Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

British Public Fears the Day When "Computer Says No"

Jasper Hamill
The Metro
Originally published May 31, 2018

Governments and tech companies risk a popular backlash against artificial intelligence (AI) unless they open up about how it will be used, according to a new report.

A poll conducted for the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) revealed widespread concern that AI will create a ‘Computer Says No’ culture, in which crucial decisions are made automatically without consideration of individual circumstances.

If the public feels ‘victimised or disempowered’ by intelligent machines, they may resist the introduction of new technologies, even if it holds back progress which could benefit them, the report warned.

Fear of inflexible and unfeeling automatic decision-making was a greater concern than robots taking humans’ jobs among those taking part in a survey by pollsters YouGov for the RSA.

The information is here.

Of Mice, Men, and Trolleys: Hypothetical Judgment Versus Real-Life Behavior in Trolley-Style Moral Dilemmas

Dries H. Bostyn, Sybren Sevenhant, and Arne Roets
Psychological Science 
First Published May 9, 2018

Abstract

Scholars have been using hypothetical dilemmas to investigate moral decision making for decades. However, whether people’s responses to these dilemmas truly reflect the decisions they would make in real life is unclear. In the current study, participants had to make the real-life decision to administer an electroshock (that they did not know was bogus) to a single mouse or allow five other mice to receive the shock. Our results indicate that responses to hypothetical dilemmas are not predictive of real-life dilemma behavior, but they are predictive of affective and cognitive aspects of the real-life decision. Furthermore, participants were twice as likely to refrain from shocking the single mouse when confronted with a hypothetical versus the real version of the dilemma. We argue that hypothetical-dilemma research, while valuable for understanding moral cognition, has little predictive value for actual behavior and that future studies should investigate actual moral behavior along with the hypothetical scenarios dominating the field.

The research is here.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sam Harris and the Myth of Perfectly Rational Thought

Robert Wright
www.wired.com
Originally posted March 17, 2018

Here are several excerpts:

This is attribution error working as designed. It sustains your conviction that, though your team may do bad things, it’s only the other team that’s actually bad. Your badness is “situational,” theirs is “dispositional.”

(cut)

Another cognitive bias—probably the most famous—is confirmation bias, the tendency to embrace, perhaps uncritically, evidence that supports your side of an argument and to either not notice, reject, or forget evidence that undermines it. This bias can assume various forms, and one was exhibited by Harris in his exchange with Ezra Klein over political scientist Charles Murray’s controversial views on race and IQ.

(cut)

Most of these examples of tribal thinking are pretty pedestrian—the kinds of biases we all exhibit, usually with less than catastrophic results. Still, it is these and other such pedestrian distortions of thought and perception that drive America’s political polarization today.

For example: How different is what Harris said about Buzzfeed from Donald Trump talking about “fake news CNN”? It’s certainly different in degree. But is it different in kind? I would submit that it’s not.

When a society is healthy, it is saved from all this by robust communication. Individual people still embrace or reject evidence too hastily, still apportion blame tribally, but civil contact with people of different perspectives can keep the resulting distortions within bounds. There is enough constructive cross-tribal communication—and enough agreement on what the credible sources of information are—to preserve some overlap of, and some fruitful interaction between, world views.

The article is here.

Groundhog Day for Medical Artificial Intelligence

Alex John London
The Hastings Report
Originally published May 26, 2018

Abstract

Following a boom in investment and overinflated expectations in the 1980s, artificial intelligence entered a period of retrenchment known as the “AI winter.” With advances in the field of machine learning and the availability of large datasets for training various types of artificial neural networks, AI is in another cycle of halcyon days. Although medicine is particularly recalcitrant to change, applications of AI in health care have professionals in fields like radiology worried about the future of their careers and have the public tittering about the prospect of soulless machines making life‐and‐death decisions. Medicine thus appears to be at an inflection point—a kind of Groundhog Day on which either AI will bring a springtime of improved diagnostic and predictive practices or the shadow of public and professional fear will lead to six more metaphorical weeks of winter in medical AI.

The brief perspective is here.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Does Non-Moral Ignorance Exculpate? Situational Awareness and Attributions of Blame and Forgiveness

Kissinger-Knox, A., Aragon, P. & Mizrahi, M.
Acta Anal (2018) 33: 161. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12136-017-0339-y

Abstract

In this paper, we set out to test empirically an idea that many philosophers find intuitive, namely that non-moral ignorance can exculpate. Many philosophers find it intuitive that moral agents are responsible only if they know the particular facts surrounding their action (or inaction). Our results show that whether moral agents are aware of the facts surrounding their (in)action does have an effect on people’s attributions of blame, regardless of the consequences or side effects of the agent’s actions. In general, it was more likely that a situationally aware agent will be blamed for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. We also tested attributions of forgiveness in addition to attributions of blame. In general, it was less likely that a situationally aware agent will be forgiven for failing to perform the obligatory action than a situationally unaware agent. When the agent is situationally unaware, it is more likely that the agent will be forgiven than blamed. We argue that these results provide some empirical support for the hypothesis that there is something intuitive about the idea that non-moral ignorance can exculpate.

