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CategoryEthics

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iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office Read More ›

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Businessman in ponzi scheme concept

Stocks Are Not a Ponzi Scheme and Here’s Why Not

When you mail a letter to someone in another country, you can enclose an international reply coupon (IRC) that can be exchanged for that country’s postage stamps and used to mail a letter back to you. It is like enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope except that you do not need to figure out how to buy foreign postage stamps. It is the polite thing to do but also the source of the most famous swindle in history. In 1920, a Massachusetts man named Charles Ponzi (right, in 1920) promised to pay investors 50 percent interest every 45 days. Compounded eight times a year, the effective annual rate of return was 2,463 percent! He said that his profits would come from Read More ›

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Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism - illustration

John Lennox: Transhumanism Is Not a New Idea

In his just-published book, 2084, Oxford mathematician John Lennox points out that, in the 20th century, both the Communists and the Nazis had attempted transhumanist projects. For example, In the former Soviet Union, attempts were made to use science to create a “New Man.” In 1924, Leon Trotsky wrote: “Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.” What that program of eugenics involved is explained by historian Andrey Zubov as cited by Read More ›

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Business Ethics

Artificial Ethics May Make Poor Choices

Whether or not AI can become powerful enough to follow its own rules is still an open question

We’ve all heard about computers that make poor ethical choices. One of the most memorable is HAL 9000 in the 1968 classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, HAL kills four humans and attempts to kill a fifth. The concurrently written book elaborates on HAL’s murderous plans, explaining that they were due to HAL’s inability to properly make the correct ethical choice: lie to the humans or kill them (and, thus, no longer be forced to lie to them). Poor HAL 9000! If only people had developed a new field of academic inquiry in time to help him (or should we say, “it”?) make better fictional ethical choices! Putting aside Hollywood’s imaginary universes, the real need for the new Read More ›

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Free-range red angus cattle on pasture, Argentina.

No Free Will Means No Justice

Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system

Without free will, no one is innocent. Who asks cattle on the way to the abattoir if they are guilty or innocent?

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Asian temple dragon

The Dragon’s Deception: Conspiracy Theories and False Numbers

China’s global attempt to rewrite the history of coronavirus (COVID-19) is running up against incriminating evidence

The Chinese Communist Party has touted the superiority of an authoritarian government over a democratic one in handling the virus outbreak. But American intelligence sources say that it was the punishment that local officials might receive from the authoritarian system that led to the initial coverup of the outbreak.

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Self-driving electric semi truck driving on highway. 3D rendering image.

Star self-driving truck firm shuts; AI not safe enough soon enough

CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher is blunt about the cause: Machine learning “doesn’t live up to the hype”

Starsky Robotics was not just another startup overwhelmed by business realities. In 2019, it was named one of the world’s 100 most promising start-ups (CNBC) and one to watch by FreightWaves, a key trucking industry publication. But the AI breakthroughs did not appear.

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Panoramic aerial view of St Peter's square in Vatican, Rome Italy

Why Does the Vatican Need Microsoft?

Should the Church really partner with IBM and Microsoft to make pronouncements on tech regulation?

When giant corporate actors like IBM and Microsoft promote “transparency and compliance with ethical principles?”, we run the risk that they are helping to craft regulations that hinder future competitors (“regulatory capture”). Rather than partner with them in making statements, the Church should stay clear.

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Coronavirus pandemic - Cleaning and Disinfection. Professional teams for disinfection efforts. Infection prevention and control of epidemic. Protective suit and mask

China: Rewriting the History of COVID-19

Making the government the improbable hero of the tale

Chinese scientists worked together swiftly and seamlessly to sequence the virus, (completed February 25), even as the government was downplaying the extent of the problem and silencing doctors who attempted to warn colleagues and the public. The Wuhan public erupted in anger when the government demanded a show of gratitude for its efforts rather than theirs.

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Remote jobs for public health concept. Computers, pills and medical mask

COVID-19: Do Quarantine Rules Apply to Mega-Geniuses?

How did Elon Musk, who has a cozy relationship with China, get his upscale car factory classified as an essential business during the pandemic?

If we are going to hold some people up as business icons, why should it be those who—in the present COVID-19 troubles—have relations with China that necessarily raise questions?

