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Comment Re: fucking hell that's horrendous (Score 1) 153

I think the government exists fundamentally to protect freedoms. That means that the freedoms of millions of innocent bystanders are more important than the desire to capture one miscreant, even if they have created one victim. One murder sucks, but it sucks less than denying privacy to everyone in the country.

Government exists to realise the vision of whatever a nation's population agrees it should look like. They don't serve the people, they are an embodiment of the collective will of the people, (for better or worse and with the obvious difficulties with corruption etc). Protecting freedom is obviously an element of this, but must be one of a number of competing priorities.

Comment Re:Your grocery store experiments on you ... (Score 1) 161

... and your testing is useless, because you've just tainted the results by revealing far too much about the scenario. All of your subjects now act differently knowing they're being judged on their responses.

In other words, academics are jealous that real companies get to do more science than they do.

Ha! Actually yes I am jealous that Google has better health data than we do and seems to be allowed to use it in ways that would not be 'ethical' or even legal for academic health scientists.

Comment Re:Flash panic (Score 1) 161

You are right. I just checked my School's ethical research code, and there is an exemption under the 'exceptional circumstance' that taking informed consent is not possible because of a need for concealment. These studies still require ethical review though and the ethics panel will decide whether or not the concealment is justified. I had not encountered this before in my own work and I should not have generalized.

Comment Re:Flash panic (Score 1) 161

Do academic demographers get "informed consent" before processing census data? What about crime statistics? Network security incidents?

You are talking about aggregated data which is a bit different. Its a current debate as to whether anonymous routine data should be available to researchers at the individual level without the explicit consent of the people involved. I would say it should be but many argue otherwise.

Comment Re:Facebook evil, OKC less bad experiments (Score 1) 161

Facebook's experiments bother me more than OKCupid's. They're deliberately manipulating which news stories their readers see in order to affect their mood, and seeing how that affects the readers' behavior. That seems mean and dishonest. (Of course, I didn't know Facebook had news, so I'm not in their target market anyway, but it still seems mean.)

I agree that the Facebook incident is much more worrying than what OKCupid is doing.

OKCupid's a dating site, which means that all their "compatibility" scores are pretty much guesswork anyway, assisted by a lot of measurement, so an occasional suggestion of "maybe you two should see if you want to date" to people they normally wouldn't match up isn't that much perturbation of their approach anyway, and "whoops, pictures are broken, why don't you try talking first instead of just looking at pictures" is just fine, and both of them give them a bit of data outside the ranges they'd normally be collecting from - perhaps there are people that would get along well who they haven't been matching up. (I'm not in their market either, fortunately.)

Your post raises another interesting (and IMO ridiculous) issue though, which is that just because providing either of two different services (either pictures or no pictures) to all of your clients is perfectly fine - randomizing people to receiving one or the other is often considered not to be ethically sound.

Comment Re:Flash panic (Score 1) 161

I think the dividing line between when you need to get informed consent is when the experiment begins to make people do things they wouldn't have done anyway. Tweaking how people get paired up for dates is fine if they were looking for a date anyway. Forcing them to go on a date when they weren't planning to would require informed consent (and probably compensation).

Not really - even purely observational academic studies need ethical approval and informed consent. I really am confused about where the diving line should be between academic and commercial work.

Comment Re:Flash panic (Score 5, Insightful) 161

World discovers A/B testing
Freaks out
Until the next reality tv show comes on

When we (academics) do experiments on people however trivial we usually have to go through ethical clearance, get informed consent etc. I think its skipping that part that people are uncomfortable about. Of course that happens every day in the business world (and even did before computer scientists rediscovered basic experiments and called it A/B testing), but in some of these cases it does start to look like an academic psychology experiment. Perhaps use of OK Cupid implies consent to be experimented on but I doubt that consent is collected in a transparent way.

Comment Re:Freedom of Expression... (Score 2) 424

And you came to that exactly?

I'd say it has to do with the breakneck speed at which they've re-criminalized blasphemy, and stopped people from stating their point of view especially when it's "contrary to political correctness." Europe is pretty good at that, I can think of a dozen cases off the top of my head from Germany to France to the UK.

Any that weren't made up by the Daily Mail?

Comment Re:Plumber (Score 1) 509

"I don't see toilets going away anytime soon.."

There's a (Yorkshire?) saying:
"Where there's muck there's brass."

I don't see Nursing Assistants being replaced by robots or outsourced to 3rd world countries either

True but hardly a career to be recommended (worthy but terribly rewarded). How about doctor?

Comment Re:Plumber (Score 2) 509

Pastor, plumber, electrician, and dentist were listed in an article I read recently.

The problem is that they all presume a functioning middle class which has money to pay for their services.

We could get into a situation where 50% of the population can't find jobs unless we pass lower overtime laws (32 hour week max) or provide a basic income to everyone from taxes on those who are working or some other entirely new approach.

It's really a paradigm shift coming.

If things get to the point where the richest country in the world can't pay for dental care for the majority of the population then I think unemployment would be the least of your worries.

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