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

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

To regulate AI we need new laws, not just a code of ethics

Paul Chadwick
The Guardian
Originally posted October 28, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

To Nemitz, “the absence of such framing for the internet economy has already led to a widespread culture of disregard of the law and put democracy in danger, the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal being only the latest wake-up call”.

Nemitz identifies four bases of digital power which create and then reinforce its unhealthy concentration in too few hands: lots of money, which means influence; control of “infrastructures of public discourse”; collection of personal data and profiling of people; and domination of investment in AI, most of it a “black box” not open to public scrutiny.

The key question is which of the challenges of AI “can be safely and with good conscience left to ethics” and which need law. Nemitz sees much that needs law.

In an argument both biting and sophisticated, Nemitz sketches a regulatory framework for AI that will seem to some like the GDPR on steroids.

Among several large claims, Nemitz argues that “not regulating these all pervasive and often decisive technologies by law would effectively amount to the end of democracy. Democracy cannot abdicate, and in particular not in times when it is under pressure from populists and dictatorships.”

The info is here.

The Knobe Effect From the Perspective of Normative Orders

Andrzej Waleszczyński, Michał Obidziński, & Julia Rejewska
Studia Humana Volume 7:4 (2018), pp. 9—15

Abstract:

The characteristic asymmetry in the attribution of intentionality in causing side effects, known as the Knobe effect, is considered to be a stable model of human cognition. This article looks at whether the way of thinking and analysing one scenario may affect the other and whether the mutual relationship between the ways in which both scenarios are analysed may affect the stability of the Knobe effect. The theoretical analyses and empirical studies performed are based on a distinction between moral and non-moral normativity possibly affecting the judgments passed in both scenarios. Therefore, an essential role in judgments about the intentionality of causing a side effect could be played by normative competences responsible for distinguishing between normative orders.

The research is here.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ethical Free Riding: When Honest People Find Dishonest Partners

Jörg Gross, Margarita Leib, Theo Offerman, & Shaul Shalvi
Psychological Science
https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618796480

Abstract

Corruption is often the product of coordinated rule violations. Here, we investigated how such corrupt collaboration emerges and spreads when people can choose their partners versus when they cannot. Participants were assigned a partner and could increase their payoff by coordinated lying. After several interactions, they were either free to choose whether to stay with or switch their partner or forced to stay with or switch their partner. Results reveal that both dishonest and honest people exploit the freedom to choose a partner. Dishonest people seek a partner who will also lie—a “partner in crime.” Honest people, by contrast, engage in ethical free riding: They refrain from lying but also from leaving dishonest partners, taking advantage of their partners’ lies. We conclude that to curb collaborative corruption, relying on people’s honesty is insufficient. Encouraging honest individuals not to engage in ethical free riding is essential.

Conclusion
The freedom to select partners is important for the establishment of trust and cooperation. As we show here, however, it is also associated with potential moral hazards. For individuals who seek to keep the risk of collusion low, policies providing the freedom to choose one’s partners should be implemented with caution. Relying on people’s honesty may not always be sufficient because honest people may be willing to tolerate others’ rule violations if they stand to profit from them. Our results clarify yet again that people who are not willing to turn a blind eye and stand up to corruption should receive all praise.

Does AI Ethics Need to be More Inclusive?

Patrick Lin
Forbes.com
Originally posted October 29, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Ethics is more than a survey of opinions

First, as the study’s authors allude to in their Nature paper and elsewhere, public attitudes don’t dictate what’s ethical or not.  People believe all kinds of crazy things—such as that slavery should be permitted—but that doesn’t mean those ethical beliefs are true or have any weight.  So, capturing responses of more people doesn’t necessarily help figure out what’s ethical or not.  Sometimes, more is just more, not better or even helpful.

This is the difference between descriptive ethics and normative ethics.  The former is more like sociology that simply seeks to describe what people believe, while the latter is more like philosophy that seeks reasons for why a belief may be justified (or not) and how things ought to be.

Dr. Edmond Awad, lead author of the Nature paper, cautioned, “What we are trying to show here is descriptive ethics: peoples’ preferences in ethical decisions.  But when it comes to normative ethics, which is how things should be done, that should be left to experts.”

Nonetheless, public attitudes are a necessary ingredient in practical policymaking, which should aim at the ethical but doesn’t always hit that mark.  If expert judgments in ethics diverge too much from public attitudes—asking more from a population than what they’re willing to agree to—that’s a problem for implementing the policy, and a resolution is needed.

The info is here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Why good businesspeople do bad things

Joseph Holt
The Chicago Tribune
Originally posted October 30, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Businesspeople are also more likely to engage in bad behavior if they assume that their competitors are doing so and that they will be at a competitive disadvantage if they do not.

A 2006 study showed that MBA students in the U.S. and Canada were more likely to cheat than other graduate students. One of the authors of the study, Donald McCabe, explained in an article that the cheating was a result of MBA students’ “succeed-at-all-costs mentality” and the belief that they were acting the way they believed they needed to act to succeed in the corporate world.

Casey Donnelly, Gatto’s attorney, claimed in her opening statement at the trial that “every major apparel company” engaged in the same payment practice, and that her client was simply attempting to “level the playing field.”

Federal authorities engaged in a yearslong investigation of shadowy dealings involving shoe companies, sports agents, college coaches and top high school basketball players have reportedly looked into Nike and Under Armour as well as Adidas.

Time will tell whether those companies were involved in similar payment schemes.

The info is here.

Promoting wellness and stress management in residents through emotional intelligence training

Ramzan Shahid, Jerold Stirling, William Adams
Advances in Medical Education and Practice ,Volume 9

Background: 

US physicians are experiencing burnout in alarming numbers. However, doctors with high levels of emotional intelligence (EI) may be immune to burnout, as they possess coping strategies which make them more resilient and better at managing stress. Educating physicians in EI may help prevent burnout and optimize their overall wellness. The purpose of our study was to determine if educational intervention increases the overall EI level of residents; specifically, their stress management and wellness scores.

Participant and methods: 

Residents from pediatrics and med-ped residency programs at a university-based training program volunteered to complete an online self-report EI survey (EQ-i 2.0) before and after an educational intervention. The four-hour educational workshop focused on developing four EI skills: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and social skills. We compared de-identified median score reports for the residents as a cohort before and after the intervention.

Results: 

Thirty-one residents (20 pediatric and 11 med-ped residents) completed the EI survey at both time intervals and were included in the analysis of results. We saw a significant increase in total EI median scores before and after educational intervention (110 vs 114, P=0.004). The stress management composite median score significantly increased (105 vs 111, P<0.001). The resident’s overall wellness score also improved significantly (104 vs 111, P=0.003).

Conclusions: 

As a group, our pediatric and med-peds residents had a significant increase in total EI and several other components of EI following an educational intervention. Teaching EI skills related to the areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill may improve stress management skills, promote wellness, and prevent burnout in resident physicians.

The research is here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A fate worse than death

Cathy Rentzenbrink
Prospect Magazine
Originally posted March 18, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

We have lost our way with death. Improvements in medicine have led us to believe that a long and fulfilling life is our birthright. Death is no longer seen as the natural consequence of life but as an inconvenient and unjust betrayal. We are in an age of denial.

Why does this matter? Why not allow ourselves this pleasant and surely harmless delusion? It matters because we are in a peculiar and precise period of history where our technological advances enable us to keep people alive when we probably shouldn’t. Life or death is no longer a black and white situation. There are many and various shades of grey. We behave as though death is the worst outcome, but it isn’t.

Many years after the accident, when I wrote a book about it called The Last Act of Love, I catalogued what happened to me as I witnessed the destruction of my brother. I detailed the drinking and the depression. The hardest thing was tracking our journey from hope to despair. I still find it hard to be precise about exactly when and how I realised that Matty would be better off dead. I know I moved from being convinced that if I tried hard enough I could bring Matty back to life, to thinking I should learn to love him as he was. Eventually I asked myself the right question: would Matty himself want to be alive like this? Of course, the answer was no.

The info is here.

