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

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Ethics of Ceding More Power To Machines

Brhmie Balaram
www.theRSA.org
Originally posted May 31, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

This gets to the crux of people’s fears about AI – there is a perception that we may be ceding too much power to AI, regardless of the reality. The public’s concerns seem to echo that of the academic Virginia Eubanks, who argues that the fundamental problem with these systems is that they enable the ethical distance needed “to make inhuman choices about who gets food and who starves, who has housing and who remains homeless, whose family stays together and whose is broken up by the state.”

Yet, these systems also have the potential to increase the fairness of outcomes if they are able to improve accuracy and minimise biases. They may also increase efficiency and savings for both the organisation that deploys the systems, as well as the people subject to the decision.

These are the sorts of trade-offs that a public dialogue, and in particular, a long-form deliberative process like a citizens’ jury, can address.

The info is here.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Business Class

John Benjamin
The New Republic
Originally posted May 14, 2018

Students in the country’s top MBA programs pride themselves on their open-mindedness. This is, after all, what they’ve been sold: American business schools market their ability to train the kinds of broadly competent, intellectually receptive people that will help solve the problems of a global economy.

But in truth, MBA programs are not the open forums advertised in admissions brochures. Behind this façade, they are ideological institutions committed to a strict blend of social liberalism and economic conservatism. Though this fusion may be the favorite of American elites—the kinds of people who might repeat that tired line “I’m socially liberal but fiscally conservative”—it takes a strange form in business school. Elite business schooling is tailored to promote two types of solutions to the big problems that arise in society: either greater innovation or freer markets. Proposals other than what’s essentially more business are brushed aside, or else patched over with a type of liberal politics that’s heavy on rhetorical flair but light on relevance outside privileged circles.

It is in this closed ideological loop that we wannabe masters of the universe often struggle to think clearly about the common good or what it takes to achieve it.

The information is here.

The Surprising Power of Questions

Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John
Harvard Business Review
May-June 2018 Issue

Here are two excerpts:

Most people don’t grasp that asking a lot of questions unlocks learning and improves interpersonal bonding. In Alison’s studies, for example, though people could accurately recall how many questions had been asked in their conversations, they didn’t intuit the link between questions and liking. Across four studies, in which participants were engaged in conversations themselves or read transcripts of others’ conversations, people tended not to realize that question asking would influence—or had influenced—the level of amity between the conversationalists.

The New Socratic Method

The first step in becoming a better questioner is simply to ask more questions. Of course, the sheer number of questions is not the only factor that influences the quality of a conversation: The type, tone, sequence, and framing also matter.

(cut)

Not all questions are created equal. Alison’s research, using human coding and machine learning, revealed four types of questions: introductory questions (“How are you?”), mirror questions (“I’m fine. How are you?”), full-switch questions (ones that change the topic entirely), and follow-up questions (ones that solicit more information). Although each type is abundant in natural conversation, follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.

An unexpected benefit of follow-up questions is that they don’t require much thought or preparation—indeed, they seem to come naturally to interlocutors. In Alison’s studies, the people who were told to ask more questions used more follow-up questions than any other type without being instructed to do so.

The article is here.

This article clearly relates to psychotherapy communication.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Making better decisions in groups

The Royal Society
Originally published May 24, 2018

The animation and briefing on making better decisions in groups is based on the research work of Dr Dan Bang and Professor Chris Frith FRS.

It introduces the key concepts around improving decision making in groups with the aim of alerting Royal Society committee chairs and panel members to consider that by pooling diverse information and different areas of expertise, groups can make better decisions than individuals.




Are Most Clinical Trials Unethical?

Michel Shamy
American Council on Science and Health
Originally published May 21, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Therefore, to render RCTs scientifically and ethically justifiable, certain conditions must be met. But what are they?

Much of the recent literature on the topic of RCT ethics references the concept of “equipoise,” which refers to uncertainty or disagreement in the medical community. Though it is widely cited, “equipoise” has been defined inconsistently, is not universally accepted, and can be difficult to operationalize. Most scientists agree that we should not do another study when the answer is known ahead of time; to do so would be redundant, wasteful, and ultimately harmful to patients. When some estimates suggest that as much as 85% of clinical research may be wasteful, there is a strong imperative to develop clear criteria for when RCTs are necessary. In the absence of such criteria, RCTs that are unnecessary may be allowed to proceed – and unnecessary RCTs are, by definition, unethical.

We have proposed a preliminary set of criteria to guide judgments about whether a proposed RCT is scientifically justified. Every RCT should (1) ask a clear question, (2) assert a specific hypothesis, and (3) ensure that the hypothesis has not already been answered by available knowledge, including non-randomized studies. Then, we examined a sample of high quality, published RCTs and found that only 44% met these criteria.

The information is here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Experts outline ethics issues with use of genealogy DNA to solve crimes

Carolyn Crist
Business Insider
Originally published June 1, 2018

With recent revelations that U.S. law enforcement can - and already has - dipped into consumer genealogy DNA databases to help solve crimes, experts say more discussion of the ethical issues raised by this unintended use of personal information is needed.

It's unclear, for instance, whether online genealogy site users know their DNA is available to criminal investigators - and whether they'd object to it being used for that purpose, write the authors of an essay exploring the topic in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We're seeing a divide about this right now. On one hand, it's a powerful technology to solve cases, but it also raises questions for consumers," said lead author Benjamin Berkman, who heads the section on the ethics of genetics and new technologies at the National Institutes of Health's Department of Bioethics in Bethesda, Maryland.

"The idea that they upload their data for genealogy purposes and it's used in such a different way really surprises some people," he told Reuters Health in a telephone interview. "The terms of service agreements don't explain this clearly, and even if they did, people wouldn't read it or find it in the dense legalese."

The information is here.

Understanding Moral Preferences Using Sentiment Analysis

Capraro, Valerio and Vanzo, Andrea
(May 28, 2018).

