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 Rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rules. Show all posts

Monday, May 29, 2023


Almeida, G., Struchiner, N., Hannikainen, I.
(April 17, 2023). Kevin Tobia (Ed.), 
Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence. 
Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming


Rules are ubiquitous. They figure prominently in all kinds of practical reasoning. Rules are especially important in jurisprudence, occupying a prominent role in answers to the question of “what is law?” In this chapter, we start by reviewing the evidence showing that both textual and extra-textual elements exert influence over rule violation judgments (section II). Most studies about rules contrast text with an extra-textual element identified as the “purpose” or “spirit” of the rule. But what counts as the purpose or the spirit of a rule? Is it the goal intended by the rule maker? Or is purpose necessarily moral? Section III reviews the results of experiments designed to answer these questions. These studies show that the extra-textual element that's relevant for the folk concept of rule is moral in nature. Section IV turns to the different explanations that have been entertained in the literature for the pattern of results described in Sections II and III. In section V we discuss some other extra-textual elements that have been investigated in the literature. Finally, in section VI, we connect the results about rules with other issues in legal philosophy. We conclude with a brief discussion of future directions.


In this chapter, we have provided an overview of the experimental jurisprudence of rules. We started by reviewing evidence that shows that extra-textual elements influence rule violation judgments (section II). We then have seen that those elements are likely moral in nature (section III). There are several ways to conceptualize the relationship between the moral and descriptive elements at play in rule violation judgments. We have reviewed some of them in section IV, where we argued that the evidence favors the hypothesis that the concept of rule has a dual character structure. In section V, we reviewed some recent studies showing that other elements, such as enforcement, also play a role in the concept of rule. Finally, in section VI, we considered the implications of these results for some other debates in legal philosophy.

While we have focused on research developed within experimental jurisprudence, empirical work in moral psychology and experimental philosophy have investigated several other questions related to rules which might be of interest for legal philosophers, such as closure rules and the process of learning rules (Nichols, 2004, 2021). But an even larger set of questions about the concept of rule haven’t been explored from an empirical perspective yet. We will end this chapter by discussing a few of them.

If you do legal work, this chapter may help with your expertise. The authors explore how ordinary people understand the law. Are they more intuitive in terms of interpretation or do they think that law is intrinsically moral?

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Supreme Court Needs Real Oversight

Glen Fine
The Atlantic
Originally posted 5 DEC 22

Here is an excerpt:

The lack of ethical rules that bind the Court is the first problem—and the easier one to address. The Code of Conduct for United States Judges, promulgated by the federal courts’ Judicial Conference, “prescribes ethical norms for federal judges as a means to preserve the actual and apparent integrity of the federal judiciary.” The code covers judicial conduct both on and off the bench, including requirements that judges act at all times to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. But this code applies only to lower-level federal judges, not to the Supreme Court, which has not issued ethical rules that apply to its own conduct. The Court should explicitly adopt this code or a modified one.

Chief Justice Roberts has noted that Supreme Court justices voluntarily consult the Code of Conduct and other ethical rules for guidance. He has also pointed out that the justices can seek ethical advice from a variety of sources, including the Court’s Legal Office, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Codes of Conduct, and their colleagues. But this is voluntary, and each justice decides independently whether and how ethical rules apply in any particular case. No one—including the chief justice—has the ability to alter a justice’s self-judgment.

Oversight of the judiciary is a more difficult issue, involving separation-of-powers concerns. I was the inspector general of the Department of Justice for 11 years and the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense for four years; I saw the importance and challenges of oversight in two of the most important government agencies. I also experienced the difficulties in conducting complex investigations of alleged misconduct, including leak investigations. But as I wrote in a Brookings Institution article this past May after the Dobbs leak, the Supreme Court does not have the internal capacity to effectively investigate such leaks, and it would benefit from a skilled internal investigator, like an inspector general, to help oversee the Court and the judiciary.

Another example of the Court’s ineffective self-policing and lack of transparency involves its recusal decisions. For example, Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, has argued that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, sent text messages to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging him and the White House to seek to overturn the election, and expressed support for the pro-Trump January 6 rally on the Ellipse. Nevertheless, Justice Thomas has not recused himself in cases relating to the subsequent attack on the Capitol.

