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, August 14, 2018

Natural-born existentialists

Ronnie de Sousa
aeon.com
Originally posted December 10, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

Much the same might be true of some of the emotional dispositions bequeathed to us by natural selection. If we follow some evolutionary psychologists in thinking that evolution has programmed us to value solidarity and authority, for example, we must recognise that those very same mechanisms promote xenophobia, racism and fascism. Some philosophers have made much of the fact that we appear to have genuinely altruistic motives: sometimes, human beings actually sacrifice themselves for complete strangers. If that is indeed a native human trait, so much the better. But it can’t be good because it’s natural. For selfishness and cruelty are no less natural. Again, naturalness can’t reasonably be why we value what we care about.

A second reason why evolution is not providence is that any given heritable trait is not simply either ‘adaptive’ or ‘maladaptive’ for the species. Some cases of fitness are frequency-dependent, which means that certain traits acquire a stable distribution in a population only if they are not universal.

(cut)

The third reason we should not equate the natural with the good is the most important. Evolution is not about us. In repeating the well-worn phrase that is supposed to sum up natural selection, ‘survival of the fittest’, we seldom think to ask: the fittest what? It won’t do to think that the phrase refers to fitness in individuals such as you and me. Even the fittest individuals never survive at all. We all die. What does survive is best described as information, much of which is encoded in the genes. That remains true despite the fashionable preoccupation with ‘epigenetic’ or otherwise non-DNA-encoded factors. The point is that ‘the fittest’ refers to just whatever gets replicated in subsequent generations – and whatever that is, it isn’t us. Every human is radically new, and – at least until cloning becomes routine – none will ever recur.

The article is here.

The developmental and cultural psychology of free will

Tamar Kushnir
Philosophy Compass
Originally published July 12, 2018

Abstract

This paper provides an account of the developmental origins of our belief in free will based on research from a range of ages—infants, preschoolers, older children, and adults—and across cultures. The foundations of free will beliefs are in infants' understanding of intentional action—their ability to use context to infer when agents are free to “do otherwise” and when they are constrained. In early childhood, new knowledge about causes of action leads to new abilities to imagine constraints on action. Moreover, unlike adults, young children tend to view psychological causes (i.e., desires) and social causes (i.e., following rules or group norms, being kind or fair) of action as constraints on free will. But these beliefs change, and also diverge across cultures, corresponding to differences between Eastern and Western philosophies of mind, self, and action. Finally, new evidence shows developmentally early, culturally dependent links between free will beliefs and behavior, in particular when choice‐making requires self‐control.

Here is part of the Conclusion:

I've argued here that free will beliefs are early‐developing and culturally universal, and that the folk psychology of free will involves considering actions in the context of alternative possibilities and constraints on possibility. There are developmental differences in how children reason about the possibility of acting against desires, and there are both developmental and cultural differences in how children consider the social and moral limitations on possibility.  Finally, there is new evidence emerging for developmentally early, culturally moderated links between free will beliefs and willpower, delay of gratification, and self‐regulation.

The article is here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

This AI Just Beat Human Doctors On A Clinical Exam

Parmy Olson
Forbes.com
Originally posted June 28, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Now Parsa is bringing his software service and virtual doctor network to insurers in the U.S. His pitch is that the smarter and more “reassuring” his AI-powered chatbot gets, the more likely patients across the Atlantic are to resolve their issues with software alone.

It’s a model that could save providers millions, potentially, but Parsa has yet to secure a big-name American customer.

“The American market is much more tuned to the economics of healthcare,” he said from his office. “We’re talking to everyone: insurers, employers, health systems. They have massive gaps in delivery of the care.”

“We will set up physical and virtual clinics, and AI services in the United States,” he said, adding that Babylon would be operational with U.S. clinics in 2019, starting state by state. “For a fixed fee, we take total responsibility for the cost of primary care.”

Parsa isn’t shy about his transatlantic ambitions: “I think the U.S. will be our biggest market shortly,” he adds.

The info is here.

We Need Data Ethics, Not Just Laws

Chad Wollen
www.adexchanger.com
Originally posted July 18, 2018

With consumer trust in brands at such a low point it is worth reflecting on a home truth: Companies neglected to put the producers of “big data” – consumers – at the heart of their approach to data.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the latest step toward building a more transparent relationship between companies and the public, represents a boiling over of concerns about data use.

Far too often, the general attitude appears to be one of companies gaming to see how rules can be observed without the overall spirit being fully embraced. The next, and arguably bigger, step is the ethical one, because it is about companies acting on their own, not because they are ordered to, to do the right thing.

What is clearly needed is a set of ethics that steer what companies can do with data – a set of truths that the industry holds to be self-evident.

In April, the industry was given a good starting point with the World Federation of Advertisers’ call for companies to adhere to a four-point plan to improve data policies. If meeting consumer needs is not enough to drive change then maybe meeting the needs of advertisers will be, and data safety initiatives can follow other moves within the industry to address issues around brand safety and accountability.

