Are Non-AI Decisions “Open to Inspection?”

Ethics in designing AI Algorithms — part 1 by Michael Greenwood.

From the post:

As our civilization becomes more and more reliant upon computers and other intelligent devices, there arises specific moral issue that designers and programmers will inevitably be forced to address. Among these concerns is trust. Can we trust that the AI we create will do what it was designed to without any bias? There’s also the issue of incorruptibility. Can the AI be fooled into doing something unethical? Can it be programmed to commit illegal or immoral acts? Transparency comes to mind as well. Will the motives of the programmer or the AI be clear? Or will there be ambiguity in the interactions between humans and AI? The list of questions could go on and on.

Imagine if the government uses a machine-learning algorithm to recommend applications for student loan approvals. A rejected student and or parent could file a lawsuit alleging that the algorithm was designed with racial bias against some student applicants. The defense could be that this couldn’t be possible since it was intentionally designed so that it wouldn’t have knowledge of the race of the person applying for the student loan. This could be the reason for making a system like this in the first place — to assure that ethnicity will not be a factor as it could be with a human approving the applications. But suppose some racial profiling was proven in this case.

If directed evolution produced the AI algorithm, then it may be impossible to understand why, or even how. Maybe the AI algorithm uses the physical address data of candidates as one of the criteria in making decisions. Maybe they were born in or at some time lived in poverty‐stricken regions, and that in fact, a majority of those applicants who fit these criteria happened to be minorities. We wouldn’t be able to find out any of this if we didn’t have some way to audit the systems we are designing. It will become critical for us to design AI algorithms that are not just robust and scalable, but also easily open to inspection.

While I can appreciate the desire to make AI algorithms that are “…easily open to inspection…,” I feel compelled to point out that human decision making has resisted such openness for thousands of years.

There are the tales we tell each other about “rational” decision making but those aren’t how decisions are made, rather they are how we justify decisions made to ourselves and others. Not exactly the same thing.

Recall the parole granting behavior of israeli judges that depended upon the proximity to their last meal. Certainly all of those judges would argue for their “rational” decisions but meal time was a better predictor than any other. (Extraneous factors in judicial decisions)

My point being that if we struggle to even articulate the actual basis for non-AI decisions, where is our model for making AI decisions “open to inspection?” What would that look like?

You could say, for example, no discrimination based on race. OK, but that’s not going to work if you want to purposely setup scholarships for minority students.

When you object, “…that’s not what I meant! You know what I mean!…,” well, I might, but try convincing an AI that has no social context of what you “meant.”

The openness of AI decisions to inspection is an important issue but the human record in that regard isn’t encouraging.

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