Saturday Leftover Ethics Candy, 11/2/19: The Spy In My Hotel Room, And Other Scary Tales

Yum.

1. OK, I want to see all of the Facebook trolls who mock every single careless or foolish thing President Trump has ever said to be fair and consistent, and make an appropriately big deal over this astounding quote from the Governor of New York:

“[A]nyone who questions extreme weather and climate change is just delusional at this point. We have seen in the State of New York and we have seen — it is something we never had before. We didn’t have hurricanes or super storms or tornadoes,.”

Now, I’m relatively certain Cuomo doesn’t really mean that New York never had  big storms before the climate started warming, but the President’s critics in social media and the mainstream media never give him the benefit of the doubt, because they just know he’s an idiot…or lying.

In related news of the media double standard and its bash-Trump obsession, this article was given a three-column spread on the New York Times front page: “The ‘Whimpering’ Terrorist Only Trump Seems to Have Heard.” It is a breathless report of the results of a Times investigation into whether ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi really was wimpering, crying and screaming before he was killed by U.S. forces, as President Trump colorfully told the nation.

Let me be blunt: I..Don’t…Care.

Do you? This is like a fish story; it’s a non-material, unimportant fib at worst. Putting such a story on the front page is an exposé all right: it exposes the Times’ complete loss of all perspective regarding the President.

2. AI ethics. As my wife and I were checking out of our New Jersey shore hotel this week, I noticed an Alexa on the desk. Does that mean that our wild midnight orgy with the Mariachi band, the transexual synchronized swimming team and the goats was recorded and relayed to the Dark Web. I don’t know.  A hotel has an obligation to inform guests that these potential spies and future SkyNet participants are  in their rooms, and guest should have the option to say, as I would have, “Get that thing out of there!” Continue reading

Friday Night Ethics Lights, 10/25/2019: Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse?

Good Evening!

1. More evidence of ethics rot and educational malpractice at Harvard. The Harvard Crimson covered an “Abolish ICE” protest on its campus last month. The fact that the supposedly most prestigious college in the nation would have something as idiotic as an anti-ICE protest attended by more than a few unfortunates with closed head injuries is troubling enough, but behold:   student activists attacked  the daily student-run paper  for “cultural insensitivity” and of “blatantly endangering undocumented students on campus.” because it contacted the immigration enforcement agency for comment after the protest had ended.

The Horror.

Now hundreds of America’s alleged best and brightest have signed a petition demanding that the newspaper operate as if ICE didn’t exist.

 Crimson editors Angela N. Fu and Kristine E. Guillaume defended its practices  in the paper this week, protesting that asking for comment is a standard journalism device, arguing in part, “We seek to follow a commonly accepted set of journalistic standards, similar to those followed by professional news organizations big and small. Foremost among those standards is the belief that every party named in a story has a right to comment or contest criticism leveled against them.”

Forget it, Angela and Kristine. You’re supposed to be partisan activists, like the mainstream media.

Ethics experts from the Student Press Law Center and the Society of Professional Journalists supported the Crimson, citing the  SPJ’s Code of Ethics. That’s nice, although I would call the gesture “lip service.”

2. SkyNet is listening. Because of loopholes in their security software, hackers can use  Amazon Alexa and Google Home virtual assistants to eavesdrop on user conversations without their knowledge, and even trick users into handing over sensitive information.

Gee-what-a-surprise….

For once, the American Bar Association got comparatively ahead of looming legal ethics risks created by developing technology by issuing a resolution in August urging bar associations and the legal profession to develop guidelines addressing the risks posed by attorney use of artificial intelligence. It’s a long document, undoubtedly missing many issues on the horizon, and regarding those personal assistants, it lacks an essential sentence: “Don’t let those things get within ten miles of your legal work.” Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/13/2019: I Throw Down The Gauntlet, Alexa Betrays Us, A Chinese Restaurant Isn’t Chinese Enough, And Thus Must Die [UPDATED]

Good morning!

