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

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

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Toward a Social Bioethics Through Interpretivism: A Framework for Healthcare Ethics.

Dougherty, R., & Fins, J. (2023).
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 1-11.


Recent global events demonstrate that analytical frameworks to aid professionals in healthcare ethics must consider the pervasive role of social structures in the emergence of bioethical issues. To address this, the authors propose a new sociologically informed approach to healthcare ethics that they term “social bioethics.” Their approach is animated by the interpretive social sciences to highlight how social structures operate vis-à-vis the everyday practices and moral reasoning of individuals, a phenomenon known as social discourse. As an exemplar, the authors use social bioethics to reframe common ethical issues in psychiatric services and discuss potential implications. Lastly, the authors discuss how social bioethics illuminates the ways healthcare ethics consultants in both policy and clinical decision-making participate in and shape broader social, political, and economic systems, which then cyclically informs the design and delivery of healthcare.

My summary: 

The authors argue that traditional bioethical frameworks, which focus on individual rights and responsibilities, are not sufficient to address the complex ethical issues that arise in healthcare. They argue that social bioethics can help us to better understand how social structures, such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, shape the experiences of patients and healthcare providers, and how these experiences can influence ethical decision-making.

The authors use the example of psychiatric services to illustrate how social bioethics can be used to reframe common ethical issues. They argue that the way we think about mental illness is shaped by social and cultural factors, such as our understanding of what it means to be "normal" and "healthy." These factors can influence how we diagnose, treat, and care for people with mental illness.

The authors also argue that social bioethics can help us to understand the role of healthcare ethics consultants in shaping broader social, political, and economic systems. They argue that these consultants participate in a process of "social discourse," in which they help to define the terms of the debate about ethical issues in healthcare. This discourse can then have a cyclical effect on the design and delivery of healthcare.

Here are some of the key concepts of social bioethics:
  • Social structures: The systems of power and inequality that shape our society.
  • Social discourse: The process of communication and negotiation through which we define and understand social issues.
  • Healthcare ethics consultants: Professionals who help to resolve ethical dilemmas in healthcare.
  • Social justice: The fair and equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The meaning of ‘reasonable’: Evidence from a corpus-linguistic study

Lucien Baumgartner & Markus Kneer
In Kevin P. Tobia (ed.), The Cambridge 
Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence. 
Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)


The reasonable person standard is key to both Criminal Law and Torts. What does and does not count as reasonable behavior and decision-making is frequently determined by lay jurors. Hence, laypeople’s understanding of the term must be considered, especially whether they use it predominately in an evaluative fashion. In this corpus study based on supervised machine learning models, we investigate whether laypeople use the expression ‘reasonable’ mainly as a descriptive, an evaluative, or merely a value-associated term. We find that ‘reasonable’ is predicted to be an evaluative term in the majority of cases. This supports prescriptive accounts, and challenges descriptive and hybrid accounts of the term—at least given the way we operationalize the latter. Interestingly, other expressions often used interchangeably in jury instructions (e.g. ‘careful,’ ‘ordinary,’ ‘prudent,’ etc), however, are predicted to be descriptive. This indicates a discrepancy between the intended use of the term ‘reasonable’ and the understanding lay jurors might bring into the court room.

From the Discussion section

Our research reports an intriguing discovery: the expression ‘reasonable’ is most often not just a straightforward descriptive term. In fact, only 17.18% of uses in our sample fall into this category.  Interestingly, other words that are commonly used to elucidate ‘reasonable’ in jury instructions, like ‘average,’ ‘ordinary,’ ‘rational,’ and ‘prudent’ are primarily descriptive. In terms of multidimensional proximity, ‘reasonable’ inhabits a very different part of the space. Considering that these terms are used somewhat interchangeably in jury instructions, our data suggests that jurors enter the courtroom with a different concept than the one intended or expected by legislators. However, it is important to keep in mind that we are not directly comparing the language of laypeople and experts and therefore cannot make direct inferences about possible differences between the two. And yet, judging from the fact that laypeople use ‘reasonable’ in a completely different way than other terms used to characterize ‘reasonable’ in the jury instructions, this suggests, at least indirectly, a certain discrepancy in language use. Furthermore, our results align with the findings by Willemsen et al. (2023) that laypeople tend to use certain terms in a more evaluative manner, compared to legal professionals—at least if the jury instructions are used as a proxy thereof. This disparity in understanding can have significant ramifications during trial, as jurors and legal professionals may not be on the same page. For a more comprehensive investigation of this discrepancy, further comparative studies are required.

My quick summary:

The authors argue that beliefs surrounding reasonableness has implications for the law. They suggest that the reasonable person standard should be interpreted as an evaluative standard, rather than a descriptive one. This would mean that jurors would be more likely to consider the social and cultural context when making their judgments about what is reasonable.

The authors also found that other terms that are often used interchangeably with "reasonable" in jury instructions, such as "careful" and "prudent," are more likely to be used in a descriptive sense. This suggests that there is a discrepancy between the way the law intends these terms to be used and the way lay jurors might understand them.

The article concludes by calling for more research on the meaning of "reasonable" in the context of the law. The authors argue that this research could help to improve the fairness and accuracy of the legal system.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

US prison labor is cruel and pointless legalized slavery.

Dyjuan Tatro
The Guardian
Originally posted 22 Sept 23

Here is an excerpt:

It costs New York around $70,000 a year in taxpayer money to imprison someone. It costs the BPI about $10,000 a year to educate an incarcerated student. New York’s recidivism rate is 40%, while graduates of the BPI and similar programs recidivate at only 4%, a tenfold decrease. Yet, despite its clear positive record, only 300 of New York’s 30,000 incarcerated people are enrolled at the BPI in any given semester. I was one of a lucky few.

Prisons are designed to warehouse, traumatize and exploit people, then send them back home in worse shape than when they entered the system. Despite having worked every day, the vast majority of people are released with no job experience, no references and no hope. Some would take this to mean that the system is failing. And it is with regard to public safety, rehabilitation and justice, but it’s horrifyingly successful at two things: guaranteeing jobs for some and perpetuating slavery for others.

Over the years, I learned that prison officials were not interested in giving us fruitful educational and job opportunities that allowed us to go home and stay home. The reality is much more sinister. Prisons are a job program for officers that requires us to keep coming back.

Here is my summary:

The article is a personal account of the author's experience working in prison. Tatro argues that prison labor is a form of legalized slavery, and that it is cruel and pointless. He writes that his work in prison was meaningless and dehumanizing, and that it did not teach him any skills or prepare him for life outside of prison. He also argues that prison labor undermines the living standards of workers outside of prison, as businesses that use prison labor are able to pay their workers less.

Tatro's article is a powerful indictment of the US prison system, and it raises important questions about the role of labor in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Property ownership and the legal personhood of artificial intelligence

Brown, R. D. (2020).
Information & Communications Technology Law, 
30(2), 208–234.