Abstract

Behavioral scientists have shown that people are not solely motivated by the economic consequences of the available actions, but they also care about the actions themselves. Several models have been proposed to formalize this preference for "doing the right thing". However, a common limitation of these models is their lack of predictive power: given a set of instructions of a decision problem, they lack to make clear predictions of people's behavior. Here, we show that, at least in simple cases, the overall qualitative pattern of behavior can be predicted reasonably well using a Computational Linguistics technique, known as Sentiment Analysis. The intuition is that people are reluctant to make actions that evoke negative emotions, and are eager to make actions that stimulate positive emotions. To show this point, we conduct an economic experiment in which decision-makers either get 50 cents, and another person gets nothing, or the opposite, the other person gets 50 cents and the decision maker gets nothing. We experimentally manipulate the wording describing the available actions using six words, from very negative (e.g., stealing) to very positive (e.g., donating) connotations. In agreement with our theory, we show that sentiment polarity has a U-shaped effect on pro-sociality. We also propose a utility function that can qualitatively predict the observed behavior, as well as previously reported framing effects. Our results suggest that building bridges from behavioral sciences to Computational Linguistics can help improve our understanding of human decision making.

The research is here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Understanding unconscious bias

The Royal Society
Originally published November 17, 2015

This animation introduces the key concepts of unconscious bias.  It forms part of the Royal Society’s efforts to ensure that all those who serve on Royal Society selection and appointment panels are aware of differences in how candidates may present themselves, how to recognise bias in yourself and others, how to recognise inappropriate advocacy or unreasoned judgement. You can find out more about unconscious bias and download a briefing which includes current academic research at www.royalsociety.org/diversity.



A great three-minute video.

The alliance in adult psychotherapy: A meta-analytic synthesis.

Flückiger C, Del Re AC, Wampold BE, & Horvath AO
Psychotherapy (Chicago, Ill.) [24 May 2018]

Abstract

The alliance continues to be one of the most investigated variables related to success in psychotherapy irrespective of theoretical orientation. We define and illustrate the alliance (also conceptualized as therapeutic alliance, helping alliance, or working alliance) and then present a meta-analysis of 295 independent studies that covered more than 30,000 patients (published between 1978 and 2017) for face-to-face and Internet-based psychotherapy. The relation of the alliance and treatment outcome was investigated using a three-level meta-analysis with random-effects restricted maximum-likelihood estimators. The overall alliance-outcome association for face-to-face psychotherapy was r = .278 (95% confidence intervals [.256, .299], p < .0001; equivalent of d = .579). There was heterogeneity among the effect sizes, and 2% of the 295 effect sizes indicated negative correlations. The correlation for Internet-based psychotherapy was approximately the same (viz., r = .275, k = 23). These results confirm the robustness of the positive relation between the alliance and outcome. This relation remains consistent across assessor perspectives, alliance and outcome measures, treatment approaches, patient characteristics, and countries. The article concludes with causality considerations, research limitations, diversity considerations, and therapeutic practices.

The research is here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test

Jessica McCrory Calarco
The Atlantic
Originally published June 1, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

This new paper found that among kids whose mothers had a college degree, those who waited for a second marshmallow did no better in the long run—in terms of standardized test scores and mothers’ reports of their children’s behavior—than those who dug right in. Similarly, among kids whose mothers did not have college degrees, those who waited did no better than those who gave in to temptation, once other factors like household income and the child’s home environment at age 3 (evaluated according to a standard research measure that notes, for instance, the number of books that researchers observed in the home and how responsive mothers were to their children in the researchers’ presence) were taken into account. For those kids, self-control alone couldn’t overcome economic and social disadvantages.

The failed replication of the marshmallow test does more than just debunk the earlier notion; it suggests other possible explanations for why poorer kids would be less motivated to wait for that second marshmallow. For them, daily life holds fewer guarantees: There might be food in the pantry today, but there might not be tomorrow, so there is a risk that comes with waiting. And even if their parents promise to buy more of a certain food, sometimes that promise gets broken out of financial necessity.

The information is here.

The primeval tribalism of American politics

The Economist
Originally posted May 24, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The problem is structural: the root of tribalism is human nature, and the current state of American democracy is distinctly primeval. People have an urge to belong to exclusive groups and to affirm their membership by beating other groups. A new book by the political scientist Lilliana Mason, “Uncivil Agreement”, describes the psychology experiments that proved this. In one, members of randomly selected groups were told to share a pile of cash between their group and another. Given the choice of halving the sum, or of keeping a lesser portion for themselves and handing an even smaller portion to the other group, they preferred the second option. The common good meant nothing. Winning was all. This is the logic of American politics today.

How passion got strained

The main reason for that, Ms Mason argues, is a growing correlation between partisan and other important identities, concerning race, religion and so on. When the electorate was more jumbled (for example, when the parties had similar numbers of racists and smug elitists) most Americans had interests in both camps. That allowed people to float between, or at least to respect them. The electorate is now so sorted—with Republicans the party of less well-educated and socially conservative whites and Democrats for everyone else—as to provide little impediment to a deliciously self-affirming intertribal dust-up.

The article is here.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws

Morgan Gstalter
thehill.com
Originally posted June 23, 2018

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics said on Saturday that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s decision to tweet about being kicked out of a Virginia restaurant violated ethics laws.

Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va., on Friday night, but confirmed the incident in a Saturday morning tweet.

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for [President Trump] and I politely left,” Sanders tweeted. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

The information is here.

Yes, Ms. Sanders could have used her personal twitter account, which would not have violated any government ethical codes or laws.

