Ethics in 4IR Episode

Wednesday, 27 May 2020


Ethics in 4IR

The future rules

Ethics for the 4th Industrial Revolution

Artificial intelligence, artificial life, deep learning. Social media, and big data, open data, personal data and data mining – all of these are fundamental building blocks for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). They’re exciting. They are powerful, and they are making their presence felt everywhere, which is what makes many fearful – and that’s before we even get to cyber warfare, hypercomputation and social media. And, even more recently, the potential inequities arising from Covid-19.

If people are fearful, it’s because although they might be taken with the excitement and novelty of the ever more interesting technologies that manage our lives, amuse us, and extend our ability to communicate, they can sense the danger of misuse, unfairness, and abuse of power. There is a growing realisation that while things get easier to do, health improves, entertainment is more fun, and networks become more seductive, justice, fairness and respect need to rule in this new world.

And surely this rule should embrace an ethical impetus at every level, from the individual and societal, to the universal and global. In short, we need to map the moral foundations of tomorrow.

Threats and promises

Some threats to our equilibrium are obvious: Familiar jobs will disappear. Our privacy is being compromised. Terrorism will have the same access to our lives as we do. Drones might pounce out of the blue. And as man/woman and machine merge, your very DNA might be stolen, or you might simply eat too much of the abundance of food grown in mega laboratories. And will the robots that build and drive our cars, compose our music, write – not only our books, but our CVs – have a conscience? And if they can learn all the intimacies of the way we live, will they also learn to dream? How can we be sure that their dream for humanity coincides with ours, and indeed, that our dream is a beneficent one.

Reshaping the world

But there are less obvious threats, with questions attached to them that are just as important. Will the enabling technology on which we more and more depend, be available to all, equally? Will some societies exclude others? Will medical breakthroughs benefit everyone, or just the rich? Will wealth itself be protected and ever more unevenly distributed? Should certain technologies be developed at all? How do we control the end-use of the machine and artificial intelligence enhancements we make, in everything from neurological research to gene manipulation and exoskeletons that bestow superhuman physical strength? How do we protect and steward our planet, and all its bountiful natural resources for everyone’s benefit, everywhere? And how do we protect ourselves in this online and highly connected world?

What’s more – who is to be tasked with answering these questions? Tech companies? Governments? Civil bodies? Legal and justice systems? Global compacts and treaties? How will agreement and compliance with any proposed ethical framework be achieved?

These are critical questions for everyone, if we as individuals, our societies, and all the generations still to come, are truly to prosper and thrive in the midst of the new revolution that is at the same time taking shape and radically reshaping, the world in which we live.

It’s because of the urgency of these kinds of questions that the University of Johannesburg (UJ), as a leader of challenging and innovative academic thought on our continent, is continuing with its probing examination of 4IR and its implications. And that’s why, in the first Cloudebate of 2020, to be held on 1 April 2020, UJ will be taking an in-depth look at the critical issue of the ethics that need to be developed to underpin the changes our world is experiencing.

Creating tomorrow

So, if you’re an educator, a student, a tech – or any – entrepreneur, a person who works in the law, in government or in finance, or if you’re simply someone with a passionate interest in contributing towards the new, in challenging received ideas, and above all, in the equitable, fair and just use of science and technology – then join UJ at the first Cloudebate of 2020 on 1 April 2020 to air your views, and to listen to those of others.

Only ethics can ensure our humanity. And only informed debate, a moral commitment to our future on this planet and a rigorous examination of what we do, both as individuals and as societies, can help mould a workable, safe and ethical framework that works for everyone. And UJ, through its Cloudebate platform, is showing that it is ready to lead that conversation. In advancing our understanding and insights, as we change the world, and the world changes us, UJ is committed to its pursuit of leadership in creating tomorrow.


Prof. Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Facilitator)

Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Facilitator) is the Senior Director: Division of Internationalisation and also Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Johannesburg.

She is a Senior Associate Researcher with the Stanhope Centre for International Communications Policy Research at the London School of Economics. She holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University as well as an MA degree in Politics from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and an MA in Journalism from Cardiff University in the U.K. Ylva is a former journalist and has also worked in marketing and PR. In addition, she has consulted for several government, private and academic institutions in Europe and Southern Africa on issues concerning media and democracy, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, and the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Ylva holds a C 3 rating from the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and is the current President of the South African Communications and Media Association (SACOMM).

Prof SH (Basie) von Solms

Prof SH (Basie) von Solms is a Research Professor in the Academy for Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Johannesburg in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He is the Director of the Centre for Cyber Security at the University of Johannesburg as well as an Associate Director of the Global Cybersecurity Capacity Centre of the University of Oxford in the UK. Basie was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council for Cyber Security.

Prof von Solms is a Past President of IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing ( He is a Fellow of the Institute for IT Professionals (IITP) of South Africa, a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Oxford Martin School of the University of Oxford and a Chartered Information Technology Professional in the UK.(CITP).

Prof von Solms specializes in research and consultancy in the area of Information and Cyber Security, Critical Information Infrastructure Protection, Cyber Crime and other related cyber aspects.

Prof. Chris Stein

Prof. Chris Stein qualified with a National Diploma in Emergency Medical Care in 1994 and began work as a lecturer in 1998. He obtained Bachelor’s degrees in Post-School Education, Emergency Medical Care and Computer Science in 1999, 2001 and 2005 respectively. These were followed by an Honour’s degree in Computer Science in 2008 and a Master’s degree in Emergency Medicine in 2010. He completed a PhD in Emergency Medicine at the University of Cape Town in 2014 and is currently studying towards a second PhD in Bioethics and Health Law at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Prof Stein’s interests fall mainly within the domain of clinical pre-hospital emergency care and Emergency Medical Services systems but also include areas such as statistics, research development, bioethics and computing. He is actively involved in research and has numerous international publications, and local and international scientific and invited conference presentations. Prof Stein is currently the Immediate Past-President of the Emergency Care Society of South Africa and a member of the Executive Committee of the African Federation for Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Mpho Tshivhase

Mpho Tshivhase is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. She lectures undergraduate and postgraduate courses mainly in ethics – ranging from African and Western philosophical traditions. She holds a doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Johannesburg. Her research interests are person hood, personal uniqueness, and themes of love, autonomy, authenticity, death, and African ethics, aspects of race and feminism. She has authored (and reviewed) academic papers in the above mentioned areas and has presented papers at local and international conferences. She is also the current President of the Philosophical Society of Southern Africa.

Mpho has worked on different interdisciplinary institutional projects at the University of Pretoria that were hosted by the Center for Human Rights, the Faculty of Humanities, and the Center for Advancement of Scholarship. She was a member of the Moralities Research group at the Bayreuth University in Germany where she was invited as a visiting scholar.

Mpho is also on the list of the 2019 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans.