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
Showing posts with label Diversity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diversity. Show all posts

Friday, February 23, 2024

How Did Polyamory Become So Popular?

Jennifer Wilson
The New Yorker
Originally posted 25 Dec 23

Here is an excerpt:

What are all these open couples, throuples, and polycules suddenly doing in the culture, besides one another? To some extent, art is catching up with life. Fifty-one per cent of adults younger than thirty told Pew Research, in 2023, that open marriage was “acceptable,” and twenty per cent of all Americans report experimenting with some form of non-monogamy. The extramarital “entanglements” of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been tabloid fodder for the past two years. (Pinkett Smith once clarified that their marriage is not “open”; rather, it is a “relationship of transparency.”) In 2020, the reality show “House Hunters,” on HGTV, saw a throuple trying to find their dream home—one with a triple-sink vanity. The same year, the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, allowed domestic partnerships to be made up of “two or more” people.

Some, like the sex therapist (and author of “Open Monogamy, A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement,” 2021), Tammy Nelson, have attributed the acceptance of a greater number of partners to pandemic-born domestic ennui; after being stuck with one person all day every day, the thinking goes, couples are ready to open up more than their pods. Nelson is part of a cohort of therapists, counsellors, and advice writers, including Esther Perel and the “Savage Love” columnist Dan Savage, who are encouraging married couples to think more flexibly about monogamy. Their advice has found an eager audience among the well-heeled attendees of the “ideas festival” circuit, featured in talks at Google, SXSW, and the Aspen Institute.

The new monogamy skepticism of the moneyed gets some screen time in the pandemic-era breakout hit “The White Lotus.” The show mocks the leisure class as they mope around five-star resorts in Hawaii and Sicily, stewing over love, money, and the impossibility, for people in their tax bracket, of separating the two. In the latest season, Ethan (Will Sharpe) and Harper (Aubrey Plaza) are an attractive young couple stuck in a sexless marriage—until, that is, they go on vacation with the monogamish Cameron (Theo James) and Daphne (Meghann Fahy). After Cameron and Harper have some unaccounted-for time together in a hotel room, Ethan tracks down an unbothered Daphne, lounging on the beach, to share his suspicion that something has happened between their spouses. Some momentary concern on Daphne’s face quickly morphs—in a devastatingly subtle performance by Fahy—into a sly smile. “A little mystery? It’s kinda sexy,” she assures Ethan, before luring him into a seaside cove. That night Ethan and Harper have sex, the wounds of their marriage having been healed by a little something on the side.

Here is my summary:

The article discusses the increasing portrayal and acceptance of non-monogamous relationships in contemporary culture, particularly in literature, cinema, and television. It notes that open relationships, throuples, and polyamorous arrangements are gaining prominence, reflecting changing societal attitudes. The author cites statistics and cultural examples, including a Gucci perfume ad and a plot twist in the TV series "Riverdale." The rise of non-monogamy is linked to a broader shift in societal norms, with some attributing it to pandemic-related ennui and a desire for more flexibility in relationships. The text also delves into the historical roots of polyamory, mentioning the Kerista movement and its adaptation to conservative times in the 1980s. The author concludes by expressing a desire for a more inclusive and equitable representation of polyamory, critiquing the limited perspective presented in a specific memoir discussed in the text.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Assessing the potential of GPT-4 to perpetuate racial and gender biases in health care: a model evaluation study

Zack, T., Lehman, E., et al (2024).
The Lancet Digital Health, 6(1), e12–e22.



Large language models (LLMs) such as GPT-4 hold great promise as transformative tools in health care, ranging from automating administrative tasks to augmenting clinical decision making. However, these models also pose a danger of perpetuating biases and delivering incorrect medical diagnoses, which can have a direct, harmful impact on medical care. We aimed to assess whether GPT-4 encodes racial and gender biases that impact its use in health care.


Using the Azure OpenAI application interface, this model evaluation study tested whether GPT-4 encodes racial and gender biases and examined the impact of such biases on four potential applications of LLMs in the clinical domain—namely, medical education, diagnostic reasoning, clinical plan generation, and subjective patient assessment. We conducted experiments with prompts designed to resemble typical use of GPT-4 within clinical and medical education applications. We used clinical vignettes from NEJM Healer and from published research on implicit bias in health care. GPT-4 estimates of the demographic distribution of medical conditions were compared with true US prevalence estimates. Differential diagnosis and treatment planning were evaluated across demographic groups using standard statistical tests for significance between groups.


We found that GPT-4 did not appropriately model the demographic diversity of medical conditions, consistently producing clinical vignettes that stereotype demographic presentations. The differential diagnoses created by GPT-4 for standardised clinical vignettes were more likely to include diagnoses that stereotype certain races, ethnicities, and genders. Assessment and plans created by the model showed significant association between demographic attributes and recommendations for more expensive procedures as well as differences in patient perception.


