Philosophers Appointed To High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 1:04am in

The European Commission (EC), which proposes and administers European Union (EU) law and policy, has created a new High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, the aim of which is to advise on the crafting and implementation of the EU’s strategy on artificial intelligence.

Among the 52 experts are several people who work in philosophy. They are:

  • Mark Coeckelbergh, Professor of Philosophy of Media and Technology at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Vienna
  • Luciano Floridi, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the University of Oxford
  • Eric Hilgendorf, Professor of criminal law, criminal procedure and legal philosophy at the University of Würzburg
  • Thomas Metzinger, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
  • Aimee van Wynsberghe, Assistant Professor in Ethics and Technology, TU Delft

The tasks of the group, according to the EC, are:

  1. Advise the Commission on next steps addressing AI-related mid to long-term challenges and opportunities through recommendations which will feed into the policy development process, the legislative evaluation process and the development of a next-generation digital strategy.
  2. Propose to the Commission draft AI ethics guidelines, covering issues such as fairness, safety, transparency, the future of work, democracy and more broadly the impact on the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including privacy and personal data protection, dignity, consumer protection and non-discrimination
  3. Support the Commission on further engagement and outreach mechanisms to interact with a broader set of stakeholders in the context of the AI Alliance, share information and gather their input on the group’s and the Commission’s work.

You can read more about the group here.

Bubo the Mechanical Owl


The post Philosophers Appointed To High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence appeared first on Daily Nous.

The tax abuse industry is the clearest possible evidence that the rich just don’t care

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/06/2018 - 5:39pm in

The FT has an article this morning under the headline:

Can you be rich and caring?

The note that there are studies on this issue, saying:

Perhaps the most famous recent series of studies was done by a pair of Berkeley psychologists in 2012. One of these showed that drivers of luxury vehicles were more likely to cut up other motorists and less likely to let other drivers through. The duo also discovered the rich were more likely to cheat, lie, steal and endorse unethical behaviour at work.

And they avoid and evade the most tax too. There would be no tax havens and no tax abuse industry without them.

If you want evidence that they do not care, I suggest the existence of both of them is the clearest that can be given.

Shared ethics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/06/2018 - 6:23pm in



I have Dr Martin Smith of the School of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews to thank for drawing my attention to this comment in an editorial in Chemistry World, the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry:

Regulation has its place, but it is not a proxy for ethics. As a means of guiding fast-moving developments in science and technology, ethics – operating at the level of individuals, in real time – is much more relevant.

As Martin said to me:

Swap out sci & tech for finance, audit etc and ... in his editorial, deputy editor Philip Robinson ... absolutely nailed so much of what underlies a great deal of your blog in a single, short sharp sentence.

I agree. But then in the world of finance we suffer fools who deem that the world is governed by rules that are created for them to abuse. Maybe that exists in chemistry as well, or the discussion would not be needed there either. But I am glad to see that ethical common sense is a common language of real progress.

Why the Evidence Mueller Has for the Indicting 13 Russian Nationals is Fraudulent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/06/2018 - 2:40pm in

It's almost a shame that a headline like that won't spark anything more than casual curiosity when you consider the charges Richard Mueller is looking into. The Russian company Concord Management decided to answer is charges in early May, which threw a wrench into Mueller's strategy.

How People Crack or Succeed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 31/05/2018 - 7:23am in



After a recent school shooting, the shooter’s father deflected blame from his son, saying that he had been bullied, but was a good kid.

He was immediately jumped on by critics. Most of them  had an argument that ran as follows, “I was bullied all the time and never turned into a mass shooter.”

This argument is a corollary of the standard one for not caring about poor people, “I grew up poor/sick/whatever and I still got rich.”

Now obviously a kid who goes on a mass shooting isn’t a good kid, and obviously also, I hope, a father who loves his son, in the immediate aftermath of something like this, may be in denial and that denial should lead to more sympathy than mockery. If you can’t manage that, at least understand.

But the larger argument is important: the bullying may have been necessary but not sufficient. In other words, the kid, had he not been bullied a lot, might not have gone on a killing spree.

For other people the bullying was not enough.

