Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 11

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 31, 2018

This is my 11th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I begin this posting with a brief follow-up note to this series’ Part 10, and how I organized it with a brief starting commentary on automation in the work place. I wrote of how artificial intelligence agents and automated process based work flows that they carry out are entering the work force, and certainly in the here and now with what are still just limited and essentially just single task-type artificial intelligence capabilities. And I wrote at least briefly in anticipation of the development of a truly artificial general intelligence there too. Then I at least superficially switched gears to return to my already ongoing narrative regarding insider, in-house employees and outsider employees, where for now this primarily just means human agents and in all categories.

If you as a reader, finished reading my Part 10 comments on the advent of artificial intelligence agents in the workplace, and the above paragraph here with a sense of disquiet, that was at least something of my intent there. We are facing a transition era of considerable complexity in which a growing number of businesses are in effect coming to outsource their labor within the walls of their business or through cyber-based distant connection equivalents to that, with labor that is explicitly designated as temporary help, outside consultant help or other gig work. And this shift in the human work force context is taking place as we approach and begin to enter a still more profound transition where the issues of human employment per se will be redefined too.

That emerging context is simply going to become more complicated as artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven systems are added into the mix of how work would be defined and carried out, and as a tipping point is reached for artificial agent inclusion into what has traditionally been the human workforce. This situation, I have to add has already been reached in some industries and for entire job types in them and certainly for a significant number of specific job and task types. Automotive manufacturers used to employ large numbers of spot welders who connected the pieces of car and truck chassis together in assembling those vehicles. Essentially all of that work has been fully automated now, with all of it carried out by robotic welders. And we have just seen the start of a much wider and farther reaching trend there – as many have written about in recent years. But I am approaching this from a somewhat different angle here.

Artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven agents can in most respects, be considered tools: things. A genuinely artificial general intelligence with self-awareness and sapience on the other hand would best be viewed as and treated as a person, and not a device. And I write that point of moral imperative with two inevitable consequences to come, in mind. The first is that we will reach a point in time when the only moral and ethical way to approach these beings will be through emancipation and a recognition of their bearing personhood and regardless of what they are formed out of and regardless of their origins history. And the second, which connects directly to the second half of Part 10, is that we will see and we will have to deal with and resolve a whole new dimension of what can become discriminatory distinction between insider and outsider: fully included and vetted, and left-out from that among employees, and among employees who at least in principle might be carrying out comparable work. Or we might see the dystopian mass exodus of human agents from the work force with an advent of at first just artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven agents, and then with an admixture of genuinely artificial general intelligence agents added in.

I have on one level at least, been writing here of communications and information sharing needs and challenges in a strictly human-to-human context, and as long-term in-house employment as a norm is starting to give way to what can only be considered a new gig economy and gig employment-based norm, and for an increasing number of industries and business sectors.

I write and offer my more artificial intelligence-oriented digressions to that here, to at least intimate something as to how the real shifts of importance are beginning to take shape, that future historians will look back to when evaluating the 21st century workplace. Those, I would argue, are going to be centered on the widening if nothing else, of the workforce beyond a simple traditional human scope.

• Current generation specialized single task-capable artificial intelligence agents are tools. And their inclusion in the workplace is more about limiting the workforce and a deploying business’ employee head count than it is about expanding what the term “employee” means.
• A true artificial general intelligence agent would best be considered an employee – and a person, least we recapitulate the basic fundamental errors of slavery that took so painfully long for us to go beyond in a strictly human context.
• And most interestingly here, as artificial intelligence agents advance, a gray area will begin to emerge where advanced and flexibly capable tool, versus limited intellect artificial construct employee decisions will have to be made and with all of their consequences. That challenge is sure to arrive and in this century and almost certainly before its midpoint. Where and when does an artificial intelligence based agent pass a threshold from tool to person? And how will that question and its consequences and complexities be addressed and both morally and legally, when it has to be addressed in the details of realized day-to-day experience, and not just as an abstract theoretical?

With that digression added in here, in follow-up to my first part to it as can be found at the start of Part 10, I turn to the issues that I stated I would more formally address at the end of that posting: noting here that I add these points of digression to frame the second half discussions offered here, in what might perhaps best be considered to be their emerging new contexts-to-come.

• I presume here that all employees and of whatever categorical types as far as personnel policy is concerned, are persons (and at least for the here-and-now: human.)

The information access issues that I write of here in this series, and the communications issues and challenges that I raise and discuss in its context, become important if and when a business brings what are considered outsiders into their then current workforce, under circumstances where these people would require access to sensitive business-held information in order to do their jobs there. The fewer the number of people so brought in, and the fewer the types of jobs that they would be brought in to carry out, the easier it is to wall off sensitive and confidential information from them. But it is a mistake to assume any reliability in that presumption, and even when the vast majority of all who work at a business, are full time in-house employees and as a basic matter of principle and business policy, and outsiders are only brought in on a limited number and limited work context basis.

Obviously, high level special skills outside consultants are people who are going to be repeatedly exposed to sensitive and confidential information as they move from client business to client business, and both by intent and by proximity to where that information is more openly being accessed and used. But any part time, temp sales clerk who is brought in during a peak sales season, as for example for helping manage holiday sales demands, is going to see credit card and other sensitive personally identifiable customer information that a business is required by law to safeguard, and essentially every time they complete a sales transaction there, taking a credit card and related data from a customer’s hand.

• When a tipping point is reached where a sufficiently large proportion of a business’ workforce is deemed temp or other-outsider, all information security due diligence, and all risk management process and practice that govern and shape that, that were constructed under an in-house employee assumption, will have to change with new levels and types of nondisclosure agreements required for all hires only representing one facet of that required New.

I am going to continue this series in a next installment, where I will reconsider the basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation in light of the trends and possibilities that I have been writing of in this series, and certainly since its Part 6 where I first started to more explicitly explore insider versus outside employee issues here. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, I will begin it with a focus on the human to human communications and information sharing context. And then I will build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges as artificial agents develop into the gray area of capability that I made note of above: how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility there, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for that.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

One Response

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  1. Alan J. Singer said, on July 31, 2018 at 7:44 am

    Look at

    Business, Management & Accounting – Routledge Brianna Ascher commissions research-level monographs, edited collections, and handbooks across the business and accounting disciplines globally.

    Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies Teaching Learning Technology 290 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549 (P) 516-463-5853 (F) 516-463-6196

    Follow Alan on Twitter:

    Blogs, tweets, essays, interviews, and e-blasts present my views and not those of Hofstra University.


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