Why Your Organization Needs A Digital Ethicist
by Betsy Burton
Do you know who is making the tough ethical calls in your organization? The answer is everyone.
As emerging technologies begin to go mainstream, they’re enabling people across your organization to do things such as get more insights about information, make predictions, search images and sounds, and model human behaviors and responses.
The use of these technologies is challenging our business models, privacy, security, and, in some cases, well-being. This is why your organization must consider a digital ethicist.
It’s Not One Big Decision—It’s Lots of Little Ones
Technology providers and product teams create products and solutions around design parameters. But as we are able to create more powerful and integrated technologies, these design parameters will be stretched and challenged.
Self-driving cars, assisted surgery, environmental monitoring systems, AI-based investment engines, digital advisors, teaching aids, and customer engagement systems are just a few examples of applications that require ethical decisions to be made every day.
If you are an end-user organization, you must consider how you respond to requests for information from partners, government entities, or individuals, especially if you have concerns about how the information is being used. Today, you now have access to predictive analytics systems that can crunch massive amounts of information and model what could happen in the future. Ask yourself: what decisions is your organization being asked to make that are not even being evaluated—and are these decisions are just made on a whim?
Your Management Doesn’t Have the Training or Focus
CEOs and executives can run into trouble even as they try their best to respond to all the new challenges brought on by emerging technologies. The problem is that they don’t have the training or the focus to make these calls on their own. Further, ethics is not how they are being measured or incentivized.
Just as organizations need legal, regulatory, governance, and human resource advisors, they will increasingly need to employ the services of a digital ethicist. However, what makes a digital ethicist different is that they are focused on morality—in all its shades of grey—while the former are concerned with making sure your business stays within the defined laws and regulations.
A Digital Ethicist Focuses On Right and Wrong
A digital ethicist is a person or team trained and dedicated to understanding the implications of technology-enabled decisions, and to helping individuals and organizations weigh the ethical and moral impacts of these decisions.
A digital ethicist must be an independent resource available to executives as well as your employees and partners. They should be a peer of legal and regulatory advisors.
Aragon Research believes that by 2024, 40% of Global 500 organizations will employ or retain the services of a digital ethicist.
As emerging technologies become common, organizations will be increasingly challenging legal, regulatory, and ethical guides. Your organization will need a digital ethics advisor trained to help you identify, navigate, and weigh ethical decisions.
Your leaders may not always heed the advice of your digital ethicist. However, you must use them to at least consider the long and short-term impact of your decisions. Otherwise, you will blindly be putting your organization and reputation at risk, as well as unknowingly impacting culture, economies, political stability, environment and, potentially, human lives.