Notably, Thomas was the only justice to dissent from the Court’s decision not to block the release to the January 6 committee of White House records related to the attack, which included his wife’s texts. Some legal experts have argued that this is a clear instance where recusal should have occurred. Statute 28 U.S.C. 455 requires federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, to recuse themselves from a case when they know that their spouse has any interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome. In addition, the statute requires justices and judges to disqualify themselves in any proceeding in which their impartiality may reasonably be questioned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Supreme Court has lost its ethical compass. Can it find one fast?

Ruth Marcus
The Washington Post
Originally published 23 Nov 22

The Supreme Court must get its ethics act together, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. needs to take the lead. After a string of embarrassments, the justices should finally subject themselves to the kind of rules that govern other federal judges and establish a standard for when to step aside from cases — one that is more stringent than simply leaving it up to the individual justice to decide.

Recent episodes are alarming and underscore the need for quick action to help restore confidence in the institution.

Last week, the Supreme Court wisely rebuffed an effort by Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward to prevent the House Jan. 6 committee — the party in this case — from obtaining her phone records. The court’s brief order noted that Justice Clarence Thomas, along with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., would have sided with Ward.

Thomas’s involvement, though it didn’t affect the outcome of the dispute, is nothing short of outrageous. Federal law already requires judges, including Supreme Court justices, to step aside from involvement in any case in which their impartiality “might reasonably be questioned.”

Perhaps back in January, when he was the only justice to disagree when the court refused to grant former president Donald Trump’s bid to stop his records from being turned over to the Jan. 6 committee, Thomas didn’t realize the extent of his wife’s involvement with disputing the election results. (I’m being kind here: Ginni Thomas had signed a letter the previous month calling on House Republicans to expel Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois from the House Republican Conference for participating in an “overtly partisan political persecution.”)

But here’s what we know now, and Justice Thomas does, too: The Jan 6. committee has subpoenaed and interviewed his wife. We — and he — know that she contacted 29 Arizona lawmakers, urging them to “fight back against fraud” and choose a “clean slate of electors” after the 2020 election.

Some recusal questions are close. Not this one. Did the chief justice urge Thomas to recuse? He should have. This will sound unthinkable, but if Roberts asked and Thomas refused, maybe it’s time the chief, or other justices, to publicly note their disagreement.


One obvious step is to follow the ethics rules that apply to other federal judges, perhaps adapting them to the particular needs of the high court. That would send an important — and overdue — message that the justices are not a law unto themselves. It’s symbolic, but symbolism matters.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Can you really do more than what duty requires?

Roger Crisp
The New Statesman
Originally posted 8 JUN 22

Here is an excerpt:

Since supererogation involves the paradox of accepting moral duties that do not require one to do what is morally best, why do we continue to find the idea so compelling?

One reason might be that we think that without supererogation the dictates of morality would be unacceptably demanding. If each of us has a genuine duty to benefit others as much as we can, then, given the vast number of individuals in serious need, most of the better-off would be required to make major sacrifices to live a virtuous life. Supererogation puts a limit on such requirements.

The idea that we can go beyond our duty in a praiseworthy way may be attractive, then, because we need to balance morality with self-interest. Here we ought to remember that each of us reasonably attaches a certain amount of importance to how our own lives go. So, each of us has reason to advance our own happiness independent of our duty to benefit others (which is why we describe some cases of helping others as a “sacrifice”). The need to strike a balance between our moral duties and our self-interest may explain why the notion of supererogation is so appealing.

But this doesn’t get us out of Sidgwick’s paradox: anyone who knows the morally best thing to do, but consciously decides not to do it, seems morally “lazy”.

Given the current state of the world, this means that morality is much more demanding than we typically think. Many of us should be doing a great deal more to alleviate the suffering of others, and doing this may cost us not only resources, but to some extent our own happiness or well-being.

In making donations to help strangers, we must ask when our reasons to keeping resources for ourselves are outweighed by reasons of beneficence. Under a more demanding view of morality, I should donate the money I could use to upgrade my TV to a charity that can save someone’s sight. Similarly, if the billionaire class could eradicate world poverty by donating 50 per cent of their wealth to development agencies, then they should do so immediately.

This may sound austere to our contemporary ears, but the Ancient Greeks and their philosophers thought morality could be rather demanding, and yet they never even considered the idea that duty was something you could go beyond. According to them, there are right things to do, and we should do them, making us virtuous and praiseworthy. And if we don’t, we are acting wrongly, we deserve blame, and we should feel guilty and ashamed.

It’s plausible to think that, once our health and wealth have reached certain thresholds, the things that really matter for our well-being – friendship, family, meaningful activities, and so on – are largely independent of our financial position. So, making much bigger sacrifices than we currently do may not be nearly as difficult or demanding as we tend to think.

