Ethics in the News: The Supreme Court, A.I., Medically Assisted Deaths & more…


What Are LLM Hallucinations? Causes, Ethical Concern, & Prevention
“Large language models (LLMs) are artificial intelligence systems capable of analyzing and generating human-like text. But they have a problem – LLMs hallucinate, i.e., make stuff up. LLM hallucinations have made researchers worried about the progress in this field because if researchers cannot control the outcome of the models, then they cannot build critical systems to serve humanity”

‘The Godfather of A.I.’ Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead
“Dr. Hinton said he has quit his job at Google, where he has worked for more than decade and became one of the most respected voices in the field, so he can freely speak out about the risks of A.I. A part of him, he said, now regrets his life’s work. Dr. Hinton’s journey from A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer marks a remarkable moment for the technology industry at perhaps its most important inflection point in decades. Industry leaders believe the new A.I. systems could be as important as the introduction of the web browser in the early 1990s and could lead to breakthroughs in areas ranging from drug research to education.

3 things everyone’s getting wrong about AI
“From chess engines to Google translate, artificial intelligence has existed in some form since the mid-20th century. But these days, the technology is developing faster than most people can make sense of it. That leaves regular people vulnerable to misleading claims about what AI tools can do and who’s responsible for their impact.”

Ethical Hackers Could Earn up to $20,000 Uncovering ChatGPT Vulnerabilities
“OpenAI is offering white hat hackers up to $20,000 to find security flaws as part of its bug bounty program launched on April 11, 2023. The ChatGPT developer announced the initiative as part of its commitment to secure artificial intelligence (AI). The company has been under scrutiny by security experts since the launch of the ChatGPT prototype in November 2022. In its announcement, OpenAI acknowledged that despite its heavy investment in research and engineering to ensure its AI systems are safe and secure, vulnerabilities and flaws can emerge.”

IESBA revises accounting ethics code for tech advances
“The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants released final revisions Tuesday to its International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) to strengthen the ethics code as the accounting profession is affected by rapid technological advances and accelerating digitalization. The latest revisions aim to guide the ethical mindset and behavior of accountants in both business and public practice as they adapt to the latest technology. As technology is constantly evolving, most recently in the realm of artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT, the revisions will apply to the use of any technology, including to the extent possible, future technologies.”

The Internet & Social Media

Tweets Become Harder to Believe as Labels Change Meaning
“Elon Musk’s decision to stop giving check marks to people and groups verified to be who they said were, and instead offering them to anyone who paid for one, is the latest tumult at Twitter, the social media giant he has vowed to remake since he acquired it last year for $44 billion.The changes have convulsed a platform that once seemed indispensable for following news as it broke around the world. The information on Twitter is now increasingly unreliable. Accounts that impersonate public officials, government agencies and celebrities have proliferated. So have propaganda and disinformation that threaten to further erode trust in public institutions. The consequences are only beginning to emerge.”

New York’s Transit Agency Quits Sharing Updates on Twitter
“Real-time train delays, bus route changes and other service information that would be vital to millions of New York City commuters will no longer be shared on Twitter because the “reliability of the platform can no longer be guaranteed,” a Metropolitan Transportation Authority official said on Thursday.”

States’ Push to Protect Kids Online Could Remake the Internet
“Louisiana is at the forefront of a sweeping national push to insulate young people from potentially harmful content by requiring certain online services to bar or limit minors on their platforms.The proposed restrictions, introduced by at least two dozen states over the last year, could alter not only the online experiences of children and adolescents. They could also remake the internet for millions of adults, ushering in a tectonic cultural shift to a stricter, age-gated online world.”

Social influencer ethics and the implications of a TikTok ban
“Social influencers increasingly are commanding marketing and advertising dollars that once went to legacy media, such as newspapers. Total influencer spending in the U.S. is projected to hit $6.16 billion this year as opposed to $5.51 billion for newspapers. Instagram, by far, commands 44.6% of influencer dollars, followed by YouTube, 17.7%, and TikTok, 17.1%.

Amazon’s Twitch Safety, AI Ethics Job Cuts Raise Concerns Among Ex-Workerss
“Oob cuts at Inc.’s Twitch division are raising concerns among former employees and content monitors about the popular livestreaming site’s ability to police abusive or illegal behavior — issues that have plagued the business since its inception. Layoffs at Twitch eliminated about 15% of the staff responsible for monitoring such behavior, according to former employees with knowledge of the matter. The company also folded a new team monitoring the ethics of its AI efforts, said the people, who asked not to be identified to protect their job prospects.”

