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Conceptual challenges for interpretable machine learning

Watson, David S; (2022) Conceptual challenges for interpretable machine learning. Synthese , 200 , Article 65. 10.1007/s11229-022-03485-5. Green open access

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As machine learning has gradually entered into ever more sectors of public and private life, there has been a growing demand for algorithmic explainability. How can we make the predictions of complex statistical models more intelligible to end users? A subdiscipline of computer science known as interpretable machine learning (IML) has emerged to address this urgent question. Numerous influential methods have been proposed, from local linear approximations to rule lists and counterfactuals. In this article, I highlight three conceptual challenges that are largely overlooked by authors in this area. I argue that the vast majority of IML algorithms are plagued by (1) ambiguity with respect to their true target; (2) a disregard for error rates and severe testing; and (3) an emphasis on product over process. Each point is developed at length, drawing on relevant debates in epistemology and philosophy of science. Examples and counterexamples from IML are considered, demonstrating how failure to acknowledge these problems can result in counterintuitive and potentially misleading explanations. Without greater care for the conceptual foundations of IML, future work in this area is doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

Type: Article
Title: Conceptual challenges for interpretable machine learning
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11229-022-03485-5
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-022-03485-5
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Artificial intelligence, Explainability, Scientific explanation, Causality, Severe testing
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Statistical Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10145074
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