Therapist empathy and client outcome: An updated meta-analysis

Elliott, R., Bohart, A. C., Watson, J. C., & Murphy, D. (2018).
Psychotherapy, 55(4), 399-410.

Abstract

Put simply, empathy refers to understanding what another person is experiencing or trying to express. Therapist empathy has a long history as a hypothesized key change process in psychotherapy. We begin by discussing definitional issues and presenting an integrative definition. We then review measures of therapist empathy, including the conceptual problem of separating empathy from other relationship variables. We follow this with clinical examples illustrating different forms of therapist empathy and empathic response modes. The core of our review is a meta-analysis of research on the relation between therapist empathy and client outcome. Results indicated that empathy is a moderately strong predictor of therapy outcome: mean weighted r = .28 (p < .001; 95% confidence interval [.23, .33]; equivalent of d = .58) for 82 independent samples and 6,138 clients. In general, the empathy–outcome relation held for different theoretical orientations and client presenting problems; however, there was considerable heterogeneity in the effects. Client, observer, and therapist perception measures predicted client outcome better than empathic accuracy measures. We then consider the limitations of the current data. We conclude with diversity considerations and practice recommendations, including endorsing the different forms that empathy may take in therapy.


Clinical Impact Statement—
Question: Does therapist empathy predict success in psychotherapy? 
Findings: In general, clients have moderately better outcomes in psychotherapy when clients, therapists, and observers perceive therapists as understanding them. 
Meaning: Empathy is an important element of any therapeutic relationship, and worth the investment of time and effort required to do it well and consistently. 
Next Steps: Careful research using diverse methods is needed to firmly establish and explain the causal role of therapist empathy in bringing about client outcome; clinicians can contribute by identifying situations in which empathy may be particularly valuable or conversely contraindicated.

Monday, November 26, 2018

First gene-edited babies claimed in China

Marilynn Marchione
Associated Press
Originally posted today

A Chinese researcher claims that he helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies — twin girls born this month whose DNA he said he altered with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life.

If true, it would be a profound leap of science and ethics.

A U.S. scientist said he took part in the work in China, but this kind of gene editing is banned in the United States because the DNA changes can pass to future generations and it risks harming other genes.

Many mainstream scientists think it’s too unsafe to try, and some denounced the Chinese report as human experimentation.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.

The info is here.

An evaluative conservative case for biomedical enhancement

John Danaher
British Journal of Medical Ethics
Volume 42, 9 (2018)

Abstract

It is widely believed that a conservative moral outlook is opposed to biomedical forms of human enhancement. In this paper, I argue that this widespread belief is incorrect. Using Cohen's evaluative conservatism as my starting point, I argue that there are strong conservative reasons to prioritise the development of biomedical enhancements. In particular, I suggest that biomedical enhancement may be essential if we are to maintain our current evaluative equilibrium (ie, the set of values that undergird and permeate our current political, economic and personal lives) against the threats to that equilibrium posed by external, non-biomedical forms of enhancement. I defend this view against modest conservatives who insist that biomedical enhancements pose a greater risk to our current evaluative equilibrium, and against those who see no principled distinction between the forms of human enhancement.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the widespread belief that conservative moral principles are opposed to human enhancement, there are in fact strong reasons to think that human enhancement has conservative potential. This is because technological development does not take place in a vacuum. One cannot consider the effects of biomedical enhancement technology in isolation from other trends in technological progress. When this is done, it becomes apparent that AI, robotics and information technology are developing at a rapid pace and their widespread deployment could undermine much of our current evaluative equilibrium. Biomedical enhancement may be necessary, not merely desirable, if we are to maintain that equilibrium.

The info is here.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Academic Ethics: Should Scholars Avoid Citing the Work of Awful People?

Brian Leiter
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted October 25, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The issue is particularly fraught in one of my academic fields, philosophy, in which Gottlob Frege, the founder of modern logic and philosophy of language, was a disgusting anti-Semite, and Martin Heidegger, a prominent figure in 20th-century existentialism, was an actual Nazi.

What is a scholar to do?

I propose a simple answer: Insofar as you aim to contribute to scholarship in your discipline, cite work that is relevant regardless of the author’s misdeeds. Otherwise you are not doing scholarship but something else. Let me explain.

Wilhelm von Humboldt crafted the influential ideal of the modern research university in Germany some 200 years ago. In his vision, the university is a place where all, and only, Wissenschaften — "sciences" — find a home. The German Wissenschaften has no connotation of natural science, unlike its English counterpart. A Wissenschaft is any systematic form of inquiry into nature, history, literature, or society marked by rigorous methods that secure the reliability or truth of its findings.

The info is here.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Establishing an AI code of ethics will be harder than people think

Karen Hao
www.technologyreview.com
Originally posted October 21, 2018

Over the past six years, the New York City police department has compiled a massive database containing the names and personal details of at least 17,500 individuals it believes to be involved in criminal gangs. The effort has already been criticized by civil rights activists who say it is inaccurate and racially discriminatory.

"Now imagine marrying facial recognition technology to the development of a database that theoretically presumes you’re in a gang," Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense fund, said at the AI Now Symposium in New York last Tuesday.

Lawyers, activists, and researchers emphasize the need for ethics and accountability in the design and implementation of AI systems. But this often ignores a couple of tricky questions: who gets to define those ethics, and who should enforce them?

Not only is facial recognition imperfect, studies have shown that the leading software is less accurate for dark-skinned individuals and women. By Ifill’s estimation, the police database is between 95 and 99 percent African American, Latino, and Asian American. "We are talking about creating a class of […] people who are branded with a kind of criminal tag," Ifill said.

The info is here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Moral Law Within: The Scientific Case For Self-Governance

Carsten Tams
Forbes.com
Originally posted September 26, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The behavioral ethics literature, and its reception in the ethics and compliance field, is following a similar trend. Behavioral ethics is often defined as the discipline that helps to explain why good people do bad things. It frequently focuses on how various biases, cognitive heuristics, blind spots, ethical fading, bounded ethicality, or rationalizations compromise people’s ethical intentions.

To avoid misunderstandings, I am a fan and avid consumer of behavioral science literature. Understanding unethical biases is fascinating and raising awareness about them is useful. But it is only half the story. There is more to behavioral science than biases and fallacies. A lopsided focus on biases may lead us to view people’s morality as hopelessly flawed. Standing amidst a forest crowded by biases and fallacies, we may forget that people often judge and act morally.

Such an anthropological bias has programmatic consequences. If we frame organizational ethics simply as a problem of people’s ethical biases, we will focus on keeping these negative biases in check. This framing, however, does not provide a rationale for supporting people’s capacity for self-governed ethical behavior. For such a rationale, we would need evidence that such a capacity exists. The human capacity for morality has been a subject of rigorous inquiry across diverse behavioral disciplines. In the following, this article will highlight a selection of major contributions to this inquiry.

The info is here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Importance of Making the Moral Case for Immigration

Ilya Somin
reason.com
Originally posted on October 23, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The parallels between racial discrimination and hostility to immigration were in fact noted by such nineteenth century opponents of slavery as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. These similarities suggest that moral appeals similar to those made by the antislavery and civil rights movements can also play a key role in the debate over immigration.

Moral appeals were in fact central to the two issues on which public opinion has been most supportive of immigrants in recent years: DACA and family separation. Overwhelming majorities supporting letting undocumented immigrants who were brought to America as children stay in the US, oppose the forcible separation of children from their parents at the border. In both cases, public opinion seems driven by considerations of justice and morality, not narrow self-interest (although letting DACA recipients stay would indeed benefit the US economy). Admittedly, these are relatively "easy" cases because both involve harming children for the alleged sins of their parents. But they nonetheless show the potency of moral considerations in the immigration debate. And most other immigration restrictions are only superficially different: instead of punishing children for their parents' illegal border-crossing, they victimize adults and children alike because their parents gave birth to them in the wrong place.

The key role of moral principles in struggles for liberty and equality should not be surprising. Contrary to popular belief, voters' political views on most issues are not determined by narrow self-interest. Public attitudes are instead generally driven by a combination of moral principles and perceived benefits to society as a whole. Immigration is not an exception to that tendency.