Moral hindsight for good actions and the effects of imagined alternatives to reality

Ruth M.J. Byrne and Shane Timmons
Cognition
Volume 178, September 2018, Pages 82–91

Abstract

Five experiments identify an asymmetric moral hindsight effect for judgments about whether a morally good action should have been taken, e.g., Ann should run into traffic to save Jill who fell before an oncoming truck. Judgments are increased when the outcome is good (Jill sustained minor bruises), as Experiment 1 shows; but they are not decreased when the outcome is bad (Jill sustained life-threatening injuries), as Experiment 2 shows. The hindsight effect is modified by imagined alternatives to the outcome: judgments are amplified by a counterfactual that if the good action had not been taken, the outcome would have been worse, and diminished by a semi-factual that if the good action had not been taken, the outcome would have been the same. Hindsight modification occurs when the alternative is presented with the outcome, and also when participants have already committed to a judgment based on the outcome, as Experiments 3A and 3B show. The hindsight effect occurs not only for judgments in life-and-death situations but also in other domains such as sports, as Experiment 4 shows. The results are consistent with a causal-inference explanation of moral judgment and go against an aversive-emotion one.

Highlights
• Judgments a morally good action should be taken are increased when it succeeds.
• Judgments a morally good action should be taken are not decreased when it fails.
• Counterfactuals that the outcome would have been worse amplify judgments.
• Semi-factuals that the outcome would have been the same diminish judgments.
• The asymmetric moral hindsight effect supports a causal-inference theory.

The research is here.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mining the uncertain character gap

Byron Williams
Winston-Salem Journal
Originally posted May 26, 2018

What is moral character? That is the open-ended question that has remained so since human beings discovered the value of critical thinking. Individuals like Aristotle and Confucius have wrestled with it; others such as Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi sought to live out this perfect ideal in a rather imperfect way.

Wake Forest University philosophy professor Christian B. Miller grapples with this concept in his new book, “The Character Gap: How Good Are We?”

Utilizing empirical data from psychological research, Miller illustrates how humans can become better people. The difference between our virtues and vices may simply hinge on whether we can get away with it.

Miller offers a thesis that suggests our internal “character gap” may be the distance between the unrealistic virtue we hold for our personal behavior and reality, the way we see ourselves versus how others see us. Moral character is our philosophical DNA comprised of virtues and vices.

The information is here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

About Half of Americans Say U.S. Moral Values Are 'Poor’

Justin McCarthy
Gallup.com
Originally published June 1, 2018

Forty-nine percent of Americans say the state of moral values in the U.S. is "poor" -- the highest percentage in Gallup's trend on this measure since its inception in 2002. Meanwhile, 37% of U.S. adults say moral values are "only fair," and 14% say they are "excellent" or "good."


Americans have always viewed the state of U.S. morals more negatively than positively. But the latest figures are the worst to date, with a record-high 49% rating values as poor and a record-tying-low 14% rating them as excellent or good.

In earlier polls on the measure, Americans were about as likely to rate the country's moral standing as only fair as they were to say it was poor. But in 10 of the past 12 annual polls since 2007, Americans have been decidedly more likely to rate it as poor.

The information is here.

Should Economists Make Moral Judgments?

Jacek Rostowski
Project Syndicate
Originally published May 25, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

But now, for the first time in many decades, economists must consider the moral implications of giving good advice to bad people. They are no longer exempt from the moral quandaries that many other professionals must face – a classic example being the engineers who design missiles or other weapons systems.

The new moral dilemma facing economists is perhaps most stark within international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, where economic mandarins with significant influence over public policy earn their living.

After the fall of Soviet-style communism, the IFIs admitted Russia and the other former Soviet republics (as well as China) on the assumption that they were each on a path to embracing democracy and a rules-based market economy. But now that democratic backsliding is widespread, economists need to ask if what is good for authoritarian states is also good for humanity. This question is particularly pertinent with respect to China and Russia, each of which is large enough to help shift the balance of world power against democracy.

That being the case, it stands to reason that democratic countries should try to limit the influence of authoritarian regimes within the IFIs – if not exclude them altogether in extreme cases. But it is worth distinguishing between two kinds of international institution in this context: rule-setting bodies that make it easier for countries with hostile ideological or national interests to co-exist; and organizations that create a strong community of interest, meaning that economic and political benefits for some members “spill over” and are felt more widely.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wells Fargo's ethics hotline calls are on the rise

Matt Egan
CNN.com
Originally posted June 19, 2018

A top Wells Fargo (WFC) executive said on Tuesday that employees are increasingly using the bank's confidential hotline to report bad behavior.

"Our volumes increased on our ethics line. We're glad they did. People raised their hand," said Theresa LaPlaca, who leads a conduct office that Wells Fargo created last year.

"That is success for me," LaPlaca said at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas.

Reassuring Wells Fargo workers to trust the bank's ethics hotline is no easy task. Nearly half a dozen workers told CNNMoney in 2016 that they were fired by Wells Fargo after calling the hotline to try to stop the bank's fake-account problem.

Last year, Wells Fargo was ordered to re-hire and pay $5.4 million to a whistleblower who was fired after calling the ethics hotline to report suspected fraud. Wells Fargo faces multiple lawsuits from employees who say they protested sales misconduct. The bank said in a filing that it also faces state law whistleblower actions filed with the Labor Department alleging retaliation.

The information is here.

Social Media as a Weapon to Harass Women Academics

George Veletsianos and Jaigris Hodson
Inside Higher Ed
Originally published May 29, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Before beginning our inquiry, we assumed that the people who responded to our interview requests would be women who studied video games or gender issues, as prior literature had suggested they would be more likely to face harassment. But we quickly discovered that women are harassed when writing about a wide range of topics, including but not limited to: feminism, leadership, science, education, history, religion, race, politics, immigration, art, sociology and technology broadly conceived. The literature even identifies choice of research method as a topic that attracts misogynistic commentary.

So who exactly is at risk of harassment? They form a long list: women scholars who challenge the status quo; women who have an opinion that they are willing to express publicly; women who raise concerns about power; women of all body types and shapes. Put succinctly, people may be targeted for a range of reasons, but women in particular are harassed partly because they happen to be women who dare to be public online. Our respondents reported that they are harassed because they are women. Because they are women, they become targets.

