jm + risk   10

A Controversial Virus Study Shows Flaws in How Science Is Done - The Atlantic
Absent clearer guidelines, the burden falls on the scientific enterprise to self-regulate—and it isn’t set up to do that well. Academia is intensely competitive, and “the drivers are about getting grants and publications, and not necessarily about being responsible citizens,” says Filippa Lentzos from King’s College London, who studies biological threats. This means that scientists often keep their work to themselves for fear of getting scooped by their peers. Their plans only become widely known once they’ve already been enacted, and the results are ready to be presented or published. This lack of transparency creates an environment where people can almost unilaterally make decisions that could affect the entire world.

Take the horsepox study [the main topic of this article]. Evans was a member of a World Health Organization committee that oversees smallpox research, but he only told his colleagues about the experiment after it was completed. He sought approval from biosafety officers at his university, and had discussions with Canadian federal agencies, but it’s unclear if they had enough ethical expertise to fully appreciate the significance of the experiment. “It’s hard not to feel like he opted for agencies that would follow the letter of the law without necessarily understanding what they were approving,” says Kelly Hills, a bioethicist at Rogue Bioethics.

She also sees a sense of impulsive recklessness in the interviews that Evans gave earlier this year. Science reported that he did the experiment “in part to end the debate about whether recreating a poxvirus was feasible.” And he told NPR that “someone had to bite the bullet and do this.” To Hills, that sounds like I did it because I could do it. “We don’t accept those arguments from anyone above age 6,” she says.
the-atlantic  science  news  smallpox  horsepox  diseases  danger  risk  academia  papers  publish-or-perish  bioethics  ethics  biology  genetics 
8 days ago by jm
Machine Bias: There’s Software Used Across the Country to Predict Future Criminals. And it’s Biased Against Blacks. - ProPublica
holy crap, this is dystopian:
The first time Paul Zilly heard of his score — and realized how much was riding on it — was during his sentencing hearing on Feb. 15, 2013, in court in Barron County, Wisconsin. Zilly had been convicted of stealing a push lawnmower and some tools. The prosecutor recommended a year in county jail and follow-up supervision that could help Zilly with “staying on the right path.” His lawyer agreed to a plea deal.
But Judge James Babler had seen Zilly’s scores. Northpointe’s software had rated Zilly as a high risk for future violent crime and a medium risk for general recidivism. “When I look at the risk assessment,” Babler said in court, “it is about as bad as it could be.”
Then Babler overturned the plea deal that had been agreed on by the prosecution and defense and imposed two years in state prison and three years of supervision.
dystopia  law  policing  risk  risk-assessment  northpointe  racism  fortune-telling  crime 
may 2016 by jm
Chinese censorship: arbitrary rule changes are a form of powerful intermittent reinforcement
China's Internet censors are capricious and impossible to predict -- but this isn't because China's censors are incompetent, rather, they're tapping into one of the most powerful forms of conditioning, the uncertainty born of intermittent reinforcement. [...] As C Custer writes at Tech in Asia, this caprice is by design: by not specifying a set of hard and fast rules, but rather the constant risk of being taken down for crossing some invisible line, China's censors inspire risk-aversion in people who rely on the net to be heard or earn their livings. It's what Singaporeans call "out of bounds," the unspecified realm of things you mustn't, shouldn't or won't want to enter.
risk  risk-aversion  censorship  control  china  politics  enforcement  crime  self-censorship 
may 2016 by jm
Punished for Being Poor: Big Data in the Justice System
This is awful. Totally the wrong tool for the job -- a false positive rate which is miniscule for something like spam filtering, could translate to a really horrible outcome for a human life.
Currently, over 20 states use data-crunching risk-assessment programs for sentencing decisions, usually consisting of proprietary software whose exact methods are unknown, to determine which individuals are most likely to re-offend. The Senate and House are also considering similar tools for federal sentencing. These data programs look at a variety of factors, many of them relatively static, like criminal and employment history, age, gender, education, finances, family background, and residence. Indiana, for example, uses the LSI-R, the legality of which was upheld by the state’s supreme court in 2010. Other states use a model called COMPAS, which uses many of the same variables as LSI-R and even includes high school grades. Others are currently considering the practice as a way to reduce the number of inmates and ensure public safety. (Many more states use or endorse similar assessments when sentencing sex offenders, and the programs have been used in parole hearings for years.) Even the American Law Institute has embraced the practice, adding it to the Model Penal Code, attesting to the tool’s legitimacy.



(via stroan)
via:stroan  statistics  false-positives  big-data  law  law-enforcement  penal-code  risk  sentencing 
august 2014 by jm
Structural Integrity | 99% Invisible
'The student (who has since been lost to history) was studying Citicorp Center as part of his thesis and had found that the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds (winds that strike the building at its corners). Normally, buildings are strongest at their corners, and it’s the perpendicular winds (winds that strike the building at its face) that cause the greatest strain. But this was not a normal building.

LeMessurier had accounted for the perpendicular winds, but not the quartering winds. He checked the math, and found that the student was right. He compared what velocity winds the building could withstand with weather data, and found that a storm strong enough to topple Citicorp Center hits New York City every 55 years. But that’s only if the tuned mass damper, which keeps the building stable, is running. LeMessurier realized that a major storm could cause a blackout and render the tuned mass damper inoperable. Without the tuned mass damper, LeMessurier calculated that a storm powerful enough to take out the building his New York every sixteen years.'
william-lemessurier  architecture  danger  risk  buildings  nyc  citicorp-center  wind  mass-dampers  physics 
april 2014 by jm
The Overprotected Kid - The Atlantic
Great article.
There is a big difference between avoiding major hazards and making every decision with the primary goal of optimizing child safety (or enrichment, or happiness). We can no more create the perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion, and a harmful one; remind yourself of that every time the panic rises.
child-safety  parenting  safety  kids  education  risk  danger  playgrounds  the-land 
march 2014 by jm
Schneier on Security: Excess Automobile Deaths as a Result of 9/11
The inconvenience of extra passenger screening and added costs at airports after 9/11 cause many short-haul passengers to drive to their destination instead, and, since airline travel is far safer than car travel, this has led to an increase of 500 U.S. traffic fatalities per year. Using DHS-mandated value of statistical life at $6.5 million, this equates to a loss of $3.2 billion per year, or $32 billion over the period 2002 to 2011 (Blalock et al. 2007).
risk  security  death  9-11  politics  screening  dhs  air-travel  driving  road-safety 
september 2013 by jm
One Mutation per 15 Cigarettes Smoked
aka, lung cancer develops after 50 pack-years of smoking. sobering thought
cancer  lung-cancer  smoking  tobacco  risk  mutation  from delicious
january 2010 by jm

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