Research: Ethical Mirages

September 16, 2022

I spotted two separate items. I think each reveals something quite important about research and journal article statements like “source code provided upon request” or something similar.

The first item concerns a Nobel Prize winner. I was in Stockholm the day before a Nobel Prize award event. Some people take these best and brightest hoe downs seriously. I was giving a talk to what some in the Swedish government described as the country’s forest service. Ho ho ho. My topic had little to do with trees and quite a bit to do with the St Petersburg disinformation outfit chugging away in Russia.

Nobel Prize Winner Gregg Semenza Retracts Four Papers” reports:

The four papers retracted yesterday are:

  • Hypoxia-inducible factors mediate coordinated RhoA-ROCK1 expression and signaling in breast cancer cells
  • Mutual antagonism between hypoxia-inducible factors 1? and 2? regulates oxygen sensing and cardio-respiratory homeostasis
  • Anthracycline chemotherapy inhibits HIF-1 transcriptional activity and tumor-induced mobilization of circulating angiogenic cells
  • Hypoxia-inducible factors are required for chemotherapy resistance of breast cancer stem cells

Why pray tell? Recycled data. This is a bit like an honor student caught cheating with answers written on a body part. There you go. Integrity.

The second item is a tweet from an alleged Googler who just can’t believe that Stable Diffusion is available and “out there for public use.” The tweet is here. But the interesting part of the Stable Diffusion item appears in a Reddit thread, which you can find here.

Here’s a comment I found interesting:

I [tinysprinkles] contacted Google requesting one of their published models for development of eye health applications for children and they played very hard ball, made me sign a bunch of documents and I still don’t have their model. It was more than a year ago! They basically slowed me down so badly that I’m having to develop knowledge from scratch as a non ML specialist. Mind you, their paper was published in one of Nature journals and had “model will be provided upon reasonable request”, I guess my request was not reasonable? Idk… sad… wish I could have picked up this knowledge quicker, but wasn’t able to.

The thrust of tinysprinkles’ post is that Google said one thing and is allegedly doing another. Let me address tinysprinkles directly: “Is this a surprise to you, tinysprinkles? If so, please, do some reading about Google’s tactical actions related to AI/ML and staff; specifically, Dr. Timnit Gebru.”

Now what do these two items have in common? For me I see these connections:

  1. Both illustrate ethical situations. Stated simply, “Hey, we do what we want because we are wizards.”
  2. No institutional redress is available. The big brain keeps the Nobel and the Google keeps its data model. Ho ho ho. Consequences? I think not.
  3. Awareness of intellectual dishonesty is low. Hey, we have college graduates unable to read at the grade school level. Do you think “intellectual honesty,” “integrity”, or “ethics” resonates with people who don’t know where Canada is when presented with a map of North America.

Net net: Grim at the Nobel level; grimmer at the company level. Swipe left. You will be okay.

Stephen E Arnold, September 16, 2022


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