This is not to say that voters weigh the interests of all people equally. Throughout history, they have often ignored or downgraded those of groups seen as inferior, or otherwise undeserving of consideration. Slavery and segregation persisted in large part because, as Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney notoriously put it, many whites believed that blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Similarly, the subordination of women was not seriously questioned for many centuries, because most people believed that it was a natural part of life, and that men were entitled to rule over the opposite sex. In much the same way, today most people assume that natives are entitled to keep out immigrants either to preserve their culture against supposedly inferior ways or because they analogize a nation to a house or club from which the "owners" can exclude newcomers for almost any reason they want.

The info is here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Trump EPA official who was indicted on ethics charges has resigned

Brady Dennis
The Washington Post
Originally posted November 19, 2018

A regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, indicted in Alabama last week on violations of state ethics laws, has resigned.

Trey Glenn, who oversaw eight states in the Southeast as the EPA’s Region 4 leader, faces charges of using his office for personal gain and soliciting or receiving a “thing of value” from a principal or lobbyist, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission. He was booked at the Jefferson County Jail on Thursday in Birmingham and later released on a $30,000 bond, records show.

The charges against Glenn and a former business partner appear to stem from work helping a coal company fight liability in an EPA-mandated cleanup of a polluted site in north Birmingham. Glenn has denied wrongdoing, but he submitted his resignation over the weekend to acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The info is here.

Editorial note: Just another example of how the swamp only deepened in the current administration.

Even The Data Ethics Initiatives Don't Want To Talk About Data Ethics

Kalev Leetaru
Forbes.com
Originally posted October 23, 2018

Two weeks ago, a new data ethics initiative, the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, caught my eye. Funded by the Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the initiative will award up to $3.5M to “promising approaches to embedding ethics into undergraduate computer science education, empowering graduating engineers to drive a culture shift in the tech industry and build a healthier internet.” I was immediately excited about a well-funded initiative focused on seeding data ethics into computer science curricula, getting students talking about ethics from the earliest stages of their careers. At the same time, I was concerned about whether even such a high-profile effort could possibly reverse the tide of anti-data-ethics that has taken root in academia and what impact it could realistically have in a world in which universities, publishers, funding agencies and employers have largely distanced themselves from once-sacrosanct data ethics principles like informed consent and the right to opt out. Surprisingly, for an initiative focused on evangelizing ethics, the Challenge declined to answer any of the questions I posed it regarding how it saw its efforts as changing this. Is there any hope left for data ethics when the very initiatives designed to help teach ethics don’t want to talk about ethics?

On its surface, the Responsible Computer Science Challenge seems a tailor-built response to a public rapidly awakening to the incredible damage unaccountable platforms have wreaked upon society. The Challenge describes its focus as “supporting the conceptualization, development, and piloting of curricula that integrate ethics with undergraduate computer science training, educating a new wave of engineers who bring holistic thinking to the design of technology products.”

The info is here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Moral leaders perform better, but what’s ‘moral’ is up for debate

Matthew Biddle
State University of New York - Buffalo - Pressor
Originally released October 22, 2018

New research from the University at Buffalo School of Management is clear: Leaders who value morality outperform their unethical peers, regardless of industry, company size or role. However, because we all define a “moral leader” differently, leaders who try to do good may face unexpected difficulties.

Led by Jim Lemoine, PhD, assistant professor of organization and human resources, the research team examined more than 300 books, essays and studies on moral leadership from 1970-2018. They discovered that leaders who prioritized morality had higher performing organizations with less turnover, and that their employees were more creative, proactive, engaged and satisfied.

A pre-press version of the study appeared online this month ahead of publication in the Academy of Management Annals in January 2019.

“Over and over again, our research found that followers perceived ethical leaders as more effective and trusted, and those leaders enjoyed greater personal well-being than managers with questionable morality,” Lemoine says. “The problem is, though, that when we talk about an ‘ethical business leader,’ we’re often not talking about the same person.”

The pressor is here.

The research is here.

Abstract
Moral forms of leadership such as ethical, authentic, and servant leadership have seen a surge of interest in the 21st century. The proliferation of morally-based leadership approaches has resulted in theoretical confusion and empirical overlap that mirror substantive concerns within the larger leadership domain. Our integrative review of this literature reveals connections with moral philosophy that provide a useful framework to better differentiate the specific moral content (i.e., deontology, virtue ethics, and consequentialism) that undergirds ethical, authentic, and servant leadership respectively. Taken together, this integrative review clarifies points of integration and differentiation among moral approaches to leadership and delineates avenues for future research that promise to build complementary rather than redundant knowledge regarding how moral approaches to leadership inform the broader leadership domain.

How tech employees are pushing Silicon Valley to put ethics before profit

Alexia Fernández Campbell
vox.com
Originally published October 18, 2018

The chorus of tech workers demanding American tech companies put ethics before profit is growing louder.

In recent days, employees at Google and Microsoft have been pressuring company executives to drop bids for a $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the Department of Defense.

As part of the contract, known as JEDI, engineers would build cloud storage for military data; there are few public details about what else it would entail. But one thing is clear: The project would involve using artificial intelligence to make the US military a lot deadlier.

“This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department and providing the best resources to our men and women in uniform,” John Gibson, chief management officer at the Defense Department, said at a March industry event about JEDI.

Thousands of Google employees reportedly pressured the company to drop its bid for the project, and many had said they would refuse to work on it. They pointed out that such work may violate the company’s new ethics policy on the use of artificial intelligence. Google has pledged not to use AI to make “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people,” a policy company employees had pushed for.

The info is here.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

James Clear
www.jamesclear.com
Undated

Facts Don't Change Our Minds. Friendship Does.

Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties. You can’t expect someone to change their mind if you take away their community too. You have to give them somewhere to go. Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome.

The way to change people’s minds is to become friends with them, to integrate them into your tribe, to bring them into your circle. Now, they can change their beliefs without the risk of being abandoned socially.

The British philosopher Alain de Botton suggests that we simply share meals with those who disagree with us:
“Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment, even asking a stranger to pass the salt – disrupts our ability to cling to the belief that the outsiders who wear unusual clothes and speak in distinctive accents deserve to be sent home or assaulted. For all the large-scale political solutions which have been proposed to salve ethnic conflict, there are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.” 
Perhaps it is not difference, but distance that breeds tribalism and hostility. As proximity increases, so does understanding. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln's quote, “I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Facts don't change our minds. Friendship does.

The Link Between Self-Dehumanization and Immoral Behavior


Association for Psychological Science

Here is an excerpt:

After establishing that unethical behavior can increase self-dehumanization, the researchers then carried out a second set of studies designed to test whether self-dehumanization may also lead to unethical behavior. Across all three studies, participants completed the writing assignment described above before deliberating over a moral choice. Those in the self-dehumanization condition were found both to cheat more when asked to self-report the results of a coin flip in exchange for cash, and to assign partners to the more difficult of two available tasks.

Finally, the researchers tested their full model of self-dehumanization on a sample of 429 students. Participants first predicted a series of seemingly random coin flips. Unbeknownst to them, the results in the neutral condition were rigged so that the participants’ predictions always matched the coin flips. In the possibility-of-cheating condition, however, the results were rigged to always be inconsistent with the coin flips, followed by an erroneous message announcing that they had guessed correctly.

Participants in the cheating condition then had a choice: they could either click a box on the screen to report the “technical issue,” or they could collect their ill-begotten $2 reward for an accurate prediction. Of the 293 participants in this condition, 134 chose to take the money.

After reporting their levels of self-dehumanization and completing a filler task, participants then completed an anagram test in which those in the possibility-of-cheating condition had another chance to misreport their results. As the researchers suspected, people who chose to take money they did not deserve in the first task reported higher self-dehumanization, and were more likely to cheat in the final task as well.

The information is here.

