In this month’s edition of In the Spotlight, we interview Gilles Bach, French strategy consultant in the data, AI and digital space, instructor on Globethics.net’s Cyber Ethics and Responsible Leadership courses and Pool of Ethics Experts member.
In conversation with Communications Assistant Josie Hough (JH), Gilles reveals his motivations, discusses the need for ethical reflection in today’s world and shares how much Globethics.net courses enrich instructors and students alike.
JH: Thanks Gilles for taking the time to talk to me today. Firstly, I’d like to know a little bit about your background and how it led you to Globethics.net?
Gilles Bach (GB): Thank you as well for interviewing me! So, I work as a consultant in AI and digital transformation. Up until 2019, I’d spent four years working in London, then I decided to move back to the continent, specifically to Geneva and the French-speaking part of Switzerland. When I arrived, I looked for Meetups bringing together people from different fields, from my professional field, or fields I am interested in. There were quite a few focused on CSR and positive business impact, which I have always been interested in. I started attending a Meetup created by Michael Hopkins, who had developed this first CSR Meetup. Around the end of 2019, Michael introduced me to Ahn Tho, another group member who happened to be part of Globethics.net.
So, that’s how I got in contact with Globethics.net. And that was the time, around March 2020, when Globethics.net was developing its courses, including the CSR course and the Cyber Ethics course, which was very fitting with my background and something I have always been very interested in. For a long time, I’ve been very aware of the need for Cyber Ethics. Ten years ago, I was working for a multinational IT services company in Zurich as a point of contact for an AI solution project. It was really an amazing experience, the possibilities and potentials of such technology are very exciting and can be very positive. At the same time, it does raise philosophical questions at different levels that can be concerning. In particular, for example, the social impact of AI. What happens to unemployment levels when people are replaced in their jobs?
JH: Well, and I just read about someone working on AI ethics at Google who has reported AI becoming sentient!
GB: Yes, that was just last week. To that, I say that AI will get very developed, to the point of developing itself on its own… it will get very close, but it will never be fully human. We need to maintain that clear difference between what is human and what is not.
In around 2009 or 2010 I was reading an article about singularity and transhumanism - the tipping point at which technology, AI specifically, becomes more intelligent than humans, and becomes able to develop itself and future versions of itself. From there I started to become very interested in the risks of this. So I was and am very happy and honoured to be able to collaborate with Globethics.net in general and on cyber ethics in particular.
JH: Well it’s great to have your expertise! Since then, what has your experience been as a Globethics.net course instructor?
GB: I feel very inspired, happy and enthusiastic. Not only am I working on making an impact by spreading good practices and by spreading the idea of ethics, which I believe is talked about less these days than in earlier generations. On top of that, I’m teaching about fields that I’m very interested in - cyber ethics and responsible leadership. I worked in the corporate world for some 20 years. After being so excited to work after five years in business school, I found myself disappointed by the realities of the corporate world. Helping to spread reflection, deeper thinking and best practices in terms of responsible leadership is really nourishing spiritually and intellectually. Being able to do that within an organisation like Globethics.net, that is spread around the world but still has that family spirit, is absolutely amazing.
JH: You’ve answered one of my next questions there too, which is what stands out for you as a specific feature regarding Globethics.net and its culture… that family spirit amongst a global team really sets the organisation apart.
GB: Completely. All these interactions within the course, with and among students from various backgrounds and geographies… as well as in the different webinars, the Pool of Experts, and so on, even as an instructor you can feel this changing you. It is so enriching and I have learnt so much hearing students from all over the world sharing their experiences, things I would never have thought of.
JH: So what would you say are the key learnings of Globethics.net courses you teach – for you as instructor and for students?
GB: For the students, while they may already have an idea of what ethics is, here they get to learn about the foundations of ethics. The courses help to clarify what ethics is and to show the full, broad spectrum of what ethics affects. We also apply ethics to very specific topics, topics that people address every day, and give students the frameworks, tools and motivations, equipping them to reflect and make their own decisions on ethics in their personal and professional lives, putting their learnings into practice. As an instructor, it’s hugely gratifying to be part of this. The live sessions, the sharing of contextual experiences, are so enriching for everyone. They can even help us as instructors to reshape the course, to add new learnings to improve the content. And the group project sessions, despite the logistical challenges of working together across different continents, in which students prepare practical projects that will have a positive impact on their communities - these are so great in helping people start something real that can create a real impact.
JH: It must be amazing seeing people build those foundations for real impact. What would you say has been your most impactful activity with Globethics.net?
GB: Globally, I would say, being part of this movement, spreading the concept of ethics around the world, is a mission of the highest importance that needs to happen at all levels, in every field, everywhere around the world. We have many problems to solve, and we need to be able to step back and reflect on how to make ethical decisions.
JH: That leads to my next question, why do you believe ethics in higher education matter in particular?
GB: Because it’s where everything starts. By teaching ethics in higher education, it can become part of the foundation of all disciplines, and of course, be completely embedded in higher education organisations themselves.
JH: Exactly! Finally, what would you say motivates you in your role? Your passion and interest as a course instructor are obvious.
GB: Yes, exactly as I said, I have found myself disappointed with the corporate world, and sometimes maybe even with the whole world really - without sounding too pessimistic. We have illusions as children, and we soon see that life is not perfect. I’m an idealist, and by being an idealist, I cannot just accept things as they are. This desire to improve things, to make the world a better place, is what motivates me.
JH: What better motivation is there? Many thanks once again Gilles for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview and for sharing your interests and expertise with us.
GB: Thank you, even us having this conversation is part of the enriching experience of our courses!