Editor's note: For psychologists, supererogatory actions may include political advocacy for greater access to care, pro bono treatment for underserved populations, and volunteering on state and national association committees.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Democrats push for Supreme Court ethics code following Ginni Thomas revelations

Lauren Fedor 
The Financial Times
Originally published 29 MAR 22

Senior Democratic lawmakers are increasing calls to create a code of ethical conduct for the US Supreme Court amid mounting scrutiny of associate justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.

Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar, Democratic senators from Connecticut and Minnesota, respectively, and Hank Johnson, a Democratic representative from Georgia, have made a renewed push for the Supreme Court Ethics Act, a piece of legislation first introduced last summer to create a code of ethical conduct for America’s highest court.

Unlike other federal judges, Supreme Court justices are not required to follow the existing code of conduct.

The lawmakers said in a joint statement on Tuesday: “Recent revelations regarding the political activities of Supreme Court justices and their spouses have increased scrutiny of the court and eroded public confidence in the institution.”

The Washington Post first reported last week the existence of almost 30 text messages exchanged between Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, and Mark Meadows, the former Republican congressman who served as Donald Trump’s final chief of staff, in late 2020 and early 2021.

The texts showed Ginni Thomas repeatedly espousing conspiracy theories and pushing Meadows to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The publication of the messages has raised fresh questions about the independence of the federal judiciary and led several Democratic lawmakers to call for Thomas to recuse himself from cases relating to the 2020 election and the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Earlier this month, Ginni Thomas revealed in an interview that she had attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6.

Editor's Note: As a professional organization and highest court in the land, why does the Supreme Court not have a code of ethics?  More than slightly disturbing.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Proposal for Revising the Uniform Determination of Death Act

Hastings Bioethics Center
Originally posted 18 FEB 22

Organ transplantation has saved many lives in the past half-century, and the majority of postmortem organ donations have occurred after a declaration of death by neurological criteria, or brain death. However, inconsistencies between the biological concept of death and the diagnostic protocols used to determine brain death–as well as questions about the underlying assumptions of brain death–have led to a justified reassessment of the legal standard of death. We believe that the concept of brain death, though flawed in its present application, can be preserved and promoted as a pathway to organ donation, but only after particular changes are made in the medical criteria for its diagnosis. These changes should precede changes in the Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA).

The UDDA, approved in 1981, provides a legal definition of death, which has been adopted in some form by all 50 states. It says that death can be defined as the irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or of brain functions. The act defines brain death as “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem.” This description is based on a widely held assumption at the time that the brain is the master integrator of the body, such that when it ceases to function, the body would no longer be able to maintain integrated functions. It was presumed that this would result in both cardiac and pulmonary arrest and the death of the body as a whole. Now that assumption has been called into question by exceptional cases of individuals on ventilators who were declared brain dead but who continued to have function in the hypothalamus. 


Revision of the UDDA should first defer to a revision of the guidelines. Clinical criteria for the diagnosis of “cessation of all functions of the entire brain” must include all pertinent functions, including hypothalamic functions such as hormone release and regulation of temperature and blood pressure, to avoid the specter of neurologic recovery in those who fulfill the current clinical criteria for the diagnosis of brain death.

It is likely that the failure to account for a full set of pertinent brain functions has led to inconsistent diagnoses and conflicting results. Such inconsistencies, although well-documented in a number of cases, may have been even more frequent but unrecognized because declaration of brain death is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: rarely do any life-sustaining interventions continue after the diagnosis is made.

To be consistent, transparent, and accurate, the cessation of function in both the cardiopulmonary and the neurological standard of the UDDA should be described as permanent (i.e., no reversal will be attempted) rather than irreversible (i.e., no reversal is possible). We recognize additional challenges in complying with the UDDA requirements that these cessation criteria for brain death include “all functions” of the “entire brain.” In the absence of universally accepted and easily implemented testing criteria, there may be real problems with being in perfect compliance with these legal criteria in spite of being in perfect compliance with the currently published medical guidelines. If the concept of brain death is philosophically valid, as we think is defensible, then the diagnostic guidelines should be corrected before any attempt is made to correct the UDDA. They must then “say what they mean and mean what they say” to eliminate any possibility of patients with persistent evidence of brain function, including hypothalamic function, being erroneously declared brain dead.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Federal Reserve tightens ethics rules to ban active trading by senior officials

Brian Cheung
Yahoo Business News
Originally posted 21 OCT 21

The Federal Reserve on Thursday said it will tighten its ethics rules concerning personal finances among its most senior officials, the latest development in a trading scandal that has led to the resignation of two policymakers.