At this point, if you are a woman reading this, you might be nodding your head, or you might feel frustrated that we are pointing out something so incredibly obvious. We might as well point out that rain is wet. But unfortunately, for many people who have not experienced the reality of being a woman online, this fact is still not obvious, is minimized, or is otherwise overlooked. To be clear, there is a gendered element to how both higher education institutions and technology companies handle this issue.

The article is here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Can a machine be ethical? Why teaching AI ethics is a minefield.

Scotty Hendricks
Bigthink.com
Originally published May 31, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Dr. Moor gives the example of Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics. For those who need a refresher, they are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The rules are hierarchical, and the robots in Asimov’s books are all obligated to follow them.

Dr. Moor suggests that the problems with these rules are obvious. The first rule is so general that an artificial intelligence following them “might be obliged by the First Law to roam the world attempting to prevent harm from befalling human beings” and therefore be useless for its original function!

Such problems can be common in deontological systems, where following good rules can lead to funny results. Asimov himself wrote several stories about potential problems with the laws. Attempts to solve this issue abound, but the challenge of making enough rules to cover all possibilities remains. 

On the other hand, a machine could be programmed to stick to utilitarian calculus when facing an ethical problem. This would be simple to do, as the computer would only have to be given a variable and told to make choices that would maximize the occurrence of it. While human happiness is a common choice, wealth, well-being, or security are also possibilities.

The article is here.

How the Enlightenment Ends

Henry A. Kissinger
The Atlantic
Posted in the June 2018 Issue

Here are two excerpts:

Second, that in achieving intended goals, AI may change human thought processes and human values. AlphaGo defeated the world Go champions by making strategically unprecedented moves—moves that humans had not conceived and have not yet successfully learned to overcome. Are these moves beyond the capacity of the human brain? Or could humans learn them now that they have been demonstrated by a new master?

(cut)

Other AI projects work on modifying human thought by developing devices capable of generating a range of answers to human queries. Beyond factual questions (“What is the temperature outside?”), questions about the nature of reality or the meaning of life raise deeper issues. Do we want children to learn values through discourse with untethered algorithms? Should we protect privacy by restricting AI’s learning about its questioners? If so, how do we accomplish these goals?

If AI learns exponentially faster than humans, we must expect it to accelerate, also exponentially, the trial-and-error process by which human decisions are generally made: to make mistakes faster and of greater magnitude than humans do. It may be impossible to temper those mistakes, as researchers in AI often suggest, by including in a program caveats requiring “ethical” or “reasonable” outcomes. Entire academic disciplines have arisen out of humanity’s inability to agree upon how to define these terms. Should AI therefore become their arbiter?

The article is here.

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.

Sex robots are coming. We might even fall in love with them.

Sean Illing
www.vox.com
Originally published May 11, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Sean Illing: Your essay poses an interesting question: Is mutual love with a robot possible? What’s the answer?

Lily Eva Frank:

Our essay tried to explore some of the core elements of romantic love that people find desirable, like the idea of being a perfect match for someone or the idea that we should treasure the little traits that make someone unique, even those annoying flaws or imperfections.

The key thing is that we love someone because there’s something about being with them that matters, something particular to them that no one else has. And we make a commitment to that person that holds even when they change, like aging, for example.

Could a robot do all these things? Our answer is, in theory, yes. But only a very advanced form of artificial intelligence could manage it because it would have to do more than just perform as if it were a person doing the loving. The robot would have to have feelings and internal experiences. You might even say that it would have to be self-aware.

But that would leave open the possibility that the sex bot might not want to have sex with you, which sort of defeats the purpose of developing these technologies in the first place.

(cut)

I think people are weird enough that it is probably possible for them to fall in love with a cat or a dog or a machine that doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. A few outspoken proponents of sex dolls and robots claim they love them. Check out the testimonials page on the websites of sex doll manufactures; they say things like, “Three years later, I love her as much as the first day I met her.” I don’t want to dismiss these people’s reports.

The information is here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Burnout Crisis in American Medicine

Rena Xu
The Atlantic
Originally published May 11, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

In medicine, burned-out doctors are more likely to make medical errors, work less efficiently, and refer their patients to other providers, increasing the overall complexity (and with it, the cost) of care. They’re also at high risk of attrition: A survey of nearly 7,000 U.S. physicians, published last year in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, reported that one in 50 planned to leave medicine altogether in the next two years, while one in five planned to reduce clinical hours over the next year. Physicians who self-identified as burned out were more likely to follow through on their plans to quit.

What makes the burnout crisis especially serious is that it is hitting us right as the gap between the supply and demand for health care is widening: A quarter of U.S. physicians are expected to retire over the next decade, while the number of older Americans, who tend to need more health care, is expected to double by 2040. While it might be tempting to point to the historically competitive rates of medical-school admissions as proof that the talent pipeline for physicians won’t run dry, there is no guarantee. Last year, for the first time in at least a decade, the volume of medical school applications dropped—by nearly 14,000, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. By the association’s projections, we may be short 100,000 physicians or more by 2030.

The article is here.

Thus Spoke Jordan Peterson

David Livingstone Smith and John Kaag
Foreign Policy
Originally published April 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Peterson’s philosophy is difficult to assess because it is constructed of equal parts apocalyptic alarm and homespun advice. Like the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, whom he cites as an intellectual influence, Peterson is fond of thinking in terms of grand dualities — especially the opposition of order and chaos. Order, in his telling, consists of everything that is routine and predictable, while chaos corresponds to all that is unpredictable and novel.

For Peterson, living well requires walking the line between the two. He is hardly the first thinker to make this point; another of his heroes, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, harking back to the ancient Greeks, suggested that life is best lived between the harmony of Apollo and the madness of Dionysus. But while Peterson claims both order and chaos are equally important, he is mainly concerned with the perils posed by the latter — hence his rules.

