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 Reality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reality. Show all posts

Monday, July 8, 2024

Fake beauty queens charm judges at the Miss AI pageant

Chloe Veltman
Originally posted 9 June 24

Here is an excerpt:

But in the real world, beauty pageants are fading. They are no longer the giant cultural draw they once were, attracting tens of millions of TV viewers during their peak in the 1970s and '80s.

The events are controversial, because there’s a long history of them feeding into harmful stereotypes of women. 

Indeed, all 10 Miss AI finalists fit in with traditional beauty queen tropes: They all look young, buxom and thin.

The controversial nature of pageants, coupled with the application of cutting-edge AI technology, is proving to be catnip for the media and the public. Simply put, sexy images of fake women are an easy way to connect with fans.

"With this technology, we're very much in the early stages, where I think this is the perfect type of content that's highly engaging and super low hanging fruit to go after, said Eric Dahan, CEO of the social media marketing company Mighty Joy.

In an interview with NPR, beauty pageant historian and Miss AI judge Sally-Ann Fawcett said she hopes to be able to change these stereotypes "from the inside" by focusing her judging efforts on the messaging around these AI beauty queens — and not just on their looks.


Here are some thoughts:

While the use of AI to create realistic human models is technologically impressive, its application in a beauty pageant context is concerning. It reinforces the idea that a woman's worth is primarily based on her physical appearance, which can have negative psychological impacts, especially on young girls and women. The technology could be better utilized to promote more positive and inclusive representations of beauty and human diversity.

I would urge the organizers and participants of the Miss AI pageant to critically reflect on the potential harm their actions may cause. They should strive to use this powerful technology in a more responsible and socially conscious manner, challenging rather than reinforcing harmful stereotypes and objectification. Promoting diverse and inclusive representations of beauty would be a more ethical and psychologically healthy approach.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Delusions shape our reality

Lisa Bortolotti
Originally posted 12 March 24

Here is an excerpt:

But what makes it the case that a delusion disqualifies the speaker from further engagement? When we call a person’s belief “delusional”, we assume that that person’s capacity to exercise agency is compromised. So, we may recognise that the person has a unique perspective on the world, but it won’t seem to us as a valuable perspective. We may realise that the person has concerns, but we won’t think of those concerns as legitimate and worth addressing. We may come to the conviction that, due to the delusional belief, the person is not in a position to affect change or participate in decision making because their grasp on reality is tenuous. If they were simply mistaken about something, we could correct them. If Laura thought that a latte at the local coffee shop costed £2.50 when it costs £3.50, we could show her the price list and set her straight. But her belief that her partner is unfaithful because the lamp post is unlit cannot be corrected that way, because what Laura considers evidence for the claim is not likely to overlap with what we consider evidence for it. When this happens, and we feel that there is no sufficient common ground for a fruitful exchange, we may see Laura as a problem to be fixed or a patient to be diagnosed and treated, as opposed to an agent with a multiplicity of needs and interests, and a person worth interacting with.

I challenge the assumption that delusional beliefs are marks of compromised agency by default and I do so based on two main arguments. First, there is nothing in the way in which delusional beliefs are developed, maintained, or defended that can be legitimately described as a dysfunctional process. Some cognitive biases may help explain why a delusional explanation is preferred to alternative explanations, or why it is not discarded after a challenge. For instance, people who report delusional beliefs often jump to conclusions. Rashid might have the belief that the US government strives to manipulate citizens’ behaviour and concludes that the tornadoes are created for this purpose, without considering arguments against the feasibility of a machine that controls the weather with that precision. Also, people who report delusional beliefs tend to see meaningful connections between independent events—as Laura who takes the lamp post being unlit as evidence for her partner’s unfaithfulness. But these cognitive biases are a common feature of human cognition and not a dysfunction giving rise to a pathology: they tend to be accentuated at stressful times when we may be strongly motivated to come up with a quick causal explanation for a distressing event.

Here is my summary:

The article argues that delusions, though often seen as simply false beliefs, can significantly impact a person's experience of the world. It highlights that delusions can be complex and offer a kind of internal logic, even if it doesn't match objective reality.

