Answering ethical questions posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Also known as "Industry 4.0" or "4IR," it takes the technological advances of the third industrial revolution and connects them into systems that can often operate and adapt without human input. New technologies can create exciting possibilities for positive social impact on diverse issues such as income inequality and the environment.

Yet, at the same time, they often raise new, sometimes difficult, ethical questions. In fact, the irony is this: As we develop technologies that adapt without human input, we are discovering we need human input to address what constitutes the ethical use of these technologies.

As mentioned in a Deloitte article, most leaders want their organizations to create social impact. In today's competitive business environment, social impact initiatives have the ability to separate one company from its competitors in the eyes of consumers. The logic that a company "does well by doing good" has taken hold. And 4IR technologies promise to support companies' efforts to reduce carbon emissions, support diversity initiatives, and other social impact goals.

Yet some leaders are also recognizing that 4IR technologies raise ethical questions in areas such as data privacy, algorithmic bias, and potentially a lack of inclusivity in technology design.

According to Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen's report, "Success Personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," which is based on a Forbes Insights survey, C-suite executives have varying levels of concern about using technology ethically. From June-August 2018, Forbes Insights surveyed 2,042 executives (with company revenue of $1 billion or more) and public sector leaders (with organization budgets of $500 million or more) from 19 countries and all major industry sectors.

As shown in Figure 2 below, only 15 percent of the 194 CEOs/presidents surveyed are strongly concerned about ethical technology use. Surprisingly, chief information officers and chief technology officers are also at the lower end of the spectrum, at 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively. On the other hand, 41 percent of chief operating officers, 41 percent of chief digital officers, and 50 percent of chief sustainability officers are strongly concerned about ethical technology use.

This disparity in levels of concern about ethical technology use at the top of the organization often results in lack of clarity throughout the rest of the organization. Deloitte offers three recommendations to address this:

  • 1. C-Suite adoption: The CEO must prioritize ethical technology use and encourage the rest of the C-suite to do so too.
  • 2. Culture change: The C-suite must set, model, and communicate ethical use of technology and encourage buy-in from employees by allowing them to share ideas about ethical technology use.
  • 3. Adapt: As technology continues to change, companies must continue to define how to use it ethically.

Ethics are important in and of themselves. However, there may also be business benefits for prioritizing ethical use of technology.

As shown in Figure 1 below, Deloitte's analysis of the Success Personified report found a correlation between high concern for ethical use of 4IR technologies and business growth. Of the 536 respondents whose organizations had 0 percent growth, only 17 percent of them strongly agreed that their organization is highly concerned with ethically using 4IR technologies.

On the other hand, of the 148 respondents whose organizations had 10 percent or more growth, 55 percent of them strongly agreed that their organization is highly concerned with ethically using 4IR technologies.

As more companies aim to make a social impact, C-suite leaders should consider the ethics of 4IR technology implementation to grow as a business and stand out among competitors.

---

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as "Deloitte Global") does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the "Deloitte" name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Trending News