The info is here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Insights From Non-human Primates

Judith Burkart, Rahel Brugger, and Carel van Schaik
Front. Sociol., 09 July 2018

The aim of this contribution is to explore the origins of moral behavior and its underlying moral preferences and intuitions from an evolutionary perspective. Such a perspective encompasses both the ultimate, adaptive function of morality in our own species, as well as the phylogenetic distribution of morality and its key elements across primates. First, with regard to the ultimate function, we argue that human moral preferences are best construed as adaptations to the affordances of the fundamentally interdependent hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our hominin ancestors. Second, with regard to the phylogenetic origin, we show that even though full-blown human morality is unique to humans, several of its key elements are not. Furthermore, a review of evidence from non-human primates regarding prosocial concern, conformity, and the potential presence of universal, biologically anchored and arbitrary cultural norms shows that these elements of morality are not distributed evenly across primate species. This suggests that they have evolved along separate evolutionary trajectories. In particular, the element of prosocial concern most likely evolved in the context of shared infant care, which can be found in humans and some New World monkeys. Strikingly, many if not all of the elements of morality found in non-human primates are only evident in individualistic or dyadic contexts, but not as third-party reactions by truly uninvolved bystanders. We discuss several potential explanations for the unique presence of a systematic third-party perspective in humans, but focus particularly on mentalizing ability and language. Whereas both play an important role in present day, full-blown human morality, it appears unlikely that they played a causal role for the original emergence of morality. Rather, we suggest that the most plausible scenario to date is that human morality emerged because our hominid ancestors, equipped on the one hand with large and powerful brains inherited from their ape-like ancestor, and on the other hand with strong prosocial concern as a result of cooperative breeding, could evolve into an ever more interdependent social niche.

The article is here.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Should we care that the sex robots are coming?

Kate Devlin
unhurd.com
Originally published July 12, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

There’s no evidence to suggest that human-human relationships will be damaged. Indeed, it may be a chance for people to experience feelings of love that they are otherwise denied, for any number of reasons. Whether or not that love is considered valid by society is a different matter. And while objectification is definitely an issue, it may be an avoidable one. Security and privacy breaches are a worry in any smart technologies, which puts a whole new spin on safe sex.

As for child sex robots – an abhorrent image – people have already been convicted for importing child-like sex dolls. But we shouldn’t shy from considering whether research might deem them useful in a clinical setting, such as testing rehabilitation success, as has been trialled with virtual reality.

While non-sexual care robots are already in use, it was only three months ago, that the race to produce the first commercially-available model was won by an lifeless sex doll with an animatronic head and an integrated AI chatbot called Harmony. She might look the part but she doesn’t move from the neck down. We are still a long way from Westworld.

Naturally, a niche market will be delighted at the prospect of bespoke robot pleasure to come. But many others are worried about the impact these machines will have on our own, human relationships. These concerns aren’t dispelled by the fact that the current form of the sex robot is a reductive, cartoonish stereotype of a woman: all big hair and bigger breasts.

The info is here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Is compassion fatigue inevitable in an age of 24-hour news?

Elisa Gabbert
The Guardian
Originally posted August 2, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Not long after compassion fatigue emerged as a concept in healthcare, a similar concept began to appear in media studies – the idea that overexposure to horrific images, from news reports in particular, could cause viewers to shut down emotionally, rejecting information instead of responding to it. In her 1999 book  Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death, the journalist and scholar Susan Moeller explored this idea at length. “It seems as if the media careen from one trauma to another, in a breathless tour of poverty, disease and death,” she wrote. “The troubles blur. Crises become one crisis.” The volume of bad news drives the public to “collapse into a compassion fatigue stupor”.

Susan Sontag grappled with similar questions in her short book Regarding the Pain of Others, published in 2003. By “regarding” she meant not just “with regard to”, but looking at: “Flooded with images of the sort that once used to shock and arouse indignation, we are losing our capacity to react. Compassion, stretched to its limits, is going numb. So runs the familiar diagnosis.” She implies that the idea was already tired: media overload dulls our sensitivity to suffering. Whose fault is that – ours or the media’s? And what are we supposed to do about it?

By Moeller’s account, compassion fatigue is a vicious cycle. When war and famine are constant, they become boring – we’ve seen it all before. The only way to break through your audience’s boredom is to make each disaster feel worse than the last. When it comes to world news, the events must be “more dramatic and violent” to compete with more local stories, as a 1995 study of international media coverage by the Pew Research Center in Washington found.

The information is here.

SAS officers given lessons in ‘morality’

Paul Maley
PM Malcolm Turnbull with Defence Minister Marise Payne and current Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin. Picture: Kym SmithThe Australian
Originally posted July 9, 2018

SAS officers are being given ­additional training in ethics, ­morality and courage in leadership as the army braces itself for a potentially damning report ­expected to find that a small number of troops may have committed war crimes during the decade-long fight in Afghanistan.

With the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force due within months to hand down his report into ­alleged battlefield atrocities committed by Diggers, The Australian can reveal that the SAS Regiment has been quietly instituting a series of reforms ahead of the findings.

The changes to special forces training reflect a widely held view within the army that any alleged misconduct committed by Australian troops was in part the ­result of a failure of leadership, as well as the transgression of individual soldiers.

Many of the reforms are ­focused on strengthening operational leadership and regimental culture, while others are designed to help special operations officers make ethical ­decisions even under the most challenging conditions.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The influence of moral stories on kindergarteners’ sharing behaviour

Zhuojun Yao and Robert Enright
Early Child Development and Care
July 19, 2018

Abstract

The current study investigated the effect of moral stories in promoting kindergarteners’ sharing behaviour. One hundred eight children were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: two experimental conditions (a moral story with a sharing model and good consequences and a moral story with a selfish model and bad consequences) and a control condition (a nonmoral story). The results showed that children in the experimental groups shared more than children in the control group. In addition, comparing the two experimental groups, children in the sharing-good consequences condition shared more than children in the selfish-bad consequences condition. Further, interviews were conducted to provide in-depth understanding of common and different influences of the two moral stories on children’s sharing behaviour. The implications for research and practice were discussed.

The article is here.