In his books and lectures, Peterson describes chaos as “feminine.” Order, of course, is “masculine.” So the threat of being overwhelmed by chaos is the threat of being overwhelmed by femininity. The tension between chaos and order plays out in both the personal sphere and the broader cultural landscape, where chaos is promoted by those “neo-Marxist postmodernists” whose nefarious influence has spawned radical feminism, political correctness, moral relativism, and identity politics.

At the core of Peterson’s social program is the idea that the onslaught of femininity must be resisted. Men need to get tough and dominant. And, in Peterson’s mind, women want this, too. He tells us in 12 Rules for Life: “If they’re healthy, women don’t want boys. They want men.… If they’re tough, they want someone tougher. If they’re smart, they want someone smarter.” “Healthy” women want men who can “outclass” them. That’s Peterson’s reason for frequently referencing the Jungian motif of the hero: the square-jawed warrior who subdues the feminine powers of chaos. Don’t be a wimp, he tells us. Be a real man.

The information is here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Did Google Duplex just pass the Turing Test?

Lance Ulanoff
Medium.com
Originally published

Here is an excerpt:

In short, this means that while Duplex has your hair and dining-out options covered, it could stumble in movie reservations and negotiations with your cable provider.

Even so, Duplex fooled two humans. I heard no hesitation or confusion. In the hair salon call, there was no indication that the salon worker thought something was amiss. She wanted to help this young woman make an appointment. What will she think when she learns she was duped by Duplex?

Obviously, Duplex’s conversations were also short, each lasting less than a minute, putting them well-short of the Turing Test benchmark. I would’ve enjoyed hearing the conversations devolve as they extended a few minutes or more.

I’m sure Duplex will soon tackle more domains and longer conversations, and it will someday pass the Turing Test.

It’s only a matter of time before Duplex is handling other mundane or difficult calls for us, like calling our parents with our own voices (see Wavenet technology). Eventually, we’ll have our Duplex voices call each other, handling pleasantries and making plans, which Google Assistant can then drop in our Google Calendar.

The information is here.

Is it Too Soon? The Ethics of Recovery from Grief

John Danaher
Philosophical Disquisitions
Originally published May 11, 2106

Here is an excerpt:

This raises an obvious and important question in the ethics of grief recovery. Is there a certain mourning period that should be observed following the death of a loved one? If you get back on your feet too quickly, does that say something negative about the relationship you had with the person who died (or about you)? To be more pointed: if I can re-immerse myself in my work a mere three weeks after my sister’s death, does that mean there is something wrong with me or something deficient in the relationship I had with her?

There is a philosophical literature offering answers to these questions, but from what I have read the majority of it does not deal with the ethics of recovering from a sibling’s death. Indeed, I haven’t found anything that deals directly with this issue. Instead, the majority of the literature deals with the ethics of recovery from the death of a spouse or intimate partner. What’s more, when they discuss that topic, they seem to have one scenario in mind: how soon is too soon when it comes to starting an intimate relationship with another person?

Analysing the ethical norms that should apply to that scenario is certainly of value, but it is hardly the only scenario worthy of consideration, and it is obviously somewhat distinct from the scenario that I am facing. I suspect that different norms apply to different relationships and this is likely to affect the ethics of recovery across those different relationship types.

The information is here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Discerning bias in forensic psychological reports in insanity cases

Tess M. S. Neal
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, (2018).

Abstract

This project began as an attempt to develop systematic, measurable indicators of bias in written forensic mental health evaluations focused on the issue of insanity. Although forensic clinicians observed in this study did vary systematically in their report‐writing behaviors on several of the indicators of interest, the data are most useful in demonstrating how and why bias is hard to ferret out. Naturalistic data were used in this project (i.e., 122 real forensic insanity reports), which in some ways is a strength. However, given the nature of bias and the problem of inferring whether a particular judgment is biased, naturalistic data also made arriving at conclusions about bias difficult. This paper describes the nature of bias – including why it is a special problem in insanity evaluations – and why it is hard to study and document. It details the efforts made in an attempt to find systematic indicators of potential bias, and how this effort was successful in part, but also how and why it failed. The lessons these efforts yield for future research are described. We close with a discussion of the limitations of this study and future directions for work in this area.

The research is here.

Can Morality Be Engineered In Artificial General Intelligence Systems?

Abhijeet Katte
Analytics India Magazine
Originally published May 10, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

This report Engineering Moral Agents – from Human Morality to Artificial Morality discusses challenges in engineering computational ethics and how mathematically oriented approaches to ethics are gaining traction among researchers from a wide background, including philosophy. AGI-focused research is evolving into the formalization of moral theories to act as a base for implementing moral reasoning in machines. For example, Kevin Baum from the University of Saarland talked about a project about teaching formal ethics to computer-science students wherein the group was involved in building a database of moral-dilemma examples from the literature to be used as benchmarks for implementing moral reasoning.

Another study, titled Towards Moral Autonomous Systems from a group of European researchers states that today there is a real need for a functional system of ethical reasoning as AI systems that function as part of our society are ready to be deployed.One of the suggestions include having every assisted living AI system to have  a “Why did you do that?” button which, when pressed, causes the robot to explain why it carried out the previous action.

The information is here.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Can precision medicine do for depression what it’s done for cancer? It won’t be easy

Megan Thielking
Statnews.com
Originally posted May 9, 2018

At a growing number of research centers across the country, scientists are scanning brains of patients with depression, drawing their blood, asking about their symptoms, and then scouring that data for patterns. The goal: pinpoint subtypes of depression, then figure out which treatments have the best chance of success for each particular variant of the disease.

The idea of precision medicine for depression is quickly gaining ground — just last month, Stanford announced it is establishing a Center for Precision Mental Health and Wellness. And depression is one of many diseases targeted by All of Us, the National Institute of Health campaign launched this month to collect DNA and other data from 1 million Americans. Doctors have been treating cancer patients this way for years, but the underlying biology of mental illness is not as well understood.