This paper adds to the discussion on the legal personhood of artificial intelligence by focusing on one area not covered by previous works on the subject – ownership of property. The author discusses the nexus between property ownership and legal personhood. The paper explains the prevailing misconceptions about the requirements of rights or duties in legal personhood, and discusses the potential for conferring rights or imposing obligations on weak and strong AI. While scholars have discussed AI owning real property and copyright, there has been limited discussion on the nexus of AI property ownership and legal personhood. The paper discusses the right to own property and the obligations of property ownership in nonhumans, and applying it to AI. The paper concludes that the law may grant property ownership and legal personhood to weak AI, but not to strong AI.

From the Conclusion

This article proposes an analysis of legal personhood that focuses on rights and duties. In doing so, the article looks to property ownership, which raises both requirements. Property ownership is certainly only one type of legal right, which also includes the right to sue or be sued, or legal standing, and the right to contract.Footnote195 Property ownership, however, is a key feature of AI since it relies mainly on arguably the most valuable property today: data.

It is unlikely that governments and legislators will suddenly recognise in one event AI’s ownership of property and AI’s legal personhood. Rather, acceptance of AI’s legal personhood, as with the acceptance of a corporate personhood will develop as a process and in stages, in parallel to the development of legal personhood. At first, AI will be deemed as a tool and not have the right to own property. This is the most common conception of AI today. Second, AI will be deemed as an agent, and upon updating existing agency law to include AI as a person for purposes of agency, then AI will also be allowed to own property as an agent in the same agency ownership arrangement that Rothenberg proposes. While AI already acts as de facto agent in many circumstances today through electronic contracts, most governments and legislators have not recognised AI as an agent. The laws of many countries like Qatar still defines an agent as a person, which upon strict interpretation would not include AI or an electronic agent. This is an existing gap in the laws that will likely create legal challenges in the near future.

However, as AI develops its ability to communicate and assert more autonomy, then AI will come to own all sorts of digital assets. At first, AI will likely possess and control property in conjunction with human action and decisions. Examples would be the use of AI in money laundering, or hiding digital assets by placing them within the control and possession of an AI. In some instances, AI will have possession and control of property unknown or unforeseen by humans.

If AI is seen as separate from data, as the software that processes and interprets data for various purposes, self-learns from the data, makes autonomous decisions, and predicts human behaviour and decisions, then there could come a time when society will view AI as separate from data. Society may come to view AI not as the object (the data) but that which manipulates, controls, and possesses data and digital property.

Brief Summary:

Granting property ownership to AI is a complex one that raises a number of legal and ethical challenges. The author suggests that further research is needed to explore these challenges and to develop a framework for granting property ownership to AI in a way that is both legally sound and ethically justifiable.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

I Have a Question for the Famous People Who Have Tried to Apologize

Elizabeth Spiers
The New York Times - Guest Opinion
Originally posted 22 September 23

Here is an excerpt:

As a talk show host, Ms. Barrymore has been lauded in part for her empathy. She is vulnerable, and that makes her guests feel like they can be, too. But even nice people can be self-centered when they’re on the defensive. That’s what happened when people objected to the news that her show would return to production despite the writers’ strike. In a teary, rambling video on Instagram, which was later deleted, she spoke about how hard the situation had been — for her. “I didn’t want to hide behind people. So I won’t. I won’t polish this with bells and whistles and publicists and corporate rhetoric. I’ll just stand out there and accept and be responsible.” (Ms. Barrymore’s awkward, jumbled sentences unwittingly demonstrated how dearly she needs those writers.) Finally, she included a staple of the public figure apology genre: “My intentions have never been in a place to upset or hurt anyone,” she said. “It’s not who I am.”

“This is not who I am” is a frequent refrain from people who are worried that they’re going to be defined by their worst moments. It’s an understandable concern, given the human tendency to pay more attention to negative events. People are always more than the worst thing they’ve done. But it’s also true that the worst things they’ve done are part of who they are.

Somehow, Mila Kunis’s scripted apology was even worse. She and Mr. Kutcher had weathered criticism for writing letters in support of their former “That ’70s Show” co-star Danny Masterson after he was convicted of rape. Facing her public, she spoke in the awkward cadence people have when they haven’t memorized their lines and don’t know where the emphasis should fall. “The letters were not written to question the legitimacy” — pause — “of the judicial system,” she said, “or the validity” — pause — “of the jury’s ruling.” For an actress, it was not a very convincing performance. Mr. Kutcher, who is her husband, was less awkward in his delivery, but his defense was no more convincing. The letters, he explained, were only “intended for the judge to read,” as if the fact that the couple operated behind the scenes made it OK.

Here are my observations about the main theme of this article:

Miller argues that many celebrity apologies fall short because they are not sincere. She says that they often lack the essential elements of a good apology: acknowledging the offense, providing an explanation, expressing remorse, and making amends. Instead, many celebrity apologies are self-serving and aimed at salvaging their public image.

Miller concludes by saying that if celebrities want their apologies to be meaningful, they need to be honest, take responsibility for their actions, and show that they are truly sorry for the harm they have caused.

I would also add that celebrity apologies can be difficult to believe because they often follow a predictable pattern. The celebrity typically issues a statement expressing their regret and apologizing to the people they have hurt. They may also offer a brief explanation for their behavior, but they often avoid taking full responsibility for their actions. And while some celebrities may make amends in some way, such as donating to charity or volunteering their time, many do not.

As a result, many people are skeptical of celebrity apologies. They see them as nothing more than a way for celebrities to save face and get back to their normal lives. This is why it is so important for celebrities to be sincere and genuine when they apologize.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Young Conservatives Trying to Make Eugenics Respectable Again

Adam Serwer
The Atlantic
Originally posted 15 September 23

Here are two excerpts:

One explanation for the resurgence of scientific racism—what the psychologist Andrew S. Winston defines as the use of data to promote the idea of an “enduring racial hierarchy”—is that some very rich people are underwriting it. Mathias notes that “rich benefactors, some of whose identities are unknown, have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into a think tank run by Hanania.” As the biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks tells the science reporter Angela Saini in her book Superior, “There are powerful forces on the right that fund research into studying human differences with the goal of establishing those differences as a basis of inequalities.”

There is no great mystery as to why eugenics has exerted such a magnetic attraction on the wealthy. From god emperors, through the divine right of kings, to social Darwinism, the rich have always sought an uncontestable explanation for why they have so much more money and power than everyone else. In a modern, relatively secular nation whose inequalities of race and class have been shaped by slavery and its legacies, the justifications tend toward the pseudoscience of an unalterable genetic aristocracy with white people at the top and Black people at the bottom.

“The lay concept of race does not correspond to the variation that exists in nature,” the geneticist Joseph L. Graves wrote in The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium. “Instead, the American concept of race is a social construction, resulting from the unique political and cultural history of the United States.”