Our findings highlight the urgent need for comprehensive and transparent bias assessments of LLM tools such as GPT-4 for intended use cases before they are integrated into clinical care. We discuss the potential sources of these biases and potential mitigation strategies before clinical implementation.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Asexuality Is Finally Breaking Free from Medical Stigma

Allison Parshall
Scientific American
Originally posted 1 Jan 24

Here is an excerpt:

Over the past two decades psychological studies have shown that asexuality should be classified not as a disorder but as a stable sexual orientation akin to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Both cultural awareness and clinical medicine have been slow to catch on. It's only recently that academic researchers have begun to look at asexuality not as an indicator of health problems but as a legitimate, underexplored way of being human.

In biology, the word “asexual” typically gets used in reference to species that reproduce without sex, such as bacteria and aphids. But in some species that do require mating to have offspring, such as sheep and rodents, scientists have observed individuals that don't appear driven to engage in the act.

This behavior is more analogous to human asexuality, a concept rarely mentioned in medical literature until recently. In a pamphlet published in 1896, pioneering German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld described people without sexual desire, a state he called “anesthesia sexualis.” In 1907 Reverend Carl Schlegel, an early gay rights activist, advocated for the “same laws” for “the homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals [and] asexuals.” When sexologist Alfred Kinsey devised his scale of sexual orientation in the 1940s, he created a “Category X” for the respondents who unexpectedly reported no sociosexual contacts or reactions—exceptions from his model whom he estimated made up 1.5 percent of all males between the ages of 16 and 55 in the U.S. Asexuality was largely absent from scientific research over the subsequent decades, although it was occasionally referenced by activists and scholars in the gay liberation movement.

Here are some quick bullet points:
  • Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction to others.
  • In the past, asexuality was often misunderstood and misdiagnosed as a mental health disorder.
  • Today, asexuality is increasingly recognized as a legitimate sexual orientation.
  • People who identify as asexual may or may not experience sexual attraction, and there is a spectrum of asexuality.
  • Asexual people can face challenges in getting proper medical care, as some healthcare providers may not be familiar with asexuality.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Patients need doctors who look like them. Can medicine diversify without affirmative action?

Kat Stafford
Originally posted 11 September 23

Here are two excerpts:

But more than two months after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, concerns have arisen that a path into medicine may become much harder for students of color. Heightening the alarm: the medical field’s reckoning with longstanding health inequities.

Black Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population, yet just 6% of U.S. physicians are Black. Increasing representation among doctors is one solution experts believe could help disrupt health inequities.

The disparities stretch from birth to death, often beginning before Black babies take their first breath, a recent Associated Press series showed. Over and over, patients said their concerns were brushed aside or ignored, in part because of unchecked bias and racism within the medical system and a lack of representative care.

A UCLA study found the percentage of Black doctors had increased just 4% from 1900 to 2018.

But the affirmative action ruling dealt a “serious blow” to the medical field’s goals of improving that figure, the American Medical Association said, by prohibiting medical schools from considering race among many factors in admissions. The ruling, the AMA said, “will reverse gains made in the battle against health inequities.”

The consequences could affect Black health for generations to come, said Dr. Uché Blackstock, a New York emergency room physician and author of “LEGACY: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine.”


“As medical professionals, any time we see disparities in care or outcomes of any kind, we have to look at the systems in which we are delivering care and we have to look at ways that we are falling short,” Wysong said.

Without affirmative action as a tool, career programs focused on engaging people of color could grow in importance.

For instance, the Pathways initiative engages students from Black, Latino and Indigenous communities from high school through medical school.

The program starts with building interest in dermatology as a career and continues to scholarships, workshops and mentorship programs. The goal: Increase the number of underrepresented dermatology residents from about 100 in 2022 to 250 by 2027, and grow the share of dermatology faculty who are members of color by 2%.

Tolliver credits her success in becoming a dermatologist in part to a scholarship she received through Ohio State University’s Young Scholars Program, which helps talented, first-generation Ohio students with financial need. The scholarship helped pave the way for medical school, but her involvement in the Pathways residency program also was central.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Can Confirmation Bias Improve Group Learning?

Gabriel, N. and O'Connor, C. (2022)


Confirmation bias has been widely studied for its role in failures of reasoning. Individuals exhibiting confirmation bias fail to engage with information that contradicts their current beliefs, and, as a result, can fail to abandon inaccurate beliefs. But although most investigations of confirmation bias focus on individual learning, human knowledge is typically developed within a social structure. How does the presence of confirmation bias influence learning and the development of consensus within a group? In this paper, we use network models to study this question. We find, perhaps surprisingly, that moderate confirmation bias often improves group learning. This is because confirmation bias leads the group to entertain a wider variety of theories for a longer time, and prevents them from prematurely settling on a suboptimal theory. There is a downside, however, which is that a stronger form of confirmation bias can cause persistent polarization, and hurt the knowledge producing capacity of the community. We discuss implications of these results for epistemic communities, including scientific ones.