People are different. What breaks one person doesn’t break another. One succeeds in circumstances another wouldn’t succeed in. A broken down loser like the Civil War’s General Grant (before the war) becomes the war’s greatest general and a two-term president. No war, he’d probably have stayed a loser.

No bullying and that kid might not have gone on a killing spree, even though bullying doesn’t make most people go on killing sprees. But chronic bullying is high stress, and it does break some people, and some of them will be violent.

There are always the extremes: the people on the edges, who are close to breaking or exploding anyway. Push them, poison them, and something goes wrong.

This should be obvious.

What should also be obvious is that explaining something isn’t excusing it. Of course being bullied doesn’t justify going on a killing spree.

But since it is a known factor in causing mass killing sprees maybe we should admit that, and try not to push the one in ten million kid (or adult) over the edge?

Life is luck. Your genetic endowment was luck. Your parents were luck. Your character is luck. It all comes from being born with a specific body in a specific place and time, and everything flows from that.

We want to run from this. We want to believe were are in full control, that we would never do something like “that”, whatever that is. That we would never obey Hitler’s orders (most of us would have, and if you don’t have a record of standing up even when you knew you would be hurt for doing so, you probably would have.)

The kid did something monstrous. The father, understandably, tried to hold onto his view of his kid as good. And while bullying is no excuse, it may be a reason.

And just because you’re rich and were once poor doesn’t mean everyone else should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

And yeah, although following a mob is a different thing, you almost certainly would have done what Hitler told you to; would have been chopping with a machete in Rwanda, and so on.

This doesn’t mean no one is good, of course. There are those who didn’t obey Hitler. A small minority. There are those who won’t shock a subject in the Millgram experiment, no matter  how hard the authority figure pushes (about 5% at the extreme end.) There are always good people.

But most people aren’t good, and they aren’t bad. They are weak, and they follow their personal mob, doing whatever other people they identify with do.

And some people are close to breaking, and one day something, usually some cruelty, pushes them over the edge.

And they become monsters.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

Share on WhatsApp

Darwinian selection in the Big 4 accountants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/05/2018 - 4:20pm in



The Guardian's 'Long read' today features extracts from Richard Brook's new book, Bean Counters: The Triumph of the Accountants and How They Broke Capitalism. I admit much is familiar, although welcome: to many it will be news.

I liked this paragraph, which to me summed up the problem with these firms:

A newly qualified accountant in a major firm will generally slip into a career of what the academic Matthew Gill has called “technocratism”, applying standards lawfully but to the advantage of clients, not breaking the rules but not making a stand for truth and objectivity either. Progression to the partner ranks requires “fitting in” above all else. With serious financial incentives to get to the top, the major firms end up run by the more materially rather than ethically motivated bean counters.

In effect, these firms have a Darwinian system that ensures those with ethics don't stay. That resonated very strongly with my own experience. The cost to society of this perverted form of Darwinian selection has been very high indeed.

Medical Ethics Journal Infected by Anti-Vaxx Fraud (guest post by Christian Munthe)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 11:10pm in

In a couple of recent posts at his blog, Philosophical Comment, Christian Munthe, a professor of philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, has detailed the progression of a publication scandal at the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Below is a guest post* I asked him to write, describing the situation and issues at stake.

[Anthony Moman, “Clarity” (detail)]

Medical Ethics Journal Infected by Anti-Vaxx Fraud
by Christian Munthe

In the last few weeks, a publication ethics scandal has been brewing, as an author, calling himself “Lars Andersson”, who has published a number of articles in various medical and health research journals with a consistent anti-vaccination (“anti-vaxx”) theme, has been exposed as a fraud. The author’s real name is not “Lars Andersson” and his stated credentials and affiliation to Karolinska Institutet are completely fake. This would normally be nothing for philosophers to worry about, except noting yet another publication ethical and research fraud scandal in the field of medicine. However, this time, the scandal touches the applied part of philosophy, as the author has recently got an article published in a medical ethics journal, namely the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME).

One of the challenges in his field of bioethics is to include and empower researchers and institutions from low- and middle-resource settings. The leading journal, Bioethics, runs the side journal Developing World Bioethics as a way of addressing this concern, and over the past few years a number of other journals have appeared, based at institutions outside of the most affluent parts of the world, with a natural focus on bioethical issues of relevance to such settings, as well as global health related issues. The IJME, which has quickly been rising in the ranks and attracting respect for its consistent work, is one of these.