Because race is a social reality, genuine disparities among ethnic groups persist in measures such as education and wealth. Contemporary believers in racial pseudoscience insist these disparities must necessarily have a genetic explanation, one that happens to correspond to shifting folk categories of race solidified in the 18th century to justify colonialism and enslavement. They point to the external effects of things like war, poverty, public policy, and discrimination and present them as caused by genetics. For people who have internalized the logic of race, the argument may seem intuitive. But it is just astrology for racists.


Race is a sociopolitical category, not a biological one. There is no genetic support for the idea that humans are divided into distinct races with immutable traits shared by others who have the same skin color. Although qualified geneticists have debunked the shoddy arguments of race scientists over and over, the latter maintain their relevance in part by casting substantive objections to their assumptions, methods, and conclusions as liberal censorship. There are few more foolproof ways to get Trump-era conservatives to believe falsehoods than to insist that liberals are suppressing them. Race scientists also understand that most people can evaluate neither the pseudoscience they offer as proof of racial differences nor the actual science that refutes it, and will default to their political sympathies.

Three political developments helped renew this pseudoscience’s appeal. The first was the election of Barack Obama, an emotional blow to those adhering to the concept of racial hierarchy from which they have yet to recover. Then came the rise of Bernie Sanders, whose left-wing populism blamed the greed of the ultra-wealthy for the economic struggles of both the American working class and everyone in between. Both men—one a symbol of racial equality, the other of economic justice—drew broad support within the increasingly liberal white-collar workforce from which the phrenologist billionaires of Big Tech draw their employees. The third was the election of Donald Trump, itself a reaction to Obama and an inspiration to those dreaming of a world where overt bigotry does not carry social consequences.

Here is my brief synopsis:

Young conservatives are often influenced by far-right ideologues who believe in the superiority of the white race and the need to improve the human gene pool.  Serwer argues that the resurgence of interest in eugenics is part of a broader trend on the right towards embracing racist and white supremacist ideas. He also notes that the pseudoscience of race is being used to justify hierarchies and provide an enemy to rail against.

It is important to note that eugenics is a dangerous and discredited ideology. It has been used to justify forced sterilization, genocide, and other atrocities. The resurgence of interest in eugenics is a threat to all people, especially those who are already marginalized and disadvantaged.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Consent GPT: Is It Ethical to Delegate Procedural Consent to Conversational AI?

Allen, J., Earp, B., Koplin, J. J., & Wilkinson, D.


Obtaining informed consent from patients prior to a medical or surgical procedure is a fundamental part of safe and ethical clinical practice. Currently, it is routine for a significant part of the consent process to be delegated to members of the clinical team not performing the procedure (e.g. junior doctors). However, it is common for consent-taking delegates to lack sufficient time and clinical knowledge to adequately promote patient autonomy and informed decision-making. Such problems might be addressed in a number of ways. One possible solution to this clinical dilemma is through the use of conversational artificial intelligence (AI) using large language models (LLMs). There is considerable interest in the potential benefits of such models in medicine. For delegated procedural consent, LLM could improve patients’ access to the relevant procedural information and therefore enhance informed decision-making.

In this paper, we first outline a hypothetical example of delegation of consent to LLMs prior to surgery. We then discuss existing clinical guidelines for consent delegation and some of the ways in which current practice may fail to meet the ethical purposes of informed consent. We outline and discuss the ethical implications of delegating consent to LLMs in medicine concluding that at least in certain clinical situations, the benefits of LLMs potentially far outweigh those of current practices.


Here are some additional points from the article:
  • The authors argue that the current system of delegating procedural consent to human consent-takers is not always effective, as consent-takers may lack sufficient time or clinical knowledge to adequately promote patient autonomy and informed decision-making.
  • They suggest that LLMs could be used to provide patients with more comprehensive and accurate information about procedures, and to answer patients' questions in a way that is tailored to their individual needs.
  • However, the authors also acknowledge that there are a number of ethical concerns that need to be addressed before LLMs can be used for procedural consent. These include concerns about bias, accuracy, and patient trust.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Moral injury in post-9/11 combat-experienced military veterans: A qualitative thematic analysis.

Kalmbach, K. C., Basinger, E. D.,  et al. (2023). 
Psychological Services. Advance online publication.


War zone exposure is associated with enduring negative mental health effects and poorer responses to treatment, in part because this type of trauma can entail crises of conscience or moral injury. Although a great deal of attention has been paid to posttraumatic stress disorder and fear-based physiological aspects of trauma and suffering, comparatively less attention has been given to the morally injurious dimension of trauma. Robust themes of moral injury were identified in interviews with 26 post-9/11 military veterans. Thematic analysis identified 12 themes that were subsumed under four categories reflecting changes, shifts, or ruptures in worldview, meaning making, identity, and relationships. Moral injury is a unique and challenging clinical construct with impacts on the individual as well as at every level of the social ecological system. Recommendations are offered for addressing moral injury in a military population; implications for community public health are noted.

Impact Statement

Military veterans who experienced moral injury—events that violate deeply held moral convictions or beliefs—reported fundamental changes following the morally injurious event (MIE). The MIE ruptured their worldview, or sense of right and wrong, and they struggled to reconcile a prior belief system or identity with their existence post-MIE. Absent a specific evidence-based intervention, clinicians are encouraged to consider adaptations to existing treatment models but to be aware that moral injury often does not respond to treatment as usual for PTSD or adjacent comorbid conditions.

The article is paywalled, with the link noted above.

My addition:

The thematic analysis identified 12 themes related to moral injury, which were grouped into four categories:
  • Changes in worldview: Veterans who experienced moral injury often reported changes in their worldview, such as questioning their beliefs about the world, their place in it, and their own goodness.
  • Changes in meaning making: Veterans who experienced moral injury often struggled to make meaning of their experiences, which could lead to feelings of emptiness, despair, and hopelessness.
  • Changes in identity: Veterans who experienced moral injury often reported changes in their identity, such as feeling like they were no longer the same person they were before the war.
  • Changes in relationships: Veterans who experienced moral injury often reported changes in their relationships with family, friends, and others. They may have felt isolated, misunderstood, or ashamed of their experiences.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Police are Getting DNA Data from People who Think They Opted Out

Jordan Smith
The Intercept
Originally posted 18 Aug 23

Here is an excerpt:

The communications are a disturbing example of how genetic genealogists and their law enforcement partners, in their zeal to close criminal cases, skirt privacy rules put in place by DNA database companies to protect their customers. How common these practices are remains unknown, in part because police and prosecutors have fought to keep details of genetic investigations from being turned over to criminal defendants. As commercial DNA databases grow, and the use of forensic genetic genealogy as a crime-fighting tool expands, experts say the genetic privacy of millions of Americans is in jeopardy.

Moore did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment.

