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On how NOT to structure an argument - Conflicts of interests

Author: A Philosophical Mind
Mar 18th 2017
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A thesis on conflicts of interests
A bias is a preference or outlook to give or hold a different perspective, often accompanied by a refusal to consider the possible merits of alternative points of view.

All the biases, are something we ALL have (yes even me) :) - it has been evolutionary hardwired into us as a sort of shortcut to decision making when speed was more important than accuracy...

For instance - tending to see advocacy in your surroundings even when there are none:
When you lived on the savanna and could be eaten by a lion at any moment - the people who thought 'LION!!!' every time a twig broke or a shadow moved (even when there was no lion) were the ones who survived in the long run....

So, they are not bad as such... but in cases where accuracy (i.e. the truth) matters, then we need to be aware of them, so they can be countered and we can get it right, when we need to.

Note: No bias stand alone, but are all part of a larger network of biases either working with or against each other.

When it comes to biases, they are usually divided into 5 categories:
1. Cognitive biases
2. Conflicts of interest
3. Prejudices
4. Statistical biases
5. Contextual biases

In this blog, we will look at Conflicts of interests biases

Conflict of interests:
A conflict of interest is when a person or association has intersecting interests (financial, personal, etc.) which could potentially corrupt their decision making or in other words a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest with equal/similar or higher value to the primary interest.

Example:
A judge has a primary interest in being fair and follow the law in sentencing criminals.

A criminal comes before him/her and the fair sentence following the law would be to sentence him/her to 3 years in prison.

But the criminal is his/her daughter which enters a secondary interest (wanting to not see his/her daughter in prison) into the equation, making the judge less likely to find the criminal guilty or maybe institution a lesser sentence of community service.

Now when we talk about Conflicts of interest, there are 8 different categories:
1. Bribery
2. Funding bias
3. Lobbying
4. Shilling
5. Self-regulation
6. Match fixing
7. Insider trading
8. Favoritism

Bribery:
Bribery is the act of giving money, goods or other forms of recompense to a recipient in exchange for an alteration of their behavior (to the benefit/interest of the giver) that the recipient would otherwise not alter.

Example:
A politician has a primary interest in regulating the banks so the economy doesn't crash.

The banks all start to 'donate' to the politician's campaign fund which enters a secondary interest (wanting money for his/her campaign to keep his/her job and get reelected) into the equation, making the politician less likely to introduce legislation, like regulations, which the banks wouldn't like.

Funding bias:
Funding bias, also known as sponsorship bias, funding outcome bias, funding publication bias, and funding effect, refers to the tendency of a scientific study to support the interests of the study's financial sponsor.

Example:
A scientist has a primary interest in finding, and reporting the truth about a subject.

A company hires the scientist to do a study on the safety on one of their new products they want to bring to market which enters a secondary interest (wanting to keep his/her job, or even get hired by another company in the future) into the equation, making the scientist more likely to make sure the study results comes out in favor of the product.

Lobbying:
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in their daily life,

Example:
A politician has a primary interest in strengthening the EPA to make drugs safer for his/her constituents.

The Pharmaceutical companies send their lobbyist group to the politician using various of the other logical fallacies, biases, etc. to influence him/her to not strengthen the EPA which introduces a secondary interest (being convinced wrongly it's a bad idea, or wanting to keep his job, or...) into the equation, making the politician less likely to strengthen the EPA.

Shilling:
Shilling is the act of placing a shill, a plant a stooge, etc. which is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.

Example:
A skeptic YouTuber (let's call him The Smamazing Smatheist) has a primary interest in telling the truth, so he won't lose the trust of his audience.

A social app (let's call it Smandid) gets him to promote their product, which goes against everything the skeptic YouTuber normally stands for, and sign a contract that forbids him to speak negatively about the product and company for 2 years which introduces a secondary interest (not wanting to give back the money, not wanting legal action taken against him, etc.) into the equation, making him send out video after video wrongly proclaiming how great the product is and response video after response video to anyone criticizing him.

Self-regulation:
Self-regulation is the process whereby an organization monitors its own adherence to legal, ethical, or safety standards.

Example:
A Government has a primary interest in companies not polluting.

A polluting company gets tasked with making sure it stops polluting which introduces a secondary interest (wanting to save money by keep polluting while wanting to keep it hidden from the public) into the equation, making it more likely that the company will keep polluting but put more effort into hiding that fact.

Match fixing:
In organized sports, match fixing when a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game.

Example:
An athlete has a primary interest in winning.

A gambler gives the athlete money to lose which introduces a secondary interest (wanting to keep the money), making it more likely the athlete will loose on purpose instead of trying to win.

Insider trading:
Insider trading is the trading of a public company's stock or other securities (such as bonds or stock options) by individuals with access to nonpublic information about the company.

Example:
A Government has a primary interest in keeping the stock market fair so it doesn't crash.

A trader on the stock market gets information not available to the public giving him/her an advantage which introduces a secondary interest (wanting to make more money by keep doing it, and others to do the same, skewing the stock marked) into the equation, making the market more likely to crash.

Favoritism:
Favoritism, sometimes known as in-group favoritism, or in-group bias, is a pattern of favoring members of one's in-group over out-group members.

Example:
A restaurant has a primary interest in its customers not being discriminated against.

The restaurant hires a feminist manager which introduces a secondary interest (not wanting to serve men) into the equation, making it more likely half the restaurants customers won't be served.

Good now you know what your (and my) flaws are, so now you can identify them in others and avoid them in yourself :)

Now go forth and find the truth...

A Philosophical Mind