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 Wrongdoing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wrongdoing. Show all posts

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Four Responsibility Gaps with Artificial Intelligence: Why they Matter and How to Address them

Santoni de Sio, F., Mecacci, G. 
Philos. Technol. 34, 1057–1084 (2021). 


The notion of “responsibility gap” with artificial intelligence (AI) was originally introduced in the philosophical debate to indicate the concern that “learning automata” may make more difficult or impossible to attribute moral culpability to persons for untoward events. Building on literature in moral and legal philosophy, and ethics of technology, the paper proposes a broader and more comprehensive analysis of the responsibility gap. The responsibility gap, it is argued, is not one problem but a set of at least four interconnected problems – gaps in culpability, moral and public accountability, active responsibility—caused by different sources, some technical, other organisational, legal, ethical, and societal. Responsibility gaps may also happen with non-learning systems. The paper clarifies which aspect of AI may cause which gap in which form of responsibility, and why each of these gaps matter. It proposes a critical review of partial and non-satisfactory attempts to address the responsibility gap: those which present it as a new and intractable problem (“fatalism”), those which dismiss it as a false problem (“deflationism”), and those which reduce it to only one of its dimensions or sources and/or present it as a problem that can be solved by simply introducing new technical and/or legal tools (“solutionism”). The paper also outlines a more comprehensive approach to address the responsibility gaps with AI in their entirety, based on the idea of designing socio-technical systems for “meaningful human control", that is systems aligned with the relevant human reasons and capacities.


The Tracing Conditions and its Payoffs for Responsibility

Unlike proposals based on new forms of legal liability, MHC (Meaningful Human Control) proposes that socio-technical systems are also systematically designed to avoid gaps in moral culpability, accountability, and active responsibility. The “tracing condition” proposes that a system can remain under MHC only in the presence of a solid alignment between the system and the technical, motivational, moral capacities of the relevant agents involved, with different roles, in the design, control, and use of the system. The direct goal of this condition is promoting a fair distribution of moral culpability, thereby avoiding two undesired results: first, scapegoating, i.e. agents being held culpable without having a fair capacity to avoid wrongdoing (Elish, 2019): in the example of the automated driving systems above, for instance, the drivers’ relevant technical and motivational capacities not being sufficiently studied and trained. Second, impunity for avoidable accidents, i.e. culpability gaps: the impossibility to legitimately blame anybody as no individual agent possesses all the relevant capacities, e.g. the managers/designers having the technical capacity but not the moral motivation to avoid accidents and the drivers having the motivation but not the skills. The tracing condition also helps addressing accountability and active responsibility gaps. If a person or organisation should be morally or publicly accountable, then they must also possess the specific capacity to discharge this duty: according to another example discussed above, if a doctor has to remain accountable to their patients for her decisions, then she should maintain the capacity and motivation to understand the functioning of the AI system she uses and to explain her decision to the patients.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Social threat indirectly increases moral condemnation via thwarting fundamental social needs

Henderson, R.K., Schnall, S. 
Sci Rep 11, 21709 (2021).


Individuals who experience threats to their social needs may attempt to avert further harm by condemning wrongdoers more severely. Three pre-registered studies tested whether threatened social esteem is associated with increased moral condemnation. In Study 1 (N = 381) participants played a game in which they were socially included or excluded and then evaluated the actions of moral wrongdoers. We observed an indirect effect: Exclusion increased social needs-threat, which in turn increased moral condemnation. Study 2 (N = 428) was a direct replication, and also showed this indirect effect. Both studies demonstrated the effect across five moral foundations, and was most pronounced for harm violations. Study 3 (N = 102) examined dispositional concerns about social needs threat, namely social anxiety, and showed a positive correlation between this trait and moral judgments. Overall, results suggest threatened social standing is linked to moral condemnation, presumably because moral wrongdoers pose a further threat when one’s ability to cope is already compromised.

From the General Discussion

These findings indicating that social threat is associated with harsher moral judgments suggest that various threats to survival can influence assessments of moral wrongdoing. Indeed, it has been proposed that the reason social exclusion reliably results in negative emotions is because social disconnectedness has been detrimental throughout human societies. As we found in Studies 1 and 2 and consistent with prior research even brief exclusion via a simulated computer game can thwart fundamental social needs. Taken together, these experimental and correlational findings suggest that an elevated sense of danger appears to fortify moral judgment, because when safety is compromised, wrongdoers represent yet another source of potential danger. As a consequence, vulnerable individuals may be motivated to condemn moral violations more harshly. Interestingly, the null finding for loneliness suggests that amplified moral condemnation is not associated with having no social connections in the first place, but rather, with the existence or prospect of social threat. Relatedly, prior research has shown that greater cortisol release is associated with social anxiety but not with loneliness indicating that the body’s stress response does not react to loneliness in the same way as it does to social threat.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Possibility of an Ongoing Moral Catastrophe

Williams, E.G. (2015).
Ethic Theory Moral Prac 18, 
971–982 (2015). 