To Tiffany Roy, a DNA expert and lawyer, the fact that genetic genealogists have accessed private profiles — while simultaneously preaching about ethics — is troubling. “If we can’t trust these practitioners, we certainly cannot trust law enforcement,” she said. “These investigations have serious consequences; they involve people who have never been suspected of a crime.” At the very least, law enforcement actors should have a warrant to conduct a genetic genealogy search, she said. “Anything less is a serious violation of privacy.”


Exploitation of the GEDmatch loophole isn’t the only example of genetic genealogists and their law enforcement partners playing fast and loose with the rules.

Law enforcement officers have used genetic genealogy to solve crimes that aren’t eligible for genetic investigation per company terms of service and Justice Department guidelines, which say the practice should be reserved for violent crimes like rape and murder only when all other “reasonable” avenues of investigation have failed. In May, CNN reported on a U.S. marshal who used genetic genealogy to solve a decades-old prison break in Nebraska. There is no prison break exception to the eligibility rules, Larkin noted in a post on her website. “This case should never have used forensic genetic genealogy in the first place.”

A month later, Larkin wrote about another violation, this time in a California case. The FBI and the Riverside County Regional Cold Case Homicide Team had identified the victim of a 1996 homicide using the MyHeritage database — an explicit violation of the company’s terms of service, which make clear that using the database for law enforcement purposes is “strictly prohibited” absent a court order.

“The case presents an example of ‘noble cause bias,’” Larkin wrote, “in which the investigators seem to feel that their objective is so worthy that they can break the rules in place to protect others.”

My take:

Forensic genetic genealogists have been skirting GEDmatch privacy rules by searching users who explicitly opted out of sharing DNA with law enforcement. This means that police can access the DNA of people who thought they were protecting their privacy by opting out of law enforcement searches.

The practice of forensic genetic genealogy has been used to solve a number of cold cases, but it has also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. Some people worry that the police could use DNA data to target innocent people or to build a genetic database of the entire population.

GEDmatch has since changed its privacy policy to make it more difficult for police to access DNA data from users who have opted out. However, the damage may already be done. Police have already used GEDmatch data to solve dozens of cases, and it is unclear how many people have had their DNA data accessed without their knowledge or consent.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Myth of the Secret Genius

Brian Klaas
The Garden of Forking Path
Originally posted 30 Nov 22

Here are two excepts: 

A recent research study, involving a collaboration between physicists who model complex systems and an economist, however, has revealed why billionaires are so often mediocre people masquerading as geniuses. Using computer modelling, they developed a fake society in which there is a realistic distribution of talent among competing agents in the simulation. They then applied some pretty simple rules for their model: talent helps, but luck also plays a role.

Then, they tried to see what would happen if they ran and re-ran the simulation over and over.

What did they find? The most talented people in society almost never became extremely rich. As they put it, “the most successful individuals are not the most talented ones and, on the other hand, the most talented individuals are not the most successful ones.”

Why? The answer is simple. If you’ve got a society of, say, 8 billion people, there are literally billions of humans who are in the middle distribution of talent, the largest area of the Bell curve. That means that in a world that is partly defined by random chance, or luck, the odds that someone from the middle levels of talent will end up as the richest person in the society are extremely high.

Look at this first plot, in which the researchers show capital/success (being rich) on the vertical/Y-axis, and talent on the horizontal/X-axis. What’s clear is that society’s richest person is only marginally more talented than average, and there are a lot of people who are extremely talented that are not rich.

Then, they tried to figure out why this was happening. In their simulated world, lucky and unlucky events would affect agents every so often, in a largely random pattern. When they measured the frequency of luck or misfortune for any individual in the simulation, and then plotted it against becoming rich or poor, they found a strong relationship.


The authors conclude by stating “Our results highlight the risks of the paradigm that we call “naive meritocracy", which fails to give honors and rewards to the most competent people, because it underestimates the role of randomness among the determinants of success.”


Here is my summary:

The myth of the secret genius: The belief that some people are just born with natural talent and that there is nothing we can do to achieve the same level of success.

The importance of hard work: The vast majority of successful people are not geniuses. They are simply people who have worked hard and persevered in the face of setbacks.

The power of luck: Luck plays a role in everyone's success. Some people are luckier than others, and most people do not factor in luck, as well as other external variables, into their assessment.  This bias is another form of the Fundamental Attribution Error.

The importance of networks: Our networks play a big role in our success. We need to be proactive in building relationships with people who can help us achieve our goals.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Worried about AI in the workplace? You’re not alone

Michele Lerner
American Psychological Association
Originally posted 7 September 23

Here is an excerpt:

“Advances in AI are happening rapidly in the workplace, and many of their effects are uncertain,” says Fred Oswald, PhD, a professor in the department of psychological sciences at Rice University in Houston. “Will AI empower employees and organizations to be more effective? Or consistent with employee worries, will AI replace their jobs? We’re likely to see both. We’ll need more research to inform targeted AI-oriented investments in employee training, career development, mental health, and other interventions.”

We asked Oswald and Leslie Hammer, PhD, emerita professor of psychology at Portland State University and codirector of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center at the Oregon Health and Science University, to outline ways employers and employees can address the psychological impact of AI in the workplace.

The survey shows 46% of workers worried about AI making some or all of their job duties obsolete intend to look for another job compared with 25% of workers who are not worried about AI. How seriously should employers take workers’ concerns?
Oswald: Both real and perceived job insecurities often motivate employees to look for other jobs. In general, managers should always attempt to maintain healthy communication with their employees, where in this case it would be to understand and address the root cause of AI-related worries. Communication helps overall to ensure the well-being of individual employees and improves the culture and morale of the organization, and this might be more important when AI becomes present in the workplace.
Survey data show worried workers also feel they do not matter in their workplaces, and that they feel micromanaged. Mattering at work is among the five components of a healthy workplace identified by the U.S. Surgeon General. What can employers do to ensure workers feel they matter and to help workers feel more comfortable about AI, given that changes are likely inevitable?
Hammer: It’s very important that workplaces communicate information regarding any changes related to AI clearly and honestly. Fear of the unknown and loss of a sense of control are directly related to psychological distress, occupational stress, and strain, as well as negative physical health outcomes. Providing information about the use of AI and allowing employee input into such changes will significantly alleviate these outcomes.

The info is here. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

‘Bullshit’ After All? Why People Consider Their Jobs Socially Useless

Walo, S. (2023).
Employment and Society, 0(0).


Recent studies show that many workers consider their jobs socially useless. Thus, several explanations for this phenomenon have been proposed. David Graeber’s ‘bullshit jobs theory’, for example, claims that some jobs are in fact objectively useless, and that these are found more often in certain occupations than in others. Quantitative research on Europe, however, finds little support for Graeber’s theory and claims that alienation may be better suited to explain why people consider their jobs socially useless. This study extends previous analyses by drawing on a rich, under-utilized dataset and provides new evidence for the United States specifically. Contrary to previous studies, it thus finds robust support for Graeber’s theory on bullshit jobs. At the same time, it also confirms existing evidence on the effects of various other factors, including alienation. Work perceived as socially useless is therefore a multifaceted issue that must be addressed from different angles.