The central bank said it has introduced a “broad set of new rules” that restricts any active trading and prohibits the purchase of any individual securities (i.e. stocks, bonds, or derivatives). The new restrictions effectively only allow purchases of diversified investment vehicles like mutual funds.

If policymakers want to make any purchases or sales, they will be required to provide 45 days of advance notice and obtain prior approval for any purchases and sales. Those officials will also be required to hold onto those investments for at least one year, with no purchases or sales allowed during periods of “heightened financial market stress.”

Fed officials are still working on the details of what would define that level of stress, but said the market conditions of spring 2020 would have qualified.

The new rules will also increase the frequency of public disclosures from the reserve bank presidents, requiring monthly filings instead of the status quo of annual filings. Those at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington already were required to make monthly disclosures.

The restrictions apply to policymakers and senior staff at the Fed’s headquarters in Washington, as well as its 12 Federal Reserve Bank regional outposts. The new rules will be implemented “over the coming months.”

Fed officials said changes will likely require divestments from any existing holdings that do not meet the updated standards.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Experimental Regulations for AI: Sandboxes for Morals and Mores

Ranchordas, Sofia
Morals and Machines (vol.1, 2021)
Available at SSRN: 


Recent EU legislative and policy initiatives aim to offer flexible, innovation-friendly, and future-proof regulatory frameworks. Key examples are the EU Coordinated Plan on AI and the recently published EU AI Regulation Proposal which refer to the importance of experimenting with regulatory sandboxes so as to balance innovation in AI against its potential risks. Originally developed in the Fintech sector, regulatory sandboxes create a testbed for a selected number of innovative projects, by waiving otherwise applicable rules, guiding compliance, or customizing enforcement. Despite the burgeoning literature on regulatory sandboxes and the regulation of AI, the legal, methodological, and ethical challenges of regulatory sandboxes have remained understudied. This exploratory article delves into the some of the benefits and intricacies of employing experimental legal instruments in the context of the regulation of AI. This article’s contribution is twofold: first, it contextualizes the adoption of regulatory sandboxes in the broader discussion on experimental approaches to regulation; second, it offers a reflection on the steps ahead for the design and implementation of AI regulatory sandboxes.


In conclusion, AI regulatory sandboxes are not the answer to more innovation in AI. They are part of the path to a more forward-looking approach to the interaction between law and technology. This new approach will most certainly be welcomed with reluctance in years to come as it disrupts existing dogmas pertaining to the way in which we conceive the principle of legal certainty and the reactive—rather than anticipatory—nature of law. However, traditional law and regulation were designed with human agents and enigmas in mind. Many of the problems generated by AI (discrimination, power asymmetries, and manipulation) are still human but their scale and potential for harms (and benefits) have long ceased to be. It is thus time to rethink our fundamental approach to regulation and refocus on the new regulatory subject before us.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

For Whom Does Determinism Undermine Moral Responsibility? Surveying the Conditions for Free Will Across Cultures

I. Hannikainen, et. al.
Front. Psychol., 05 November 2019


Philosophers have long debated whether, if determinism is true, we should hold people morally responsible for their actions since in a deterministic universe, people are arguably not the ultimate source of their actions nor could they have done otherwise if initial conditions and the laws of nature are held fixed. To reveal how non-philosophers ordinarily reason about the conditions for free will, we conducted a cross-cultural and cross-linguistic survey (N = 5,268) spanning twenty countries and sixteen languages. Overall, participants tended to ascribe moral responsibility whether the perpetrator lacked sourcehood or alternate possibilities. However, for American, European, and Middle Eastern participants, being the ultimate source of one’s actions promoted perceptions of free will and control as well as ascriptions of blame and punishment. By contrast, being the source of one’s actions was not particularly salient to Asian participants. Finally, across cultures, participants exhibiting greater cognitive reflection were more likely to view free will as incompatible with causal determinism. We discuss these findings in light of documented cultural differences in the tendency toward dispositional versus situational attributions.


At the aggregate level, we found that participants blamed and punished agents whether they only lacked alternate possibilities (Miller and Feltz, 2011) or whether they also lacked sourcehood (Nahmias et al., 2005; Nichols and Knobe, 2007). Thus, echoing early findings, laypeople did not take alternate possibilities or sourcehood as necessary conditions for free will and moral responsibility.