“There’s not currently a way to match people with treatment,” said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, a depression researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “That’s why this is a very exciting field to research.”

The information is here.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Doing good vs. avoiding bad in prosocial choice

 A refined test and extension of the morality preference hypothesis

Ben Tappin and Valerio Capraro
Preprint

Abstract

Prosociality is fundamental to the success of human social life, and, accordingly, much research has attempted to explain human prosocial behavior. Capraro and Rand (2018) recently advanced the hypothesis that prosocial behavior in anonymous, one-shot interactions is not driven by outcome-based social preferences for equity or efficiency, as classically assumed, but by a generalized morality preference for “doing the right thing”. Here we argue that the key experiments reported in Capraro and Rand (2018) comprise prominent methodological confounds and open questions that bear on influential psychological theory. Specifically, their design confounds: (i) preferences for efficiency with self-interest; and (ii) preferences for action with preferences for morality. Furthermore, their design fails to dissociate the preference to do “good” from the preference to avoid doing “bad”. We thus designed and conducted a preregistered, refined and extended test of the morality preference hypothesis (N=801). Consistent with this hypothesis and the results of Capraro and Rand (2018), our findings indicate that prosocial behavior in anonymous, one-shot interactions is driven by a preference for doing the morally right thing. Inconsistent with influential psychological theory, however, our results suggest the preference to do “good” is as potent as the preference to avoid doing “bad” in prosocial choice.

The preprint is here.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The pros and cons of having sex with robots

Karen Turner
www.vox.com
Originally posted January 18, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Karen Turner: Where does sex robot technology stand right now?

Neil McArthur:

When people have this idea of a sex robot, they think it’s going to look like a human being, it’s gonna walk around and say seductive things and so on. I think that’s actually the slowest-developing part of this whole nexus of sexual technology. It will come — we are going to have realistic sex robots. But there are a few technical hurdles to creating humanoid robots that are proving fairly stubborn. Making them walk is one of them. And if you use Siri or any of those others, you know that AI is proving sort of stubbornly resistant to becoming realistic.

But I think that when you look more broadly at what’s happening with sexual technology, virtual reality in general has just taken off. And it’s being used in conjunction with something called teledildonics, which is kind of an odd term. But all it means is actual devices that you hook up to yourself in various ways that sync with things that you see onscreen. It’s truly amazing what’s going on.

(cut)

When you look at the ethical or philosophical considerations, — I think there’s two strands. One is the concerns people have, and two, which I think maybe doesn’t get as much attention, in the media at least, is the potential advantages.

The concerns have to do with the psychological impact. As you saw with those Apple shareholders [who asked Apple to help protect children from digital addiction], we’re seeing a lot of concern about the impact that technology is having on people’s lives right now. Many people feel that anytime you’re dealing with sexual technology, those sorts of negative impacts really become intensified — specifically, social isolation, people cutting themselves off from the world.

The article is here.

The Ethics of Medicaid’s Work Requirements and Other Personal Responsibility Policies

Harald Schmidt and Allison K. Hoffman
JAMA. Published online May 7, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.3384

Here are two excerpts:

CMS emphasizes health improvement as the primary rationale, but the agency and interested states also favor work requirements for their potential to limit enrollment and spending and out of an ideological belief that everyone “do their part.” For example, an executive order by Kentucky’s Governor Matt Bevin announced that the state’s entire Medicaid expansion would be unaffordable if the waiver were not implemented, threatening to end expansion if courts strike down “one or more” program elements. Correspondingly, several nonexpansion states have signaled that the option of introducing work requirements might make them reconsider expansion—potentially covering more people but arguably in a way inconsistent with Medicaid’s broader objectives.

Work requirements have attracted the most attention but are just one of many policies CMS has encouraged as part of apparent attempts to promote personal responsibility in Medicaid. Other initiatives tie levels of benefits to confirming eligibility annually, paying premiums on time, meeting wellness program criteria such as completing health risk assessments, or not using the emergency department (ED) for nonemergency care.

(cut)

It is troubling that these policies could result in some portion of previously eligible individuals being denied necessary medical care because of unduly demanding requirements. Moreover, even if reduced enrollment were to decrease Medicaid costs, it might not reduce medical spending overall. Laws including the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act still require stabilization of emergency medical conditions, entailing more expensive and less effective care.

The article is here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Embracing the robot

John Danaher
aeon.co
Originally posted March 19, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Contrary to the critics, I believe our popular discourse about robotic relationships has become too dark and dystopian. We overstate the negatives and overlook the ways in which relationships with robots could complement and enhance existing human relationships.

In Blade Runner 2049, the true significance of K’s relationship with Joi is ambiguous. It seems that they really care for each other, but this could be an illusion. She is, after all, programmed to serve his needs. The relationship is an inherently asymmetrical one. He owns and controls her; she would not survive without his good will. Furthermore, there is a third-party lurking in the background: she has been designed and created by a corporation, which no doubt records the data from her interactions, and updates her software from time to time.

This is a far cry from the philosophical ideal of love. Philosophers emphasise the need for mutual commitment in any meaningful relationship. It’s not enough for you to feel a strong, emotional attachment to another; they have to feel a similar attachment to you. Robots might be able to perform love, saying and doing all the right things, but performance is insufficient.

The information is here.

Protecting confidentiality in genomic studies


MIT Press Release
Originally released May 7, 2018

Genome-wide association studies, which look for links between particular genetic variants and incidence of disease, are the basis of much modern biomedical research.

But databases of genomic information pose privacy risks. From people’s raw genomic data, it may be possible to infer their surnames and perhaps even the shapes of their faces. Many people are reluctant to contribute their genomic data to biomedical research projects, and an organization hosting a large repository of genomic data might conduct a months-long review before deciding whether to grant a researcher’s request for access.