Discussion and conclusion

Using survey data from the US, this article tests Graeber’s (2018) argument that socially useless jobs are primarily found in specific occupations. Doing so, it finds that working in one of Graeber’s occupations significantly increases the probability that workers perceive their job as socially useless (compared with all others). This is true for administrative support occupations, sales occupations, business and finance occupations, and managers. Only legal occupations did not show a significant effect as predicted by Graeber’s theory. More detailed analyses even reveal that, of all 21 occupations, Graeber’s occupations are the ones that are most strongly associated with socially useless jobs when other factors are controlled for. This article is therefore the first to find quantitative evidence supporting Graeber’s argument. In addition, this article also confirms existing evidence on various other factors that can explain why people consider their jobs socially useless, including alienation, social interaction and public service motivation.

These findings may seem somewhat contradictory to the results of Soffia et al. (2022) who find that Graeber’s theory is not supported by their data. This can be explained by several differences between their study and this one. First, Soffia et al. ask people whether they ‘have the feeling of doing useful work’, while this study asks them whether they think they are making a ‘positive impact on [their] community and society’. These differently worded questions may elicit different responses. However, additional analyses show that results do not differ much between these questions (see online supplementary appendix C). Second, Soffia et al. examine data from Europe, while this study uses data from the US. This supports the notion that Graeber’s theory may only apply to heavily financialized Anglo-Saxon countries. Third, the results of Soffia et al. are based on raw distributions over occupations, while the findings presented here are mainly based on regression models that control for various other factors. If only raw distributions are analysed, however, this article also finds only limited support for Graeber’s theory.

My take for clinical psychologists:

Bullshit jobs are not just a problem for the people who do them. They also have a negative impact on society as a whole. For example, they can lead to a decline in productivity, a decrease in innovation, and an increase in inequality.

Bullshit jobs are often created by the powerful in society in order to maintain their own power and privilege. For example, managers may create bullshit jobs in order to justify their own positions or to make themselves look more important.

There is a growing awareness of the problem of bullshit jobs, and there are a number of initiatives underway to address it. For example, some organizations are now hiring "bullshit detectives" to identify and eliminate bullshit jobs.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Property ownership and the legal personhood of artificial intelligence

Rafael Dean Brown (2021) 
Information & Communications Technology Law, 
30:2, 208-234. 
DOI: 10.1080/13600834.2020.1861714


This paper adds to the discussion on the legal personhood of artificial intelligence by focusing on one area not covered by previous works on the subject – ownership of property. The author discusses the nexus between property ownership and legal personhood. The paper explains the prevailing misconceptions about the requirements of rights or duties in legal personhood, and discusses the potential for conferring rights or imposing obligations on weak and strong AI. While scholars have discussed AI owning real property and copyright, there has been limited discussion on the nexus of AI property ownership and legal personhood. The paper discusses the right to own property and the obligations of property ownership in nonhumans, and applying it to AI. The paper concludes that the law may grant property ownership and legal personhood to weak AI, but not to strong AI.


Persona ficta and juristic person

The concepts of persona ficta and juristic person, as distinct from a natural person, trace its origins to early attempts at giving legal rights to a group of men acting in concert. While the concept of persona ficta has its roots from Roman law, ecclesiastical lawyers expanded upon it during the Middle Ages. Savigny is now credited for bringing the concept into modern legal thought. A persona ficta, under Roman law principles, could not exist unless under some ‘creative act’ of a legislative body – the State. According to Deiser, however, the concept of a persona ficta during the Middle Ages was insufficient to give it the full extent of rights associated with the modern concept of legal personhood, particularly, property ownership and the recovery of property, that is, without invoking the right of an individual member. It also could not receive state-granted rights, could not occupy a definite position within a community that is distinct from its separate members, and it could not sue or be sued. In other words, persona ficta has historically required the will of the individual human member for the conferral of rights.


In other words, weak AI, regardless of whether it is supervised or unsupervised ultimately would have to rely on some sort of intervention from its human programmer to exercise property rights. If anything, weak AI is more akin to an infant requiring guardianship, more so than a river or an idol, mainly because the weak AI functions in reliance on the human programmer’s code and data. A weak AI in possession and control of property could arguably be conferred the right to own property subject to a human agent acting on its behalf as a guardian. In this way, the law could grant a weak AI legal personhood based on its exercise of property rights in the same way that the law granted legal personhood to a corporation, river, or an idol. The law would attribute the will of the human programmer to the weak AI.

The question of whether a strong AI, if it were to become a reality, should also be granted legal personhood based on its exercise of the right to own property is altogether a different inquiry. Strong AI could theoretically take actual or constructive possession of property, and therefore exercise property rights independently the way a human would, and even in more advanced ways.Footnote151 However, a strong AI’s independence and autonomy implies that it could have the ability to assert and exercise property rights beyond the control of laws and human beings. This would be problematic to our current notions of property ownership and social order.Footnote152 In this way, the fear of a strong AI with unregulated possession of property is real, and bolsters the argument in favor of human-centred and explainable AI that requires human intervention.

My summary:

The author discusses the prevailing misconceptions about the requirements of rights or duties in legal personhood. He argues that the ability to own property is not a necessary condition for legal personhood. For example, corporations and trusts are legal persons, but they cannot own property in their own name.

The author then considers the potential for conferring rights or imposing obligations on weak and strong AI. He argues that weak AI, which is capable of limited reasoning and decision-making, may be granted property ownership and legal personhood. This is because weak AI can be held responsible for its actions and can be expected to uphold the obligations of property ownership.

Strong AI, on the other hand, is capable of independent thought and action. The author argues that it is not clear whether strong AI can be held responsible for its actions or whether it can be expected to uphold the obligations of property ownership. Therefore, he concludes that the law may not grant property ownership and legal personhood to strong AI.

The author's argument is based on the assumption that legal personhood is a necessary condition for property ownership. However, there is no consensus on this assumption. Some legal scholars argue that property ownership is a sufficient condition for legal personhood, meaning that anything that can own property is a legal person.

The question of whether AI can own property is a complex one that is likely to be debated for many years to come. The article "Property ownership and the legal personhood of artificial intelligence" provides a thoughtful and nuanced discussion of this issue.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Plunging Number of Primary Care Physicians Reaches a Tipping Point.

Elisabeth Rosenthal
KFF Health News
Originally posted 8 September 23

Here are two excerpts:

The percentage of U.S. doctors in adult primary care has been declining for years and is now about 25% — a tipping point beyond which many Americans won’t be able to find a family doctor at all.

Already, more than 100 million Americans don’t have usual access to primary care, a number that has nearly doubled since 2014. One reason our coronavirus vaccination rates were low compared with those in countries such as China, France, and Japan could be because so many of us no longer regularly see a familiar doctor we trust.

