The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in most all aspects of modern business and social life is now ubiquitous. From wealth management, to hiring employees, assessing the effectiveness of teachers, and our news feeds, AI impacts most every aspect of our day-to-day life — whether or not we are aware of it.
As the use of AI has grown, so has a corresponding gap in the ability of many companies and people to explain what, how, and most importantly, why these bots make certain decisions. In a NYT op-ed this week, Cathy O’Neil gives academics a call to action — the time has come to provide a deeper, and unbiased view of the risks of AI and the ethics challenges we face as their power and influence grows.
On May 23, the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business and Ethical Systems welcomed Jack Ewing, European Economics Correspondent for The New York Times, for a discussion of his new book "Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal".
Ethical Systems CEO Azish Filabi introduced Jack Ewing and discussed the ways in which this event exemplifies the mission of each center: "This event is a great opportunity for our two organizations to partner given the overlap between ethical failures and environmental impact at VW. That VW’s actions breached the trust of its customers, employees, and the government is an understatement. The emissions fraud represents not only disregard for good business practices, but also the necessity of businesses to be at the forefront of meeting global environmental challenges. It is precisely the type of management decisions we are educating Stern students NOT to make."
Ewing, who has spent more than 20 years covering German business and economics, opened his presentation with a brief history of Volkswagen, which emerged in the late 1940s as the icon of post-war German regeneration. He detailed Volkswagen’s fraudulent emissions testing and took the audience behind the scenes to expose how this deception happened, who discovered it and how the company tried to cover up its misdeeds.
A March 14 New York Times Dealbook article by David Zaring of the Wharton School looks at bank culture from a regulatory perspective and questions why NY FED regulators are taking on the grand task of attempting to make culture and ethics an important part of bank supervision- especially when “creating and regulating culture by regulatory fiat is so difficult.”
Ethical Systems has made fortifying ethical corporate culture a main concentration of our efforts, as there is no better determinant to predicting misconduct. An ethical systems approach to business ethics considers the interplay between corporate culture with considerations for how to motivate individual to be more ethical (nudging),and the regulatory (guiding policies that impact behavior and outcomes).
When examining company culture, leaders should consider whether it is one in which company values are infused into all aspects of the operation, where managers lead by example and teams are encouraged to speak up about ethics and other issues? Or, if it is a culture in which checking the compliance boxes off a list is seen as most important and certain behavior is tolerated by high-performers but not allowed for others?