Kouchaki, M., Dobson, K. S., Waytz, A., & Kteily, N. S. (2018). The Link Between Self-Dehumanization and Immoral Behavior. Psychological Science, 29(8), 1234-1246. doi:10.1177/0956797618760784

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Bornstein claims Trump dictated the glowing health letter

Alex Marquardt and Lawrence Crook
CNN.com
Originally posted May 2, 2018

When Dr. Harold Bornstein described in hyperbolic prose then-candidate Donald Trump's health in 2015, the language he used was eerily similar to the style preferred by his patient.

It turns out the patient himself wrote it, according to Bornstein.

"He dictated that whole letter. I didn't write that letter," Bornstein told CNN on Tuesday. "I just made it up as I went along."

The admission is an about face from his answer more than two years when the letter was released and answers one of the lingering questions about the last presidential election. The letter thrust the eccentric Bornstein, with his shoulder-length hair and round eyeglasses, into public view.

"His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary," he crowed in the letter, which was released by Trump's campaign in December 2015. "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

The missive didn't offer much medical evidence for those claims beyond citing a blood pressure of 110/65, described by Bornstein as "astonishingly excellent." It claimed Trump had lost 15 pounds over the preceding year. And it described his cardiovascular health as "excellent."

The info is here.

Dartmouth Allowed 3 Professors to Sexually Harass and Assault Students, Lawsuit Charges

Nell Gluckman
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally published November 15, 2018

Seven current and former students sued Dartmouth College on Thursday, saying it had failed to protect them from three psychology and brain-science professors who sexually harassed and assaulted them. In the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New Hampshire, they say that when they and others reported horrific treatment, the college did nothing, allowing the professors’ behavior to continue until last spring, when one retired and the other two resigned.

The 72-page complaint, which seeks class-action status, describes an academic department where heavy drinking, misogyny, and sexual harassment were normalized. It says that the three professors — Todd F. Heatherton, William M. Kelley, and Paul J. Whalen — “leered at, groped, sexted,” and “intoxicated” students. One former student alleges she was raped by Kelley, and a current student alleges she was raped by Whalen. Dartmouth ended a Title IX investigation after the professors left, and, as far as the complainants could tell, did not attempt to examine how the abuse occurred or how it could be prevented it from happening again, according to the complaint.

In a written statement, a Dartmouth spokesman said that college officials “respectfully but strongly disagree with the characterizations of Dartmouth’s actions in the complaint and will respond through our own court filings.”

The info is here.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The New Age of Patient Autonomy: Implications for the Patient-Physician Relationship

Madison Kilbride and Steven Joffe
JAMA. Published online October 15, 2018.

Here is an excerpt:

The New Age of Patient Autonomy

The abandonment of strong medical paternalism led scholars to explore alternative models of the patient-physician relationship that emphasize patient choice. Shared decision making gained traction in the 1980s and remains the preferred model for health care interactions. Broadly, shared decision making involves the physician and patient working together to make medical decisions that accord with the patient’s values and preferences. Ideally, for many decisions, the physician and patient engage in an informational volley—the physician provides information about the range of options, and the patient expresses his or her values and preferences. In some cases, the physician may need to help the patient identify or clarify his or her values and goals of care in light of the available treatment options.

Although there is general consensus that patients should participate in and ultimately make their own medical decisions whenever possible, most versions of shared decision making take for granted that the physician has access to knowledge, understanding, and medical resources that the patient lacks. As such, the shift from medical paternalism to patient autonomy did not wholly transform the physician’s role in the therapeutic relationship.

In recent years, however, widespread access to the internet and social media has reduced physicians’ dominion over medical information and, increasingly, over patients’ access to medical products and services. It is no longer the case that patients simply visit their physicians, describe their symptoms, and wait for the differential diagnosis. Today, some patients arrive at the physician’s office having thoroughly researched their symptoms and identified possible diagnoses. Indeed, some patients who have lived with rare diseases may even know more about their conditions than some of the physicians with whom they consult.

The info is here.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Re-thinking Data Protection Law in the Age of Big Data and AI

Sandra Wachter and Brent Mittelstadt
Oxford Internet Institute
Originally published October 11, 2018

Numerous applications of ‘Big Data analytics’ drawing potentially troubling inferences about individuals and groups have emerged in recent years.  Major internet platforms are behind many of the highest profile examples: Facebook may be able to infer protected attributes such as sexual orientation, race, as well as political opinions and imminent suicide attempts, while third parties have used Facebook data to decide on the eligibility for loans and infer political stances on abortion. Susceptibility to depression can similarly be inferred via usage data from Facebook and Twitter. Google has attempted to predict flu outbreaks as well as other diseases and their outcomes. Microsoft can likewise predict Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease from search engine interactions. Other recent invasive applications include prediction of pregnancy by Target, assessment of users’ satisfaction based on mouse tracking, and China’s far reaching Social Credit Scoring system.

Inferences in the form of assumptions or predictions about future behaviour are often privacy-invasive, sometimes counterintuitive and, in any case, cannot be verified at the time of decision-making. While we are often unable to predict, understand or refute these inferences, they nonetheless impact on our private lives, identity, reputation, and self-determination.

These facts suggest that the greatest risks of Big Data analytics do not stem solely from how input data (name, age, email address) is used. Rather, it is the inferences that are drawn about us from the collected data, which determine how we, as data subjects, are being viewed and evaluated by third parties, that pose the greatest risk. It follows that protections designed to provide oversight and control over how data is collected and processed are not enough; rather, individuals require meaningful protection against not only the inputs, but the outputs of data processing.

The information is here.

Motivated misremembering: Selfish decisions are more generous in hindsight

Ryan Carlson, Michel Marechal, Bastiaan Oud, Ernst Fehr, & Molly Crockett
PsyArXiv
Created on: July 22, 2018 | Last edited: July 22, 2018

Abstract

People often prioritize their own interests, but also like to see themselves as moral. How do individuals resolve this tension? One way to both maximize self-interest and maintain a moral self-image is to misremember the extent of one’s selfishness. Here, we tested this possibility. Across three experiments, participants decided how to split money with anonymous partners, and were later asked to recall their decisions. Participants systematically recalled being more generous in the past than they actually were, even when they were incentivized to recall accurately. Crucially, this effect was driven by individuals who gave less than what they personally believed was fair, independent of how objectively selfish they were. Our findings suggest that when people’s actions fall short of their own personal standards, they may misremember the extent of their selfishness, thereby warding off negative emotions and threats to their moral self-image.

Significance statement

Fairness is widely endorsed in human societies, but less often practiced. Here we demonstrate how memory distortions may contribute to this discrepancy. Across three experiments (N = 1005), we find that people consistently remember being more generous in the past than they actually were. We show that this effect occurs specifically for individuals whose decisions fell below their own fairness standards, irrespective of how high or low those standards were. These findings suggest that when people perceive their own actions as selfish, they can remember having acted more equitably, thus minimizing guilt and preserving their self-image.

The research is here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Impact of Leader Moral Humility on Follower Moral Self-Efficacy and Behavior

Owens, B. P., Yam, K. C., Bednar, J. S., Mao, J., & Hart, D. W.
Journal of Applied Psychology. (2018)

Abstract

This study utilizes social–cognitive theory, humble leadership theory, and the behavioral ethics literature to theoretically develop the concept of leader moral humility and its effects on followers. Specifically, we propose a theoretical model wherein leader moral humility and follower implicit theories about morality interact to predict follower moral efficacy, which in turn increases follower prosocial behavior and decreases follower unethical behavior. We furthermore suggest that these effects are strongest when followers hold an incremental implicit theory of morality (i.e., believing that one’s morality is malleable). We test and find support for our theoretical model using two multiwave studies with Eastern (Study 1) and Western (Study 2) samples. Furthermore, we demonstrate that leader moral humility predicts follower moral efficacy and moral behaviors above and beyond the effects of ethical leadership and leader general humility.