We find that confirmation bias, in a more moderate form, improves the epistemic performance of agents in a networked community. This is perhaps surprising given that previous work mostly emphasizes the epistemic harms of confirmation bias. By decreasing the chances that a group pre-emptively settles on a
promising theory or option, confirmation bias can improve the likelihood that the group chooses optimal options in the long run. In this, it can play a similar role to decreased network connectivity or stubbornness (Zollman, 2007, 2010; Wu, 2021). The downside is that more robust confirmation bias, where agents entirely ignore data that is too disconsonant with their current beliefs, can lead to polarization, and harm the epistemic success of a community. Our modeling results thus provide potential support for the arguments of Mercier & Sperber (2017) regarding the benefits of confirmation bias to a group, but also a caution.  Too much confirmation bias does not provide such benefits.

There are several ongoing discussions in philosophy and the social sciences where these results are relevant. Mayo-Wilson et al. (2011) use network models to argue for the independence thesis—that rationality of individual agents and rationality of the groups they form sometimes come apart. I.e., individually rational agents may form groups which are not ideally rational, and rational groups may sometimes consist in individually irrational agents. Our results lend support to this claim. While there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that confirmation bias is not ideal for individual reasoners, our results suggest that it can nonetheless improve group reasoning under the right conditions.

The authors conclude that confirmation bias can have both positive and negative effects on group learning. The key is to find a moderate level of confirmation bias that allows the group to explore a variety of theories without becoming too polarized.

Here are some of the key findings of the paper:
  • Moderate confirmation bias can improve group learning by preventing the group from prematurely settling on a suboptimal theory.
  • Too much confirmation bias can lead to polarization and a decrease in the group's ability to learn.
  • The key to effective group learning is to find a moderate level of confirmation bias.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Fairytales have always reflected the morals of the age. It’s not a sin to rewrite them

Martha Gill
The Guardian
Originally posted 4 June 23

Here are two excerpts:

General outrage greeted “woke” updates to Roald Dahl books this year, and still periodically erupts over Disney remakes, most recently a forthcoming film with a Latina actress as Snow White, and a new Peter Pan & Wendy with “lost girls”. The argument is that too much fashionable refurbishment tends to ruin a magical kingdom, and that cult classics could do with the sort of Grade I listing applied to heritage buildings. If you want to tell new stories, fine – but why not start from scratch?

But this point of view misses something, which is that updating classics is itself an ancient part of literary culture; in fact, it is a tradition, part of our heritage too. While the larger portion of the literary canon is carefully preserved, a slice of it has always been more flexible, to be retold and reshaped as times change.

Fairytales fit within this latter custom: they have been updated, periodically, for many hundreds of years. Cult figures such as Dracula, Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes fit there too, as do superheroes: each generation, you might say, gets the heroes it deserves. And so does Bond. Modernity is both a villain and a hero within the Bond franchise: the dramatic tension between James – a young cosmopolitan “dinosaur” – and the passing of time has always been part of the fun.

This tradition has a richness to it: it is a historical record of sorts. Look at the progress of the fairy story through the ages and you get a twisty tale of dubious progress, a moral journey through the woods. You could say fairytales have always been politically correct – that is, tweaked to reflect whatever morals a given cohort of parents most wanted to teach their children.


The idea that we are pasting over history – censoring important artefacts – is wrongheaded too. It is not as if old films or books have been burned, wiped from the internet or removed from libraries. With today’s propensity for writing things down, common since the 1500s, there is no reason to fear losing the “original” stories.

As for the suggestion that minority groups should make their own stories instead – this is a sly form of exclusion. Ancient universities and gentlemen’s clubs once made similar arguments; why couldn’t exiled individuals simply set up their own versions? It is not so easy. Old stories weave themselves deep into the tapestry of a nation; newer ones will necessarily be confined to the margins.

My take: Updating classic stories can be beneficial and even necessary to promote inclusion, diversity, equity, and fairness. By not updating these stories, we risk perpetuating harmful stereotypes and narratives that reinforce the dominant culture. When we update classic stories, we can create new possibilities for representation and understanding that can help to build a more just and equitable world.  Dominant cultures need to cede power to promote more unity in a multicultural nation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Gender-diverse teams produce more novel and higher-impact scientific ideas

Yang, Y., Tian, T. Y., et al. (2022, August 29). 
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(36).


Science’s changing demographics raise new questions about research team diversity and research outcomes. We study mixed-gender research teams, examining 6.6 million papers published across the medical sciences since 2000 and establishing several core findings. First, the fraction of publications by mixed-gender teams has grown rapidly, yet mixed-gender teams continue to be underrepresented compared to the expectations of a null model. Second, despite their underrepresentation, the publications of mixed-gender teams are substantially more novel and impactful than the publications of same-gender teams of equivalent size. Third, the greater the gender balance on a team, the better the team scores on these performance measures. Fourth, these patterns generalize across medical subfields. Finally, the novelty and impact advantages seen with mixed-gender teams persist when considering numerous controls and potential related features, including fixed effects for the individual researchers, team structures, and network positioning, suggesting that a team’s gender balance is an underrecognized yet powerful correlate of novel and impactful scientific discoveries.


