Between the acceleration of digital transformation, the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of robots, human activity is likely to be adjusted quite quickly. As automation allows companies to do more with fewer people, successful companies may not need as many workers and this will raise ethical questions.
The question may seem futuristic, but the use of AI is rapidly revolutionizing the points of contact between the company and its users. The use of AI in the field of robotics has opened up immense possibilities for the service industry. For example, children hospitalized in Medipole Hospital private now have a new companion named Oscar, a humanoid robot who talks, dances and above all, creates a diversion. There are other examples also in times of Covid, including robots that have been used in the hospital of the Pitie-Salpetriere or the chain of hospitals Policlinico Abano, in Italy, to disinfect the air and surfaces, answer questions from patients, bring them medicine or food, etc. Also in the hotel industry, there are telepresence and concierge solutions available 24 hours a day with a human being who can take control of a robot remotely. Another recent example: 70 robots have been deployed in the canteen of Beijing Winter Olympics. The goal was to limit contact while delivering meals to athletes.
The challenge is to ensure that companies integrate AI and service robots in a fair and equitable way. We have identified six major ethical dimensions to consider that will have an impact on the client/user’s intention to interact via “digitized touchpoints”:
1. Replacement and its implications for work: for example, in the case where a robot replaces certain tasks of an employee, how does the company commit to transforming the skills of its employees?
2. Data protection: what data is collected via “ touch points » digital or via a robot? How are they stored and who has access to them?
3. Responsibility: if a machine responds to requests from a customer in real time, who is responsible in the event of failure?
4. Trust and security: how can a machine via its algorithms guarantee the security of users who interact with it?
5. Social presence and the degree of “humanization”: how to establish a healthy “social connection” with a machine or more precisely with a robot?
6. Autonomy: to what extent can a machine make decisions without human control?
Many companies are engaged in this process of digital transformation and automation in order to reduce their costs, create an original customer experience or increase productivity. The challenge is to find a win-win balance where the company reduces its costs, adapts the activities of its employees and, at the same time, makes the customer feel added value in the use of this technology. The societal impact of this phenomenon is likely to be significant over the next few years and these ethical questions will be at the heart of discussions in this sensitive area.
Tribune written by Reza Etemad-sajadi, associate professor in research and innovation at EHL Hospitality Business School
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Robots in business: essential ethical questions – Forbes France
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