Unfortunately, the “Lars Andersson” incident casts serious doubts on the standards of this journal, both in regard to the review and publication process, and the editor’s eventual decision not to retract the article and not to disclose the true identity and affiliation of the author.

Ole Petter Ottersen, president of the Karolinska Institutet, remarks on the incident here, noting that “leading researchers with intimate knowledge of the vaccination field have identified serious flaws in the published report and its conclusion” and that “a publishing system that allows papers to be published under false identities and affiliations might easily foment distrust of the medical publishing process and of research in general.” The IJME editorial team declared the deception “unacceptable” in a “Statement on Corrections,” but “decided to keep the article on the site as issues raised by it are important and discussion on it is in public interest.” The author’s true name has not been revealed. IJME editor Amar Jesani defends the journal’s decision here.

I have explained at greater length most what I find problematic about the IJME’s actions and stance in two blog posts here and here. In short:

  • A journal focusing on applied ethics decides to consider publishing an empirical article in the field of epidemiology, vaccination, HPV-virus and cervical cancer prevention. One of the cornerstones of academic publishing is that journals (and book series) keep to topics in which they claim expertise. This is necessary, among other things, to ensure high standards of quality in the selection of external reviewers, so that articles undergo appropriate peer review. The same, of course, also holds if a metaphysics paper would be submitted to, say, The Lancet. The only acceptable editorial action in any of these cases is to issue a desk rejection on the ground that the submitted article falls outside the journal’s topical area and urge the author to submit to a more appropriate journal. The IJME editorial management violated this elementary principle.
  • The IJME assigned two editors to handle the submission, one who lacks a PhD, and one who lacks any research qualifications in the general area of the article. They reportedly consulted an external expert on statistics, but no expertise in the area of the article. This is a very clear illustration of the importance of adhering firmly to the principle of keeping to a journal’s topical area of expertise.
  • The IJME editorial management made these decisions in spite of the fact that the area of vaccination research for several decades has been under onslaught from an avalanche of fraudulent papers that so-called antivaxx activists, often connected to what has become a flourishing industry of quackery under the guise of “complementary” or “alternative” medicine, try to peddle to all kinds of journals. The tactic is well-known from the days when the tobacco-industry did its best to plant doubts over the health risks of smoking, and lately we have had a similar experience from so-called climate skeptics. In all such areas, where partisan politics and/or business interests are directing what research papers are being submitted, it is of the utmost importance for serious journals to be extra careful of rigorously upholding strict standards. The IJME management has failed to observe such vigilance.
  • When the IJME editor, Amar Jesani, was informed about the fraud of the article, he decided not to retract it, but only to remove the author name and affiliation from its heading. (See their statement here.) But it is, of course, elementary for publication ethics to retract all publications where fraud has been proven. This goes not only for manipulation of data or plagiarism, but also for other kinds of dishonesty, such as untrue claims regarding the existence of research ethics permissions (a standard ground for retracting articles).
  • When Amar Jesani was criticized because of this, he claimed that he now knew who the author is, but that this identity and the academic affiliation was being kept a secret due to the criticism that would otherwise be wielded against the author, and that knowledge of author identity and affiliation is of no importance of the assessment of a research publication. This is, of course, complete nonsense and after-the-fact rationalization. The author has lied to Jesani, and then offers an explanation that, first, Jesani has no reason to trust and, second, has no valid bearing on the case anyhow, as researchers who publish have to accept that there will be criticism. Moreover, knowing the identity and affiliation of authors is vital for the assessment both of the truthfulness of claims regarding the how the research has been undertaken, and of conflicts of interest. Finally, it is of vital importance for the research community to be informed about the names and affiliation of proven research fraudsters, so that other journals, researchers, and research institutions can take appropriate precautions, and so that the research institution of the fraudulent author can take appropriate disciplinary action. The apparent fact that the editor of IJME is unaware of such basic things is deeply troubling, and undermines the status of the journal.
  • The editorial management team of IJME has concentrated its efforts entirely on trying to deflect criticism, mostly in a dishonest way. They have tried hard to shift the topic to be about what Karolinska Institutet has done or not done regarding detecting the fraud (“he seems to have deceived the KI too, and that since 2014. Why are you not talking about the flaws in the way the KI is run?”), but of course this has no bearing on what the IJME should do. They have also, in a rather disturbing fashion, chosen to answer critiques against Amar Jesani, not by presenting arguments, but by devotedly assuring how highly they regard the ethical standards of their editor. This unconstructive way of handling justified criticism, of course, adds to any suspicions that might have been awakened towards the journal’s editorial standards due to the other events listed above.