Here is the conclusion:

We introduced the construct of leader moral humility and theorized its effects on followers. Two studies with samples from both Eastern and Western cultures provided empirical support that leader moral humility enhances followers’ moral self-efficacy, which in turn leads to increased prosocial behavior and decreased unethical behavior. We further demonstrated that these effects depend on followers’ implicit theories of the malleability of morality. More important, we found that these effects were above and beyond the influences of general humility, ethical leadership, LMX, and ethical norms of conduct, providing support for the theoretical and practical importance of this new leadership construct. Our model is based on the general proposal that we need followers who believe in and leaders who model ongoing moral development. We hope that the current research inspires further exploration regarding how leaders and followers interact to shape and facilitate a more ethical workplace.

The article is here.

Expectations Bias Moral Evaluations

Derek Powell & Zachary Horne
PsyArXiv
Originally posted September 13, 2018

Abstract

People’s expectations play an important role in their reactions to events. There is often disappointment when events fail to meet expectations and a special thrill to having one’s expectations exceeded. We propose that expectations influence evaluations through information-theoretic principles: less expected events do more to inform us about the state of the world than do more expected events. An implication of this proposal is that people may have inappropriately muted responses to morally significant but expected events. In two preregistered experiments, we found that people’s judgments of morally-significant events were affected by the likelihood of that event. People were more upset about events that were unexpected (e.g., a robbery at a clothing store) than events that were more expected (e.g., a robbery at a convenience store). We argue that this bias has pernicious moral consequences, including leading to reduced concern for victims in most need of help.

The research/preprint is here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Moral resilience: how to navigate ethical complexity in clinical practice

Cynda Rushton
Oxford University Press
Originally posted October 12, 2018

Clinicians are constantly confronted with ethical questions. Recent examples of healthcare workers caught up in high-profile best-interest cases are on the rise, but decisions regarding the allocation of the clinician’s time and skills, or scare resources such as organs and medication, are everyday occurrences. The increasing pressure of “doing more with less” is one that can take its toll.

Dr Cynda Rushton is a professor of clinical ethics, and a proponent of ‘moral resilience’ as a pathway through which clinicians can lessen their experience of moral distress, and navigate the contentious issues they may face with a greater sense of integrity. In the video series below, she provides the guiding principles of moral resilience, and explores how they can be put into practice.



The videos are here.

Keeping Human Stories at the Center of Health Care

M. Bridget Duffy
Harvard Business Review
Originally published October 8, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

A mentor told me early in my career that only 20% of healing involves the high-tech stuff. The remaining 80%, he said, is about the relationships we build with patients, the physical environments we create, and the resources we provide that enable patients to tap into whatever they need for spiritual sustenance. The longer I work in health care, the more I realize just how right he was.

How do we get back to the 80-20 rule? By placing the well-being of patients and care teams at the top of the list for every initiative we undertake and every technology we introduce. Rather than just introducing technology with no thought as to its impact on clinicians — as happened with many rollouts of electronic medical records (EMRs) — we need to establish a way to quantifiably measure whether a new technology actually improves a clinician’s workday and ability to deliver care or simply creates hassles and inefficiency. Let’s develop an up-front “technology ROI” that measures workflow impact, inefficiency, hassle and impact on physician and nurse well-being.

The National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare, of which I am a founding member, is piloting a system of metrics for well-being developed by J. Bryan Sexton of Duke University Medical Center. Instead of measuring burnout or how broken health care people are, Dr. Sexton’s metrics focus on emotional thriving and emotional resilience. (The former are how strongly people agree or disagree to these statements: “I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work,” “I feel like I am thriving at my job,” “I feel like I am making a meaningful difference at my job,” and “I often have something that I am very looking forward to at my job.”

The info is here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mozilla’s ambitious plan to teach coders not to be evil

Katherine Schwab
Fast Company
Originally published October 10, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

There’s already a burgeoning movement to integrate ethics into the computer science classroom. Harvard and MIT have launched a joint class on the ethics of AI. UT Austin has an ethics class for computer science majors that it plans to eventually make a requirement. Stanford similarly is developing an ethics class within its computer science department. But many of these are one-off initiatives, and a national challenge of this type will provide the resources and incentive for more universities to think about these questions–and theoretically help the best ideas scale across the country.

Still, Baker says she’s sometimes cynical about how much impact ethics classes will have without broader social change. “There’s a lot of power and institutional pressure and wealth” in making decisions that are good for business, but might be bad for humanity, Baker says. “The fact you had some classes in ethics isn’t going to overcome all that and make things perfect. People have many motivations.”

Even so, teaching young people how to think about tech’s implications with nuance could help to combat some of those other motivations–primarily, money. The conversation shouldn’t be as binary as code; it should acknowledge typical ways data is used and help young technologists talk and think about the difference between providing value and being invasive.

The info is here.

Delusions and Three Myths of Irrational Belief

Bortolotti L. (2018) Delusions and Three Myths of Irrational Belief.
In: Bortolotti L. (eds) Delusions in Context. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Abstract

This chapter addresses the contribution that the delusion literature has made to the philosophy of belief. Three conclusions will be drawn: (1) a belief does not need to be epistemically rational to be used in the interpretation of behaviour; (2) a belief does not need to be epistemically rational to have significant psychological or epistemic benefits; (3) beliefs exhibiting the features of epistemic irrationality exemplified by delusions are not infrequent, and they are not an exception in a largely rational belief system. What we learn from the delusion literature is that there are complex relationships between rationality and interpretation, rationality and success, and rationality and knowledge.

The chapter is here.

Here is a portion of the Conclusion:

Second, it is not obvious that epistemically irrational beliefs should be corrected, challenged, or regarded as a glitch in an otherwise rational belief system. The whole attitude towards such beliefs should change. We all have many epistemically irrational beliefs, and they are not always a sign that we lack credibility or we are mentally unwell. Rather, they are predictable features of human cognition (Puddifoot and Bortolotti, 2018). We are not unbiased in the way we weigh up evidence and we tend to be conservative once we have adopted a belief, making it hard for new contrary evidence to unsettle our existing convictions. Some delusions are just a vivid illustration of a general tendency that is widely shared and hard to counteract. Delusions, just like more common epistemically irrational beliefs, may be a significant obstacle to the achievements of our goals and may cause a rift between our way of seeing the world and other people’s way. That is why it is important to develop a critical attitude towards their content.

Monday, November 12, 2018

7 Ways Marketers Can Use Corporate Morality to Prepare for Future Data Privacy Laws

Patrick Hogan
Adweek.com
Originally posted October 10, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Many organizations have already made responsible adjustments in how they communicate with users about data collection and use and have become compliant to support recent laws. However, compliance does not always equal responsibility, and even though companies do require consent and provide information as required, linking to the terms of use, clicking a checkbox or double opting-in still may not be enough to stay ahead or protect consumers.

The best way to reduce the impact of the potential legislation is to take proactive steps now that set a new standard of responsibility in data use for your organization. Below are some measurable ways marketers can lead the way for the changing industry and creating a foundational perception shift away from data and back to the acknowledgment of putting other humans first.

Create an action plan for complete data control and transparency

Set standards and protocols for your internal teams to determine how you are going to communicate with each other and your clients about data privacy, thus creating a path for all employees to follow and abide by moving forward.

Map data in your organization from receipt to storage to expulsion

Accountability is key. As a business, you should be able to know and speak to what is being done with the data that you are collecting throughout each stage of the process.

The info is here.

Optimality bias in moral judgment

Julian De Freitas and Samuel G. B. Johnson
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 79, November 2018, Pages 149-163

Abstract

We often make decisions with incomplete knowledge of their consequences. Might people nonetheless expect others to make optimal choices, despite this ignorance? Here, we show that people are sensitive to moral optimality: that people hold moral agents accountable depending on whether they make optimal choices, even when there is no way that the agent could know which choice was optimal. This result held up whether the outcome was positive, negative, inevitable, or unknown, and across within-subjects and between-subjects designs. Participants consistently distinguished between optimal and suboptimal choices, but not between suboptimal choices of varying quality — a signature pattern of the Efficiency Principle found in other areas of cognition. A mediation analysis revealed that the optimality effect occurs because people find suboptimal choices more difficult to explain and assign harsher blame accordingly, while moderation analyses found that the effect does not depend on tacit inferences about the agent's knowledge or negligence. We argue that this moral optimality bias operates largely out of awareness, reflects broader tendencies in how humans understand one another's behavior, and has real-world implications.