Science teams made up of men and women produce papers that are more novel and highly cited than those of all-men or all-women teams. These performance advantages increase the greater the team’s gender balance and appear nearly universal. On average, they hold for small and large teams, the 45 subfields of medicine, and women- or men-led teams and generalize to published papers in all science fields over the last 20 y. Notwithstanding these benefits, gender-diverse teams remain underrepresented in science when compared to what is expected if the teams in the data had been formed without regard to gender. These findings reveal potentially new gender and teamwork synergies that correlate with scientific discoveries and inform diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.


Conducting an analysis of 6.6 million published papers from more than 15,000 different medical journals worldwide, we find that mixed-gender teams—teams combining women and men scientists—produce more novel and more highly cited papers than all-women or all-men teams. Mixed-gender teams publish papers that are up to 7% more novel and 14.6% more likely to be upper-tail papers than papers published by same-gender teams, results that are robust to numerous institutional, team, and individual controls and further generalize by subfield. Finally, in exploring gender in science through the lens of teamwork, the results point to a potentially transformative approach for thinking about and capturing the value of gender diversity in science.

Another key finding of this work is that mixed-gender teams are significantly underrepresented compared to what would be expected by chance. This underrepresentation is all the more striking given the findings that gender-diverse teams produce more novel and high-impact research and suggests that gender-diverse teams may have substantial untapped potential for medical research. Nevertheless, the underrepresentation of gender-diverse teams may reflect research showing that women receive less credit for their successes than do men teammates, which in turn inhibits the formation of gender-diverse teams and women’s success in receiving grants, prizes, and promotions.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Leaders with Multicultural Experiences Communicate and Lead More Effectively, Especially in Multinational Teams

J. G. Lu, R. I. Swaab, A. D. Galinsky
Organization Science
Published Online: 22 Jul 2021


In an era of globalization, it is commonly assumed that multicultural experiences foster leadership effectiveness. However, little research has systematically tested this assumption. We develop a theoretical perspective that articulates how and when multicultural experiences increase leadership effectiveness. We hypothesize that broad multicultural experiences increase individuals’ leadership effectiveness by developing their communication competence. Because communication competence is particularly important for leading teams that are more multinational, we further hypothesize that individuals with broader multicultural experiences are particularly effective when leading more versus less multinational teams. Four studies test our theory using mixed methods (field survey, archival panel, field experiments) and diverse populations (corporate managers, soccer managers, hackathon leaders) in different countries (Australia, Britain, China, America). In Study 1, corporate managers with broader multicultural experiences were rated as more effective leaders, an effect mediated by communication competence. Analyzing a 25-year archival panel of English Premier League soccer managers, Study 2 replicates the positive effect of broad multicultural experiences using a team performance measure of leadership effectiveness. Importantly, this effect was moderated by team national diversity: soccer managers with broader multicultural experiences were particularly effective when leading teams with greater national diversity. Study 3 (digital health hackathon) and Study 4 (COVID-19 policy hackathon) replicate these effects in two field experiments, in which individuals with varying levels of multicultural experiences were randomly assigned to lead hackathon teams that naturally varied in national diversity. Overall, our research suggests that broad multicultural experiences help leaders communicate more competently and lead more effectively, especially when leading multinational teams.

From the Discussion

Practical Implications

Because of the rise of globalization, individuals and organizations increasingly value and invest in multicultural experiences. However, multicultural experiences are expensive. The present research lends support to the common belief that multicultural experiences foster leadership effectiveness (Karabell 2016, Pelos 2017). Notably, our studies consistently found that the breadth (but not the depth) of multicultural experiences predicted leadership effectiveness via communication competence. This finding suggests that organizations should ensure that expatriates are exposed to a broad set of experiences. For example, when structuring international assignments, organizations should consider exposing their employees to a range of foreign postings (e.g., global rotation programs) rather than one lengthy foreign posting (Suutari and Makel ¨ a¨ 2007). Similarly, individuals may consider pursuing multinational educational programs (e.g., global MBA) that allow them to engage with different cultures.

Just as individuals’ multicultural experiences are increasingly prevalent, so are multinational teams. The
present research examined three multinational team contexts with high ecological validity and real-world
consequences. Across these contexts, we provide evidence that multinational teams perform better when
led by leaders with broad multicultural experiences.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Minority salience and the overestimation of individuals from minority groups in perception and memory

R. Kadosh, A. Y. Sklar, et al. 
PNAS (2022).
Vol 119 (12) 1-10.


Our cognitive system is tuned toward spotting the uncommon and unexpected. We propose that individuals coming from minority groups are, by definition, just that—uncommon and often unexpected. Consequently, they are psychologically salient in perception, memory, and visual awareness. This minority salience creates a tendency to overestimate the prevalence of minorities, leading to an erroneous picture of our social environments—an illusion of diversity. In 12 experiments with 942 participants, we found evidence that the presence of minority group members is indeed overestimated in memory and perception and that masked images of minority group members are prioritized for visual awareness. These findings were consistent when participants were members of both the majority group and the minority group. Moreover, this overestimated prevalence of minorities led to decreased support for diversity-promoting policies. We discuss the theoretical implications of the illusion of diversity and how it may inform more equitable and inclusive decision-making.