There is still time for a shift of position to save the journal’s reputation, albeit the window is rather narrow due to the unprofessional actions of the editorial management so far. I have been informed that many members of the IJME editorial board, several of which are well regarded international researchers in bioethics (many of which are philosophers), have contacted the editor and his team about this issue. Hopefully, we will in the near future see a forceful shift of policy, maybe also some changes of the editorial management, to get the IJME back on its formerly very promising course. I, for one, very much hope that this will occur, as applied ethics very much needs high-standard journals based in more than just the wealthiest parts of the world.

The post Medical Ethics Journal Infected by Anti-Vaxx Fraud (guest post by Christian Munthe) appeared first on Daily Nous.

The time will come when people will wonder why comprehensive tax reporting was ever an issue

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/05/2018 - 7:52pm in



To create a theme for the morning, when I have already written about tax and responsible investment, I note that my Fair Tax Mark colleague Paul Monaghan has an article on the forthcoming Fair Tax Fortnight on the Ethical Corporation website. In it he refers to the first piece of work we did together on this issue, in 2006, with Sustainability:

Amongst the suggestions made in that report, which was ground-breaking when published, is this diagram oin stakeholder interest in this issue:

The report also made these suggestions as to why a company should be interested in tax reporting and how they should progress towatds it:

I suspect Paul and I would still agree on a great deal of that. It's interesting to compare with what the UNPRI are saying in their new report (using a remarkably similar colour scheme):

Progress is taking time. But I think the pace of change is growing. The time will soon come when people will wonder why comprehensive tax reporting was ever an issue. But we need full country-by-country reporting before that happens. The UN PRI supports the idea, I am pleased to note. It's just a shame that the accounting profession does not as yet.

The foundations of a new order in tax responsibility

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/05/2018 - 6:59pm in


Economics, Ethics

The UN PRI is probably not that widely known. Standing for the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, it is a partnership between business and the UN:

Based in London, it is doing good thinking on the relationship between tax and responsible investing. The latest report from it on this issue, just out, looks at current tax practice and includes this summary of its findings on two sectors (healthcare and IT) and progress against the recommendations the UNPRI made last year:

This is an initiative I have been pleased to work with. My concerns about macro savings practices are well known. But I simultaneously (and entirely consistently) believe that we will continue to live in a mixed economy, in which case creating a strong level playing field for business where each discloses the role it plays in society for the benefit of all stakeholders is vital.

As these findings show, there is a long way to go. But progress is being made, principles are being established and monitoring is happening. Those are the foundations of a new order in this area.

Gina Haspel and Pinocchio from Rome

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/05/2018 - 11:00pm in

by Edward Curtin Being in Rome, Italy and thinking of Gina Haspel, the CIA nominee and admitted torturer who says her “moral conscience” has changed after the fact, seems most fitting. Wherever you go in central Rome, you can hear the screams and smell the blood of those tortured and killed by the Roman Empire and those who ably followed in their stead. And you can see the crumbled stones and the pathetic architectural remains of those who thought they had triumphed. Their triumph turned to dust, and their belated mea culpas, if and when they ever came, always rang as hollow as Gina Haspel’s, Lt. William Calley’s, and Adolph Eichmann’s excuses that they were only doing their jobs and following orders. Throughout Rome there are hawkers dangling Pinocchio trinkets in your face, constant reminders of the cost of lying. Or perhaps more aptly, the fame that ensues from lying followed by a childish semi-apology, even when it’s as obvious as the nose on your face that you are lying still. So in the Senate …