Technological Unemployment, Meaning in Life, Purpose of Business, and the Future of Stakeholders
We offer a precautionary account of why business managers should proactively rethink about what kinds of automation firms ought to implement, by exploring two challenges that automation will potentially pose. We engage the current debate concerning whether life without work opportunities will incur a meaning crisis, offering an argument in favor of the position that if technological unemployment occurs, the machine age may be a structurally limited condition for many without work opportunities to have or add meaning to their lives. We term this the axiological challenge. This challenge, if it turns out to be persuasive, leads to a second challenge, to which managers should pay special attention: the teleological challenge, a topic especially relevant to the broad literature about corporate purpose and governance. We argue that both the shareholder profit-maximization model and its major alternative, stakeholder theory, are insufficient to address the meaning crisis. Unless rebutted, the two challenges compel business leaders to proactively rethink the purpose of business for future society. Otherwise, businesses will be contributors to a major ethical crisis and societal externality in the coming society.
KeywordsAutomation Meaning of work Stakeholder
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
- Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisors. (2016). Economic Report of the President: Transmitted to the Congress February 2016. Retrieved from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/economic_reports/2016.pdf.
- Aristotle. (2006). Nichomachean ethics (R. Crisp, Trans.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Arneson, R. (2009). Meaningful work and market socialism revisited. Analysis & Kritik,31(139–151), 139.Google Scholar
- Arthur, W. B. (2011). The second economy. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-second-economy.
- Barry, B. (2000). Basic income and the work ethic. Boston Review. Retrieved from http://bostonreview.net/forum/basic-income-all/brian-barry-ubi-and-work-ethic.
- Bhargava, V., & Kim, T. W. (2017). Autonomous vehicles and moral uncertainty. In O. Lin, K. Abney, & R. Jenkins (Eds.), Robot Ethics 2.0: New challenges in philosophy, law, and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Brennan, J. (2012). Libertarianism: What everyone needs to know. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technology. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
- Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2015). Will humans go the way of horses? Labor and the second machine age. Foreign Affairs,94(4), 8–14.Google Scholar
- Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2016). Human work in the robotic future: Policy for the Age of Automation. Foreign Affairs,95(4), 139–150.Google Scholar
- Chui, M., Manyika, J., & Miremadi, M. (2015). Four fundamentals of workplace automation. McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/four-fundamentals-of-workplace-automation.
- Ciulla, J. (2000). The working life: The promise and betrayal of modern work. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
- Davenport, T. H., & Kirby, J. (2016). Only humans need apply: Winners and losers in the age of smart machines. New York: Harper Business.Google Scholar
- Davidow, W. H., & Malone, M. S. (2014). What happens to society when robots replace workers? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/12/what-happens-to-society-when-robots-replace-workers.
- Evan, W. M., & Freeman, R. E. (1988). A stakeholder theory of the modern corporation: Kantian capitalism. In T. Beauchamp & N. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Finley, K. (2015). Robot radiologists will soon analyze your x-rays. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2015/10/robot-radiologists-are-going-to-start-analyzing-x-rays/.
- Frankish, K., & Ramsey, W. M. (Eds.). (2014). The Cambridge handbook of artificial intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman.Google Scholar
- Freeman, R. E. (2009). Managing for stakeholders. In T. L. Beauchamp & N. E. Bowie (Eds.), Ethical theory and business (8th ed., pp. 39–53). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2013). The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization? Oxford: The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology (The University of Oxford).Google Scholar
- Friedman, M. (1962). Capitalism and freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Friedman, M. (1970). The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1970/09/13/archives/a-friedman-doctrine-the-social-responsibility-of-business-is-to.html?mcubz=1.
- Hanson, K. O., & Weiss, S. (1991). Merck & Co., Inc. case series (A, B, C, D, video). Stanford, CA: Business Enterprise Trust.Google Scholar
- Hart, O., & Zingales, L. (unpublished manuscript). Should a company pursue a shareholder value?Google Scholar
- Hartman, E. (1996). Organizational ethics and the good life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hayek, F. A. (1979). The political order of a free people. In Law, legislation, and liberty (Vol. 3) (1981). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Hooker, J. N., & Kim, T. (2018). Toward non-intuition-based machine ethics. In Proceedings of AAAI/ACM conference on artificial intelligence, ethics and society. http://www.aies-conference.com/accepted-papers.