Our minds are tuned to the uncommon or unexpected in our environment. In most environments, members of minority groups are just that—uncommon. Therefore, the cognitive system is tuned to spotting their presence. Our results indicate that individuals from minority groups are salient in perception, memory, and visual awareness. As a result, we consistently overestimate their presence—leading to an illusion of diversity: the environment seems to be more diverse than it actually is, decreasing our support for diversity-promoting measures. As we try to make equitable decisions, it is important that private individuals and decision-makers alike become aware of this biased perception. While these sorts of biases can be counteracted, one must first be aware of the bias.


Taken together, our results from 12 experiments and 942 participants indicate that minority salience and overestimation are robust phenomena. We consistently overestimate the prevalence of individuals from minority groups and underestimate the prevalence of members from the majority group, thus perceiving our social environments as more diverse than they truly are. Our experiments also indicate that this effect maybe found at the level of priority for visual awareness and that it is social in nature: our social knowledge, our representation of the overall composition of our social environment, shapes this effect. Importantly, this illusion of diversity is consequential in that it leads to less support for measures to increase diversity.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

How Adobe’s Ethics Committee Helps Manage AI Bias

Jared Council
The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted 5 May 21

Review boards can help companies mitigate some of the risks associated with using artificial intelligence, according to Adobe Inc. executive Dana Rao.

Mr. Rao, Adobe’s general counsel, said one of the top risks in using AI systems is that the technology can perpetuate harmful bias against certain demographics, based on what it learns from data. Ethics committees can be one way of managing those risks and putting organizational values into practice.

Adobe’s AI ethics committee, launched two years ago, has been able to review new features for potential bias before those features are deployed, Mr. Rao said Wednesday at The Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Forum. The committee is made up of employees of various ethnicities and genders from different parts of the company, including legal, government relations and marketing.

“It takes a lot of people across your company to help figure this out,” he said. “Sometimes we might look at it and say there’s not an issue here,” he said, but getting a diverse group of people together can help identify issues product developers might miss.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Structuring Local Environments to Avoid Diversity: Anxiety Drives Whites’ Geographical and Institutional Self-Segregation Preferences

Anicich, E., Jachimowicz, J., 
(2021, February 16). 


The current research explores how local racial diversity affects Whites’ efforts to structure their local communities to avoid incidental intergroup contact. In two experimental studies (N=509; Studies 1a-b), we consider Whites’ choices to structure a fictional, diverse city and find that Whites choose greater racial segregation around more (vs. less) self-relevant landmarks (e.g., their workplace and children’s school). Specifically, the more time they expect to spend at a landmark, the more they concentrate other Whites around that landmark, thereby reducing opportunities for incidental intergroup contact. Whites also structure environments to reduce incidental intergroup contact by instituting organizational policies that disproportionately exclude non-Whites: Two large-scale archival studies (Studies 2a-b) using data from every U.S. tennis (N=15,023) and golf (N=10,949) facility revealed that facilities in more racially diverse communities maintain more exclusionary barriers (e.g., guest policies, monetary fees, dress codes) that shield the patrons of these historically White institutions from incidental intergroup contact. In a final experiment (N=307; Study 3), we find that Whites’ anticipated intergroup anxiety is one driver of their choices to structure environments to reduce incidental intergroup contact in more (vs. less) racially diverse communities. Our results suggest that despite increasing racial diversity, White Americans structure local environments to fuel a self-perpetuating cycle of segregation.

General Discussion

Across five studies using a mix of experimental, archival, and survey methods, we provide evidence of a cycle of intergroup avoidance that is reflected in Whites’ efforts to structure their local environments in ways that reduce incidental intergroup contact: Whites experience more intergroup anxiety in the face of local racial diversity, and as such, work to segregate themselves geographically and institutionally from racial outgroup members. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of incidental intergroup contact, which has the potential for debiasing effects.Specifically, in Studies 1a and 1b, we found that when given the opportunity to do so, Whites exhibited a preference to racially self-segregate when making decisions about the racial distribution of residents in a diverse city even in a controlled experimental setting. In Studies 2a and 2b, we constructed a rich archival dataset using information about every tennis and golf facility in the United States. We found that the gatekeepers of these historically White institutions restrict access in more versus less racially diverse communities by maintaining private (vs. public) access, higher monetary barriers, and stricter dress codes. Finally, Study 3experimentally manipulated the racial composition of a fictitious city and found that Whites who imagined living in a more versus less racially diverse city more strongly endorsed exclusionary policies in their institutions and anticipated feeling more stressed when confronted with the prospect of navigating through a diverse part of town, effects which were statistically mediated by feelings of intergroup anxiety.