Bortolotti also points out that the term "delusion" can be judgmental and may overlook the reasons behind the belief. Delusions can sometimes provide comfort or a sense of control in a confusing situation.

Overall, the article suggests a more nuanced view of delusions, acknowledging their role in shaping a person's reality while still recognizing the importance of distinguishing them from objective reality.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Deluded, with reason

Huw Green
Originally published 31 Aug 20

Here is an excerpt:

Of course, beliefs don’t exist only in a private mental context, but can also be held in place by our relationships and social commitments. Consider how political identities often involve a cluster of commitments to various beliefs, even where there is no logical connection between them – for instance, how a person who advocates for say, trans rights, is also more likely to endorse Left-wing economic policies. As the British clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell and his colleagues note in their preprint, ‘De-rationalising Delusions’ (2019), beliefs facilitate affiliation and intragroup trust. They cite earlier philosophical work by others that suggests ‘reasoning is not for the refinement of personal knowledge … but for argumentation, social communication and persuasion’. Indeed, our relationships usually ground our beliefs in a beneficial way, preventing us from developing ideas too disparate from those of our peers, and helping us to maintain a set of ‘healthy’ beliefs that promote our basic wellbeing and continuity in our sense of self.

Given the social function of beliefs, it’s little surprise that delusions usually contain social themes. Might delusion then be a problem of social affiliation, rather than a purely cognitive issue? Bell’s team make just this claim, proposing that there is a broader dysfunction to what they call ‘coalitional cognition’ (important for handling social relationships) involved in the generation of delusions. Harmful social relationships and experiences could play a role here. It is now widely acknowledged that there is a connection between traumatic experiences and symptoms of psychosis. It’s easy to see how trauma could have a pervasive impact on a person’s sense of how safe and trustworthy the world feels, in turn affecting their belief systems.

The British philosopher Matthew Ratcliffe and his colleagues made this point in their 2014 paper, observing how ‘traumatic events are often said to “shatter” a way of experiencing the world and other people that was previously taken for granted’. They add that a ‘loss of trust in the world involves a pronounced and widespread sense of unpredictability’ that could make people liable to delusions because the ideas we entertain are likely to be shaped by what feels plausible in the context of our subjective experience. Loss of trust is not the same as the absence of a grounding belief, but I would argue that it bears an important similarity. When we lose trust in something, we might say that we find it hard to believe in it. Perhaps loss of certain forms of ordinary belief, especially around close social relationships, makes it possible to acquire beliefs of a different sort altogether.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared.

Rob Toews
Originally posted 25 May 20

Here is an excerpt:

A handful of websites dedicated specifically to deepfake pornography have emerged, collectively garnering hundreds of millions of views over the past two years. Deepfake pornography is almost always non-consensual, involving the artificial synthesis of explicit videos that feature famous celebrities or personal contacts.

From these dark corners of the web, the use of deepfakes has begun to spread to the political sphere, where the potential for mayhem is even greater.

It does not require much imagination to grasp the harm that could be done if entire populations can be shown fabricated videos that they believe are real. Imagine deepfake footage of a politician engaging in bribery or sexual assault right before an election; or of U.S. soldiers committing atrocities against civilians overseas; or of President Trump declaring the launch of nuclear weapons against North Korea. In a world where even some uncertainty exists as to whether such clips are authentic, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Because of the technology’s widespread accessibility, such footage could be created by anyone: state-sponsored actors, political groups, lone individuals.

In a recent report, The Brookings Institution grimly summed up the range of political and social dangers that deepfakes pose: “distorting democratic discourse; manipulating elections; eroding trust in institutions; weakening journalism; exacerbating social divisions; undermining public safety; and inflicting hard-to-repair damage on the reputation of prominent individuals, including elected officials and candidates for office.”

The info is here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Polarization of Reality

A. Alesina, A. Miano, and S. Stantcheva
American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings

Evidence is growing that Americans are polarized not only in their views on policy issues and attitudes towards government and society, but also in their perceptions of the same, factual reality.

