Ethikos Weekly Editor’s Picks – February 11, 2014



Ethikos Weekly Editor’s Picks

Examining Business Ethics Since 1987

Editor’s Top Choice:

Inside Google’s mysterious ethics board

Forbes contributor Evan Selinger writes, “The technology world was abuzz last week when Google announced it spend nearly half a billion dollars to acquire DeepMind, a UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) lab. With few details available, commentators speculated on the underlying motivation.

Is the deal linked to Google’s buying spree of seven robotics companies in December alone, including Boston Dynamics, ‘a company holding contracts with the US military’? Is Google building an unstoppable robot army powered by AI? Does Google want to create something like Skynet? Or, is this just busybody gossip that naturally happens in an information-vacuum? The deal could simply be to improve search engine functionality.

All this uncertainty is driving an unnerving question: What exactly is DeepMind so worried about that they insisted on creating an ethics board?” Read more

Other Featured Picks of the Week

How are you ‘managing the moments of truth’ with your customers? Why ethical decisions are good business decisions.

From Canada’s The Globe and Mail’s Leadership Lab, Mark Pastin writes, “When I talk to people about the factors that go into making ethical decisions, I often get the response that the same factors go into making good management decisions, whether or not ethics are involved. This is true. It is not true that ethical thinking always leads to a better business outcome. If you are ethical but have a lousy product, ethics will not make it sell. But the habits of mind that go into ethical thinking increase your competence as a manager.” Read more

Hagel worried about ethical ‘breakdown’ in US military

The Business Standard reports that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is concerned that the recent scandals signal a potential ethical “breakdown” in the US military and has asked commanders to urgently address the problem, his spokesman said.

The Pentagon chief was “troubled” by revelations of cheating on exams, as well as other incidents, and had raised the issue with the chiefs of all the armed services in talks earlier, Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news conference.

“I think he’s generally concerned that there could be, at least at some level, a breakdown in ethical behavior and in the demonstration of moral courage,” Kirby said yesterday. Read more

Workplace misconduct at historic low, ethics resource center report reveals

From Bloomberg BNA:

Workplace misconduct is on the decline, according to a survey released Feb. 4 by the Ethics Resource Center, which found that 41 percent of employees observed misconduct in 2013, down from 55 percent in 2007.

Moreover, the eighth “National Business Ethics Survey,” which polled 6,400 U.S. employees, found that only 9 percent of employees felt pressure to compromise their standards in 2013, down from 13 percent in the previous survey in 2011. Read more

The different ways people handle ethical issues in the workplace

The Bloomberg Businessweek Management Blog, reporting on a Gallup poll, says, “Only 21 percent of people characterized business executives as having ‘high’ ethical standards—a little above lawyers (19 percent), but below bankers (28 percent) and journalists (28 percent). Whether that’s deserved or not, it’s nevertheless true that executives set the ethical tone at their companies. But employees have the power to improve it.” Read more

Re-building trust, from “value” to “values”

On the Huffington Post’s Impact Blog, Dennis Nally, Chairman of PwC International, Ltd., writes, “It is absolutely right that CEOs and boards should continue to ask themselves the topical and relevant question: How can we regain the trust of our stakeholders?

All the evidence is that society’s expectations of business have changed, and businesses must respond. To start rebuilding trust, a company first needs to demonstrate that it is worthy of being trusted. The only way to do this is through behavior that authentically reflects the organization’s core values at both an individual and collective level. In other words, embracing and living by the right values is the first step towards creating value in all its forms — financial, social, ecological and more.” Read more

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