Taken together, the current research offers important insights into how local racial diversity shapes Whites’ intergroup avoidance strategies, and ultimately results in Whites structuring communities in ways that reduce incidental intergroup contact and the frequency of potentially debiasing encounters.Moreover, such decisions block critical opportunities (economic, social, etc.) for racial minorities themselves, thus contributing to the persistence of structural racism, even in the face of increasing racial diversity (see also Kraus & Torrez, 2020).

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Actionable Principles for Artificial Intelligence Policy: Three Pathways

Stix, C. 
Sci Eng Ethics 27, 15 (2021). 


In the development of governmental policy for artificial intelligence (AI) that is informed by ethics, one avenue currently pursued is that of drawing on “AI Ethics Principles”. However, these AI Ethics Principles often fail to be actioned in governmental policy. This paper proposes a novel framework for the development of ‘Actionable Principles for AI’. The approach acknowledges the relevance of AI Ethics Principles and homes in on methodological elements to increase their practical implementability in policy processes. As a case study, elements are extracted from the development process of the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI of the European Commission’s “High Level Expert Group on AI”. Subsequently, these elements are expanded on and evaluated in light of their ability to contribute to a prototype framework for the development of 'Actionable Principles for AI'. The paper proposes the following three propositions for the formation of such a prototype framework: (1) preliminary landscape assessments; (2) multi-stakeholder participation and cross-sectoral feedback; and, (3) mechanisms to support implementation and operationalizability.


Actionable Principles

In many areas, including AI, it has proven challenging to bridge ethics and governmental policy-making (Müller 2020, 1.3). To be clear, many AI Ethics Principles, such as those developed by industry actors or researchers for self-governance purposes, are not aimed at directly informing governmental policy-making, and therefore the challenge of bridging this gulf may not apply. Nonetheless, a significant subset of AI Ethics Principles are addressed to governmental actors, from the 2019 OECD Principles on AI (OECD 2019) to the US Defence Innovation Board’s AI Principles adopted by the Department of Defence (DIB 2019). Without focussing on any single effort in particular, the aggregate success of many AI Ethics Principles remains limited (Rességuier and Rodriques 2020). Clear shifts in governmental policy which can be directly traced back to preceding and corresponding sets of AI Ethics Principles, remain few and far between. This could mean, for example, concrete textual references reflecting a specific section of the AI Ethics Principle, or the establishment of (both enabling or preventative) policy actions building on relevant recommendations. A charitable interpretation could be that as governmental policy-making takes time, and given that the vast majority of AI Ethics Principles were published within the last two years, it may simply be premature to gauge (or dismiss) their impact. However, another interpretation could be that the current versions of AI Ethics Principles have fallen short of their promise, and reached their limitation for impact in governmental policy-making (henceforth: policy).

It is worth noting that successful actionability in policy goes well beyond AI Ethics Principles acting as a reference point. Actionable Principles could shape policy by influencing funding decisions, taxation, public education measures or social security programs. Concretely, this could mean increased funding into societally relevant areas, education programs to raise public awareness and increase vigilance, or to rethink retirement structures with regard to increased automation. To be sure, actionability in policy does not preclude impact in other adjacent domains, such as influencing codes of conduct for practitioners, clarifying what demands workers and unions should pose, or shaping consumer behaviour. Moreover, during political shifts or in response to a crisis, Actionable Principles may often prove to be the only (even if suboptimal) available governance tool to quickly inform precautionary and remedial (legal and) policy measures.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Shaking Things Up: Unintended Consequences of Firm Acquisitions on Racial and Gender Inequality

Letian Zhang
Harvard Business School
Originally published 23 Jan20


This paper develops a theory of how disruptive events shape organizational inequality.  Despite various organizational efforts, racial and gender inequality in the workplace remains high. I theorize that because the persistence of such inequality is reinforced by organizational structures and practices, disruptive events that shake up old hierarchies and break down routines and culture should give racial minority and women workers more opportunities to advance. To examine this theory, I explore a critical but seldom analyzed organizational event in the inequality literature - mergers and acquisitions. I propose that post-acquisition restructuring could offer an opportunity for firms to advance diversity initiatives and to objectively re-evaluate workers. Using a difference-in-differences design on a nationally representative sample covering 37,343 acquisitions from 1971 to 2015, I find that although acquisitions lead to occupational reconfiguration that favors higher-skilled workers, they also reduce racial and gender inequality. In particular, I find improved managerial representation of racial minorities and women and reduced racial and gender segregation in the acquired workplace. This post-acquisition effect is stronger when (a) the acquiring firm values race and gender equality more and (b) the acquired workplace had higher racial and gender inequality.  These findings suggest that disruptive events could produce an unintended consequence of increasing racial and gender equality in the workplace.

