Posts in Artificial Intelligence
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.

Full abstract and research here:

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Fairer machine learning in the real world: Mitigating discrimination without collecting sensitive data

Decisions based on algorithmic, machine learning models can be unfair, reproducing biases in historical data used to train them. While computational techniques are emerging to address aspects of these concerns through communities such as discrimination-aware data mining (DADM) and fairness, accountability and transparency machine learning (FATML), their practical implementation faces real-world challenges. For legal, institutional or commercial reasons, organisations might not hold the data on sensitive attributes such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability needed to diagnose and mitigate emergent indirect discrimination-by-proxy, such as redlining. Such organisations might also lack the knowledge and capacity to identify and manage fairness issues that are emergent properties of complex sociotechnical systems. This paper presents and discusses three potential approaches to deal with such knowledge and information deficits in the context of fairer machine learning. Trusted third parties could selectively store data necessary for performing discrimination discovery and incorporating fairness constraints into model-building in a privacy-preserving manner. Collaborative online platforms would allow diverse organisations to record, share and access contextual and experiential knowledge to promote fairness in machine learning systems. Finally, unsupervised learning and pedagogically interpretable algorithms might allow fairness hypotheses to be built for further selective testing and exploration.

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Equality of Opportunity in Supervised Learning

We propose a criterion for discrimination against a specified sensitive attribute in supervised learning, where the goal is to predict some target based on available features. Assuming data about the predictor, target, and membership in the protected group are available, we show how to optimally adjust any learned predictor so as to remove discrimination according to our definition. Our framework also improves incentives by shifting the cost of poor classification from disadvantaged groups to the decision maker, who can respond by improving the classification accuracy. 

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Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality

Women continue to remain underrepresented in male-dominated fields such as engineering, the natural sciences, and business. Research has identified a range of individual factors such as beliefs and stereotypes that affect these disparities but less is documented around institutional factors that perpetuate gender inequalities within the social structure itself (e.g., public policy or law). These institutional factors can also influence people’s perceptions and attitudes towards women in these fields, as well as other individual factors.

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Man is to Computer Programmer as Woman is to Homemaker? Debiasing Word Embeddings

The blind application of machine learning runs the risk of amplifying biases present in data. Such a danger is facing us with word embedding, a popular framework to represent text data as vectors which has been used in many machine learning and natural language processing tasks. We show that even word embeddings trained on Google News articles exhibit female/male gender stereotypes to a disturbing extent. This raises concerns because their widespread use, as we describe, often tends to amplify these biases. Geometrically, gender bias is first shown to be captured by a direction in the word embedding. Second, gender neutral words are shown to be linearly separable from gender definition words in the word embedding. Using these properties, we provide a methodology for modifying an embedding to remove gender stereotypes, such as the association between between the words receptionist and female, while maintaining desired associations such as between the words queen and female. We define metrics to quantify both direct and indirect gender biases in embeddings, and develop algorithms to "debias" the embedding. Using crowd-worker evaluation as well as standard benchmarks, we empirically demonstrate that our algorithms significantly reduce gender bias in embeddings while preserving the its useful properties such as the ability to cluster related concepts and to solve analogy tasks. The resulting embeddings can be used in applications without amplifying gender bias.

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