This article gives two arguments for believing that our society is unknowingly guilty of serious, large-scale wrongdoing. First is an inductive argument: most other societies, in history and in the world today, have been unknowingly guilty of serious wrongdoing, so ours probably is too. Second is a disjunctive argument: there are a large number of distinct ways in which our practices could turn out to be horribly wrong, so even if no particular hypothesized moral mistake strikes us as very likely, the disjunction of all such mistakes should receive significant credence. The article then discusses what our society should do in light of the likelihood that we are doing something seriously wrong: we should regard intellectual progress, of the sort that will allow us to find and correct our moral mistakes as soon as possible, as an urgent moral priority rather than as a mere luxury; and we should also consider it important to save resources and cultivate flexibility, so that when the time comes to change our policies we will be able to do so quickly and smoothly.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Why It’s Time To Modernize Your Ethics Hotline

Claire Schmidt
Originally posted 18 Jun 21

Traditional whistleblower hotlines are going to be a thing of the past.

They certainly served a purpose and pioneered a way for employees to report wrongdoing at their companies confidentially. But the reasons are stacking up against them as to why they’re no longer serving companies and employees in 2021. And if companies continue to use them, they need to realize that issues or concerns may go unreported because employees don’t want to use that channel to report.

After all, the function of a whistleblower hotline is to encourage employees to report any wrongdoing they see in the workplace through a confidential channel, which means that the channels for reporting should get an upgrade.

But there are deeper reasons why issues remain unreported — and it goes beyond just offering a hotline to use. Today, companies need to give their employees better ways to report wrongdoing, as well as tell them the value of why they should do so. Otherwise, companies won’t hear about the full extent of wrongdoing happening in the workplace, whatever channel they provide.

The Evolution Of Workplace Reporting Channels

Whistleblower or ethics hotlines were initially that: a phone number — because that was the technology at the time — that employees could anonymously call to report wrongdoings at a company. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 mandated that companies set up a method for “the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of the issuer of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.”

Friday, May 24, 2019

Holding Robots Responsible: The Elements of Machine Morality

Y. Bingman, A. Waytz, R Alterovitz, and K. Gray
Trends in Cognitive Science


As robots become more autonomous, people will see them as more responsible for wrongdoing. Moral psychology suggests that judgments of robot responsibility will hinge on perceived situational awareness, intentionality, and free will—plus anthropomorphism and the robot’s capacity for harm. We also consider questions of robot rights and moral decision-making.

Here is an excerpt:

Philosophy, law, and modern cognitive science all reveal that judgments of human moral responsibility hinge on autonomy. This explains why children, who seem to have less autonomy than adults, are held less responsible for wrongdoing. Autonomy is also likely crucial in judgments of robot moral responsibility. The reason people ponder and debate the ethical implications of drones and self-driving cars (but not tractors or blenders) is because these machines can act autonomously.

Admittedly, today’s robots have limited autonomy, but it is an expressed goal of roboticists to develop fully autonomous robots—machine systems that can act without human input. As robots become more autonomous their potential for moral responsibility will only grow. Even as roboticists create robots with more “objective” autonomy, we note that “subjective” autonomy may be more important: work in cognitive science suggest that autonomy and moral responsibility are more matters of perception than objective truths.

The info can be downloaded here.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Serious Ethical Violations in Medicine: A Statistical and Ethical Analysis of 280 Cases in the United States From 2008–2016

James M. DuBois, Emily E. Anderson, John T. Chibnall, Jessica Mozersky & Heidi A. Walsh (2019) The American Journal of Bioethics, 19:1, 16-34.
DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2018.1544305


Serious ethical violations in medicine, such as sexual abuse, criminal prescribing of opioids, and unnecessary surgeries, directly harm patients and undermine trust in the profession of medicine. We review the literature on violations in medicine and present an analysis of 280 cases. Nearly all cases involved repeated instances (97%) of intentional wrongdoing (99%), by males (95%) in nonacademic medical settings (95%), with oversight problems (89%) and a selfish motive such as financial gain or sex (90%). More than half of cases involved a wrongdoer with a suspected personality disorder or substance use disorder (51%). Despite clear patterns, no factors provide readily observable red flags, making prevention difficult. Early identification and intervention in cases requires significant policy shifts that prioritize the safety of patients over physician interests in privacy, fair processes, and proportionate disciplinary actions. We explore a series of 10 questions regarding policy, oversight, discipline, and education options. Satisfactory answers to these questions will require input from diverse stakeholders to help society negotiate effective and ethically balanced solutions.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Top Goldman Banker Raised Ethics Concerns. Then He Was Gone.

Emily Flitter, Kate Kelly and David Enrich
The New York Times
Originally posted September 11, 2018

By the tight-lipped standards of Goldman Sachs, the phone call from one of the firm’s most senior investment bankers was explosive.

James C. Katzman, a Goldman partner and the leader of its West Coast mergers-and-acquisitions practice, dialed the bank’s whistle-blower hotline in 2014 to complain about what he regarded as a range of unethical practices, according to accounts by people close to Mr. Katzman, which a Goldman spokesman confirmed. His grievances included an effort by Goldman to hire a customer’s child and colleagues’ repeated attempts to obtain and then share confidential client information.