The article is here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ivanka Trump in China: The trademarks raising an ethics firestorm

Aimee Picchi
CBS News - Money Watch
Originally published May 29, 2018

Ivanka Trump this month received trademark approval from China for a broad array of items, including baby blankets, wallpaper and carpets. That wouldn't be unusual for a global business built on consumer goods such as elegant women's clothing and shoes, but it raises numerous ethical issues given that her father is the U.S. president.

The timing appears especially fraught given President Donald Trump agreed to rescue Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp. shortly after Ivanka Trump's brand was awarded the trademarks.

Ethics watchdogs say the approvals are problematic on a number of levels, including Ivanka Trump's role representing the U.S. at diplomatic events even though her brand's business could be impacted -- for good or bad -- by relations with foreign nations. Then there's also the conflicts that arise from her father's role as president amid rising trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

The article is here.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Tech giants need to build ethics into AI from the start

James Titcomb
The Telegraph
Originally posted May 13, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

But excitement about the software soon turned to comprehending the ethical minefield it created. Google’s initial demo gave no indication that the person on the other end of the phone would be alerted that they were talking to a robot. The software even had human-like quirks built into it, stopping to say “um” and “mm-hmm”, a quality designed to seem cute but that ended up appearing more deceptive.

Some found the whole idea that a person should have to go through an artificial conversation with a robot somewhat demeaning; insulting even.

After a day of criticism, Google attempted to play down some of the concerns. It said the technology had no fixed release date, would take into account people’s concerns and promised to ensure that the software identified itself as such at the start of every phone call.

But the fact that it did not do this immediately was not a promising sign. The last two years of massive data breaches, evidence of Russian propaganda campaigns on social media and privacy failures have proven what should always have been obvious: that the internet has as much power to do harm as good. Every frontier technology now needs to be built with at least some level of paranoia; some person asking: “How could this be abused?”

The information is here.

The danger of absolute thinking is absolutely clear

Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi
aeon.co
Originally posted May 2, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

There are generally two forms of absolutism; ‘dichotomous thinking’ and ‘categorical imperatives’. Dichotomous thinking – also referred to as ‘black-and-white’ or ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking – describes a binary outlook, where things in life are either ‘this’ or ‘that’, and nothing in between. Categorical imperatives are completely rigid demands that people place on themselves and others. The term is borrowed from Immanuel Kant’s deontological moral philosophy, which is grounded in an obligation- and rules-based ethical code.

In our research – and in clinical psychology more broadly – absolutist thinking is viewed as an unhealthy thinking style that disrupts emotion-regulation and hinders people from achieving their goals. Yet we all, to varying extents, are disposed to it – why is this? Primarily, because it’s much easier than dealing with the true complexities of life. The term cognitive miser, first introduced by the American psychologists Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor in 1984, describes how humans seek the simplest and least effortful ways of thinking. Nuance and complexity is expensive – it takes up precious time and energy – so wherever possible we try to cut corners. This is why we have biases and prejudices, and form habits. It’s why the study of heuristics (intuitive ‘gut-feeling’ judgments) is so useful in behavioural economics and political science.

But there is no such thing as a free lunch; the time and energy saved through absolutist thinking has a cost. In order to successfully navigate through life, we need to appreciate nuance, understand complexity and embrace flexibility. When we succumb to absolutist thinking for the most important matters in our lives – such as our goals, relationships and self-esteem – the consequences are disastrous.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Benefits of Admitting When You Don’t Know

Tenelle Porter
Behavioral Scientist
Originally published April 30, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

We found that the more intellectually humble students were more motivated to learn and more likely to use effective metacognitive strategies, like quizzing themselves to check their own understanding. They also ended the year with higher grades in math. We also found that the teachers, who hadn’t seen students’ intellectual humility questionnaires, rated the more intellectually humble students as more engaged in learning.

Next, we moved into the lab. Could temporarily boosting intellectual humility make people more willing to seek help in an area of intellectual weakness? We induced intellectual humility in half of our participants by having them read a brief article that described the benefits of admitting what you do not know. The other half read an article about the benefits of being very certain of what you know. We then measured their intellectual humility.

Those who read the benefits-of-humility article self-reported higher intellectual humility than those in the other group. What’s more, in a follow-up exercise 85 percent of these same participants sought extra help for an area of intellectual weakness. By contrast, only 65 percent of the participants who read about the benefits of being certain sought the extra help that they needed. This experiment provided evidence that enhancing intellectual humility has the potential to affect students’ actual learning behavior.

Together, our findings illustrate that intellectual humility is associated with a host of outcomes that we think are important for learning in school, and they suggest that boosting intellectual humility may have benefits for learning.

The article is here.