Science and Research

Reckoning with UCSF’s dark history of unethical medical experiments on inmates
“A university investigation, started in 2022, found that two faculty members violated medical research ethics when they conducted invasive dermatological experiments on 2,600 men incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville during the 1960s and 1970s. UCSF issued a public apology last month for the harms it caused the men after reviewing the findings of an investigation conducted by the Program for Historical Reconciliation, which the university created to examine claims of ethical wrongdoing in the past. It was the group’s first investigation, which focused on experiments conducted by Dr. Howard Maibach, a current faculty member, and Dr. William Epstein, a former dermatology chair who died in 2006.”

Experts weigh medical advances in gene-editing with ethical dilemmas
“Hundreds of scientists, doctors, bioethicists, patients, and others started gathering in London Monday for the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing. The summit this weekwill debate and possibly issue recommendations about the thorny issues raised by powerful new gene-editing technologies.”

Could the Next Blockbuster Drug Be Lab-Rat Free?
“The study, conducted in 2020 by the American Physical Society (APS) and published in this month’s Physics Today, reveals alarming rates of unethical research practices and harassment in the physics community, including data manipulation and physical abuse.”


Vermont Removes Residency Requirement for Medically Assisted Deaths
“Vermont has become the first state to remove a residency requirement from its law on medically assisted death to allow terminally ill people from out of state access to life-ending care. The law, which for a decade has permitted doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill people 18 or older, was amended Tuesday, when Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill scrapping the residency requirement.”

They’re Severely Mentally Ill. Is It Ethical to Help Them Die?
“Next year, Canada’s health care system is set to undergo a controversial change, when people struggling with severe mental illness will gain the legal right to request help from a doctor in ending their lives. Until now, medical assistance in dying — or MAID, as it’s often called — has been available in North America primarily to patients with terminal physical illnesses. The introduction of psychiatric MAID will present difficult, and different, ethical questions, especially for the doctors responsible for helping patients through this choice.”

Judges’ dueling decisions put access to a key abortion drug in jeopardy nationwide
“Federal judges in two states issued contradictory decisions Friday evening that could drastically impact access to a drug used in nearly all medication abortions in the U.S. In Texas, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved the abortion pill mifepristone more than 20 years ago. A coalition of anti-abortion rights groups called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the FDA last year. The judge issued a nationwide injunction pausing the FDA’s approval, which is set to take effect in seven days.”

The ethical dilemmas behind plans for involuntary treatment to target homelessness, mental illness and addiction
“Over the past year, cities across the United States have unveiled new policy plans to address homelessness amid rising concerns about health and crime – for homeless people themselves, as well as for surrounding communities. Notably, several proposals include civil commitment, also referred to as involuntary treatment, for people with severe mental illness or substance use disorders.”

Standards of Conduct 

Why doesn’t the Supreme Court have a formal code of ethics?
“”How do you explain to the American people when they discover that every part of our government structure, all the other agencies, have codes of conduct, but the United States Supreme Court does not?” said James Williams, the Washington state delegate to the American Bar Association, who introduced a resolution to have the court adopt an ethics code.”

Why it’s unlikely ethics rules on Supreme Court gift disclosures will work
“The Supreme Court is facing ethics questions since a ProPublica investigation reported that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received luxurious trips from Republican donor Harlan Crow for more than two decades. The investigation says he failed to report these trips in his annual financial disclosures.” Stricter regulations went into effect several weeks ago, saying that federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, must disclose when they receive gifts and “personal hospitality.” But Northwestern University law professor emeritus Steven Lubet told NPR’s Leila Fadel that he doubts the justices will comply with stricter disclosure rules”

Lawmakers Call for Tighter Ethics Code After Revelations About Justice Thomas
“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement, adding that Justice Thomas’s conduct was “simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a justice on the Supreme Court.”

Chief Justice Roberts declines to testify at Senate’s Supreme Court ethics hearing
“Chief Justice John Roberts has declined a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing next week on ethical standards at the court, instead providing the panel with a statement of ethics reaffirmed by the court’s nine justices. Nothing about Roberts’ letter or the statement attributed to all nine justices suggests that they feel chastened in any way by recent reports. But it is the first time the current membership has spoken on ethics issues as a group.”

