Library Subscription: Guest
Begell Digital Portal Begell Digital Library eBooks Journals References & Proceedings Research Collections
Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2013008091
pages 91-102

Decision Technologies in Medical Research and Practice: Practical Considerations, Ethical Implications, and the Need for Dialectic Evaluation

P. Justin Rossi
University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, FL, USA
Philipp Novotny
Generation Research Program, Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munchen, GER
Peyton Paulick
Generation Research Program, Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munchen, GER; Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA, Whitaker International Program
Herbert Plischke
Generation Research Program, Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munchen, GER; Department of Applied Sciences and Mechatronics, Hochschule fur Angewandt Wissenschaften, Munchen, GER
Nikola B. Kohls
Generation Research Program, Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munchen, GER; Division Integrative Health Promotions, Coburg University of Applied Sciences, Coburg, GER
James Giordano
Generation Research Program, Human Science Center, Ludwig-Maximilians Universitat, Munchen, GER; Department of Neurology and Neuroethics Studies Program, Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington DC, USA

ABSTRACT

The use of computer programs to generate hypotheses for basic science research has been the touchstone of recent and growing debate. These programs engage amounts of scientific data that are insurmountable for human cognitive processing, prompting questions of whether the capability for such computer-enabled hypothesis generation can and/or will fundamentally alter creativity in scientific research and discovery. The technology employed for hypothesis generation is part of a family of computer-based algorithms that confer putatively enhanced ability to discover, predict, and recommend novel and fruitful interrelations within and across various types and vast ranges of data. We refer to these technical tools as "decision technologies" because they simulate, automate, and integrate cognitive tasks via the employment of computational algorithms and forms of artificial intelligence to parse the most "beneficial" courses of action given an extensive diversity of potential options. As decision technologies become more relevant across a range of human enterprises, important questions that span technical and ethical domains arise. How can we delimit the power of these technologies while maintaining the autonomy and moral responsibility of the human decision makers? What are the responsibilities for incorrect or harmful outcomes fostered by these technologies, and who shall bear them? And how should ethical discourse proceed to effectively oversee and guide the development and use of these technologies in medical research, clinical practice, and more broadly in public life? Using "machine science" as the exemplar and starting point, additional technical and ethical issues are discussed here, and an ethically dialectic approach to assessing, directing and remaining prepared for the contingencies generated by decision technologies is presented.