The economic and legal perspective

The third level of investigation explores the consequences of technological progress on enterprises and employees in terms in terms of regulation and overall economic-legal system. The fourth industrial revolution focuses on data and on automation of production and cognitive/decision-making processes. Such evolution requires an investigation of the new system based on information and machines and of the different relationship between individual and technology.

From a legal perspective, the centrality of the use of data (Big Data, machine learning, IoT) in terms of planning and decision-making requires an analysis on transparency and accountability of evaluation processes, degree of participation of stakeholders, assessment and allocation of risks inherent to data-driven solutions (on individuals and society). Similarly, with reference to the “new era of machines”, issues are arising on the level of autonomy to be recognized to such devices, especially in their interaction with man, with implications ranging from security to civil liability from self-determination to ethical choices in critical conditions with consequences on a plurality of subjects (entrepreneurs, employees, consumers, investors, institutions). It is necessary to identify appropriate regulatory solutions, based on existing institutions, on their rethinking or on radical changes of paradigm, and to look beyond the legal-regulatory norms towards a wider framework of the technology ethics, so as to face the risks of a technological development not mediated by ethical-social and legal values (decision-making bias, inequality, underestimation of ethical implications, decrease of rights). This survey will take advantage of researches already in progress, such as the H2020 Virt-EU project (VIRT-EU: Values and ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe) and the legal part of the HuMans project.

From an economic perspective, the cost savings and/or quality improvement of products allowed by new technologies will result in an increase of productivity for enterprises and— although this is not a given—due to greater market competition prompted by new technologies and changes in industrial structures, in increased competitiveness. Therefore, it becomes crucial to analyze the factors that encourage the adoption of new technologies, such as the access to basic infrastructures (Ultra Broad Band, in turn influenced by regulatory mechanisms) and availability of information systems for the transfer and processing of information to and from enterprises. Furthermore, it is necessary to analyze if and how the aforementioned increased productivity will be transferred to employees, in terms of salaries, employment and of possible economic gaps that may be generated. The immediate effect will be technological unemployment, induced by man-machine substitution, to be quantified with detailed econometric analysis of specific industries. However, further effects can offset the negative impact on the labor factor. Among these, the possibility that the higher skills required by the use of new technologies will discourage companies from localizing in countries with low labor costs (offshoring) and/or relocating, in advanced countries, the production previously delocalized (backshoring).