Yet, our study also revealed a dramatic cultural difference: Throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, participants viewed the perpetrator with sourcehood (in the CI scenario) as freer and more morally responsible than the perpetrator without sourcehood (in the AS scenario). Meanwhile, South and East Asian participants evaluated both perpetrators in a strikingly similar way. We interpreted these results in light of cultural variation in dispositional versus situational attributions (Miller, 1984; Morris and Peng, 1994; Choi et al., 1999; Chiu et al., 2000). From a dispositionist perspective, participants may be especially attuned to the absence of sourcehood: When an agent is the source of their action, people may naturally conjure dispositionist explanations that refer to her goals, desires (e.g., because “she wanted a new life”) or character (e.g., because “she is ruthless”). In contrast, when actions result from a causal chain originating at the beginning of the universe, explanations of this sort – implying sourcehood – seem particularly unsatisfactory and incomplete. In contrast, from a situationist perspective, whether the agent could be seen as the source of her action may be largely irrelevant: Instead, a situationist may think of others’ behavior as the product of extrinsic pressures – from momentary upheaval, to the way they were raised, social norms or fate – and thus perceive both agents, in the CI and AS cases, as similar in matters of free will and moral responsibility.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Who Should Stop Unethical A.I.?

Matthew Hutson
The New Yorker
Originally published 15 Feb 21

Here is an excerpt:

Many kinds of researchers—biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and so on—encounter checkpoints at which they are asked about the ethics of their research. This doesn’t happen as much in computer science. Funding agencies might inquire about a project’s potential applications, but not its risks. University research that involves human subjects is typically scrutinized by an I.R.B., but most computer science doesn’t rely on people in the same way. In any case, the Department of Health and Human Services explicitly asks I.R.B.s not to evaluate the “possible long-range effects of applying knowledge gained in the research,” lest approval processes get bogged down in political debate. At journals, peer reviewers are expected to look out for methodological issues, such as plagiarism and conflicts of interest; they haven’t traditionally been called upon to consider how a new invention might rend the social fabric.

A few years ago, a number of A.I.-research organizations began to develop systems for addressing ethical impact. The Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (sigchi) is, by virtue of its focus, already committed to thinking about the role that technology plays in people’s lives; in 2016, it launched a small working group that grew into a research-ethics committee. The committee offers to review papers submitted to sigchi conferences, at the request of program chairs. In 2019, it received ten inquiries, mostly addressing research methods: How much should crowd-workers be paid? Is it O.K. to use data sets that are released when Web sites are hacked? By the next year, though, it was hearing from researchers with broader concerns. “Increasingly, we do see, especially in the A.I. space, more and more questions of, Should this kind of research even be a thing?” Katie Shilton, an information scientist at the University of Maryland and the chair of the committee, told me.

Shilton explained that questions about possible impacts tend to fall into one of four categories. First, she said, “there are the kinds of A.I. that could easily be weaponized against populations”—facial recognition, location tracking, surveillance, and so on. Second, there are technologies, such as Speech2Face, that may “harden people into categories that don’t fit well,” such as gender or sexual orientation. Third, there is automated-weapons research. And fourth, there are tools “to create alternate sets of reality”—fake news, voices, or images.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Should you save the more useful? The effect of generality on moral judgments about rescue and indirect effects

Caviola, L., Schubert, S., & Mogensen, A. 
(2020, October 23). 


Across eight experiments (N = 2,310), we studied whether people would prioritize rescuing individuals who may be thought to contribute more to society. We found that participants were generally dismissive of general rules that prioritize more socially beneficial individuals, such as doctors instead of unemployed people. By contrast, participants were more supportive of one-off decisions to save the life of a more socially beneficial individual, even when such cases were the same as those covered by the rule. This generality effect occurred robustly even when controlling for various factors. It occurred when the decision-maker was the same in both cases, when the pairs of people differing in the extent of their indirect social utility was varied, when the scenarios were varied, when the participant samples came from different countries, and when the general rule only covered cases that are exactly the same as the situation described in the one-off condition. The effect occurred even when the general rule was introduced via a concrete precedent case. Participants’ tendency to be more supportive of the one-off proposal than the general rule was significantly reduced when they evaluated the two proposals jointly as opposed to separately. Finally, the effect also occurred in sacrificial moral dilemmas, suggesting it is a more general phenomenon in certain moral contexts. We discuss possible explanations of the effect, including concerns about negative consequences of the rule and a deontological aversion against making difficult trade-off decisions unless they are absolutely necessary.