In a paper published in Nature Biotechnology (https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.4108), researchers from MIT and Stanford University present a new system for protecting the privacy of people who contribute their genomic data to large-scale biomedical studies. Where earlier cryptographic methods were so computationally intensive that they became prohibitively time consuming for more than a few thousand genomes, the new system promises efficient privacy protection for studies conducted over as many as a million genomes.

The release is here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The LAPD’s Terrifying Policing Algorithm: Yes It’s Basically ‘Minority Report’

Dan Robitzski
Futurism.com
Originally posted May 11, 2018

The Los Angeles Police Department was recently forced to release documents about their predictive policing and surveillance algorithms, thanks to a lawsuit from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition (which turned the documents over to In Justice Today). And what do you think the documents have to say?

If you guessed “evidence that policing algorithms, which require officers to keep a checklist of (and keep an eye on) 12 people deemed most likely to commit a crime, are continuing to propagate a vicious cycle of disproportionately high arrests of black Angelinos, as well as other racial minorities,” you guessed correctly.

Algorithms, no matter how sophisticated, are only as good as the information that’s provided to them. So when you feed an AI data from a city where there’s a problem of demonstrably, mathematically racist over-policing of neighborhoods with concentrations of people of color, and then have it tell you who the police should be monitoring, the result will only be as great as the process. And the process? Not so great!

The article is here.

Welcome to America, where morality is judged along partisan lines

Joan Vennochi
Boston Globe
Originally posted May 8, 2018

Here some excerpts:

“It’s OK to lie to the press?” asked Stephanopoulos. To which, Giuliani replied: “Gee, I don’t know — you know a few presidents who did that.”

(cut)

Twenty years later, special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Trump’s lawyer, Cohen, is now entangled in the collusion investigation, as well as with the payment to Daniels, which also entangles Trump — who, according to Giuliani, might invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying under oath. That must be tempting, given Trump’s well-established contempt for truthfulness and personal accountability.

(cut)

So it goes in American politics, where morality is judged strictly along partisan lines, and Trump knows it.

The information is here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Norms and the Flexibility of Moral Action

Oriel Feldman Hall, Jae-Young Son, and Joseph Heffner
Preprint

ABSTRACT

A complex web of social and moral norms governs many everyday human behaviors, acting as the glue for social harmony. The existence of moral norms helps elucidate the psychological motivations underlying a wide variety of seemingly puzzling behavior, including why humans help or trust total strangers. In this review, we examine four widespread moral norms: fairness, altruism, trust, and cooperation, and consider how a single social instrument—reciprocity—underpins compliance to these norms. Using a game theoretic framework, we examine how both context and emotions moderate moral standards, and by extension, moral behavior. We additionally discuss how a mechanism of reciprocity facilitates the adherence to, and enforcement of, these moral norms through a core network of brain regions involved in processing reward. In contrast, violating this set of moral norms elicits neural activation in regions involved in resolving decision conflict and exerting cognitive control. Finally, we review how a reinforcement mechanism likely governs learning about morally normative behavior. Together, this review aims to explain how moral norms are deployed in ways that facilitate flexible moral choices.

The research is here.

Is There Such a Thing as Truth?

Errol Morris
Boston Review
Originally posted April 30, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

In fiction, we are often given an imaginary world with seemingly real objects—horses, a coach, a three-cornered hat and wig. But what about the objects of science—positrons, neutrinos, quarks, gravity waves, Higgs bosons? How do we reckon with their reality?

And truth. Is there such a thing? Can we speak of things as unambiguously true or false? In history, for example, are there things that actually happened? Louis XVI guillotined on January 21, 1793, at what has become known as the Place de la Concorde. True or false? Details may be disputed—a more recent example: how large, comparatively, was Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college in 2016, or the crowd at his inauguration the following January? 
But do we really doubt that Louis’s bloody head was held up before the assembled crowd? Or doubt the existence of the curved path of a positron in a bubble chamber? Even though we might not know the answers to some questions—“Was Louis XVI decapitated?” or “Are there positrons?”—we accept that there are answers.

And yet, we read about endless varieties of truth. Coherence theories of truth. Pragmatic, relative truths. Truths for me, truths for you. Dog truths, cat truths. Whatever. I find these discussions extremely distasteful and unsatisfying. To say that a philosophical system is “coherent” tells me nothing about whether it is true. Truth is not hermetic. I cannot hide out in a system and assert its truth. For me, truth is about the relation between language and the world. A correspondence idea of truth. Coherence theories of truth are of little or no interest to me. Here is the reason: they are about coherence, not truth. We are talking about whether a sentence or a paragraph
 or group of paragraphs is true when set up against the world. Thackeray, introducing the fictional world of Vanity Fair, evokes the objects of a world he is familiar with—“a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harnesses, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour.”

The information is here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Human-sounding Google Assistant sparks ethics questions

The Strait Times
Originally published May 9, 2018

Here are some excerpts:

The new Google digital assistant converses so naturally it may seem like a real person.

The unveiling of the natural-sounding robo-assistant by the tech giant this week wowed some observers, but left others fretting over the ethics of how the human-seeming software might be used.

(cut)

The Duplex demonstration was quickly followed by debate over whether people answering phones should be told when they are speaking to human-sounding software and how the technology might be abused in the form of more convincing "robocalls" by marketers or political campaigns.

(cut)

Digital assistants making arrangements for people also raises the question of who is responsible for mistakes, such as a no-show or cancellation fee for an appointment set for the wrong time.

The information is here.

A narrative thematic analysis of moral injury in combat veterans

Held, P., Klassen, B. J., Hall, J. M., Friese, and others
Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. 
Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tra0000364

Here is a portion of the Introduction:

In war, service members sometimes have to make difficult decisions, some of which may violate their deeply held beliefs and moral values. The term moral injury was coined to refer to the enduring mental health consequences that can occur from participating in, witnessing, or learning about acts that violate one’s moral code (Drescher et al., 2011; Litz et al., 2009; Shay, 1994). Some examples of potentially morally injurious events include disproportionate violence, engaging in atrocities, or violations of rules of engagement (Litz et al., 2009; Stein et al., 2012). Although consensus regarding how best to measure moral injury has not been reached, one preliminary estimate suggested that as many as 25% of a representative sample of veterans endorsed exposure to morally injurious experiences (Wisco et al., 2017). Involvement in these situations has been shown to be associated with a range of negative psychological reactions, including the development of mental health symptoms, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression (Held, Klassen, Brennan, & Zalta, 2017; Maguen et al., 2010), substance use problems (Wilk et al., 2010) and suicidal ideation (Maguen et al., 2012).