Another telling statistic: In 1980, 62% of doctor’s visits for adults 65 and older were for primary care and 38% were for specialists, according to Michael L. Barnett, a health systems researcher and primary care doctor in the Harvard Medical School system. By 2013, that ratio had exactly flipped and has likely “only gotten worse,” he said, noting sadly: “We have a specialty-driven system. Primary care is seen as a thankless, undesirable backwater.” That’s “tragic,” in his words — studies show that a strong foundation of primary care yields better health outcomes overall, greater equity in health care access, and lower per capita health costs.

One explanation for the disappearing primary care doctor is financial. The payment structure in the U.S. health system has long rewarded surgeries and procedures while shortchanging the diagnostic, prescriptive, and preventive work that is the province of primary care. Furthermore, the traditionally independent doctors in this field have little power to negotiate sustainable payments with the mammoth insurers in the U.S. market.

Faced with this situation, many independent primary care doctors have sold their practices to health systems or commercial management chains (some private equity-owned) so that, today, three-quarters of doctors are now employees of those outfits.


Some relatively simple solutions are available, if we care enough about supporting this foundational part of a good medical system. Hospitals and commercial groups could invest some of the money they earn by replacing hips and knees to support primary care staffing; giving these doctors more face time with their patients would be good for their customers’ health and loyalty if not (always) the bottom line.

Reimbursement for primary care visits could be increased to reflect their value — perhaps by enacting a national primary care fee schedule, so these doctors won’t have to butt heads with insurers. And policymakers could consider forgiving the medical school debt of doctors who choose primary care as a profession.

They deserve support that allows them to do what they were trained to do: diagnosing, treating, and getting to know their patients.

Here is my warning:

The number of primary care physicians in the US is declining, and this trend is reaching a tipping point. More than 100 million Americans don't have usual access to primary care, and this number has nearly doubled since 2014. This shortage of primary care physicians could have a negative impact on public health, as people without access to primary care are more likely to delay or forgo needed care.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Metacognitive Blindspot in Intellectual Humility Measures

Costello, T. H., Newton, C., Lin, H., & Pennycook, G.
(2023, August 6).


Intellectual humility (IH) is commonly defined as recognizing the limits of one’s knowledge and abilities. However, most research has relied entirely on self-report measures of IH, without testing whether these instruments capture the metacognitive core of the construct. Across two studies (Ns = 898; 914), using generalized additive mixed models to detect complex non-linear interactions, we evaluated the correspondence between widely used IH self-reports and performance on calibration and resolution paradigms designed to model the awareness of one’s mental capabilities (and their fallibility). On an overconfidence paradigm (N observations per model = 2,692-2,742), none of five IH measures attenuated the Dunning-Kruger effect, whereby poor performers overestimate their abilities and high performers underestimate them. On a confidence-accuracy paradigm (Nobservation per model = 7,223 - 12,706), most IH measures were associated with inflated confidence regardless of accuracy, or were specifically related to confidence when participants were correct but not when they were incorrect. The sole exception was the “Lack of Intellectual Overconfidence” subscale of the Comprehensive Intellectual Humility Scale, which uniquely predicted lower confidence for incorrect responses. Meanwhile, measures of Actively Open-minded Thinking reliably predicted calibration and resolution. These findings reveal substantial discrepancies between IH self-reports and metacognitive abilities, suggesting most IH measures lack validity. It may not be feasible to assess IH via self-report–as indicating a great deal of humility may, itself, be a sign of a failure in humility.


IH represents the ability to identify the constraints of one’s psychological, epistemic, and cultural perspective— to conduct lay phenomenology, acknowledging that the default human perspective is (literally) self-centered (Wallace, 2009) — and thereby cultivate an awareness of the limits of a single person, theory, or ideology to describe the vast and searingly complex universe. It is a process that presumably involves effortful and vigilant noticing – tallying one’s epistemic track record, and especially one’s fallibility (Ballantyne, 2021).

IH, therefore, manifests dynamically in individuals as a boundary between one’s informational environment and one’s model of reality. This portrait of IH-as-boundary appears repeatedly in philosophical and psychological treatments of IH, which frequently frame awareness of (epistemic) limitations as IH’s conceptual, metacognitive core (Leary et al., 2017; Porter, Elnakouri, et al., 2022). Yet as with a limit in mathematics, epistemic limits are appropriately defined as functions: their value is dependent on inputs (e.g., information environment, access to knowledge) that vary across contexts and individuals. Particularly, measuring IH requires identifying at least two quantities— one’s epistemic capabilities and one’s appraisal of said capabilities— from which a third, IH-qua-metacognition, can be derived as the distance between the two quantities.

Contemporary IH self-reports tend not to account for either parameter, seeming to rest instead on an auxiliary assumption: That people who are attuned to, and “own”, their epistemic limitations will generate characteristic, intellectually humble patterns of thinking and behavior. IH questionnaires then target these patterns, rather than the shared propensity for IH which the patterns ostensibly reflect.

We sought to both test and circumvent this assumption (and mono-method measurement limitation) in the present research. We did so by defining IH’s metacognitive core, functionally and statistically, in terms of calibration and resolution. We operationalized calibration as the convergence between participants’ performance on a series of epistemic tasks, on the one hand, and participants’ estimation of their own performance, on the other. Given that the relation between self-estimation and actual performance is non-linear (i.e., the Dunning-Kruger effect), there were several pathways by which IH might predict calibration: (1) decreased overestimation among low performers, (2) decreased underestimation among high performers, or (3) unilateral weakening of miscalibration among both low and high performers (for a visual representation, refer to Figure 1). Further, we operationalized epistemic resolution by assessing the relation between IH, on the one hand, individuals’ item-by-item confidence judgments for correct versus incorrect answers, on the other hand. Thus, resolution represents the capacity to distinguish between one’s correct and incorrect judgments and beliefs (a seemingly necessary prerequisite for building an accurate and calibrated model of one’s knowledge).

Friday, September 15, 2023

Older Americans are more vulnerable to prior exposure effects in news evaluation.

Lyons, B. A. (2023). 
Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review.


Older news users may be especially vulnerable to prior exposure effects, whereby news comes to be seen as more accurate over multiple viewings. I test this in re-analyses of three two-wave, nationally representative surveys in the United States (N = 8,730) in which respondents rated a series of mainstream, hyperpartisan, and false political headlines (139,082 observations). I find that prior exposure effects increase with age—being strongest for those in the oldest cohort (60+)—especially for false news. I discuss implications for the design of media literacy programs and policies regarding targeted political advertising aimed at this group.