General Discussion

Across our studies we found evidence for a generality effect: participants were more supportive of a proposal to prioritize people who are more beneficial to society than others if this applies to a concrete one-off situation than if it describes a general rule. The effect showed robustly even when controlling for various factors. It occurred even when the decision-maker was the same in both cases (Study 2), when the pairs of people differing in the extent of their indirect social utility was varied (Study 3), when the scenarios were varied (Study 3, Study 6), when the participant samples came from different countries (Study 3), and when the rule only entails cases that are exactly the same as the one-off case (Study 6). The effect also occurred when the general rule was introduced via a concrete precedent case (Study 4 and 6). The tendency to be more supportive of the one-off proposal than the general rule was significantly reduced when participants evaluated the two proposals jointly as opposed to separately (Study 7). Finally, we found that the effect also occurs in sacrificial moral dilemmas (Study 8), suggesting that it is a more general phenomenon in moral contexts.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The logic of universalization guides moral judgment

Levine, S., et al.
PNAS October 20, 2020 
117 (42) 26158-26169; 
first published October 2, 2020; 


To explain why an action is wrong, we sometimes say, “What if everybody did that?” In other words, even if a single person’s behavior is harmless, that behavior may be wrong if it would be harmful once universalized. We formalize the process of universalization in a computational model, test its quantitative predictions in studies of human moral judgment, and distinguish it from alternative models. We show that adults spontaneously make moral judgments consistent with the logic of universalization, and report comparable patterns of judgment in children. We conclude that, alongside other well-characterized mechanisms of moral judgment, such as outcome-based and rule-based thinking, the logic of universalizing holds an important place in our moral minds.


Humans have several different ways to decide whether an action is wrong: We might ask whether it causes harm or whether it breaks a rule. Moral psychology attempts to understand the mechanisms that underlie moral judgments. Inspired by theories of “universalization” in moral philosophy, we describe a mechanism that is complementary to existing approaches, demonstrate it in both adults and children, and formalize a precise account of its cognitive mechanisms. Specifically, we show that, when making judgments in novel circumstances, people adopt moral rules that would lead to better consequences if (hypothetically) universalized. Universalization may play a key role in allowing people to construct new moral rules when confronting social dilemmas such as voting and environmental stewardship.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Trump Shatters Ethics Norms By Making Official Acts Part Of GOP Convention

Sam Gringlas
Originally posted 26 August 20

Here is an excerpt:

As part of Tuesday night's prime-time convention programming, Trump granted a presidential pardon from the White House. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared from Jerusalem, where he was on official state business, to make a campaign speech with the Old City as backdrop. First lady Melania Trump delivered a speech from the White House Rose Garden. And acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf performed a naturalization ceremony on television as Trump looked on.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in most political activity inside federal buildings or while on duty. Though the president and vice president are exempt from the civil provisions of the Hatch Act, federal employees like Pompeo, Wolf and any executive branch employees who helped stage the events are not.

Ethics watchdogs harshly criticized Trump's merging of official and campaign acts during the Tuesday night telecast.

"The Hatch Act was the wall standing between the government's might and candidates. Tonight a candidate tore down that wall and wielded power for his own campaign," tweeted Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Shaub left the office in 2017 after clashing with the Trump administration over the president's failure to divest from his businesses.

This summer, Pompeo and top State Department officials sent memos to employees reminding them they must be careful to adhere to the Hatch Act. Another memo said, "Senate-confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." That description also applies to Pompeo.

Richard Haass, the longtime president of the Council on Foreign Relations who has served in several Republican administrations, said it's inappropriate for a secretary of state to appear at a political convention while serving as the nation's top diplomat.

The info is here.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Ivanka Trump's love for Goya beans violates ethics rules, say US rights groups

ImageAssociated Press
Originally posted 15 July 2020

The White House has defended Ivanka Trump tweeting a photo of herself holding up a can of Goya beans to buck up a Hispanic-owned business that she says has been unfairly treated, arguing she had “every right” to publicly express her support.

Government watchdogs countered that President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser doesn’t have the right to violate ethics rules that bar government officials from using their public office to endorse specific products or groups.