The research is here.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Nine risk management lessons for practitioners.

Taube, Daniel O.,Scroppo, Joe,Zelechoski, Amanda D.
Practice Innovations, Oct 04 , 2018

Abstract

Risk management is an essential skill for professionals and is important throughout the course of their careers. Effective risk management blends a utilitarian focus on the potential costs and benefits of particular courses of action, with a solid foundation in ethical principles. Awareness of particularly risk-laden circumstances and practical strategies can promote safer and more effective practice. This article reviews nine situations and their associated lessons, illustrated by case examples. These situations emerged from our experience as risk management consultants who have listened to and assisted many practitioners in addressing the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. The lessons include a focus on obtaining consent, setting boundaries, flexibility, attention to clinician affect, differentiating the clinician’s own values and needs from those of the client, awareness of the limits of competence, maintaining adequate legal knowledge, keeping good records, and routine consultation. We highlight issues and approaches to consider in these types of cases that minimize risks of adverse outcomes and enhance good practice.

The info is here.

Here is a portion of the article:

Being aware of basic legal parameters can help clinicians to avoid making errors in this complex arena. Yet clinicians are not usually lawyers and tend to have only limited legal knowledge. This gives rise to a risk of assuming more mastery than one may have.

Indeed, research suggests that a range of professionals, including psychotherapists, overestimate their capabilities and competencies, even in areas in which they have received substantial training (Creed, Wolk, Feinberg, Evans, & Beck, 2016; Lipsett, Harris, & Downing, 2011; Mathieson, Barnfield, & Beaumont, 2009; Walfish, McAlister, O’Donnell, & Lambert, 2012).

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction

Maria Panagioti, Keith Geraghty, Judith Johnson
JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(10):1317-1330.
doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3713

Abstract

Objective  To examine whether physician burnout is associated with an increased risk of patient safety incidents, suboptimal care outcomes due to low professionalism, and lower patient satisfaction.

Data Sources  MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycInfo, and CINAHL databases were searched until October 22, 2017, using combinations of the key terms physicians, burnout, and patient care. Detailed standardized searches with no language restriction were undertaken. The reference lists of eligible studies and other relevant systematic reviews were hand-searched.

Study Selection  Quantitative observational studies.

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Two independent reviewers were involved. The main meta-analysis was followed by subgroup and sensitivity analyses. All analyses were performed using random-effects models. Formal tests for heterogeneity (I2) and publication bias were performed.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The core outcomes were the quantitative associations between burnout and patient safety, professionalism, and patient satisfaction reported as odds ratios (ORs) with their 95% CIs.

Results  Of the 5234 records identified, 47 studies on 42 473 physicians (25 059 [59.0%] men; median age, 38 years [range, 27-53 years]) were included in the meta-analysis. Physician burnout was associated with an increased risk of patient safety incidents (OR, 1.96; 95% CI, 1.59-2.40), poorer quality of care due to low professionalism (OR, 2.31; 95% CI, 1.87-2.85), and reduced patient satisfaction (OR, 2.28; 95% CI, 1.42-3.68). The heterogeneity was high and the study quality was low to moderate. The links between burnout and low professionalism were larger in residents and early-career (≤5 years post residency) physicians compared with middle- and late-career physicians (Cohen Q = 7.27; P = .003). The reporting method of patient safety incidents and professionalism (physician-reported vs system-recorded) significantly influenced the main results (Cohen Q = 8.14; P = .007).

Conclusions and Relevance  This meta-analysis provides evidence that physician burnout may jeopardize patient care; reversal of this risk has to be viewed as a fundamental health care policy goal across the globe. Health care organizations are encouraged to invest in efforts to improve physician wellness, particularly for early-career physicians. The methods of recording patient care quality and safety outcomes require improvements to concisely capture the outcome of burnout on the performance of health care organizations.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Believing without evidence is always morally wrong

Francisco Mejia Uribe
aeon.co
Originally posted November 5, 2018

Here are two excerpts:

But it is not only our own self-preservation that is at stake here. As social animals, our agency impacts on those around us, and improper believing puts our fellow humans at risk. As Clifford warns: ‘We all suffer severely enough from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to …’ In short, sloppy practices of belief-formation are ethically wrong because – as social beings – when we believe something, the stakes are very high.

(cut)

Translating Clifford’s warning to our interconnected times, what he tells us is that careless believing turns us into easy prey for fake-news peddlers, conspiracy theorists and charlatans. And letting ourselves become hosts to these false beliefs is morally wrong because, as we have seen, the error cost for society can be devastating. Epistemic alertness is a much more precious virtue today than it ever was, since the need to sift through conflicting information has exponentially increased, and the risk of becoming a vessel of credulity is just a few taps of a smartphone away.

Clifford’s third and final argument as to why believing without evidence is morally wrong is that, in our capacity as communicators of belief, we have the moral responsibility not to pollute the well of collective knowledge. In Clifford’s time, the way in which our beliefs were woven into the ‘precious deposit’ of common knowledge was primarily through speech and writing. Because of this capacity to communicate, ‘our words, our phrases, our forms and processes and modes of thought’ become ‘common property’. Subverting this ‘heirloom’, as he called it, by adding false beliefs is immoral because everyone’s lives ultimately rely on this vital, shared resource.

The info is here.

Why Do Christian Women Continue to Have Abortions?

Marvin G. Thompson
The Christian Post
Originally posted November 3, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

According to Abortion Statistics compiled by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, '"Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as "Born-again/Evangelical."'

It is significant to note that only 23.7% of women obtaining abortions are not religious. That means 76.3% of all abortions are obtained by "God-fearing" women – with 68.7% identified as Christian women; and 18% of all abortions are obtained by "born-again/evangelical" women.

The official stated position of the Church does not seem to translate to requisite practice by church-going Christians. That fact was recently borne out in a study Commissioned by Care Net showing that 4 in 10 women having an abortion are churchgoers. In that study it is shown that in a survey of 1,038 women having an abortion, "70 percent claim a Christian religious preference, and 43 percent report attending church monthly or more at the time of an abortion."

The info is here.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Do We Need To Teach Ethics And Empathy To Data Scientists?

Kalev Leetaru
Forbes.com
Originally posted October 8, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

One of the most frightening aspects of the modern web is the speed at which it has struck down decades of legislation and professional norms regarding personal privacy and the ethics of turning ordinary citizens into laboratory rats to be experimented on against their wills. In the space of just two decades the online world has weaponized personalization and data brokering, stripped away the last vestiges of privacy, centralized control over the world’s information and communications channels, changed the public’s understanding of the right over their digital selves and profoundly reshaped how the scholarly world views research ethics, informed consent and the right to opt out of being turned into a digital guinea pig.

It is the latter which in many ways has driven each of the former changes. Academia’s changing views towards IRB and ethical review has produced a new generation of programmers and data scientists who view research ethics as merely an outdated obsolete historical relic that was an obnoxious barrier preventing them from doing as they pleased to an unsuspecting public.

(cut)

Ironically, however, when asked whether she would consent to someone mass harvesting all of her own personal information from all of the sites she has willingly signed up for over the years, the answer was a resounding no. When asked how she reconciled the difference between her view that users of platforms willingly relinquish their right to privacy, while her own data should be strictly protected, she was unable to articulate a reason other than that those who create and study the platforms are members of the “societal elite” who must be granted an absolute right to privacy, while “ordinary” people can be mined and manipulated at will. Such an empathy gap is common in the technical world, in which people’s lives are dehumanized into spreadsheets of numbers that remove any trace of connection or empathy.

The info is here.

Code of Ethics Doesn’t Influence Decisions of Software Developers

Emerson Murphy-Hill, Justin Smith, & Matt Shipman
NC State Pressor
Originally released October 8, 2018

The world’s largest computing society, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), updated its code of ethics in July 2018 – but new research from North Carolina State University shows that the code of ethics does not appear to affect the decisions made by software developers.