Essay Summary
  • I used three two-wave, nationally representative surveys in the United States (N = 8,730) in which respondents rated a series of actual mainstream, hyperpartisan, or false political headlines. Respondents saw a sample of headlines in the first wave and all headlines in the second wave, allowing me to determine if prior exposure increases perceived accuracy differentially across age.  
  • I found that the effect of prior exposure to headlines on perceived accuracy increases with age. The effect increases linearly with age, with the strongest effect for those in the oldest age cohort (60+). These age differences were most pronounced for false news.
  • These findings suggest that repeated exposure can help account for the positive relationship between age and sharing false information online. However, the size of this effect also underscores that other factors (e.g., greater motivation to derogate the out-party) may play a larger role. 
The beginning of the Implications Section

Web-tracking and social media trace data paint a concerning portrait of older news users. Older American adults were much more likely to visit dubious news sites in 2016 and 2020 (Guess, Nyhan, et al., 2020; Moore et al., 2023), and were also more likely to be classified as false news “supersharers” on Twitter, a group who shares the vast majority of dubious news on the platform (Grinberg et al., 2019). Likewise, this age group shares about seven times more links to these domains on Facebook than younger news consumers (Guess et al., 2019; Guess et al., 2021). 

Interestingly, however, older adults appear to be no worse, if not better, at identifying false news stories than younger cohorts when asked in surveys (Brashier & Schacter, 2020). Why might older adults identify false news in surveys but fall for it “in the wild?” There are likely multiple factors at play, ranging from social changes across the lifespan (Brashier & Schacter, 2020) to changing orientations to politics (Lyons et al., 2023) to cognitive declines (e.g., in memory) (Brashier & Schacter, 2020). In this paper, I focus on one potential contributor. Specifically, I tested the notion that differential effects of prior exposure to false news helps account for the disjuncture between older Americans’ performance in survey tasks and their behavior in the wild.

A large body of literature has been dedicated to exploring the magnitude and potential boundary conditions of the illusory truth effect (Hassan & Barber, 2021; Henderson et al., 2021; Pillai & Fazio, 2021)—a phenomenon in which false statements or news headlines (De keersmaecker et al., 2020; Pennycook et al., 2018) come to be believed over multiple exposures. Might this effect increase with age? As detailed by Brashier and Schacter (2020), cognitive deficits are often blamed for older news users’ behaviors. This may be because cognitive abilities are strongest in young adulthood and slowly decline beyond that point (Salthouse, 2009), resulting in increasingly effortful cognition (Hess et al., 2016). As this process unfolds, older adults may be more likely to fall back on heuristics when judging the veracity of news items (Brashier & Marsh, 2020). Repetition, the source of the illusory truth effect, is one heuristic that may be relied upon in such a scenario. This is because repeated messages feel easier to process and thus are seen as truer than unfamiliar ones (Unkelbach et al., 2019).

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Who supports redistribution? Replicating and refining effects of compassion, malicious envy, and self-interest

Lin, C.A., & Bates, T.C.
(2023). Evolution and Human Behavior


Debate over wealth redistribution plays a prominent role in society, but the causes of differences in support for redistribution remain contested. A recent three-person two-situation model suggests these differences are shaped by evolved motivational systems of self-interest, compassion, and dispositional envy. We conducted a close replication testing this prediction, all subjects were British, recruited from an online subject pool. Study 1 (N = 206) confirmed the roles of self-interest (β = 0.20) and compassion for others (β = 0.37), as well as a predicted null effect of procedural fairness. Dispositional envy was non-significant (β = 0.06). In study 2 (N = 304), we tested whether it was better to conceptualize envy as being two separate emotions, benign envy and malicious envy. A significant effect of malicious envy was found (β = 0.13) and no significant effect of benign envy (β = −0.06). Study 3 (N = 501) closely replicated this improved model, confirming significant effects of compassion (β = 0.40), self-interest (β = 0.21), and malicious envy (β = 0.15), accounting for one third of variance in support for redistribution. These results support the role of evolved motivational systems to explain and improve important aspects of contemporary economic redistribution.

The authors conducted three studies to test their hypotheses. In Study 1, they replicated the findings of a previous study that found that compassion, malicious envy, and self-interest all predict support for redistribution. In Study 2, they developed a new measure of envy and found that this measure also predicted support for redistribution. In Study 3, they found that left-political support was associated with higher support for redistribution.

The authors conclude that their findings support the hypothesis that compassion, malicious envy, and self-interest all play a role in shaping people's support for wealth redistribution. They suggest that future research should examine the relative importance of these three motivational systems in different contexts.

Here are some additional key points from the article:
  • The authors propose a model of wealth redistribution that is based on three motivational systems: compassion, malicious envy, and self-interest.
  • They conducted three studies to test their hypotheses.
  • The findings of the studies support the hypothesis that compassion, malicious envy, and self-interest all play a role in shaping people's support for wealth redistribution.
  • The authors suggest that future research should examine the relative importance of these three motivational systems in different contexts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Rational simplification and rigidity in human planning

Ho, M. K., Cohen, J. D., & Griffiths, T.
(2023, March 30). PsyArXiv


Planning underpins the impressive flexibility of goal-directed behavior. However, even when planning, people can display surprising rigidity in how they think about problems (e.g., “functional fixedness”) that lead them astray. How can our capacity for behavioral flexibility be reconciled with our susceptibility to conceptual inflexibility? We propose that these tendencies reflect avoidance of two cognitive costs: the cost of representing task details and the cost of switching between families of representations. To test this hypothesis, we developed a novel paradigm that affords participants opportunities to choose different families of simplified representations to plan. In two pre-registered online studies (N = 377; N = 294), we found that participants’ optimal behavior, suboptimal behavior, and reaction time are explained by a computational model that formalizes people’s avoidance of representational complexity and switching. These results demonstrate how the selection of simplified, rigid representations leads to the otherwise puzzling combination of flexibility and inflexibility observed in problem solving.

General Discussion

Here, we evaluated the hypothesis that functional fixedness reflects the avoidance of complexity and switching costs during planning. To do so, we developed a novel paradigm in which participants navigated mazes that could be represented simply as blocks or more complexly as blocks and notches. Experiments revealed that people simplify problems(for instance, by adopting a blocks-only construal strategy if navigating through notches was unnecessary) and that they persist in these strategies (for instance, continuing to ignore notches even when attending to a notch would lead to a better solution).  Additionally, our computational analyses using the value-guided construal framework (Ho et al., 2022)confirmed that the avoidance of complexity and  switching costs explains observed patterns of optimal behavior, suboptimal behavior, and reaction times under different experimental manipulations. Overall, these results support our proposal and  help  clarify  the  computational  principles  that  underlie functional fixedness.


The authors argue that people often simplify problems in order to make them more manageable, but this can lead to rigidity and suboptimal solutions.

The authors conclude that rational simplification is a common cognitive mechanism that can lead to both flexibility and rigidity in planning. They argue that the model provides a useful framework for understanding how people simplify problems and make decisions.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the article:
  • People often simplify problems in order to make them more manageable.
  • This can lead to rigidity and suboptimal solutions.
  • The tendency to simplify problems is a cognitive mechanism that can be explained by the limited capacity for representing task details.
  • The model provides a useful framework for understanding how people simplify problems and make decisions.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Market Cognition: How Exchange Norms Alter Social Experience

Zaki, J., Neumann, E., & Baltiansky, D. (2021).
Current Directions in Psychological Science, 
30(3), 236–241.