These groups contend Ivanka Trump’s action also highlights broader concerns about how the president and those around him often blur the line between politics and governing. The White House would be responsible for disciplining Ivanka Trump for any ethics violation but chose not to in a similar case involving White House counselor Kellyanne Conway in 2017.

Goya became the target of a consumer boycott after CEO Robert Unanue praised the president at a Hispanic event at the White House on Thursday last week.

Trump tweeted the next day about his “love” for Goya, and his daughter followed up late Tuesday by tweeting a photo of herself holding a can of Goya black beans with a caption that read, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good,” in English and Spanish.

The info is here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The moral courage of the military in confronting the commander in chief

Robert Bruce Adolph
Tampa Bay Times
Originally posted 9 June 20

The president recently threatened to use our active duty military to “dominate” demonstrators nationwide, who are exercising their wholly legitimate right to assemble and be heard.

The distinguished former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis nailed it in his recent broadside published in The Atlantic that took aim at our current commander-in-chief. Mattis states, “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago … I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking the same oath would be ordered under any circumstances to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

The current Secretary of Defense, Mike Esper, who now perhaps regrets being made into a photographic prop for the president, has come out publicly against using the active duty military to quell civil unrest in our cities; as has 89 high ranking former defense officials who stated that they were “alarmed” by the chief executive’s threat to use troops against our country’s citizens on U.S. soil. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former U.S. Army general and Republican Party member, has also taken aim at this presidency by stating that he will vote for Joe Biden in the next election.

The info is here.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

How To Move From Data Privacy To Data Ethics

Photo:Thomas Walle
Originally posted 11 March 20

Here is an excerpt:

Data Ethics Is Up To Each And Every Company

Data ethics, however, is more nuanced and complicated. It's up to each company to decide what use cases their collected data should support or not. There are no federal or state laws related to data ethics, and there are no government-owned bodies that will penalize the ones that cross the ethical boundaries of how data should and should not be used.

However, in the growing data industry, which is composed of those helping companies and individuals to make better decisions, there’s a constant influx of new data being generated and collected, such as health data, car driving data and location data, to name a few. These data sets and insights are new to the market, and I believe we will start to see the first wave of forward-looking data companies taking a clear stance and drawing their own ethical guidelines.

These are companies that acknowledge the responsibility they have when holding such information and want to see it be used for the right use cases -- to make people’s lives better, easier and safer. So, if you agree that data ethics is important and want to be ahead of the curve, what is there to do?

Creating A Set Of Ethical Guidelines

My recommendation for any data company is to define a set of core ethical guidelines your company should adhere to. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

1. Define Your Guidelines

The guidelines should be created by inviting different parts of your organization to get a balanced and mixed view of what the company sees as acceptable use cases for its insights and data. In my experience, including different departments, such as commercial and engineering, people from different nationalities and all geographies, if your companies operate in multiple markets, is crucial in getting a nuanced and healthy view of what the company, its employees and stakeholders see as ethically acceptable.

The info is here.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

FDA and NIH let clinical trial sponsors keep results secret and break the law

Charles Piller
Originally posted 13 Jan 20

For 20 years, the U.S. government has urged companies, universities, and other institutions that conduct clinical trials to record their results in a federal database, so doctors and patients can see whether new treatments are safe and effective. Few trial sponsors have consistently done so, even after a 2007 law made posting mandatory for many trials registered in the database. In 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried again, enacting a long-awaited “final rule” to clarify the law’s expectations and penalties for failing to disclose trial results. The rule took full effect 2 years ago, on 18 January 2018, giving trial sponsors ample time to comply. But a Science investigation shows that many still ignore the requirement, while federal officials do little or nothing to enforce the law.


Contacted for comment, none of the institutions disputed the findings of this investigation. In all 4768 trials Science checked, sponsors violated the reporting law more than 55% of the time. And in hundreds of cases where the sponsors got credit for reporting trial results, they have yet to be publicly posted because of quality lapses flagged by ClinicalTrials.gov staff.

The info is here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

‘The Algorithm Made Me Do It’: Artificial Intelligence Ethics Is Still On Shaky Ground

Joe McKendrick
Originally published 22 Dec 19

Here is an excerpt:

Inevitably, “there will be lawsuits that require you to reveal the human decisions behind the design of your AI systems, what ethical and social concerns you took into account, the origins and methods by which you procured your training data, and how well you monitored the results of those systems for traces of bias or discrimination,” warns Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, and author of The Algorithmic Leader: How to Be Smart When Machines Are Smarter Than You, in a recent Harvard Business Review article. “At the very least trust, the algorithmic processes at the heart of your business. Simply arguing that your AI platform was a black box that no one understood is unlikely to be a successful legal defense in the 21st century. It will be about as convincing as ‘the algorithm made me do it.’”

