Dear Ethix – Issue 39

Technology in China

I read with interest the observations that were posted by Dr. Albert M. Erisman because I live in India which has similar issues facing the country as does China, and the movement of jobs offshore to India from the west in recent years has been the topic of debate. Also, China has in recent decades made significant economic progress and for this reason, is often the subject of many discussions in India and, I am sure, across the globe.

The examples that were given in the article and the point about “technology for efficiency” betrayed the academic, western way of looking at things.

It is true that technology today can replace many jobs which can be done faster, and perhaps in many cases, better. However, there can be many arguments against the mindless use of technology in every situation—especially in developing countries. I feel that developing countries should examine and use technology only after a good deal of circumspection.

Technology which eliminates say, 30 jobs, and gives say, 10 new in return, will not be acceptable in developing countries where there are many millions unemployed or underemployed and their families starving. This is not to say that I take the side of Luddites but it is important to recognize that there is a dire need of jobs in these countries where there is no dole, no unemployment benefit available from the government. You either take a job, many times any job that is available, or starve. There are many others who will willingly take your place if you do not accept the job.

As technologists, it comes naturally to us to think of efficiencies, of the effort that can be saved and numerous other points in favor of the use of technology. I am reminded of the tale of the industrial engineer who did a work-study of a conductor and his orchestra. Like this engineer, we are apt to draw fallacious conclusions if we look at such issues only from a single point of view—and which in his case was about creating music more efficiently.

In India we have had many technologists providing portals and information kiosks for people in villages and towns with much alacrity. No doubt a gracious but futile venture for thousands of villages (and towns) without electricity or with an erratic electricity supply. For people in such villages, clean drinking water, assured electric supply, good health facilities, clinics and doctors, proper schools with teachers, good roads, irrigation facilities are all issues uppermost in their minds. Portals and high-tech solutions are farther down there somewhere.

I guess there are many dimensions to this issue but I would like to close by quoting Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

Sharad Murdeshwar
Hyderabad, India

I enjoyed your article “Technology Observations from China.” On a trip to China, I observed very similar things.

Ralph Blohm
Mercer Island, WA

I very much appreciate your publication. Recently I received an issue with a very interesting article about technology in China. Several of your observations are the same or similar to my own.

Karol Pelc
Houghton, MI

Business Ethics from BorgWarner

After seeing information about your organization, I wanted to pass on to you this copy from the BorgWarner handbook which was given to me by their former CEO Jim Bere in 1976. It says in part:

Policies are concerned with laws and regulations, and therefore are relatively specific. However, the question of conduct itself is broader, relating to the ethical aspects of actions we take on BorgWarner’s behalf that might violate not law, but could violate our personal codes and consciences.

Should there be any doubt about the morality of any action you are considering on BorgWarner’s behalf, ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I be willing to tell my family about the actions I am contemplating?
  • Would I be willing to go before a community meeting, a Congressional hearing, or any public forum, to describe the action?

If you apply the above test and still have doubt about what to do, discuss it with others in the company for whom you have respect—whether peers, subordinates, or superiors. I am sure this will help guide you.

I have always liked this and wanted to share it with you. Thanks for taking the time to found your organization. Sound moral business ethics are very important.

Dave Kidney
Redmond, WA

Comments on Ethix

Ethix is an amazing publication. It gives me perspective on issues only occasionally touched upon by other publications, but goes more in-depth. I myself am a writer with an educational background in philosophy and business ethics, and truly appreciate what your publication aspires to and succeed in doing.

Ken Stuczynski
West Seneca, NY

I consider Ethix an excellent magazine that explores an important and less recognized aspect of business and society. Given the pathetic image of both business and government today, its role cannot be overvalued.

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Reston, VA