Ethics and the Technological Revolution: 4 Ways to Keep the Human Factor Alive

By Volunteer Writer┃Posted: February 25, 2019

Welcome to the age of AI. From bots analyzing thousands of words in a few milliseconds to predicting our needs based on facial recognition, we’re at a cusp in humanity. The current fourth industrial revolution has made technology available like never before.

Industrial revolution: An overview

Industry 1.0: 1784
mechanization, steam power, weaving loom

Industry 2.0: 1870
mass production, assembly line, electrical energy

Industry 3.0: 1969
automation, computers, and electronic

Industry 4.0: Here we are
cyber-physical systems, internet of things, networks

>> cost of making something intelligent approaches zero

>> by 2031, the number of connected nodes or devices will grow to 200B

>> technology 10x more powerful every 5 years


AI will increasingly change the way we imagine human life. And as its creators, we need to top that game.

Some of the many concerns that thought leaders of our times have seen:

  • Will AI make our jobs redundant?
  • How do we embrace the changes that the 4th industrial revolution brings? Should growth be the central guiding principle?
  • How do we make it more humane?
  • What type of leadership do we need to deal with this novel situation?
  • What kind of education can cater to the needs of the ever-changing society?

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, shares that in the age of AI, our qualities as human being will really save us all: creativity, collaboration, and communication.

The World Economic Forum has listed some skills required to excel in the workforce of 2020 and beyond.

Beyond binaries of 0s & 1s

Top 10 skills in 2020:

complex problem solving
critical thinking
people management
coordinating with others
emotional intelligence
judgment and decision making
service orientation
cognitive flexibility

(Courtesy: World Economic Forum)

“We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”
-R.J. Palace, author of Wonder  

Life is all about choices. And unlike any computer program, the permutation and combination of our choices in the real world go far beyond the binaries of zeroes and ones.

In our lives, we make choices based on a framework that we ourselves create and then justify to ourselves and others. Sometimes our choices may not be aligned with what is right. We need to base our conduct on positive, universal human values.

C,C,C & C

What is this code of conduct that all of us create for ourselves? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s framework of 4 Cs could help us in working towards our code:

1. Connectivity: It’s important to experience a circle of connection and belongingness to people, and enlarge that community as time goes by. Your community could include people at home or work, friends and neighbors to start with, and gradually increase to encompass people at large. To the degree we feel connected to people, we care for them and will not hurt them. We can’t imagine being unfair or manipulative to our best friend or being corrupt with a family member.

2. Commitment: When we’re committed to our relationships, family, work, or even a cause, we will be truthful and fair to the people in those relationships.   

3. A higher context in life: When we remember our role in life, at home, in society, and in the world, we will be aware of our responsibility: that of giving back to society and acting responsibly. This might prompt us to take actions like reducing plastic consumption to protect the environment, or associating with a cause that’s bigger than ourselves.

4. Congratulate: Be truly happy when someone gets something that you worked for. Congratulate them, resolve to do better, and move on. Healthy competition is natural, as long as the game does not prompt us to be unethical.

And here’s another: congratulate yourself. Celebrate your milestones, enjoy your success, and appreciate the good things that you’ve brought on yourself. This will keep you going; you won’t get frustrated if the world is busy and forgets to give you a place in the sun.

‘Your soul is in your keeping.’

Your superior at work wants you to do something unethical - would you embark on it? Your conscience tells you it’s wrong, but this is a command by your superior.

Both a soldier and a terrorist feel it’s their dharma to fight a battle. But we know what’s right. Both kill for their profession. But again, we know what’s right. That’s the ability of a human; that’s a choice we need to make, again and again. The best of us have something dark, while even the people who seem cruel and harsh have within them light.

Sometimes, the line between ethical or unethical may seem blurred.  

In an iconic film, ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ a leper king shares some advice with his young knight who sets out to make some change in the world. The words uttered by King Baldwin IV over their game of chess have resounded in many hearts:

“None of us know our end really, or what hand will guide us there. A king may move a man; a father may claim a son. That man can also move himself. And only then does that man truly begin his own game. Remember that however you are played, or by whom, your soul is in your keeping alone. Even though those who presume to play you be kings or men of power, when you stand before God, you cannot say ‘but I was told by others to do this’ or that ‘virtue was not convenient at the time’.”

An invitation

How do we ensure that we can propel teamwork in an increasingly competitive environment? How do we become more human in the age of AI?

By starting in the now. They say it’s never too late to start something; it’s never too early either.  And we can start by becoming more aware and asking ourselves some questions:

  • Are we able to accept everyone, even those who are different from us?
  • Can we be helpful to someone, even though we don’t see eye to eye?

The chances are that if you find it difficult now, and don’t help yourself work through those difficulties, it could get more challenging in the future.  

So, this is an invitation to create your frameworks. You could call it your set of ethics, your book of life. Perhaps it will change with time - but remember you’ve already sprinted ahead since you gave yourself an early start.  How would you like to be treated? For sure, you’ll treat people accordingly: if you like to be spoken to with respect, chances are you will speak respectfully to others. If you want to develop loyal friendships, you’ll place trust at a premium.

The more you learn to practice some of these qualities, the stronger they’ll become in your character and personality. And these will translate into actions with more significant impact in the future. Perhaps you’ll insist on conducting all the safety tests, especially when your company wants to launch something in a hurry, because you value your customer’s trust. Or you’ll facilitate teamwork since you value collaborations and relationships.

Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness. How can we practice these ethics more and more in our everyday life?

So, while we watch the phenomenon of AI unfolding before our eyes - developing and changing the history of our time, we can ask ourselves: are we going to make super efficient machines or bring more humaneness to the forefront? Are we cyborgs who function in the framework of binaries or are we humans who share a thinking, progressive value system? Either way, we’re not dinosaurs - yet.   

Some points have been taken from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s wisdom talks.

This article was originally published by Art of Living, India.