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Posted on December 13, 2019 at 11:45 AM

Biomedical/Medical Ethics

A Genetic Dating App Is a Horrifying Thing That Shouldn’t Exist

“The app is being developed by a team of geneticists led by George Church, who, in the same interview, defended accepting money for his lab donated by convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Church’s lab is most famous for its work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR/Cas9, and its researchers are looking at ways to make humans immune to viruses, reverse the effects of aging, and de-extinct animals. ‘It’s 7,000 diseases, it’s about 5 percent of the population, [and] about $1 trillion a year worldwide’ in medical expenses, Church told 60 Minutes.”

Is biohacking ethical? It’s complicated. A new Netflix series explains why

“Biohacking raises a lot of questions with huge ethical implications. Should biohacking yourself be a human right or should your control over your own body be curtailed — possibly even criminalized — if it’s risky to you or others? (Many biohacking pursuits exist in a legal gray zone but are not yet outright illegal, or not enforced as such. Some new gene therapies profiled in Unnatural Selection, like Jackson Kennedy’s, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.) Will biohacking enhance life for all of us equally or will it widen the gap between haves and have-nots?” 

Business Ethics

Taking the bias out of recruitment 

“Glazebrook is an Australian-born behavioural economist working in the UK’s Behavioural Science Team, when she co-founded Applied in 2016 with Richard Marr. They aimed to use their understanding of how the brain works to offer a beginning-to-end anonymised hiring.  Applied runs the whole process, from crafting bias-free job specifications and advertising, to candidate testing and selection. Beyond removing identifying details, the company also breaks up assessment tasks among a team of people and randomises the order in which elements are looked at – to minimise the impact of other cognitive biases.” 

Is Blockchain the New Ethical Gold Rush? Maybe 

“Established as the driving technology behind cryptocurrencies, in an effort to solve that sector’s traceability shortcomings, blockchain is being considered by luxury jewelry powerhouses and the mining industry alike to guarantee the ethical provenance of gold mined in small operations, what the industry calls artisanal gold. The regulatory oversight of these smaller operations, which produce 25 percent of the world’s gold supply, is usually spotty or nonexistent, and working conditions often are dangerous. So, the thinking goes, if larger companies and jewelry businesses require such operations to record information on a shared database, which in the blockchain can be viewed but not edited, they then can decide whether to buy output. And such economic pressure could force improvements.”

Environmental Ethics

Corruption: An Obstacle To Fighting Climate Change 

“Delegates at the COP25 UN climate summit in Madrid are setting rules for a new international carbon market, which will allow wealthy countries to meet their climate goals in part by buying carbon credits to offset their own emissions. Those credits will be used to fund massive clean energy projects in the developing world. But critics worry that much of this money could disappear since it’s very dependent on local governments, which are sometimes plagued by corruption. 

Critics point to problems with the existing system – the Clean Development Mechanism launched by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. And they worry that the new system, which will be much bigger in size and scope and start next year, will only increase the risk of corruption meaning funding doesn’t go to the right places.” 

Humanitarian Ethics

India Just Passed A Trans Rights Bill. Why Are Trans Activists Protesting It? 

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill prohibits discrimination against transgender persons with regard to things like education, employment and the ability to rent or buy property. It also gives transgender persons a ‘right to self-perceived identity’ — but requires them to register with the government if they want to be officially recognized as ‘transgender.’ If a transgender person identifies as a trans man or trans woman and wants to be legally recognized as such, they have to submit proof of gender confirmation surgery to the government.”

When care becomes criminal: Syrian health workers ‘targeted’

“The Syrian government has systematically targeted health facilities and health workers in opposition-held areas as part of a wider strategy aimed at “breaking the civilian population”, according to a new report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). In the study released on Wednesday, the rights group said that during the course of Syria’s years-long civil war the government has violated domestic and international law, as well as basic medical ethics and the obligation to care for the sick and wounded without discrimination.”


The government has taken at least 1,100 children from their parents since family separations officially ended 

“The U.S. government is still taking children from their parents after they cross the border. Since the supposed end of family separation — in the summer of 2018, after a federal judge’s injunction and President Donald Trump’s executive order reversing the deeply controversial policy — more than 1,100 children have been taken from their parents, according to the government’s own data. There may be more, since that data has been plagued by bad record keeping and inconsistencies. The government alleges that separations now only happen when a parent has a criminal history or is unfit to care for a child, but an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union argues that the current policy still violates the rights of children and families. Border Patrol agents, untrained in child welfare, make decisions that some parents are unfit to stay with their children based solely on brief interactions with them while they are held in custody.” 