Mr. Katzman expected lawyers at the firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which monitored the hotline, to investigate his allegations and share them with independent members of Goldman’s board of directors, the people close to Mr. Katzman said.

The complaints were an extraordinary example of a senior employee’s taking on what he perceived to be corporate wrongdoing at an elite Wall Street bank. But they were never independently investigated or fully relayed to the Goldman board.

The information is here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Beyond Blaming the Victim: Toward a More Progressive Understanding of Workplace Mistreatment

Lilia M. Cortina, VerĂ³nica Caridad Rabelo, & Kathryn J. Holland
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Published online: 21 November 2017

Theories of human aggression can inform research, policy, and practice in organizations. One such theory, victim precipitation, originated in the field of criminology. According to this perspective, some victims invite abuse through their personalities, styles of speech or dress, actions, and even their inactions. That is, they are partly at fault for the wrongdoing of others. This notion is gaining purchase in industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology as an explanation for workplace mistreatment. The first half of our article provides an overview and critique of the victim precipitation hypothesis. After tracing its history, we review the flaws of victim precipitation as catalogued by scientists and practitioners over several decades. We also consider real-world implications of victim precipitation thinking, such as the exoneration of violent criminals. Confident that I-O can do better, the second half of this article highlights alternative frameworks for researching and redressing hostile work behavior. In addition, we discuss a broad analytic paradigm—perpetrator predation—as a way to understand workplace abuse without blaming the abused. We take the position that these alternative perspectives offer stronger, more practical, and more progressive explanations for workplace mistreatment. Victim precipitation, we conclude, is an archaic ideology. Criminologists have long since abandoned it, and so should we.

The article is here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What The Good Place Can Teach You About Morality

Patrick Allan
Originally posted November 6, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Doing “Good” Things Doesn’t Necessarily Make You a Good Person

In The Good Place, the version of the afterlife you get sent to is based on a complicated point system. Doing “good” deeds earns you a certain number of positive points, and doing “bad” things will subtract them. Your point total when you die is what decides where you’ll go. Seems fair, right?

Despite the fact The Good Place makes life feel like a point-based videogame, we quickly learn morality isn’t as black and white as positive points and negative points. At one point, Eleanor tries to rack up points by holding doors for people; an action worth 3 points a pop. To put that in perspective, her score is -4,008 and she needs to meet the average of 1,222,821. It would take her a long time to get there but it’s one way to do it. At least, it would be if it worked. She quickly learns after awhile that she didn’t earn any points because she’s not actually trying to be nice to people. Her only goal is to rack up points so she can stay in The Good Place, which is an inherently selfish reason. The situation brings up a valid question: are “good” things done for selfish reasons still “good” things?

I don’t want to spoil too much, but as the series goes on, we see this question asked time and time again with each of its characters. Chidi may have spent his life studying moral ethics, but does knowing everything about pursuing “good” mean you are? Tahani spent her entire life as a charitable philanthropist, but she did it all for the questionable pursuit of finally outshining her near-perfect sister. She did a lot of good, but is she “good?” It’s something to consider yourself as you go about your day. Try to do “good” things, but ask yourself every once in awhile who those “good” things are really for.

The article is here.

Note: I really enjoy watching The Good Place.  Very clever. 

My spoiler: I think Michael is supposed to be in The Good Place too, not really the architect.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A cleansing fire: Moral outrage alleviates guilt and buffers threats to one’s moral identity

Rothschild, Z.K. & Keefer, L.A.
Motiv Emot (2017). doi:10.1007/s11031-017-9601-2


Why do people express moral outrage? While this sentiment often stems from a perceived violation of some moral principle, we test the counter-intuitive possibility that moral outrage at third-party transgressions is sometimes a means of reducing guilt over one’s own moral failings and restoring a moral identity. We tested this guilt-driven account of outrage in five studies examining outrage at corporate labor exploitation and environmental destruction. Study 1 showed that personal guilt uniquely predicted moral outrage at corporate harm-doing and support for retributive punishment. Ingroup (vs. outgroup) wrongdoing elicited outrage at corporations through increased guilt, while the opportunity to express outrage reduced guilt (Study 2) and restored perceived personal morality (Study 3). Study 4 tested whether effects were due merely to downward social comparison and Study 5 showed that guilt-driven outrage was attenuated by an affirmation of moral identity in an unrelated context.

The article is here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Rage As a Moral Emotion

By Antti Kauppinen
PEA Soup Blog
Originally posted August 25, 2014

It is not rare to see groups of enraged people engaged in destructive behavior when you turn on the news these days. Such behavior is puzzling when we think of the agents as rational choosers, since it is often obviously counterproductive. The agents end up in many respects worse off – the neighborhoods that get damaged in riots tend to be the ones rioters live or work in, above all, and violent resistance often invites a brutal response from those who hold the power and control the drones. So what’s the deal with rage? Does it make sense to act out of rage? Can rage be warranted? In this tentative exploration of the issue (I haven’t come across any philosophical literature on it), I’ll argue that it can be, and that when it is, much of the moral responsibility for the wrongful harm that results from acting out of rage belongs to those who have created the rage-warranting situation.

The entire blog post is here.