Court Clerk and Defense Lawyer Are Charged in a Cash-for-Clients Scheme
““The public, the court and the bar all rely on the integrity and honesty of the professionals who work for the court and the lawyers who appear there,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “For years, Figueroa and Del Valle allegedly violated their duties and undermined the fair administration of justice, all for their personal gain.”

Law and Politics

Is the Debt Limit Constitutional? Biden Aides Are Debating
“A standoff between House Republicans and President Biden over raising the nation’s borrowing limit has administration officials debating what to do if the government runs out of cash to pay its bills, including one option that previous administrations had deemed unthinkable.That option is effectively a constitutional challenge to the debt limit. Under the theory, the government would be required by the 14th Amendment to continue issuing new debt to pay bondholders, Social Security recipients, government employees and others, even if Congress fails to lift the limit before the so-called X-date.. “

Arizona House Rep. Liz Harris expelled for violating ethics rules
“The House Ethics Committee (composed of three Republican representatives and two Democrats) unanimously agreed, saying in today’s report that Harris violated House rules by inviting Jacqueline Breger to that February meeting. In addition, they said Harris lied when she claimed she had no idea Breger would say what she did. As a result, the ethics panel found that Harris violated House rule number one, which prohibits disorderly behavior that could damage the House’s institutional integrity. “To go down a trail of conspiracy theories that were thrown out of court, it’s very dangerous,” Stahl Hamilton said.. “

A Pro-Trump Group Files an Ethics Complaint Against DeSantis
“Governor DeSantis’s failure to declare his candidacy is no mere oversight,” reads the MAGA Inc. complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics. “It is a coordinated effort specifically designed for him to accept, as unethical gifts, illegal campaign contributions and certain personal benefits.”

Title IX and the New Rule on Transgender Athletes Explained
“Elementary school students would generally be able to participate on teams matching their identity. But as students get older and go through puberty, and as competition increases, schools and athletic organizations would make a multipronged assessment of whether or not to restrict transgender athletes from playing on their preferred team. The age of the students, the level of the fairness and the nature of the sport would be among the considerations.”

Money & Business 

Hollywood Writers Go on Strike, Halting Production
“The writers have raised numerous grievances. In a very of-the-moment twist, the writers are seeking to put significant guardrails around the use of artificial intelligence. But the most pressing issue to them is compensation. Screenwriters have walked out six times over the decades. Historically, they have had the stomach for a prolonged strike. In addition to the 100-day walkout in 2007, the writers also walked picket lines for 153 days in 1988. Writers have also shown signs of remarkable unity. In mid-April, 98 percent of more than 9,000 union-represented writers authorized a strike.”

As Rupert Murdoch defends Fox News’ lies in court, a media professor reveals the terrifying truth that journalism has no standardized requirements
“Even the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s foremost advocate for ethical journalism, rejects punishments for those who violate its principles. Its ethics code says in part: “The code is entirely voluntary. … It has no enforcement provisions or penalties for violations, and SPJ strongly discourages anyone from attempting to use it that way.” The organization concedes that news outlets can discipline their own journalists. Because journalists and their employers may be considered to be one entity, any disciplinary action is voluntary self-discipline. Neither journalists nor the news organizations they personify have to be truthful unless they want to”

Airbnb has descended on America’s small cities. Now locals must decide how to contain it..
“In cities both small and large, some locals are calling out short-term rentals for making housing more expensive. The same question is perplexing local governments and fueling impassioned locals to weigh in: What should we do about Airbnb-style, short-term rentals? The housing crisis has worsened nationwide. Since the second quarter of 2020, the average price of a home in the US increased by 40%, from $374,000 to $535,000, according to the St. Louis Fed, without commensurate wage growth, thus pushing homeownership further out of reach for many Americans. Over the same period, the average US rent increased 15%, from $1,468 to $1,700, according to RentCafe reports.”

You Can Be Fired for Being Overweight. Should New York Change That?
“The effort is part of a growing national campaign to address weight discrimination, with lawmakers in New Jersey and Massachusetts considering similar measures banning the practice. Michigan and Washington State already prohibit it, as do some cities, like Madison, Wis., and Washington, D.C.. The momentum to add weight to the list of protected groups, which now includes race, gender, religion and disability, comes as the body acceptance movement continues to gain popularity. Podcasts like “Maintenance Phase” and social media creators have spread awareness that not all overweight people are unhealthy, and that health metrics like the body mass index are flawed.

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