- Hurka, T., & Suits, B. (1978). Introduction. In The grasshopper: Games, life, and utopia. Broadview Press.Google Scholar
- Hussain, W. (2018). The common good. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Google Scholar
- Ito, J., Dadich, S., & Obama, B. (2016). Barack Obama, neural nets, self-driving cars, and the future of the world. Retrieved from WIRED: https://www.wired.com/2016/10/president-obama-mit-joi-ito-interview.
- Jones, S. E. (2006). Against technology: From the Luddites to neo-liberalism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Keynes, J. M. (1930). Economic possibilities for our grandchildren. In Essays in persuasion (pp. 358–373) (1963). New York: W. W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
- Levy, F., & Murnane, R. J. (2004/2005). The division of lab. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- McMahon, C. (2010). The public authority of the managers or private organizations. In G. G. Brenkert & T. L. Beauchamp (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of business ethics (pp. 100–125). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Moore, G. E. (1903/1993). Principia ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Müller, V. C. (Ed.). (2016). Fundamentals issues of artificial intelligence. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
- Murray, C. (2016). A guaranteed income for every American. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-guaranteed-income-for-every-american-1464969586.
- Nozick, R. (1968/1974). Anarchy, state, and utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Orts, E. (2012). Business person: A legal theory of the firm. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Parmar, B. L., & Freeman, R. E. (2016). Ethics and the algorithm. MIT Sloan Management Review. Retrieved from http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/ethics-and-the-algorithm/.
- Remus, D., & Levy, F. S. (2017). Can robots be lawyers? Computers, lawyers, and the practice of law. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics,30, 501–558.Google Scholar
- Russell, B. (1932). In the praise of idleness. Harper’s Magazine. Retrieved from https://harpers.org/archive/1932/10/in-praise-of-idleness/.
- Scanlon, T. M. (1998). What we owe to each other. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Sen, A. K. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Shankland, S. (2016). Microsoft translation app vaults over language barriers. CNET. Retrieved from https://www.cnet.com/news/microsoft-translation-app-group-conversation-ai/.
- Simon, H. A. (1957). Authority. In E. D. Arensberg (Ed.), Research in industrial human relations (pp. 103–118). New York: Harper and Brothers.Google Scholar
- Sison, A. J. (2015). Happiness and virtue ethics in business: The ultimate value proposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, J. (Unpublished manuscript). On the market’s plurality of aims: Implications for corporate responsibility. The Zicklin Center Normative Business Ethics Workshop Series (presented on March 17 2017).Google Scholar
- Solomon, R. (1992b). Ethics and excellence. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Stout, L. A. (2002). Bad and not-so-bad arguments for shareholder primacy. Southern California Law Review,75, 1189–1209.Google Scholar
- Stout, L. A. (2012). The problem of corporate purpose. Issues in Governance Studies,48, 1–12.Google Scholar
- Suits, B. (2005). The grasshopper: Games, life and utopia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
- Terwiesch, C., & Ulrich, K. (2009). Innovation tournaments: Creating and selecting exceptional opportunities. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
- Tomasi, J. (2001). Liberalism beyond justice: Citizens and the boundaries of political theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Ufberg, D. D. (2017). Business ethics in the age of robotics lecture features Wharton business professor. Miami Law News Articles. Google Scholar
- Van Parijs, P. (1992). Arguing for basic income. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Veltman, A. (2014). Meaningful work. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Williamson, O. E. (1975). Markets and hierarchies: Analysis and antitrust implications. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Wolf, S. (1997). Meaning and morality. Proceeds of the Aristotelian society, XCVII, 299–315.Google Scholar
- Wolf, S. (2007). The meanings of lives. In J. Perry, M. Bratman, & J. M. Fischer (Eds.), Introduction to philosophy (pp. 62–73). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Wolf, S. (2014). Happiness and meaning: A plurality of values rather than a conflict of norms. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society,158, 18–24.Google Scholar
- World Bank. (2016). Digital Dividends. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2016.
- Zingales, L. (1998). Corporate governance. In P. Newman (Ed.), The new Palgrave dictionary of economics and the law (pp. 497–502). London: MacMillan Reference Ltd.Google Scholar