In this paper we conceptualize how to think about the polarization of reality and review recent papers that show that Republican and Democrats as well as Trump and non-Trump voters since 2016) view the same reality through a different lens. Perhaps as a result, they hold different views about policies and what should be done to address different economic and social issues.

The direction of causality is unclear: On the one hand, individuals could select into political affiliation based on their perceptions of reality. On the other hand, political affiliation affects the information one receives, the groups one interacts with, and the media one is exposed to, which in turn can shape perceptions of reality.

Regardless of the direction of causality though, this is not about having different attitudes about economic or social phenomena or policies that could justifiably be viewed differently from different angles.

What is striking is rather to have different perceptions of realities that can be factually checked.

We highlight evidence about differences in perceptions across the political spectrum on social mobility, inequality, immigration, and public policies.

We also show that providing information leads to different reassessments of reality and different responses along the policy support margin, depending on one’s political leanings.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Donald Hoffman: The Case Against Reality

The Institute of Arts and Ideas
Originally published September 8, 2019

Many scientists believe that natural selection brought our perception of reality into clearer and deeper focus, reasoning that growing more attuned to the outside world gave our ancestors an evolutionary edge. Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, Irvine, thinks that just the opposite is true. Because evolution selects for survival, not accuracy, he proposes that our conscious experience masks reality behind millennia of adaptions for ‘fitness payoffs’ – an argument supported by his work running evolutionary game-theory simulations. In this interview recorded at the HowTheLightGetsIn Festival from the Institute of Arts and Ideas in 2019, Hoffman explains why he believes that perception must necessarily hide reality for conscious agents to survive and reproduce. With that view serving as a springboard, the wide-ranging discussion also touches on Hoffman’s consciousness-centric framework for reality, and its potential implications for our everyday lives.

Editor Note: If you work as a mental health professional, this video may be helpful in understanding perceptions, understanding self, and consciousness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

AI Deemed 'Too Dangerous To Release' Makes It Out Into The World

Andrew Griffin
Originally posted November 8, 2019

Here is an excerpt:

"Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology, we are not releasing the trained model," wrote OpenAI in a February blog post, released when it made the announcement. "As an experiment in responsible disclosure, we are instead releasing a much smaller model for researchers to experiment with, as well as a technical paper."

At that time, the organisation released only a very limited version of the tool, which used 124 million parameters. It has released more complex versions ever since, and has now made the full version available.

The full version is more convincing than the smaller one, but only "marginally". The relatively limited increase in credibility was part of what encouraged the researchers to make it available, they said.

It hopes that the release can partly help the public understand how such a tool could be misused, and help inform discussions among experts about how that danger can be mitigated.

In February, researchers said that there was a variety of ways that malicious people could misuse the programme. The outputted text could be used to create misleading news articles, impersonate other people, automatically create abusive or fake content for social media or to use to spam people with – along with a variety of possible uses that might not even have been imagined yet, they noted.

Such misuses would require the public to become more critical about the text they read online, which could have been generated by artificial intelligence, they said.

The info is here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

How the concept of forgiveness is used to gaslight women

Sophie King
Originally posted June 13, 2019

I’m not against the concept of forgiveness, I’ve chosen to forgive people countless times. However, what I’m definitely against, is pressuring people to forgive and shaming them if they don’t. I’ve found there’s a lot of stigma attached to those who choose not to forgive, especially if you’re a woman.

Women that don’t forgive, are assumed to be “scorned”, “bitter and twisted”. The stereotypes that surround “unforgiving” women, are used to gaslight them.

When women express that they’re upset or angry (and justifiably so), as a result of being hurt, people dismiss them as “bitter” and the validity of their feelings and experiences are questioned.

She isn’t psychologically traumatised because she’s been wronged, she’s just a “scorned woman”, “got an axe to grind”, “holding a grudge” and “unable to move on”. The fault lies with her, not the perpetrator because she won’t “let it go” and “get over it”. She’s not the victim, she’s bringing it on herself by not forgiving. The blame is shifted from the wrongdoer to the victim.