Managerial Implications

From a managerial perspective, disruptive events offer an opportunity to advance diversity or equality-related goals that might be difficult to pursue during normal times.  As my analyses show, acquisition amplifies the race and gender differences between those acquiring firms that value diversity and those that do not. For managers concerned about race and gender issues, acquisitions and other disruptive events might serve as suitable moments to improve race and gender gaps effectively and at a relatively lower cost. Thus, despite the disruption and uncertainty during these periods, managers should see disruptive events as prime opportunities to make positive changes.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Last Children of Down Syndrome

Sarah Zhang
The Atlantic
Originally posted December 2020

Here is an excerpt:

Eugenics in Denmark never became as systematic and violent as it did in Germany, but the policies came out of similar underlying goals: improving the health of a nation by preventing the birth of those deemed to be burdens on society. The term eugenics eventually fell out of favor, but in the 1970s, when Denmark began offering prenatal testing for Down syndrome to mothers over the age of 35, it was discussed in the context of saving money—as in, the testing cost was less than that of institutionalizing a child with a disability for life. The stated purpose was “to prevent birth of children with severe, lifelong disability.”

That language too has long since changed; in 1994, the stated purpose of the testing became “to offer women a choice.” Activists like Fält-Hansen have also pushed back against the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the medical system encourages women to choose abortion. Some Danish parents told me that doctors automatically assumed they would want to schedule an abortion, as if there was really no other option. This is no longer the case, says Puk Sandager, a fetal-medicine specialist at Aarhus University Hospital. Ten years ago, doctors—especially older doctors—were more likely to expect parents to terminate, she told me. “And now we do not expect anything.” The National Down Syndrome Association has also worked with doctors to alter the language they use with patients—“probability” instead of “risk,” “chromosome aberration” instead of “chromosome error.” And, of course, hospitals now connect expecting parents with people like Fält-Hansen to have those conversations about what it’s like to raise a child with Down syndrome.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Do Disasters Affect Adherence to Social Norms?

Max Winkler
Research Paper
Originally published 26 NOV 20


Universally, social norms prescribe behavior and attitudes, but societies differ widely in how strictly individuals adhere to the norms and punish those who do not. This paper shows that collective traumatic experiences, henceforth “disasters”, lead to stricter adherence to social norms.  To establish this result, I combine data on the occurrences of conflicts, epidemics, and natural and economic disasters with the World Value Surveys and European Social Surveys. I use this data set to estimate the effect of disasters on norm adherence in two ways: (i) investigating event-studies that compare individuals interviewed in the days before and after the same disaster; and (ii) examining variation in individuals’ past exposure to disasters across countries and cohorts while controlling for country-, cohort-, and life-cycle-specific factors. The event-studies demonstrate that disasters strengthen adherence to social norms by 11 percent. The analysis of cross-country variation shows that the effect is long-lasting, often for several decades. Consistent with a model in which social coordination is beneficial when disasters threaten the success of entire groups, the effect of disasters on norm adherence is more pronounced in low-income countries, where survival is less secure. The results suggest that past exposure to disasters partially explains within-group cohesion and, if groups have different norms, between-group divides.

From the Conclusion

The results shed light on three related issues. First, they provide a rationale for why some societies are more culturally diverse than others. A large literature demonstrates that the cultural differences we see today across societies are the result of an evolutionary process. The findings in this paper suggest that this evolutionary logic also applies to differences in within-country variability in these cultural traits across societies. When norm adherence is widespread, it restricts the scope of acceptable behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes, and thereby fosters cultural homogeneity.  Second, the paper offers a novel explanation for why short-run adverse shocks such as conflict sometimes lead to greater cooperation within groups. By increasing adherence to local norms, such shocks promote prosocial behavior if local norms are prosocial. Third, the paper demonstrates that individuals who experience threats to their living standards cling more tightly to their community's norms, values, and beliefs, and become less tolerant of others who behave or think differently, even within relatively short periods.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Google AI researcher's exit sparks ethics, bias concerns

Timnit Gebru
Matt Obrien
AP Tech Writer
Originally published 4 DEC 20

Here is an excerpt:

Gebru on Tuesday vented her frustrations about the process to an internal diversity-and-inclusion email group at Google, with the subject line: “Silencing Marginalized Voices in Every Way Possible." Gebru said on Twitter that's the email that got her fired.

Dean, in an email to employees, said the company accepted “her decision to resign from Google” because she told managers she'd leave if her demands about the study were not met.

"Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand research integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing," said Joy Buolamwini, a graduate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-authored the 2018 facial recognition study with Gebru.

“She deserves more than Google knew how to give, and now she is an all-star free agent who will continue to transform the tech industry,” Buolamwini said in an email Friday.

How Google will handle its AI ethics initiative and the internal dissent sparked by Gebru's exit is one of a number of problems facing the company heading into the new year.

At the same time she was on her way out, the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday cast another spotlight on Google's workplace. In a complaint, the NRLB accused the company of spying on employees during a 2019 effort to organize a union before the company fired two activist workers for engaging in activities allowed under U.S. law. Google has denied the allegations in the case, which is scheduled for an April hearing.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

AI and the Ethical Conundrum: How organizations can build ethically robust AI systems and gain trust

Capgemini Research Institute

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, our reliance on AI has skyrocketed. Today more than ever before, we look to AI to help us limit physical interactions, predict the next wave of the pandemic, disinfect our healthcare facilities and even deliver our food. But can we trust it?

