsible for helping customers digitalize their supply chain. Prior to this role, Marcell was the Chief Operating Officer for SAP Ariba, enabling the company to setup a startup within the larger SAP business. He was also the Chief Procurement Officer at SAP SE, where he transformed the global procurement organization towards a strategic, end-to-end driven organization, which runs SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass solutions, as well as Concur technologies in the cloud. Marcell has more than 20 years of experience in working in international companies, starting with DHL where he delivered multiple supply chain optimization projects.