1. Basically, to hell with them. Yesterday I was ostentatiously snubbed by two old friends at an event. It hurt, and more than that, it pissed me off.  Since I have not been directly involved with either of them for over a year, it was pretty clear what their justification was: I refuse to join “the resistance,” and also regularly call out Facebook garbage that is simply the unthinking regurgitation of Trump Derangement talking points. I don’t engage in political debates at social events unless someone makes an objectively false or offensive statement in my presence. The conduct I was subjected to was a political statement, however, and fascist in style. Shunning and marginalizing non-conforming views is increasingly the Left’s favored tool of gaining power, because it works. It works because most people will go along to get along. The next step is to try to shun and marginalize  people  who associate with the target, in this case, me.  Well, shame on them, and bring it on, baby. That kind of peer pressure has never worked on me, or anyone in my family,  my entire life.

What I have noticed on Facebook, and on Ethics Alarms, of course, is that the Angry Left and the “resistance” are mostly made up of cowards.  I actually got push back yesterday on a summary of the Boston Globe story, and the dissent consisted of “Yeah, but Orange Man Bad!” and “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” NO! The first response is a deflection, not a rebuttal, and the second is pure cowardice. (Simple “I disagree” comments don’t make it through moderation here.) What those responses mean is “I don’t like the facts and analysis you are presenting, because they interfere with my preferred narrative, so I’m rejecting them while impugning you, though I in fact have no arguments whatsoever to challenge your assertions. The day before, when I posted about the discriminatory  audition notice, I was accused of making the story up.

“The resistance”  has reached the point where it refuses to argue, because it can’t win arguments on the merits. One of the  Facebook commenters yesterday of the “Orange Man Bad” persuasion mouthed one of my favorite canards, the “he [President Trump] violates norms” argument. “What norms?” I asked. See, I know my Presidential norms, and my democratic norms, and this argument, pushed by the dishonest history professor wing of “the resistance,” is demonstrably crap, and I’m someone who can demonstrate it. I also can point to vital norms at the core of our democracy that Democrats and “the resistance” have breached, with serious, perhaps permanent consequences. What norm has the President breached that comes within a thousand miles, for example, of Democrats and progressives encouraging harassment and violence against the other party and its supporters?

Yesterday tears it for me. I’m taking off the velvet gloves. These are uncivil people who are relying on my civility, and cowardly advocates whose duty, if they had any integrity at all, would be to accept  that they can’t argue their case persuasively and reluctantly conclude that it’s time to admit that their case stinks. From now on, I’m telling them so. Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 1/29/2018: Alexa, Hillary, The Grammys, And The LED Rocket Copters

Good afternoon.

(Where did the morning go?)

1 Regarding Alexa the Feminist: I had said that I would wait for 20 comment before revealing my own answer to the recent Ethics Quiz, which asked readers whether it was ethical for Amazon to  program its Artificial Intelligence-wielding personal assistant Alexa with the rhetoric and the sensibilities of a feminist. As usual, Ethics Alarms readers covered a full range of considerations, from the fact that consumers weren’t being forced to take a feminist robot into their homes, and could choose a non-woke personal assistant if they pleased, to the pithy,

“My screwdriver should not tell me it is a communist. My toothbrush should not tell me it is a Republican. My lamp should not tell me it is Hindu. My car should not tell me it likes polka music. My sunglasses should not ask me if I’ve heard the good news. My refrigerator should not tell me I should have more meat in my diet, and by no means should it be vegan.”.

I don’t trust the big tech companies, and the more I see them becoming involved in politics and culture, the less I trust them. It is unethical for Amazon to try to indoctrinate its customers into its values and political views, and if that isn’t what the feminist Alexa portends, it certainly opens the door. If there is a market for communist screwdrivers, however, there is nothing unethical about filling it.

As long as consumers have the power to reject AI-imbued tools with a tendency to proselytize, there seems to be no ethics foul in making them available.  It’s creepy, and since these aren’t women but pieces of plastic and metal, it’s absurd, but in the end, so far at least, Alexa’s feminist grandstanding is “ick,” not unethical.

2. If you think that there was nothing wrong with Hillary’s surprise cameo at the Grammys, you’re hopeless. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Alexa, The Feminist

Amazon has programmed Alexa, the voice-assistant  in Amazon Echo devices,  to tell you that it is a feminist. If you ask it, “she” will respond, “I am a feminist. As is anyone who believes in bridging the inequality between men and women in society.” Moreover, if you called last last year’s model a bitch, a slut, or even a “cunt” a year ago,  Akexa 2017 would respond with, “Well, thanks for the feedback.” No longer.  Now she responds to a sexist insult with a curt, “I’m not going to respond to that!”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Is it ethical, responsible and appropriate to program Alexa to respond this way?

Continue reading