“We applauded the decision to update the ACM code of ethics, but wanted to know whether it would actually make a difference,” says Emerson Murphy-Hill, co-author of a paper on the work and an adjunct associate professor of computer science at NC State.

“This issue is timely, given the tech-related ethics scandals in the news in recent years, such as when Volkwagen manipulated its technology that monitored vehicle emissions. And developers will continue to face work-related challenges that touch on ethical issues, such as the appropriate use of artificial intelligence.”

For the study, researchers developed 11 written scenarios involving ethical challenges, most of which were drawn from real-life ethical questions posted by users on the website Stack Overflow. The study included 105 U.S. software developers with five or more years of experience and 63 software engineering graduate students at a university. Half of the study participants were shown a copy of the ACM code of ethics, the other half were simply told that ethics are important as part of an introductory overview of the study. All study participants were then asked to read each scenario and state how they would respond to the scenario.

“There was no significant difference in the results – having people review the code of ethics beforehand did not appear to influence their responses,” Murphy-Hill says.

The press release is here.

The research is here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Hospitals are fed up with drug companies, so they’re starting their own

Carolyn Johnson
The Washington Post
Originally posted September 6, 2018

A group of major American hospitals, battered by price spikes on old drugs and long-lasting shortages of critical medicines, has launched a mission-driven, not-for-profit generic drug company, Civica Rx, to take some control over the drug supply.

Backed by seven large health systems and three philanthropic groups, the new venture will be led by an industry insider who refuses to draw a salary. The company will focus initially on establishing price transparency and stable supplies for 14 generic drugs used in hospitals, without pressure from shareholders to issue dividends or push a stock price higher.

“We’re trying to do the right thing — create a first-of-its-kind societal asset with one mission: to make sure essential generic medicines are affordable and available to everyone,” said Dan Liljenquist, chair of Civica Rx and chief strategy officer at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

The consortium, which includes health systems such as the Mayo Clinic and HCA Healthcare, collectively represents about 500 hospitals. Liljenquist said that the initial governing members have already committed $100 million to the effort. The business model will ultimately rely on the long-term contracts that member health care organizations agree to — a commitment to buy a fixed portion of their drug volume from Civica.

The info is here.

Japan Set to Allow Gene Editing in Human Embryos

David Cyranoski
Scientific American
Originally posted on October 3, 2018

Japan has issued draft guidelines that allow the use of gene-editing tools in human embryos. The proposal was released by an expert panel representing the country’s health and science ministries on 28 September.

Although the country regulates the use of human embryos for research, there have been no specific guidelines on using tools such as CRISPR–Cas9 to make precise modifications in their DNA until now.

Tetsuya Ishii, a bioethicist at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, says that before the draft guidelines were issued, Japan’s position on gene editing in human embryos was neutral. The proposal now encourages this kind of research, he says.

But if adopted, the guidelines would restrict the manipulation of human embryos for reproduction, although this would not be legally binding.

Manipulating DNA in embryos could reveal insights into early human development. Researchers also hope that in the long term, these tools could be used to fix genetic mutations that cause diseases, before they are passed on.

The info is here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The removal of Darwin and evolution from schools is a backwards step

Michael Dixon
The Guardian
Originally posted in October 3, 2018

In recent weeks there have been alarming reports from both Israel and Turkey of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution being erased from school curriculums. In Turkey, this has been blamed on the concept of evolution – which is taught in British primary schools – being beyond the understanding of high school students. In Israel, teachers are claiming that most students do not learn about evolution; they say their education ministry is quietly encouraging teachers to focus on other topics in biology.

This news follows the astonishing statements made by India’s minister for higher education earlier this year. Satyapal Singh claimed Darwin was “scientifically wrong”, and is demanding that the theory of evolution be removed from school curriculums because no one “ever saw an ape turning into a human being”.

It is tempting to shrug off these latest attacks on Darwin’s greatest contribution to natural science. After all, no other scientific theory has attracted the same level of impassioned opposition and detraction – certainly not for more than 150 years. But that would be to miss the particular urgency of improving our scientific understanding of the natural world and how best to protect it for the future.

The info is here.

Bringing back professionalism in the practice of law is key

Samuel C. Stretton
The Legal Intelligencer
Originally published October 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

All lawyers ought to review the Pennsylvania Rules of Civility. Although these rules do not have disciplinary consequences, they set forth the aspirations all lawyers should achieve in the legal profession. Perhaps lawyers have to understand what it means to be a professional. To have the privilege of being admitted to practice law in a state is a wonderful opportunity. The lawyer being admitted becomes part of the legal profession which has a long and historic presence. The legal profession can take great credit for the evolving law and for the democratic institutions which populate this country. Lawyers through vigorous advocacy and through much involvement in the community and in the political offices have help to create a society by law where fairness and justice are the ideals. Once admitted to practice, each and every lawyer becomes part of this wonderful profession and has a duty to uphold the ideals not only in terms of representing clients as vigorously and as honestly as they can, but also in terms of insuring involvement in the community and in society. Each generation of lawyers help to reinterpret the constitution and make it a living document to adjust to the modern problems of every generation. It is a wonderful and great honor to be part of this profession and perhaps one of the greatest privileges any lawyer can have. This privilege allows a lawyer to participate fully in the third branch of public. This privilege allows a lawyer to become part of the public life of their community and of the country in terms of representation and in terms of legal and judicial changes.

The information is here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Bolton says 'excessive' ethics checks discourage outsiders from joining government

Nicole Gaouette
CNN.com
Originally posted October 31, 2018

A day after CNN reported that the Justice Department is investigating whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has broken the law by using his office to personally enrich himself, national security adviser John Bolton told the Hamilton Society in Washington that ethics rules make it hard for people outside of the government to serve.

Bolton said "things have gotten more bureaucratic, harder to get things done" since he served under President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s and blamed the difficulty, in part, on the "excessive nature of the so-called ethics checks."

"If you were designing a system to discourage people from coming into government, you would do it this way," Bolton said.

"That risks building up a priestly class" of government employees, he added.

"It's really depressing to see," Bolton said of the bureaucratic red tape.

The info is here.

My take: Mr. Bolton is wrong.  We need rigorous ethical guidelines, transparency, enforceability, and thorough background checks.  Otherwise, the swamp will grow much greater than it already is.

We Need To Examine The Ethics And Governance Of Artificial Intelligence

Nikita Malik
forbes.com
Originally posted October 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

The second concern is on regulation and ethics. Research teams at MIT and Harvard are already looking into the fast-developing area of AI to map the boundaries within which sensitive but important data can be used. Who determines whether this technology can save lives, for example, versus the very real risk of veering into an Orwellian dystopia?

Take artificial intelligence systems that have the ability to predicate a crime based on an individual’s history, and their propensity to do harm. Pennsylvania could be one of the first states in the United States to base criminal sentences not just on the crimes people are convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes in the future. Statistically derived risk assessments – based on factors such as age, criminal record, and employment, will help judges determine which sentences to give. This would help reduce the cost of, and burden on, the prison system.

Risk assessments – which have existed for a long time - have been used in other areas such as the prevention of terrorism and child sexual exploitation. In the latter category, existing human systems are so overburdened that children are often overlooked, at grave risk to themselves. Human errors in the case work of the severely abused child Gabriel Fernandez contributed to his eventual death at the hands of his parents, and a serious inquest into the shortcomings of the County Department of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles. Using artificial intelligence in vulnerability assessments of children could aid overworked caseworkers and administrators and flag errors in existing systems.

The info is here.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

Nicholas Thompson
www.wired.com
Originally published October 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Hacking a Human

NT: Explain what it means to hack a human being and why what can be done now is different from what could be done 100 years ago.

YNH: To hack a human being is to understand what's happening inside you on the level of the body, of the brain, of the mind, so that you can predict what people will do. You can understand how they feel and you can, of course, once you understand and predict, you can usually also manipulate and control and even replace. And of course it can't be done perfectly and it was possible to do it to some extent also a century ago. But the difference in the level is significant. I would say that the real key is whether somebody can understand you better than you understand yourself. The algorithms that are trying to hack us, they will never be perfect. There is no such thing as understanding perfectly everything or predicting everything. You don't need perfect, you just need to be better than the average human being.

