Counterfactuals operationalised through algorithmic recourse have become a powerful tool to make artificial intelligence systems explainable. Conceptually, given an individual classified as y -- the factual -- we seek actions such that their prediction becomes the desired class y' -- the counterfactual. This process offers algorithmic recourse that is (1) easy to customise and interpret, and (2) directly aligned with the goals of each individual. However, the properties of a "good" counterfactual are still largely debated; it remains an open challenge to effectively locate a counterfactual along with its corresponding recourse. Some strategies use gradient-driven methods, but these offer no guarantees on the feasibility of the recourse and are open to adversarial attacks on carefully created manifolds. This can lead to unfairness and lack of robustness. Other methods are data-driven, which mostly addresses the feasibility problem at the expense of privacy, security and secrecy as they require access to the entire training data set. Here, we introduce LocalFACE, a model-agnostic technique that composes feasible and actionable counterfactual explanations using locally-acquired information at each step of the algorithmic recourse. Our explainer preserves the privacy of users by only leveraging data that it specifically requires to construct actionable algorithmic recourse, and protects the model by offering transparency solely in the regions deemed necessary for the intervention.
Counterfactual explanations are the de facto standard when tasked with interpreting decisions of (opaque) predictive models. Their generation is often subject to algorithmic and domain-specific constraints -- such as density-based feasibility for the former and attribute (im)mutability or directionality of change for the latter -- that aim to maximise their real-life utility. In addition to desiderata with respect to the counterfactual instance itself, the existence of a viable path connecting it with the factual data point, known as algorithmic recourse, has become an important technical consideration. While both of these requirements ensure that the steps of the journey as well as its destination are admissible, current literature neglects the multiplicity of such counterfactual paths. To address this shortcoming we introduce the novel concept of explanatory multiverse that encompasses all the possible counterfactual journeys and shows how to navigate, reason about and compare the geometry of these paths -- their affinity, branching, divergence and possible future convergence -- with two methods: vector spaces and graphs. Implementing this (interactive) explanatory process grants explainees more agency by allowing them to select counterfactuals based on the properties of the journey leading to them in addition to their absolute differences.
Ante-hoc interpretability has become the holy grail of explainable machine learning for high-stakes domains such as healthcare; however, this notion is elusive, lacks a widely-accepted definition and depends on the deployment context. It can refer to predictive models whose structure adheres to domain-specific constraints, or ones that are inherently transparent. The latter notion assumes observers who judge this quality, whereas the former presupposes them to have technical and domain expertise, in certain cases rendering such models unintelligible. Additionally, its distinction from the less desirable post-hoc explainability, which refers to methods that construct a separate explanatory model, is vague given that transparent predictors may still require (post-)processing to yield satisfactory explanatory insights. Ante-hoc interpretability is thus an overloaded concept that comprises a range of implicit properties, which we unpack in this paper to better understand what is needed for its safe deployment across high-stakes domains. To this end, we outline model- and explainer-specific desiderata that allow us to navigate its distinct realisations in view of the envisaged application and audience.
Group fairness is achieved by equalising prediction distributions between protected sub-populations; individual fairness requires treating similar individuals alike. These two objectives, however, are incompatible when a scoring model is calibrated through discontinuous probability functions, where individuals can be randomly assigned an outcome determined by a fixed probability. This procedure may provide two similar individuals from the same protected group with classification odds that are disparately different -- a clear violation of individual fairness. Assigning unique odds to each protected sub-population may also prevent members of one sub-population from ever receiving equal chances of a positive outcome to another, which we argue is another type of unfairness called individual odds. We reconcile all this by constructing continuous probability functions between group thresholds that are constrained by their Lipschitz constant. Our solution preserves the model's predictive power, individual fairness and robustness while ensuring group fairness.
Users of recommender systems tend to differ in their level of interaction with these algorithms, which may affect the quality of recommendations they receive and lead to undesirable performance disparity. In this paper we investigate under what conditions the performance for data-rich and data-poor users diverges for a collection of popular evaluation metrics applied to ten benchmark datasets. We find that Precision is consistently higher for data-rich users across all the datasets; Mean Average Precision is comparable across user groups but its variance is large; Recall yields a counter-intuitive result where the algorithm performs better for data-poor than for data-rich users, which bias is further exacerbated when negative item sampling is employed during evaluation. The final observation suggests that as users interact more with recommender systems, the quality of recommendations they receive degrades (when measured by Recall). Our insights clearly show the importance of an evaluation protocol and its influence on the reported results when studying recommender systems.
