Tag Archives | Ethics

Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome

Richard Ricciardi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Richard Ricciardi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Via Nicholas Wade at The New York Times:

A group of leading biologists on Thursday called for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead before its safety can be assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence. The latter is a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.

“You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue,” said David Baltimore, a former president of the California Institute of Technology and a member of the group whose paper on the topic was published in the journal Science.

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Should prospective parents have to apply for licences? An Ethical Debate

parent_child-191x300This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

Should prospective parents have to apply for parental licences? The argument seems obvious. Having children is a serious business. Negligent or irresponsible parents risk causing long-term harms to their offspring, harms that often have spillover effects on the rest of society. A licensing system should help us to filter out such parents. Therefore, a licensing system would benefit children and society at large. QED

Of course, I’m being somewhat facetious here. The idea of prospective parents applying for parental licences will strike many as both absurd and offensive. But there is no idea so absurd and offensive that at least one philosopher has not defended it. And when it involves something as contentious as parent-child relationships, you can rest assured that there will be more than one.

In this post, I want to review the philosophical debate about parental licensing. I start by looking at Hugh LaFollette’s now-classic argument in favour of parental licences.… Read the rest

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Coca-Cola Pays Nutrition Experts to Recommend Coke as a Healthy Snack

Beverley Goodwin (CC BY 2.0)

Beverley Goodwin (CC BY 2.0)

In light of dwindling Coke sales in the US, Coca-Cola has begun partnering with fitness and nutrition “experts” to recommend Coke as a healthy snack.

Ethics…

The AP via Mashable:

If a column in honor of heart health suggests a can of Coke as a snack, you might want to read the fine print.

The world’s biggest beverage maker, which struggles with declining soda consumption in the U.S., is working with fitness and nutrition experts who suggest its cola as a healthy treat. In February, for instance, several wrote online pieces for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or small soda as a snack idea.

The mentions — which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers — show the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities.

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Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism

220px-Impossible_staircase

Penrose Stairs – Public Domain

Are our ethical positions corrupted by signalling games? How much do aesthetic or community contexts play into our reasoning? It is easy to appear more correct than whoever spoke last. Does this signalling represent a hierarchy of real truth or merely a social game?

Fascinating discussion on the subject of disagreeing with disagreements about disagreements by Yvain on Less Wrong.

WARNING: Beware of things that are fun to argue — Eliezer Yudkowsky

In certain situations refusing to signal can be a sign of high status. Thorstein Veblen invented the term “conspicuous consumption” to refer to the showy spending habits of the nouveau riche, who unlike the established money of his day took great pains to signal their wealth by buying fast cars, expensive clothes, and shiny jewelery. Why was such flashiness common among new money but not old? Because the old money was so secure in their position that it never even occurred to them that they might be confused with poor people, whereas new money, with their lack of aristocratic breeding, worried they might be mistaken for poor people if they didn’t make it blatantly obvious that they had expensive things.

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A New Kind of Mental Disturbance? Drone Pilots Are Quitting in Droves

David Rodriguez Martin (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

David Rodriguez Martin (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Pratap Chatterjee via AlterNet:

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The U.S. drone war across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa is in crisis and not because civilians are dying or the target list for that war or the right to wage it just about anywhere on the planet are in question in Washington. Something far more basic is at stake: drone pilots are quitting in record numbers.

There are roughly 1,000 such drone pilots, known in the trade as “18Xs,” working for the U.S. Air Force today. Another 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes about a year to complete at Holloman and Randolph Air Force bases in, respectively, New Mexico and Texas. As it happens, in those same 12 months, about 240 trained pilots quit and the Air Force is at a loss to explain the phenomenon.

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Germ Line Engineering the Perfect Baby

Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late? asks Antonio Regalado for MIT Technology Review:

If anyone had devised a way to create a genetically engineered baby, I figured George Church would know about it.

A smiling baby.jpg

Photo: Kenny Louie (CC)

 

At his labyrinthine laboratory on the Harvard Medical School campus, you can find researchers giving E. Coli a novel genetic code never seen in nature. Around another bend, others are carrying out a plan to use DNA engineering to resurrect the woolly mammoth. His lab, Church likes to say, is the center of a new technological genesis—one in which man rebuilds creation to suit himself.

When I visited the lab last June, Church proposed that I speak to a young postdoctoral scientist named Luhan Yang, a Harvard recruit from Beijing who’d been a key player in developing a new, powerful technology for editing DNA called CRISPR-Cas9.

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No More Top Billing for Violence, Tragedy, Dysfunction & Corruption

Ahmad Hammoud (CC BY 2.0)

Ahmad Hammoud (CC BY 2.0)

Or so says Arianna Huffington at Huffington Post:

There’s an old saying in the news business, one that’s guided editorial thinking for decades: “If it bleeds, it leads.” That is, stories of violence, tragedy, dysfunction and corruption get top billing — at the top of the hour, at the top of the computer or phone screen or above the newspaper fold — driven by the assumption that these are the stories the public will be most drawn to watch or read.

This ethos is wrong, both factually and ethically. And it’s lousy journalism. As journalists, our job is to give our audience an accurate picture — and that means the full picture — of what’s going on in the world. Just showing tragedy, violence, mayhem — focusing on what’s broken and what’s not working — misses too much of what is happening all around us.

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The powerful cheat for themselves, the powerless cheat for others

Via Cathleen O’Grady at Arstechnica:

Research has previously shown that upper-class individuals are more likely to behave unethically than lower-class people. But, says David Dubois, lead researcher of a new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it’s not that simple: both groups behave unethically in different contexts.

Dubois’ research group found that people with higher socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely to behave unethically when the behavior benefitted themselves, while lower-SES people were more likely to be unethical to benefit other individuals. “Many people think of unethical behaviour in terms of selfish behavior—violating moral standards to give yourself an advantage,” explains Jared Piazza, who was not involved with the research. “But the researchers here draw a distinction between violating a moral standard like ‘it’s wrong to steal’ to benefit others, and violating a moral standard to benefit yourself.”

This distinction is important, says Dubois.

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Davos Says: 7 Reasons Why Elon Musk Is Wrong To Believe Intelligent Robots Will One Day Kill Us All

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0)

Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider:

A panel at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland has just completely dismantled the idea — currently trendy in the tech sector — that artificially intelligent robots, lacking morals, may one day independently decide to start killing humans.

The idea has been spread, somewhat tongue in cheek, by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has even suggested that the robots may even thwart any humans who try to escape them by blasting off to Mars.

AI research is advancing rapidly inside private companies right now like Facebook and Google. That R&D is mostly a secret, which is why people like to speculate about it. Plus, everyone loves the Terminator movies, in which killer AI robots are the main protagonists.

The panel was hosted by two UC Berkeley professors, Ken Goldberg (who studies robotics) and Alison Gopnik (who studies psychology).

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Transcendence: RU Sirius & Jay Cornell on Transhumanism

TranscendenceR.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell are the authors of Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity. Transhumanism has been a hot but divisive topic on disinformation, so we felt there was a need to foster greater understanding of just what transhumanism is, and is not, hence the format of the book is an A-Z encyclopedia.

We asked Jay and R.U. to answer a few questions about the book and the topic in general:

RU, you have long been associated with the transhumanism movement; can you tell us how you got hooked and what your personal interest in transhumanism is?

RU: In a sense, I go way back to the 1970s, although I wasn’t familiar with the term transhumanism then. I think the only person using it at that time was a guy named F.M. Esfandiary. I was, if you will, turned on and tuned in by Timothy Leary and his cohort in conscious evolution Robert Anton Wilson.… Read the rest

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