Litz and colleagues (2009) have proposed the sole theoretical model of how moral transgressions result in the development of mental health symptoms. Following the morally injurious event, individuals experience a conflict between the event and their own moral beliefs. For example, a service member may believe that civilians should not be harmed during combat but is involved in an event that involves the death of noncombatants. In an attempt to resolve this cognitive conflict, self-directed attributions of the event’s cause may be made, such as service members believing that they were complicit in noncombatants being harmed. The stable, internal, and global attributions that result lead to the development of painful emotions (e.g., guilt, shame, fear of social rejection) and withdrawal from social interaction. Lack of social contact leads to missed opportunities for potentially corrective information and further strengthens the painful emotions and the stable, internal, and global attributions about the morally injurious event (e.g., Martin et al., 2017). It has been proposed that unless addressed, the moral injury continues to manifest and perpetuate itself through intrusions, avoidance, and numbing in a manner similar to PTSD (Jinkerson, 2016; Farnsworth, Drescher, Nieu- wsma, Walser, & Currier, 2014; Litz, Lebowitz, Gray, & Nash, 2016; Litz et al., 2009).

The article is here.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hostile environment: The dark side of nudge theory

Nick Barrett
politics.co.uk
Originally posted May 1, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Just as a website can use a big yellow button to make buying a book or signing up to a newsletter inviting, governments can use nudge theory to make saving money for your pension easy and user-friendly. But it can also establish its own dark patterns too and the biggest government dark pattern of all is the hostile environment policy established in 2012 to encourage migrants to leave the country.

The policy meant that without the right paperwork, people were deprived of health services, employment rights and access to housing and effectively excluded from mainstream society. They were not barred. The circumstances were simply created to nudge them into leaving the country.

For six years the hostile environment persecuted the least visible among us. It was only when its effects on the Windrush generation were revealed that the policy’s inherent prejudice became clear to all. What could once be seen as firm but fair suddenly looked cruel and unusual. These measures might have been defensible if the legal migration process hadn’t been turned into a painfully punitive process for anybody arriving from outside of the EU.

The information is here.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Preventing Med School Suicides

Roger Sergel
MegPage Today
Originally posted May 2, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The medical education community needs to acknowledge the stress imposed on our medical learners as they progress from students to faculty. One of the biggest obstacles is changing the culture of medicine to not only understand the key burnout drivers and pain points but to invest resources into developing strategies which reduce stress. These strategies must include the medical learner taking ownership for the role they play in their lack of well-being. In addition, medical schools and healthcare organizations must reflect on their policies/processes which do not promote wellness. In both situations, there is pointing to the other group as the one who needs to change. Both are right.

We do need to change how we deliver a quality medical education AND we need our medical learners to reflect on their personal attitudes and openness to developing their resilience muscles to manage their stress. Equally important, we need to reduce the stigma of seeking help and break down the barriers which would allow our medical learners and physicians to seek help, when needed. We need to create support services which are convenient, accessible, and utilized.

What programs does your school have to support medical students' mental health?

The information is here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

CGI ‘Influencers’ Like Lil Miquela Are About to Flood Your Feeds

Miranda Katz
www.wired.com
Originally published May 1, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

There are already a number of startups working on commercial applications for what they call “digital” or “virtual” humans. Some, like the New Zealand-based Soul Machines, are focusing on using these virtual humans for customer service applications; already, the company has partnered with the software company Autodesk, Daimler Financial Services, and National Westminster Bank to create hyper-lifelike digital assistants. Others, like 8i and Quantum Capture, are working on creating digital humans for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality applications.

And those startups’ technologies, though still in their early stages, make Lil Miquela and her cohort look positively low-res. “[Lil Miquela] is just scratching the surface of what these virtual humans can do and can be,” says Quantum Capture CEO and president Morgan Young. “It’s pre-rendered, computer-generated snapshots—images that look great, but that’s about as far as it’s going to go, as far as I can tell, with their tech. We’re concentrating on a high level of visual quality and also on making these characters come to life.”

Quantum Capture is focused on VR and AR, but the Toronto-based company is also aware that those might see relatively slow adoption—and so it’s currently leveraging its 3D-scanning and motion-capture technologies for real-world applications today.

The information is here.

The toxic legacy of Canada's CIA brainwashing experiments

Ashifa Kassam
The Guardian
Originally published May 3, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Patients were subjected to high-voltage electroshock therapy several times a day, forced into drug-induced sleeps that could last months and injected with megadoses of LSD.

After reducing them to a childlike state – at times stripping them of basic skills such as how to dress themselves or tie their shoes – Cameron would attempt to reprogram them by bombarding them with recorded messages for up to 16 hours at a time. First came negative messages about their inadequacies, followed by positive ones, in some cases repeated up to half a million times.

“He couldn’t get his patients to listen to them enough so he put speakers in football helmets and locked them on their heads,” said Johnson. “They were going crazy banging their heads into walls, so he then figured he could put them in a drug induced coma and play the tapes as long as he needed.”

Along with intensive bouts of electroshock therapy, Johnson’s grandmother was given injections of LSD on 14 occasions. “She said that made her feel like her bones were melting. She would say: ‘I don’t want these,’” said Johnson. “And the doctors and nurses would say to her: ‘You’re a bad wife, you’re a bad mother. If you wanted to get better, you would do this for your family. Think about your daughter.’”

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