Posts in Accountability of AI
The Intuitive Appeal of Explainable Machines


As algorithmic decision-making has become synonymous with inexplicable decision-making, we have become obsessed with opening the black box. This Article responds to a growing chorus of legal scholars and policymakers demanding explainable machines. Their instinct makes sense; what is unexplainable is usually unaccountable. But the calls for explanation are a reaction to two distinct but often conflated properties of machine-learning models: inscrutability and non intuitiveness. Inscrutability makes one unable to fully grasp the model, while non intuitiveness means one cannot understand why the model’s rules are what they are. Solving inscrutability alone will not resolve law and policy concerns; accountability relates not merely to how models work, but whether they are justified.

In this Article, we first explain what makes models inscrutable as a technical matter. We then explore two important examples of existing regulation-by-explanation and techniques within machine learning for explaining inscrutable decisions. We show that while these techniques might allow machine learning to comply with existing laws, compliance will rarely be enough to assess whether decision-making rests on a justifiable basis.

We argue that calls for explainable machines have failed to recognize the connection between intuition and evaluation and the limitations of such an approach. A belief in the value of explanation for justification assumes that if only a model is explained, problems will reveal themselves intuitively. Machine learning, however, can uncover relationships that are both non-intuitive and legitimate, frustrating this mode of normative assessment. If justification requires understanding why the model’s rules are what they are, we should seek explanations of the process behind a model’s development and use, not just explanations of the model itself. This Article illuminates the explanation-intuition dynamic and offers documentation as an alternative approach to evaluating machine learning models.

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ETHICALLY ALIGNED DESIGN A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems - IEEE

Introduction As the use and impact of autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS) become pervasive, we need to establish societal and policy guidelines in order for such systems to remain human-centric, serving humanity’s values and ethical principles. These systems have to behave in a way that is beneficial to people beyond reaching functional goals and addressing technical problems. This will allow for an elevated level of trust between people and technology that is needed for its fruitful, pervasive use in our daily lives. To be able to contribute in a positive, non-dogmatic way, we, the techno-scientific communities, need to enhance our self-reflection, we need to have an open and honest debate around our imaginary, our sets of explicit or implicit values, our institutions, symbols and representations. Eudaimonia, as elucidated by Aristotle, is a practice that defines human well-being as the highest virtue for a society. Translated roughly as “flourishing,” the benefits of eudaimonia begin by conscious contemplation, where ethical considerations help us define how we wish to live. Whether our ethical practices are Western (Aristotelian, Kantian), Eastern (Shinto, Confucian), African (Ubuntu), or from a different tradition, by creating autonomous and intelligent systems that explicitly honor inalienable human rights and the beneficial values of their users, we can prioritize the increase of human well-being as our metric for progress in the algorithmic age. Measuring and honoring the potential of holistic economic prosperity should become more important than pursuing one-dimensional goals like productivity increase or GDP growth.

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Accountability of AI Under the Law: The Role of Explanation

The ubiquity of systems using artificial intelligence or “AI” has brought increasing attention to how those systems should be regulated. The choice of how to regulate AI systems will require care. AI systems have the potential to synthesize large amounts of data, allowing for greater levels of personalization and precision than ever before—applications range from clinical decision support to autonomous driving and predictive policing. That said, our AIs continue to lag in common sense reasoning [McCarthy, 1960], and thus there exist legitimate concerns about the intentional and unintentional negative consequences of AI systems [Bostrom, 2003, Amodei et al., 2016, Sculley et al., 2014].

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