It may well be the case that we cannot prevent this kind of research (although there is research and funded research in which ethics and intent should surely be considerations…). What concerns me is the persistence of stupid and prejudicial ideas whose sole utility is their applications for purposes of social judgement and control. People keep writing that many of these ideas ‘went away’ after WW2 as though all that murder was a lesson for our societies. But mostly, many eugenicists rebranded themselves as geneticists and carried on with their academic careers. So accountability has not been well served and the various professions that peddle social determinism seem to keep doing so to and for their own benefit. What we need is a more engaged critique of this sort of thing and its almost inevitable consequences.
Jonathan Frankle has the right idea: whether right or wrong, there’s no way to prevent this kind of research and it’s better that it be conducted and publicized in daylight than in the dark. The current and future availability of data on a scale previously impossible makes the potential payoff for success so large that research will continue, like it or not. If it’s socially banned, then we just won’t hear about it until Cambridge Analytica is successfully selling its data for use with saleable versions of these kinds of programs. I’m sure it sounds offensive to many people, as it does to me, but it does no good to rant and rave. As the past half century has shown only too well, If such things can be monetized they will be, one way or another.
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