Ethical Issues Invoked by Industry 4.0

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Industry 4.0 is universally referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. It is a current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. The computerisation of manufacturing includes, amongst other, cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cognitive computing. There are many challenges in the realisation of Industry 4.0. In order to adopt a “smart factory” and improved (software) processes many ethical considerations need to be identified and considered if a company is to obtain an ethical development and deployment of Industry 4.0. The purpose of normative ethics is to scrutinise standards about the rightness and wrongness of actions, the ultimate goal being the identification of the true human good. A rational appeal can be made to normative defensible ethical rules in order to arrive at a judicious, ethically justifiable judgement. In this position and constructive design research paper our steps are: First we report on the findings of a broad literature review of related research, which refers to the current challenges in the realisation of Industry 4.0. Second, we identify and list some basic generic Deontological and Teleological ethical principles and theories that can serve as normative guidelines for addressing the challenges identified in the initial step. Third, we prescribe a set of ethical rights and duties that must be exercised and fulfilled by protagonists/stakeholders in Industry 4.0 implementation in order for them to exhibit ethical behaviour. Each of these suggested actions are substantiated via an appeal to one, or a number of the normative guidelines, identified in the second step. By identifying and recommending a set of defensible ethical obligations that must be fulfilled in the development and deployment of smart factories, protagonists such as: employers, project managers, technology suppliers, trade unions, (on a microscopic level) and chambers of commerce, local and national government (on a macroscopic level) and other can fulfil their ethical duties. Thus, a deployed Industry 4.0 solution can result in technological change, social change and changes in the business paradigm, which are all ethically justifiable. Ultimately all the improvement processes of Industry 4.0 implementation must be underpinned with ethical consideration




Rahanu, H., Georgiadou, E., Siakas, K., Ross, M., & Berki, E. (2021). Ethical Issues Invoked by Industry 4.0. In Communications in Computer and Information Science (Vol. 1442, pp. 589–606). Springer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH.

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