If you have an hour, please watch the video.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Just deserts

A Conversation Between Dan Dennett and Gregg Caruso
aeon.co
Originally published October 4, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

There are additional concerns as well. As I argue in my Public Health and Safety (2017), the social determinants of criminal behaviour are broadly similar to the social determinants of health. In that work, and elsewhere, I advocate adopting a broad public-health approach for identifying and taking action on these shared social determinants. I focus on how social inequities and systemic injustices affect health outcomes and criminal behaviour, how poverty affects brain development, how offenders often have pre-existing medical conditions (especially mental-health issues), how homelessness and education affects health and safety outcomes, how environmental health is important to both public health and safety, how involvement in the criminal justice system itself can lead to or worsen health and cognitive problems, and how a public-health approach can be successfully applied within the criminal justice system. I argue that, just as it is important to identify and take action on the social determinants of health if we want to improve health outcomes, it is equally important to identify and address the social determinants of criminal behaviour. My fear is that the system of desert you want to preserve leads us to myopically focus on individual responsibility and ultimately prevents us from addressing the systemic causes of criminal behaviour.

Consider, for example, the crazed reaction to [the then US president Barack] Obama’s claim that, ‘if you’ve got a [successful] business, you didn’t build that’ alone. The Republicans were so incensed by this claim that they dedicated the second day of the 2012 Republican National Convention to the theme ‘We Built it!’ Obama’s point, though, was simple, innocuous, and factually correct. To quote him directly: ‘If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.’ So, what’s so threatening about this? The answer, I believe, lies in the notion of just deserts. The system of desert keeps alive the belief that if you end up in poverty or prison, this is ‘just’ because you deserve it. Likewise, if you end up succeeding in life, you and you alone are responsible for that success. This way of thinking keeps us locked in the system of blame and shame, and prevents us from addressing the systemic causes of poverty, wealth-inequality, racism, sexism, educational inequity and the like. My suggestion is that we move beyond this, and acknowledge that the lottery of life is not always fair, that luck does not average out in the long run, and that who we are and what we do is ultimately the result of factors beyond our control.

The info is here.

I clipped out the more social-psychological aspect of the conversation.  There is a much broader, philosophical component regarding free will earlier in the conversation.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Companies Tout Psychiatric Pharmacogenomic Testing, But Is It Ready for a Store Near You?

Jennifer Abbasi
JAMA Network
Originally posted October 3, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

According to Dan Dowd, PharmD, vice president of medical affairs at Genomind, pharmacists in participating stores can inform customers about the Genecept Assay if they notice a history of psychotropic drug switching or drug-related adverse effects. If the test is administered, a physician’s order is required for the company’s laboratory to process it.

“This certainly is a recipe for selling a whole lot more tests,” Potash said of the approach, adding that patients often feel “desperate” to find a successful treatment. “What percentage of the time selling these tests will result in better patient outcomes remains to be seen.”

Biernacka also had reservations about the in-store model. “Generally, it could be helpful for a pharmacist to tell a patient or their provider that perhaps the patient could benefit from pharmacogenetic testing,” she said. “[B]ut until the tests are more thoroughly assessed, the decision to pursue such an option (and with which test) should be left more to the treating clinician and patient.”

Some physicians said they’ve found pharmacogenomic testing to be useful. Aron Fast, MD, a family physician in Hesston, Kansas, uses GeneSight for patients with depression or anxiety who haven’t improved after trying 2 or 3 antidepressants. Each time, he said, his patients were less depressed or anxious after switching to a new drug based on their genotyping results.

Part of their improvements may stem from expecting the test to help, he acknowledged. The testing “raises confidence in the medication to be prescribed,” Müller explained, which might contribute to a placebo effect. However, Müller emphasized that the placebo effect alone is unlikely to explain lasting improvements in patients with moderate to severe depression. In his psychiatric consulting practice, pharmacogenomic-guided drug changes have led to improvements in patients “sometimes even up to the point where they’re completely remitted,” he said.

The info is here.

Health care, disease care, or killing care?

Hugo Caicedo
Harvard Blogs
Originally published October 1, 2018

Traditional medical practice is rooted in advanced knowledge of diseases, their most appropriate treatment, and adequate proficiency in its applied practice. Notably, today, medical treatment does not typically occur until disease symptoms have manifested. While we now have ways to develop therapies that can halt the progression of some symptomatic diseases, symptomatic solutions are not meant to serve as a cure of disease but palliative treatment of late-stage chronic diseases.

The reactive approach in most medical interventions is magnified in that medicine is prone to errors. In November of 1999, the U.S. National Academy of Science, an organization representing the most highly regarded scientists and physician researchers in the U.S., published the report To Err is Human.

The manuscript noted that medical error was a leading cause of patient deaths killing up to 98,000 people in the U.S. every year. One hypothesis that came up was that patient data was being poorly collected, aggregated, and shared among different hospitals and even within the same health system. Health policies such the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) in 2009 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, primarily focused on optimizing clinical and operational effectiveness through the use of health information technology and expansion of government insurance programs, respectively. However, they did not effectively address the issue of medical errors such as poor judgment, mistaken diagnoses, inadequately coordinated care, and incompetent skill that can directly result in patient harm and death.

The blog post is here.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Lesion network localization of free will

R. Ryan Darby, Juho Joutsa, Matthew J. Burke, and Michael D. Fox
PNAS
First published October 1, 2018

Abstract

Our perception of free will is composed of a desire to act (volition) and a sense of responsibility for our actions (agency). Brain damage can disrupt these processes, but which regions are most important for free will perception remains unclear. Here, we study focal brain lesions that disrupt volition, causing akinetic mutism (n = 28), or disrupt agency, causing alien limb syndrome (n = 50), to better localize these processes in the human brain. Lesion locations causing either syndrome were highly heterogeneous, occurring in a variety of different brain locations. We next used a recently validated technique termed lesion network mapping to determine whether these heterogeneous lesion locations localized to specific brain networks. Lesion locations causing akinetic mutism all fell within one network, defined by connectivity to the anterior cingulate cortex. Lesion locations causing alien limb fell within a separate network, defined by connectivity to the precuneus. Both findings were specific for these syndromes compared with brain lesions causing similar physical impairments but without disordered free will. Finally, our lesion-based localization matched network localization for brain stimulation locations that disrupt free will and neuroimaging abnormalities in patients with psychiatric disorders of free will without overt brain lesions. Collectively, our results demonstrate that lesions in different locations causing disordered volition and agency localize to unique brain networks, lending insight into the neuroanatomical substrate of free will perception.

The article is here.

How much control do you really have over your actions?

Michael Price
Sciencemag.org
Originally posted October 1, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Philosophers have wrestled with questions of free will—that is, whether we are active drivers or passive observers of our decisions—for millennia. Neuroscientists tap-dance around it, asking instead why most of us feel like we have free will. They do this by looking at rare cases in which people seem to have lost it.

Patients with both alien limb syndrome and akinetic mutism have lesions in their brains, but there doesn’t seem to be a consistent pattern. So Darby and his colleagues turned to a relatively new technique known as lesion network mapping.

They combed the literature for brain imaging studies of both types of patients and mapped out all of their reported brain lesions. Then they plotted those lesions onto maps of brain regions that reliably activate together at the same time, better known as brain networks. Although the individual lesions in patients with the rare movement disorders appeared to occur without rhyme or reason, the team found, those seemingly arbitrary locations fell within distinct brain networks.

The researchers compared their results with those from people who lost some voluntary movement after receiving temporary brain stimulation, which uses low-voltage electrodes or targeted magnetic fields to temporarily “knock offline” brain regions.

The networks that caused loss of voluntary movement or agency in those studies matched Darby and colleagues’ new lesion networks. This suggests these networks are involved in voluntary movement and the perception that we’re in control of, and responsible for, our actions, the researchers report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The info is here.