Clinical applications of machine learning algorithms: beyond the black box

Journal paper
David S Watson, J Krutzinna, Ian N Bruce, Christopher EM Griffiths, Iain B McInnes, Michael R Barnes, Luciano Floridi
BMJ 2019; 364 :l886

To maximise the clinical benefits of machine learning algorithms, we need to rethink our approach to explanation.

Enabling Posthumous Medical Data Donation: An Appeal for the Ethical Utilisation of Personal Health Data

Journal paper
J Krutzinna, M Taddeo, L Floridi
Sci Eng Ethics (2018).

This article argues that personal medical data should be made available for scientific research, by enabling and encouraging individuals to donate their medical records once deceased, similar to the way in which they can already donate organs or bodies. This research is part of a project on posthumous medical data donation developed by the Digital Ethics Lab at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. Ten arguments are provided to support the need to foster posthumous medical data donation. Two major risks are also identified—harm to others, and lack of control over the use of data—which could follow from unregulated donation of medical data. The argument that record-based medical research should proceed without the need to secure informed consent is rejected, and instead a voluntary and participatory approach to using personal medical data should be followed. The analysis concludes by stressing the need to develop an ethical code for data donation to minimise the risks, and offers five foundational principles for ethical medical data donation suggested as a draft code.

Atypical employment and disability in the digital economy: accountability gap leaves disabled app developers’ rights unprotected

Journal paper
J Krutzinna, L Floridi
Law, Innovation and Technology, 2018, 10:2, 185-196

Although the employment situation of disabled people has widely been identified as in need of improvement, progress in this area remains slow. While some progress has been made in including the physically or sensory disabled in the workplace, other types of disability have been largely neglected. This applies particularly to disabled workers in atypical employment, such as those whose workplace is the Digital Economy. In this article, we discuss the case of disabled app developers as a significant example of how the current regulatory framework fails to be inclusive in its attempts to protect the rights of disabled Digital Economy workers. We identify two problems that are at the heart of this: first, a continuing failure to collect relevant and comprehensive data on disability, and second, a lack of accountability towards disabled workers in atypical employment. Consequently, we call for better data collection and argue for urgent policy changes to close the existing accountability gap.

Beyond an Open Future: Cognitive Enhancement and the Welfare of Children

Journal paper
Jenny I. Krutzinna
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics Volume 26, Issue 2 April 2017, pp. 313-325

Discussions about the ethical permissibility of pediatric cognitive enhancement frequently revolve around arguments about welfare, and often include an appeal to the child’s right to an open future. Both proponents and opponents of cognitive enhancement claim that their respective positions best serve the interests of the child by promoting an open future. This article argues that this right to an open future argument only captures some of the risks to the welfare of children, therefore requiring a broader ethical approach. Further, it suggests that a thorough moral assessment of the ends pursued is needed before concluding on the moral permissibility of cognitive enhancement in children, which ultimately hinges on the effect on the overall welfare of the child, beyond an open future.

Cognitively enhanced children: the case for special needs and special regulatory attention

Journal paper
Jenny Krutzinna
Law, Innovation and Technology, Volume 8, Issue 2, November 2016

Despite the welfare of the child being afforded special legal and moral importance, it appears that the law is currently not objective in its application to children. There is an undeniable link between healthy child development and education, with the latter greatly impacting on mental health and general well-being. Drawing on the example of the differential treatment of gifted children in an educational context, I argue that the legal framework with regard to learning disabilities and cognitive impairments operates contrary to the proclaimed goal of protecting and promoting the welfare of the child. This, I argue, constitutes unjustified discrimination, especially since there is a case to be made that highly cognitively able children could be considered disabled under a social model of disability. Whilst the group of affected children is small at present, developments in cognitive enhancement technologies mean that many more children might in the future be affected. Since the law currently fails gifted children, it will by analogy also likely fail cognitively enhanced children.

Can a Welfarist Approach be Used to Justify a Moral Duty to Cognitively Enhance Children?

Journal paper
Jenny Krutzinna
Bioethics, Volume 30, Issue 7, February 2016, pp 528-535

The desire to self-improve is probably as old as humanity: most of us want to be smarter, more athletic, more beautiful, or more talented. However, in the light of an ever increasing array of possibilities to enhance our capacities, clarity about the purpose and goal of such efforts becomes crucial. This is especially true when decisions are made for children, who are exposed to their parents’ plans and desires for them under a notion of increasing wellbeing. In recent years, cognitive enhancement has become a popular candidate for the promotion of wellbeing; welfarists even impose a moral duty on parents to cognitively enhance their children for the sake of their wellbeing. In this article, I aim to show that welfarists are mistaken in inferring such a moral obligation from the potential benefit of cognitive enhancement. In support of this, I offer three arguments: (a) the vagueness of wellbeing as a theoretical concept means it becomes impossible to apply in practice; (b) the link between cognition and wellbeing is far from unequivocal; and (c) quantification issues with regard to cognition make a duty impossible to discharge. In conclusion, I reject the welfarist approach as a justification for a parental moral obligation to cognitively enhance children.