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katfish's picture
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Joined: 01/09/2013

We have a Foldit podcast recording next week with Aaron, one of our fantastic Baker Lab scientists.

Have a burning question you're dying to ask? Post it here and we will make sure to include as many as possible during the interview!

- katfish

Joined: 08/31/2011
Groups: :)

What is the ethical contract for this data to not be used for state or corporate level criminality?

for example but not limited to:

- ID or persecution of DNA or protein types in people
- exploitation or dangerous experimentation of plants and animals, even simply containment of novel mutations / designs
- invention or application of novel pathogens ( cf. creutzfeldt jakob disease... misfolded proteins may not match our present definition of life, but they are still bioactive by their nature )
- invention or application of race / DNA / minority specific pathogens

basically i want to know that by playing foldit, we are not aiding and abetting the database of some future shenanigans, as when the very mechanics of our universe get locked down, we become vulnerable to biohacking by whomever has this data. therefore i want to see at least some token ethical EULA not just for playing, but for access to gleaned data.



Joined: 03/20/2012
Groups: None
Re: Ethics...

Sooo... any chance of you asking a question that has at least "some" chance of making it onto the podcast???

Read the last line on this page.

Like any science... anywhere, there is always the chance that we may be "Creating & (or) Preventing Strategic Surprise". Just take a deep breath, and try to concentrate on the GOOD things we've done as a community... you might just come up with a question worth asking. :)

Joined: 08/31/2011
Groups: :)
how rude!

could you be more arrogant and rude? i think that would really help the discussion /s

i do concentrate on good, i am one of the worker bees that helps make this world a better place for all of us. and with that comes great responsibility. if i should want to work towards accountability and insurance that our work continues to be used for good, that is my right. i seriously question the blind development of GMO for example. in the 90s we were still talking about ethics panels and containment, now where has that discussion gone? I think it is worth having, and I am not alone. just ask the freak corn showing up in Oregon. I am also not strictly against GMO, but one does not need a polar position to *think* about things.

putting your head in the sand while you hand off dangerous technology to strangers just makes you complicit in my opinion. but do i come here and rail at the good people working towards science? no, i ask a Question, to engage discussion, and perhaps even productive progress towards encouraging awareness of the power we wield as scientists and creators of this world, for better or for worse. I ask because I would like peace of mind, and more than that some sense of responsibility as we march into this brave new world of tech. The things that are possible now are just amazing, but I don't think it is any more responsible to release ancient bacteria from the bottom of a lake than to map out every blueprint of life and give no thought to containment and other such matters. Now is it cool that we can drill into the earth, is it cool that we fold proteins that help medicine? Yes, of course! But those things can be true, and even pursued, with a little additional consideration to the consequences, and how to manage them.

So, if you don't like the question, thanks for the petulant and childish rudeness. That really made your voice heard, and has only strengthened my concern for a blind hive of obedient bots like yourself obeying whatever orders they are given just because it is too uncomfortable to consider the whole reality, which unfortunately includes sticky situations along with all the fun resources and tools we get out of such endeavours.

I love Feynman's talks on science, he is so filled with glee and the joy that we all have for learning. But wouldn't it be nice if had put more effort into building safety and accountability into the science developed for destruction?

"Feynman alludes to his thoughts on the justification for getting involved in the Manhattan project in The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. He felt the possibility of Nazi Germany developing the bomb before the Allies was a compelling reason to help with its development for the U.S. He goes on to say, however, that it was an error on his part not to reconsider the situation once Germany was defeated. In the same publication, Feynman also talks about his worries in the atomic bomb age, feeling for some considerable time that there was a high risk that the bomb would be used again soon, so that it was pointless to build for the future. Later he describes this period as a "depression.""

Let's not have such regrets after the fact.

What is so scary about a EULA with ethical accountability? Or much less, having a *conversation* about it? Do you personally know every person with access to this data? no. Do you personally comprehend every potentiality this data enables? I don't. Hence the question. It didn't say ask what colour you want your next button to be. You can go to dev chat for that. I understand you want to just enjoy your "game", and your perfect blithe world that will never break as long as you look the other way. But I have additional priorities besides personal ego and pleasure.

And how curious that rather than 'ask an educated question' yourself likely to make it onto the podcast, that you attack me. you think you can talk to me like this because what, you are better than some internet stranger who says something you didn't like? thanks for revealing what kind of person you are. arrogant and rude.

gee maybe we should give you access to dangerous technology! o wait, precedent is kinda the whole point. you obviously don't like me. would you like *me* to have access to all the dangerous biotech? how about a couple tweaked generations down the line? The point with heavy tech or law is not just whether you or i are a good person or do good things, but can you guarantee everyone is for all eternity? Why do you think there was such a kerfuffle about releasing biohaz papers to publication? There needs to be thought to containment of this new tech, mark my words. DARPA can you hear me now?

=> Carefully license access to major biodata, so there is some leverage *when* not if it is misused. One benefit of a company developing new tech is the ability to employ contracts to cover and limit use cases which law has not caught up with, particularly things that affect a global community. Why do you think iTunes makes you sign a statement saying you won't use their tech for nuclear dev? This conversation is not new...


"But just shut up i just wanna listen to mah music, why you gotta go making it so complicated, who in their right mind would use itunes for evil, what are they gonna do turn the sound up til the atoms vibrate real fastlike?"

The point is that we can't imagine the consequences. I think on that we agree, there is a chance anywhere any time for shenanigans, in any field. The best we can do is meager attempts to contain and raise awareness, ask little questions like what about ethics. If you don't want to be part of that conversation, I never asked you. You are free to ask something else. But attacking me? Not cool.

For peace sake, you try to help be part of the community doing GOOD and this is the thanks you get. Enjoy your playground everybody, if I don't see an ethics EULA or some constructive answer, I'm out. Maybe you can all fold yourselves a little blindfold to go with your ignorance souffle.

Joined: 08/31/2011
Groups: :)

I was looking for the following itunes clause, since the one I posted is nuanced differently, here's the other:

"Licensee also agrees that Licensee will not use the Apple Software for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons."

And I am sorry, sorry I asked a question, sorry to even bother defending it. But you know what, I have wanted to write articles praising foldit, but can't bring myself to advocate a tech I don't myself understand the consequences of. I wonder every time I play, am I helping to build a tool that will not be properly contained? I am sorry for feeling responsible for my actions, but I do.

To that end, I am sorry for my tone. I don't have a thick skin for random people being unnecessarily rude in what I thought was a civil and academic forum. I wish you all the best, and if truly nobody wants to stick up for ethics, I'll kindly show myself out.


katfish's picture
User offline. Last seen 7 years 8 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 01/09/2013
Wanted to jump in here to

Wanted to jump in here to post a follow up! machinelves, those are all fantastic questions and I agree that they make excellent topics of discussion when thinking about science as a whole. The Terms of Service should be a good place to begin looking into the topic with regards to Foldit in particular. It should help clarify a lot of the ins and outs about how Foldit works.

I'd love to have these questions covered in the podcast, but I don't think they're a good fit for this particular one. Since we have a Baker Lab scientist on the podcast I'd like to focus on his area of expertise (Foldit puzzles and results!) I will be sure to keep these questions on my radar in case they are a good fit for a future show. Thanks again for posting!

Since the recording is happening in about 20 minutes I'm going to go ahead and close this request. Thanks!


Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
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