Explainable artificial intelligence techniques are evolving at breakneck speed, but suitable evaluation approaches currently lag behind. With explainers becoming increasingly complex and a lack of consensus on how to assess their utility, it is challenging to judge the benefit and effectiveness of different explanations. To address this gap, we take a step back from complex predictive algorithms and instead look into explainability of simple mathematical models. In this setting, we aim to assess how people perceive comprehensibility of different model representations such as mathematical formulation, graphical representation and textual summarisation (of varying scope). This allows diverse stakeholders -- engineers, researchers, consumers, regulators and the like -- to judge intelligibility of fundamental concepts that more complex artificial intelligence explanations are built from. This position paper charts our approach to establishing appropriate evaluation methodology as well as a conceptual and practical framework to facilitate setting up and executing relevant user studies.
Over the past decade explainable artificial intelligence has evolved from a predominantly technical discipline into a field that is deeply intertwined with social sciences. Insights such as human preference for contrastive -- more precisely, counterfactual -- explanations have played a major role in this transition, inspiring and guiding the research in computer science. Other observations, while equally important, have received much less attention. The desire of human explainees to communicate with artificial intelligence explainers through a dialogue-like interaction has been mostly neglected by the community. This poses many challenges for the effectiveness and widespread adoption of such technologies as delivering a single explanation optimised according to some predefined objectives may fail to engender understanding in its recipients and satisfy their unique needs given the diversity of human knowledge and intention. Using insights elaborated by Niklas Luhmann and, more recently, Elena Esposito we apply social systems theory to highlight challenges in explainable artificial intelligence and offer a path forward, striving to reinvigorate the technical research in this direction. This paper aims to demonstrate the potential of systems theoretical approaches to communication in understanding problems and limitations of explainable artificial intelligence.
Explainability techniques for data-driven predictive models based on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms allow us to better understand the operation of such systems and help to hold them accountable. New transparency approaches are developed at breakneck speed, enabling us to peek inside these black boxes and interpret their decisions. Many of these techniques are introduced as monolithic tools, giving the impression of one-size-fits-all and end-to-end algorithms with limited customisability. Nevertheless, such approaches are often composed of multiple interchangeable modules that need to be tuned to the problem at hand to produce meaningful explanations. This paper introduces a collection of hands-on training materials -- slides, video recordings and Jupyter Notebooks -- that provide guidance through the process of building and evaluating bespoke modular surrogate explainers for tabular data. These resources cover the three core building blocks of this technique: interpretable representation composition, data sampling and explanation generation.
Predictive systems, in particular machine learning algorithms, can take important, and sometimes legally binding, decisions about our everyday life. In most cases, however, these systems and decisions are neither regulated nor certified. Given the potential harm that these algorithms can cause, their qualities such as fairness, accountability and transparency (FAT) are of paramount importance. To ensure high-quality, fair, transparent and reliable predictive systems, we developed an open source Python package called FAT Forensics. It can inspect important fairness, accountability and transparency aspects of predictive algorithms to automatically and objectively report them back to engineers and users of such systems. Our toolbox can evaluate all elements of a predictive pipeline: data (and their features), models and predictions. Published under the BSD 3-Clause open source licence, FAT Forensics is opened up for personal and commercial usage.
* Journal of Open Source Software, 5(49), 1904 (2020)
"Simply Logical -- Intelligent Reasoning by Example" by Peter Flach was first published by John Wiley in 1994. It could be purchased as book-only or with a 3.5 inch diskette containing the SWI-Prolog programmes printed in the book (for various operating systems). In 2007 the copyright reverted back to the author at which point the book and programmes were made freely available online; the print version is no longer distributed through John Wiley publishers. In 2015, as a pilot, we ported most of the original book into an online, interactive website using SWI-Prolog's SWISH platform. Since then, we launched the Simply Logical open source organisation committed to maintaining a suite of freely available interactive online educational resources about Artificial Intelligence and Logic Programming with Prolog. With the advent of new educational technologies we were inspired to rebuild the book from the ground up using the Jupyter Book platform enhanced with a collection of bespoke plugins that implement, among other things, interactive SWI-Prolog code blocks that can be executed directly in a web browser. This new version is more modular, easier to maintain, and can be split into custom teaching modules, in addition to being modern-looking, visually appealing, and compatible with a range of (mobile) devices of varying screen sizes.