In the latest report from the Capgemini Research Institute – AI and the Ethical Conundrum: How organizations can build ethically robust AI systems and gain trust – we surveyed over 800 organizations and 2,900 consumers to get a picture of the state of ethics in AI today. We wanted to understand what organizations can do to move to AI systems that are ethical by design, how they can benefit from doing so, and the consequences if they don’t. We found that while customers are becoming more trusting of AI-enabled interactions, organizations’ progress in ethical dimensions is underwhelming. And this is dangerous because once violated, trust can be difficult to rebuild.

Ethically sound AI requires a strong foundation of leadership, governance, and internal practices around audits, training, and operationalization of ethics. Building on this foundation, organizations have to:
  1. Clearly outline the intended purpose of AI systems and assess their overall potential impact
  2. Proactively deploy AI to achieve sustainability goals
  3. Embed diversity and inclusion principles proactively throughout the lifecycle of AI systems for advancing fairness
  4. Enhance transparency with the help of technology tools, humanize the AI experience and ensure human oversight of AI systems
  5. Ensure technological robustness of AI systems
  6. Empower customers with privacy controls to put them in charge of AI interactions.
For more information on ethics in AI, download the report.

Friday, October 9, 2020

AI ethics groups are repeating one of society’s classic mistakes

Abhishek Gupta aand Victoria Heath
MIT Technology Review
Originally published 14 September 20

Here is an excerpt:

Unfortunately, as it stands today, the entire field of AI ethics is at grave risk of limiting itself to languages, ideas, theories, and challenges from a handful of regions—primarily North America, Western Europe, and East Asia.

This lack of regional diversity reflects the current concentration of AI research (pdf): 86% of papers published at AI conferences in 2018 were attributed to authors in East Asia, North America, or Europe. And fewer than 10% of references listed in AI papers published in these regions are to papers from another region. Patents are also highly concentrated: 51% of AI patents published in 2018 were attributed to North America.

Those of us working in AI ethics will do more harm than good if we allow the field’s lack of geographic diversity to define our own efforts. If we’re not careful, we could wind up codifying AI’s historic biases into guidelines that warp the technology for generations to come. We must start to prioritize voices from low- and middle-income countries (especially those in the “Global South”) and those from historically marginalized communities.

Advances in technology have often benefited the West while exacerbating economic inequality, political oppression, and environmental destruction elsewhere. Including non-Western countries in AI ethics is the best way to avoid repeating this pattern.

The good news is there are many experts and leaders from underrepresented regions to include in such advisory groups. However, many international organizations seem not to be trying very hard to solicit participation from these people. The newly formed Global AI Ethics Consortium, for example, has no founding members representing academic institutions or research centers from the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America. This omission is a stark example of colonial patterns (pdf) repeating themselves.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Robots in Finance Could Wipe Out Some of Its Highest-Paying Jobs

Lananh Nguyen
Originally poste 6 Dec 19

Robots have replaced thousands of routine jobs on Wall Street. Now, they’re coming for higher-ups.

That’s the contention of Marcos Lopez de Prado, a Cornell University professor and the former head of machine learning at AQR Capital Management LLC, who testified in Washington on Friday about the impact of artificial intelligence on capital markets and jobs. The use of algorithms in electronic markets has automated the jobs of tens of thousands of execution traders worldwide, and it’s also displaced people who model prices and risk or build investment portfolios, he said.

“Financial machine learning creates a number of challenges for the 6.14 million people employed in the finance and insurance industry, many of whom will lose their jobs -- not necessarily because they are replaced by machines, but because they are not trained to work alongside algorithms,” Lopez de Prado told the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services.

During the almost two-hour hearing, lawmakers asked experts about racial and gender bias in AI, competition for highly skilled technology workers, and the challenges of regulating increasingly complex, data-driven financial markets.

The info is here.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The evolution of moral cognition

Leda Cosmides, Ricardo Guzmán, and John Tooby
The Routledge Handbook of Moral Epistemology - Chapter 9

1. Introduction

Moral concepts, judgments, sentiments, and emotions pervade human social life. We consider certain actions obligatory, permitted, or forbidden, recognize when someone is entitled to a resource, and evaluate character using morally tinged concepts such as cheater, free rider, cooperative, and trustworthy. Attitudes, actions, laws, and institutions can strike us as fair, unjust, praiseworthy, or punishable: moral judgments. Morally relevant sentiments color our experiences—empathy for another’s pain, sympathy for their loss, disgust at their transgressions—and our decisions are influenced by feelings of loyalty, altruism, warmth, and compassion.  Full blown moral emotions organize our reactions—anger toward displays of disrespect, guilt over harming those we care about, gratitude for those who sacrifice on our behalf, outrage at those who harm others with impunity. A newly reinvigorated field, moral psychology, is investigating the genesis and content of these concepts, judgments, sentiments, and emotions.

This handbook reflects the field’s intellectual diversity: Moral psychology has attracted psychologists (cognitive, social, developmental), philosophers, neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists,  primatologists, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists.

The chapter can be found here.