It’s more than legal considerations that should drive new thinking about AI ethics. It’s about “maintaining trust between organizations and the people they serve, whether clients, partners, employees, or the general public,” a recent report out of Accenture maintains. The report’s authors, Ronald Sandler and John Basl, both with Northeastern University’s philosophy department, and Steven Tiell of Accenture, state that a well-organized data ethics capacity can help organizations manage risks and liabilities associated with such data misuse and negligence.

“It can also help organizations clarify and make actionable mission and organizational values, such as responsibilities to and respect for the people and communities they serve,” Sandler and his co-authors advocate. A data ethics capability also offers organizations “a path to address the transformational power of data-driven AI and machine learning decision-making in an anticipatory way, allowing for proactive responsible development and use that can help organizations shape good governance, rather than inviting strict oversight.”

The info is here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Deliver Us From A.I.? This Priest-Led Network Aims to Shepherd Silicon Valley Tech Ethics

Rebecca Heilweil
Originally posted 24 Nov 19

Here is an excerpt:

When asked about engaging leaders in atheist- and liberal-leaning Silicon Valley, Salobir says that, even if they’re not religious, many do seek meaning in their work. “They dedicate all their time, all their money, all their energy to build a startup—it has to be meaningful," he says. "If it’s not, what is the point of waking up every morning and working so much?"

It's the kind of work that has Salobir finding inspiration in John the Baptist. “He’s the one who connects," he says. "He’s the one who puts people in touch.” 

There are other Vatican-affiliated groups interested in the impact of emerging technologies, Green says. He points to pontifical academies that have—or will—host conferences on topics including robotics and artificial intelligence. This past September, the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development came together to host a conference on the common good in the digital age that featured Silicon Valley leaders like Reid Hoffman and representatives from Facebook and Mozilla.

But Green says Optic is somewhat unique in its focus on establishing a reciprocal relationship with the technology industry. “It’s not just that the Church is going to get good information here, but [that] the technologists are going to feel like they’re also being benefitted," he says.

They’re getting the opportunity to think about technology in a way that they haven’t been thinking about it before, Green adds. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

The info is here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Can Business Schools Have Ethical Cultures, Too?

Brian Gallagher
Originally posted 18 Nov 19

Here is an excerpt:

The informal aspects of an ethical culture are pretty intuitive. These include role models and heroes, norms, rituals, stories, and language. “The systems can be aligned to support ethical behavior (or unethical behavior),” Eury and Treviño write, “and the systems can be misaligned in a way that sends mixed messages, for instance, the organization’s code of conduct promotes one set of behaviors, but the organization’s norms encourage another set of behaviors.” Although Smeal hasn’t completely rid itself of unethical norms, it has fostered new ethical ones, like encouraging teachers to discuss the school’s honor code on the first day of class. Rituals can also serve as friendly reminders about the community’s values—during finals week, for example, the honor and integrity program organizes complimentary coffee breaks, and corporate sponsors support ethics case competitions. Eury and Treviño also write how one powerful story has taken hold at Smeal, about a time when the college’s MBA program, after it implemented the honor code, rejected nearly 50 applicants for plagiarism, and on the leadership integrity essay, no less. (Smeal was one of the first business schools to use plagiarism-detection software in its admissions program.)

Given the inherently high turnover rate at a school—and a diverse student population—it’s a constant challenge to get the community’s newcomers to aspire to meet Smeal’s honor and integrity standards. Since there’s no stopping students from graduating, Eury and Treviño stress the importance of having someone like Smeal’s honor and integrity director—someone who, at least part-time, focuses on fostering an ethical culture. “After the first leadership integrity director stepped down from her role, the college did not fill her position for a few years in part because of a coming change in deans,” Eury and Treviño write. The new Dean eventually hired an honor and integrity director who served in her role for 3-and-a-half years, but, after she accepted a new role in the college, the business school took close to 8 months to fill the role again. “In between each of these leadership changes, the community continued to change and grow, and without someone constantly ‘tending to the ethical culture garden,’ as we like to say, the ‘weeds’ will begin to grow,” Eury and Treviño write. Having an honor and integrity director makes an “important symbolic statement about the college’s commitment to tending the culture but it also makes a more substantive contribution to doing so.”

The info is here.