Possible pardons loom for former Trump aides 

“Lame-duck presidents have also gotten into hot water for exercising their pardon powers. Clinton faced significant scrutiny for issuing a pardon on his final day in office to Marc Rich, a fugitive international financier whose ex-wife had made donations to Democratic Party accounts and the Clinton Foundation. After losing his reelection bid to Clinton in 1992, President George H.W. Bush pardoned six former Reagan administration officials ensnared in the Iran-Contra scandal, including Caspar Weinberger, the defense secretary who was scheduled to go on trial in a case where Bush may have been implicated. The Bush pardons were backed by the attorney general at the time: William Barr. While it might not be seen as politically savvy in the middle of an election year for Trump to pardon people like Stone, Flynn or Manafort, he has seen an advantage when getting involved in other high-profile cases that have been featured on Fox News and brought to his attention by allies.”

CREW Sues the Justice Department on Death Penalty Drug 

“CREW’s current lawsuit follows the 2nd Circuit’s recent decision to halt four federal executions on the basis that the Attorney General does not have the authority to unilaterally decide to use pentobarbital in all lethal executions. Barr’s apparent failure to recognize this fact indicates that he formulated the new policy without regard for its legality. CREW’s lawsuit is crucial for establishing whether DOJ considered other legal risks associated with pentobarbital and the procurement process it used to acquire a drug that is notoriously difficult to obtain.”

The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence 

“As public awareness grows, privacy concerns over facial recognition surveillance systems are mounting. Biometric software may help police track down burglars, or even preempt a terrorist attack, but tech that watches us can engender fear and coerce us towards self-censorship. Voters are equally alarmed by the proneness to bias of the highly advanced algorithms currently helping public and private institutions decide how they hire, offer loans, advertise, and even pass down criminal sentences. A ProPublica investigation, for example, revealed implicit biases in courtroom algorithms that resulted in harsher sentences for people of color.”

Sports Ethics

Declaration of the 8th Olympic Summit 

“In this respect, the participants expressed serious concerns over the growing politicisation of sport. Examples include: governments calling on athletes and teams not to participate in competition in specific countries; calls for boycotts; the non-issuance of visas for athletes wanting to participate in international competitions; the resistance by organisers to raising particular national flags and to playing national anthems; and the repeated interference of governments in the basic operations of national sports bodies. All these measures disrespect the political neutrality of sport.”

Ethics expert appointed to MSU board amid Nassar fallout 

“The appointment came more than five weeks after the resignation of trustee Nancy Schlichting, who said four trustees did not share the commitment by her and three other trustees to the independent investigation backed by Nassar’s victims, including the release of documents protected by attorney-client privilege. A criminal probe led to the conviction of Nassar’s ex-boss at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, while a former university president and ex-gymnastics coach have been ordered to stand trial.”

Podcast: Clashing values in sport & what is gateball? 

Two major ethical dilemmas for sports organisations this year have centred around the expression of religious beliefs by current or former sports stars: Israel Folau and Margaret Court. What do each of these controversies say about contemporary sport, and contemporary society?”

Technology Ethics

Tainted Data Can Teach Algorithms the Wrong Lessons 

“But a growing number of researchers are also examining the potential for AI systems to be poisoned during training so that they harbor harmful flaws. A few countermeasures have been proposed, (although none of them work on the attack developed by Li and his team). Last week, OpenAI, the company that made the reinforcement-learning environment used by Li, released Safety Gym, a new version designed to prohibit ‘unsafe’’ behavior. The threat remains theoretical for now, but that could change as companies increasingly deploy AI. A recent survey of executives by Accenture found that 75 percent believe their business would be threatened within five years if they don’t deploy AI. Amid this urgency, security is rarely a consideration.”

Artificial Intelligence as Security Solution and Weaponization by Hackers 

“Notwithstanding, hackers can predefine an application feature as an AI trigger for executing cyber-attacks. The features can range from authenticating processes through voice or visual recognition to identity management features. Most applications used today contain such features, and this provides attackers with ample opportunities of feeding weaponized AI models, deriving a key, and attacking at will. The malicious models can be present for years without detection as hackers wait to strike when applications are most vulnerable.” 

The Cyberlaw Podcast: Ethical Algorithms with Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth 

” Algorithms are at the heart of the Big Data/machine learning/AI changes that are propelling computerized decision-making. In their book, The Ethical AlgorithmMichael Kearns and Aaron Roth, two Computer Science professors at Penn, flag some of the social and ethical choices these changes are forcing upon us. My interview with them touches on many of the hot-button issues surrounding algorithmic decision-making. Michael and Aaron may not agree with my formulation, but the conversation provides a framework for testing it – and leaves me more skeptical about “bias hacking” of algorithmic outputs.”

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