The Ethics of Automation: One Worker's Dilemma (A and B)

Under what circumstances does labor-saving automation pose an ethical dilemma for employees—and what guidelines might improve management oversight?

R.A. Farrokhnia  | Spring 2018
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Alex, a single dad in Flagstaff, Arizona, was a computer programmer working from home for a small, family-owned accounting company. Most of his duties involved data entry and he soon automated the task by building a rudimentary prototype that could cut a month’s worth of coding down to a far simpler, four-day process. Although his boss did not encourage use of such automation, the programmer believed the automated system vastly improved the accuracy of the data entry. Was he behaving unethically by implementing an automated process that his boss did not support?

The B case, which raises issues of how automation might ultimately threaten his –and his co-workers’—jobs is intended to be handed out during a class session for discussion purposes.

Case ID: 180307

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