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Businessman with psychopathic behaviors

All AI’s Are Psychopaths

We can use them but we can’t trust them with moral decisions. They don’t care why

Building an AI entails moving parts of our intelligence into a machine. We can do that with rules, (simplified) virtual worlds, statistical learning… We’ll likely create other means as well. But, as long as “no one is home”—that is, the machines lack minds—gaps will remain and those gaps, without human oversight, can put us at risk.

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Streetcar in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The “Moral Machine” Is Bad News for AI Ethics

Despite the recent claims of its defenders, there is no way we can outsource moral decision-making to an automated intelligence

Here’s the dilemma: The Moral Machine (the Trolley Problem, updated) feels necessary because the rules by which we order our lives are useless with automated vehicles. Laws embody principles that we apply. Machines have no mind by which to apply the rules. Instead researchers must train them with millions of examples and hope the machine extracts the correct message… 

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Joyful happy boy hugging a robot

Can Robots Be Programmed To Care About Us?

Some researchers think it is only a matter of the right tweaks

The quest is a curious blend of forlorn hope fueled by half-acknowledged hype and resolute denial of the most serious problems. Also by sometimes systematic confusion as to what, precisely, we are talking about.

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Babys playing together.

Are Infants Born Kind? New Research Says Yes

The trouble is, the research is haunted by conflicting definitions of altruism

If human infants show apparent intellectual qualities like compassion earlier than we might have expected but chimpanzees don’t, we must accept that humans are fundamentally different from chimpanzees. Conflicting definitions of altruism cloud the picture.

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Beautiful bored people bored isolated on pink background

Are Facial Expressions a Clear, Simple Basis for Hiring Decisions?

Marketing AI to employers to analyze facial expressions ignores the fact that correlation is NOT causation

Have you heard of the Law of the Instrument? It just means, to quote one formulation, “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” All any given problem needs is a good pounding. This is a risk with AI, as with amateur carpentry. But with AI, it can get you into more serious trouble. Take hiring, for instance.

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Photo by Eugene Triguba

AI has changed our relationship to our tools

If a self-driving car careens into a storefront, who’s to blame? A new Seattle U course explores ethics in AI

A free course at Seattle University addresses the “meaning of ethics in AI.” I’ve signed up for it. One concern that I hope will be addressed is: We must not abdicate to machines the very thing that only we can do: Treat other people fairly.

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A concept of a city being hit by a weapon of mass destruction suffering terrible consequences caused by terrorism or an act of war by a hostile country launching a devastating attack with atomic bomb

What Can We Learn from History About Stopping AI Warfare?

International agreements can work, but only under certain circumstances

Historically, the key difference between the international weapons ban agreements that have been honored and the agreements that have not been honored is that the honored ones involved weapons of mass destruction (WMD). An effective ban on malicious AI requires the global community to first agree that such a form (or use) of AI would be a WMD.

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Middle-aged man calling his attorney for legal assistance

AI in the Courtroom: Will a Robot Sentence You?

Some experts think AI might be fairer than human judgment. Others are not so sure

One Superior Court judge has warned that many cases don’t come down to information alone, which is all AI can do. Law professor David DeWolf also expresses concern about increasing dependence upon law—a form of coercion—to regulate human behavior, a choice that is irrelevant to the growth of AI in the courtroom.

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Obstetric Ultrasonography Ultrasound Echography of a first month

Abortion Advocate Admits in a Medical Journal That Unborn Children Feel Pain

The scientific community has for decades misrepresented the straightforward science of conception and fetal development for ideological reasons

I have cared for hundreds of premature infants and it is very clear that these very young children experience pain intensely. An innocuous needlestick in the heel to draw small amount of blood would ordinarily not be particularly painful for an adult. But a tiny infant will scream at such discomfort.

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

Can We Outsource Hiring Decisions to AI and Go for Coffee Now?

I would have fired any of my hiring managers who demonstrated characteristic AI traits immediately. So why do we tolerate it coming from a machine?

With historically low unemployment, employers are tempted to reduce costs and speed up the process using artificial intelligence (AI) systems. These systems might help but, for best results, let’s have a look at the problems they can’t solve and some that they might create.

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