Stakeholder Capitalism and Convergent Technologies

Stakeholder Capitalism and Convergent Technologies

Alan E. Singer (Department of Management, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSODIT.2015070101
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Technologies such as artificial-general-intelligence, nanotechnology and synthetic-biology are often considered to be emergent, but they are also convergent. Accordingly, one might expect that the principles of ethical governance would be essentially the same for all of them. It is duly argued in this paper that (i) those ethical principles are already embodied in the global stakeholder model (or variant of capitalism), and (ii) scientists and technologists who are employed by private corporations are in a good position to influence a wider transition towards stakeholder capitalism. More generally, there is a pressing need to inject scientific habits-of-thought into global governance and co-production processes.
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2. Convergence

Many previous contributions to the debate on the ethical governance of “emerging” technologies have focused on a single category: AGI, or SB, or NT. The U.S. Presidential Commission (2010) on synthetic biology is a good example. Others include Wallach & Allen (2009), Hunt & Mehta (2007) and Martin (2006), to mention just a few. The ethical principles proposed in these works are essentially the same and they all prioritize reducing the risk of harm to the public (i.e. minimizing expected future aggregate suffering), as well as a more general “public beneficence” (Figure 1). Furthermore, almost every claim made about any one specific technology (say, SB) can be literally duplicated with reference to any of the other technologies (e.g. AGI, NT) without any significant loss of moral or scientific support.

Figure 1.

Stable governance principles for the convergent technologies


To give just a few illustrative examples1 of such “duplications”:

  • I.

    With regard to AGI: “On the optimistic side, there is a reference to an ‘invisible hand of system interactions’: the idea that the operation of many self-sustaining AGIs (or NT-enhanced or SB-enhanced trans-human entities) will somehow lead to overall good. On the side of harm, we are duly warned of a possible ‘social tsunami’”.

  • II.

    For NT: “NT (or SB, or AGI’s) might have “the effect of forcing adjustments and compromises by the existing forces of global injustice and inequality.

  • III.

    For SB: “It is obvious that manufactured SB-entities (or NT, or AGI’s etc.) have the potential to add to the total stock of the human goods in the World (e.g. freedoms, wealth, health, safety, happiness, pleasure, etc.). However, it is equally obvious that they can have catastrophic consequences.

It is also apparent that concerns with “freedom, justice, health and wealth” are quite central to almost all expert deliberations on ethical governance. For example, the recommendations of the US Presidential commission were all derived from a set of inter-related ethical principles, as follows:

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