Market exchange and the ideologies that accompany it pervade human social interaction. How does this affect people’s beliefs about themselves, each other, and human nature? Here we describe market cognition as social inferences and behaviors that are intensified by market contexts. We focus on prosociality and two countervailing ways in which market cognition can affect it. On the one hand, marketplaces incentivize individuals to behave prosocially in order to be chosen as exchange partners—thereby generalizing cooperation and trust beyond group boundaries. On the other hand, markets encourage a view of people as self-interested and can thus taint people’s interpretation of prosocial actions and erode more communal forms of cooperation. We close by considering how market cognition can become self-fulfilling, altering relationships, communities, and cultural norms.

Background: Market exchange is a ubiquitous feature of modern life, and it has been argued that this can have a profound impact on our social cognition.

Research question: The authors of this article investigated how market norms and beliefs can alter our social inferences and behaviors.

Conclusions: The authors concluded that market cognition can have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect. When we believe that others are self-interested, we are more likely to act selfishly ourselves. This can then lead others to believe that we are self-interested, and so on.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Kaiser agrees to $49-million settlement for illegal disposal of hazardous waste, protected patient information

Gabriel San Roman
Los Angeles Times
Originally posted 9 September 23

Here are two excepts:

“The illegal disposal of hazardous and medical waste puts the environment, workers and the public at risk,” Bonta said. “It also violates numerous federal and state laws. As a healthcare provider, Kaiser should know that it has specific legal obligations to properly dispose of medical waste and safeguard patients’ medical information.”

The state attorney general partnered with six district attorney offices — including Alameda, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo and Yolo counties — in the undercover probe of 16 Kaiser facilities statewide that first began in 2015.

Investigators found hundreds of hazardous and medical waste items such as syringes, tubing with body fluid and aerosol cans destined for public landfills. The inspections also uncovered more than 10,000 pages of confidential patient files.

During a news conference on Friday, Bonta said that investigators also found body parts in the public waste stream but did not elaborate.


As part of the settlement agreement, the healthcare provider must retain an independent third-party auditor approved by the state and local law enforcement involved in the investigation.

Kaiser faces a $1.75-million penalty if adequate steps are not taken within a five-year period.

“As a major corporation in Alameda County, Kaiser Permanente has a special obligation to treat its communities with the same bedside manner as its patients,” said Alameda County Dist. Atty. Pamela Price. “Dumping medical waste and private information are wrong, which they have acknowledged. This action will hold them accountable in such a way that we hope means it doesn’t happen again.”

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Seeing and sanctioning structural unfairness

Flores-Robles, G., & Gantman, A. P. (2023, June 28).


People tend to explain wrongdoing as the result of a bad actor or bad system. In five studies (four U.S. online convenience, one U.S. representative sample), we tested whether the way people understand unfairness affects how they sanction it. In Pilot 1A (N = 40), people interpreted unfair offers in an economic game as the result of a bad actor (vs. unfair rules), unless incentivized (Pilot 1B, N = 40), which, in Study 1 (N = 370), predicted costly punishment of individuals (vs. changing unfair rules). In Studies 2 (N = 500) and 3, (N = 470, representative of age, gender, and ethnicity in the U.S), we found that people paid to change the rules for the final round of the game (vs. punished individuals), when they were randomly assigned a bad system (vs. bad actor) explanation for prior identical unfair offers. Explanations for unfairness affect how people sanction it.

Statement of Relevance

Humans are facing massive problems including economic and social inequality. These problems are often framed in the media, and by friends and experts, as a problem either of individual action (e.g., racist beliefs) or of structures (e.g., discriminatory housing laws). The current research uses a context-free economic game to ask whether these explanations have any effect on what people think should happen next. We find that people tend to explain unfair offers in the game in terms of bad actors (unless incentivized) which is related to punishing individuals over changing the game itself.  When people are told that the unfairness they witnessed was the result of a bad actor, they prefer to punish that actor; when they are told that the same unfair behavior is the result of unfair rules, they prefer to change the rules. Our understanding of the mechanisms of inequality affect how we want to sanction it.

My summary:

The article discusses how people tend to explain wrongdoing as the result of a bad actor or bad system.  In essence, this is a human, decision-making process. The authors conducted five studies to test whether the way people understand unfairness affects how they sanction it. They found that people are more likely to punish individuals for unfair behavior when they believe that the behavior is the result of a bad actor. However, they are more likely to try to change the system (or the rules) when they believe that the behavior is the result of a bad system.

The authors argue that these findings have important implications for ethics, morality, and values. They suggest that we need to be more aware of the way we explain unfairness, because our explanations can influence how we respond to it. How an individual frames the issue is a key to correct possible solutions, as well as biases.  They also suggest that we need to be more critical of the systems that we live in, because these systems can create unfairness.

The article raises a number of ethical, moral, and value-related questions. For example, what is the responsibility of individuals to challenge unfair systems? What is the role of government in addressing structural unfairness? And what are the limits of individual and collective action in addressing unfairness?

The article does not provide easy answers to these questions. However, it does provide a valuable framework for thinking about unfairness and how we can respond to it.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Academics Raise More Than $315,000 for Data Bloggers Sued by Harvard Business School Professor Gino

Neil H. Shah & Claire Yuan
The Crimson
Originally published 1 Sept 23

A group of academics has raised more than $315,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to support the legal expenses of the professors behind data investigation blog Data Colada — who are being sued for defamation by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino.

Supporters of the three professors — Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons — launched the GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for their legal fees after they were named in a $25 million defamation lawsuit filed by Gino last month.

In a series of four blog posts in June, Data Colada gave a detailed account of alleged research misconduct by Gino across four academic papers. Two of the papers were retracted following the allegations by Data Colada, while another had previously been retracted in September 2021 and a fourth is set to be retracted in September 2023.

Organizers wrote on GoFundMe that the fundraiser “hit 2,000 donors and $250K in less than 2 days” and that Simonsohn, Nelson, and Simmons “are deeply moved and grateful for this incredible show of support.”

Simine Vazire, one of the fundraiser’s organizers, said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the reaction throughout academia in support of Data Colada.

“It’s been really nice to see the consensus among the academic community, which is strikingly different than what I see on LinkedIn and the non-academic community,” she said.

Elisabeth M. Bik — a data manipulation expert who also helped organize the fundraiser — credited the outpouring of financial support to solidarity and concern among scientists.

“People are very concerned about this lawsuit and about the potential silencing effect this could have on people who criticize other people’s papers,” Bik said. “I think a lot of people want to support Data Colada for their legal defenses.”

Andrew T. Miltenberg — one of Gino’s attorneys — wrote in an emailed statement that the lawsuit is “not an indictment on Data Colada’s mission.”