The info is here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Pre-commitment and Updating Beliefs

Charles R. Ebersole
Doctoral Dissertation, University of Virginia


Beliefs help individuals make predictions about the world. When those predictions are incorrect, it may be useful to update beliefs. However, motivated cognition and biases (notably, hindsight bias and confirmation bias) can instead lead individuals to reshape interpretations of new evidence to seem more consistent with prior beliefs. Pre-committing to a prediction or evaluation of new evidence before knowing its results may be one way to reduce the impact of these biases and facilitate belief updating. I first examined this possibility by having participants report predictions about their performance on a challenging anagrams task before or after completing the task. Relative to those who reported predictions after the task, participants who pre-committed to predictions reported predictions that were more discrepant from actual performance and updated their beliefs about their verbal ability more (Studies 1a and 1b). The effect on belief updating was strongest among participants who directly tested their predictions (Study 2) and belief updating was related to their evaluations of the validity of the task (Study 3). Furthermore, increased belief updating seemed to not be due to faulty or shifting memory of initial ratings of verbal ability (Study 4), but rather reflected an increase in the discrepancy between predictions and observed outcomes (Study 5). In a final study (Study 6), I examined pre-commitment as an intervention to reduce confirmation bias, finding that pre-committing to evaluations of new scientific studies eliminated the relation between initial beliefs and evaluations of evidence while also increasing belief updating. Together, these studies suggest that pre-commitment can reduce biases and increase belief updating in light of new evidence.

The dissertation is here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Therapy Is No Longer a Politics-Free Zone

Peggy Drexler
The Wall Street Journal
Originally posted November November 23, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

A May 2018 survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology—which devoted an entire issue to how mental health professionals can understand and deal with the dramatic increase in clients feeling politics-related anxiety—found that of 604 psychotherapy patients from 50 states, only 32 percent said their therapist didn’t disclose their political beliefs, while 30 percent said their therapists divulged their views and the other 38 percent said their therapists very clearly made their beliefs known. “The old rules are pretty straightforward: Don’t talk about it,” says Dr. Steven Schlozman. a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “But our country right now is so about what side you’re on that almost every interaction people have these days is characterized by that.”

Full disclosure may be surprising, but it isn’t necessarily unwelcome. A 2018 poll conducted by market research firm Branded Research found that 61 percent of more than 8,000 therapy patients surveyed say it is “very” or “somewhat” important that they and their therapist share the same political values. Manhattan clinical psychologist Sarah Gundle, the co-clinical director of Octave, a “behavioral health studio” that opened in October offering individual and group therapy—including support groups for those feeling politics-related stress or anxiety—recalls a recent patient who wanted to know where she stood.

The info is here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Is There Such a Thing as Truth?

Errol Morris
Boston Review
Originally posted April 30, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

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

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

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

The information is here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

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

Miranda Katz
Originally published May 1, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

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

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

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

The information is here.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp on Reality

Sandra Upson
Originally posted February 16, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

But it’s not hard to see how this creative explosion could all go very wrong. For Yuanshun Yao, a University of Chicago graduate student, it was a fake video that set him on his recent project probing some of the dangers of machine learning. He had hit play on a recent clip of an AI-generated, very real-looking Barack Obama giving a speech, and got to thinking: Could he do a similar thing with text?

A text composition needs to be nearly perfect to deceive most readers, so he started with a forgiving target, fake online reviews for platforms like Yelp or Amazon. A review can be just a few sentences long, and readers don’t expect high-quality writing. So he and his colleagues designed a neural network that spat out Yelp-style blurbs of about five sentences each. Out came a bank of reviews that declared such things as, “Our favorite spot for sure!” and “I went with my brother and we had the vegetarian pasta and it was delicious.” He asked humans to then guess whether they were real or fake, and sure enough, the humans were often fooled.

The information is here.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Will Technology Help Us Transcend the Human Condition?

