Future Friday: An HR Job of the Future

by Michael Haberman on November 22, 2013 · 2 comments


At what point will having a human face make a robot human?

At what point will having a human face make a robot human?

A favorite new TV series of mine is called Futurescape, hosted and produced by James Woods. As you might imagine I find this very stimulating. As I was watching a recent show I kept seeing interviews with people with the word “ethicist” in the title. I thought “Hmmm… is that an HR job of the future?”

As robots become more ubiquitous

The episode I was watching started off with a large number of people protesting as the first “robot citizen” cast a vote in an election. This was not your standard robot of today but rather the robot or android we are used to seeing in the movies.  “She” was very human in appearance, and for the premise of the show, very human in other ways as well such as thoughts, opinions and even feelings. Woods said such a scenario is likely in the future, as it had been in the past for other groups. He even said such an event may not be as distant as we think.

The ethics

As technology advances and machines become more human we will reach a point where we have to decide if we have crossed a line, a line between machine and human.  Up until that point we will treat those robots, regardless of how human they look, as machines. They will be depreciable assets that get used to the maximum and then replaced by newer models. Indeed the more jaded among us may say business does that with humans right now, so why should robots be any different?

At what point “human”? The conjecture of the show is that we will reach that point and when that happens we humans will have an ethical dilemma. Do we treat these “humans v.2” as humans or machines? I think this is where we will see companies hire “bio-technical ethicists” to be a part of the HR department. Who knows, such a position may be required by the EEOC. They may have a Department for the Ethical Treatment of Robots, DETR, known as “deter”.  The bio-technical ethicists (BTEs) will be responsible for monitoring the treatment of robot workers to insure they are treated correctly, not abused and not discriminated against.

A question How hard would it be for you to perform that job? How critical would the appearance of the robot or android be in making those decisions? In one of my favorite movies, I Robot, Detective Spooner asks “Why did you have to make them look so human?” Many of us may be asking the same question. Only it will not be reserved to looks, it will also be their speech, their thoughts and their emotions? How we react to them will be the area monitored by the bio-technical ethicists.

Are you ready?

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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