Michael Hauskeller & Kyle McNease

Transcendence used to be the end of a spiritual quest and endeavour. Not anymore. Today we are more likely to believe that if anything can help us transcend the human condition it is not God or some kind of religious communion, but science and technology. Confidence is high that, if we do things right, and boldly and without fear embrace the new opportunities that technological progress grants us, we will soon be able to accomplish things that no human has ever done, or even imagined doing, before. With luck, we will be unimaginably smart and powerful, and virtually immortal, all thanks to a development that seems unstoppable and that has already surpassed all reasonable expectations.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, we used maps and atlases to find our way around. Occasionally we even had to stop and ask someone not named Siri or Cortana if we were indeed on the correct route. Today, our cars are navigated by satellites that triangulate our location in real time while circling the earth at thousands of miles per hour, and self-driving cars for everyone are just around the corner. Soon we may not even need cars anymore. Why go somewhere if technology can bring the world to us? Already we are in a position to do most of what we have to or want to do from home: get an education, work, do our shopping, our banking, our communication, all thanks to the internet, which 30 years ago did not exist and is now, to many of us, indispensable. Those who are coming of age today find it difficult to imagine a world without it. Currently, there are over 3.2 billion people connected to the World Wide Web, 2 billion of which live in developing countries. Most of them connect to the Web via increasingly versatile and powerful mobile devices few people would have thought possible a couple of generations ago. Soon we may be able to dispense even with mobile devices and do all of it in our bio-upgraded heads. In terms of the technology we are using every day without a second thought, the world has changed dramatically, and it continues to do so. Computation is now nearly ubiquitous, people seem constantly attached to their cellular phones, iPads, and laptops, enthusiastically endorsing their own progressive cyborgization. And connectivity does not stop at the level of human beings: even our household objects and devices are connected to the internet and communicate with each other, using their own secret language and taking care of things largely without the need for human intervention and control. The world we have built for ourselves thrives on a steady diet of zeroes and ones that have now become our co-creators, continuing the world-building in often unexpected ways.

The paper is here.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Humans selectively edit reality before accepting it

Olivia Goldhill
Originally published March 26, 2017

Knowledge is power, so the saying goes, which makes it all the more striking how determined humans are to avoid useful information. Research in psychology, economics, and sociology has, over the course of several decades, highlighted countless examples of cases where humans are apt to ignore information. A review of these earlier studies by Carnegie Mellon University researchers, published this month in the Journal of Economic Literature, shows the extent to which humans avoid information and so selectively edit their own reality.

Rather than highlighting all the myriad ways humans fail to proactively seek out useful information, the paper’s authors focus on active information avoidance: Cases where individuals know information is available and have free access to that information, yet choose not to consider it. Examples of this phenomenon, revealed by the previous studies, include investors not looking at their financial portfolios when the stock market is down; patients taking STD tests and then failing to obtain the results; professionals refusing to look at their colleagues’ feedback on their work; and even the propensity of wealthy people to avoid poor neighborhoods so they don’t feel awareness of and guilt over their own privilege.

The article is here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Case Against Reality

Amanda Gefter
The Atlantic
Originally published April 25, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

Getting at questions about the nature of reality, and disentangling the observer from the observed, is an endeavor that straddles the boundaries of neuroscience and fundamental physics. On one side you’ll find researchers scratching their chins raw trying to understand how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience. This is the aptly named “hard problem.”

On the other side are quantum physicists, marveling at the strange fact that quantum systems don’t seem to be definite objects localized in space until we come along to observe them. Experiment after experiment has shown—defying common sense—that if we assume that the particles that make up ordinary objects have an objective, observer-independent existence, we get the wrong answers. The central lesson of quantum physics is clear: There are no public objects sitting out there in some preexisting space. As the physicist John Wheeler put it, “Useful as it is under ordinary circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld.”

The article is here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Case Against Reality

Amanda Gefter
The Atlantic
Originally posted April 22, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.

Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

Getting at questions about the nature of reality, and disentangling the observer from the observed, is an endeavor that straddles the boundaries of neuroscience and fundamental physics. On one side you’ll find researchers scratching their chins raw trying to understand how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience. This is the aptly named “hard problem.”

The article is here.