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Avoiding Discrimination through Causal Reasoning
Niki Kilbertus · Mateo Rojas Carulla · Giambattista Parascandolo · Moritz Hardt · Dominik Janzing · Bernhard Schölkopf

Wed Dec 06:30 PM -- 10:30 PM PST @ Pacific Ballroom #75 #None

Recent work on fairness in machine learning has focused on various statistical discrimination criteria and how they trade off. Most of these criteria are observational: They depend only on the joint distribution of predictor, protected attribute, features, and outcome. While convenient to work with, observational criteria have severe inherent limitations that prevent them from resolving matters of fairness conclusively. Going beyond observational criteria, we frame the problem of discrimination based on protected attributes in the language of causal reasoning. This viewpoint shifts attention from "What is the right fairness criterion?" to "What do we want to assume about our model of the causal data generating process?" Through the lens of causality, we make several contributions. First, we crisply articulate why and when observational criteria fail, thus formalizing what was before a matter of opinion. Second, our approach exposes previously ignored subtleties and why they are fundamental to the problem. Finally, we put forward natural causal non-discrimination criteria and develop algorithms that satisfy them.

Author Information

Niki Kilbertus (MPI Tuebingen & Cambridge)
Mateo Rojas Carulla (University of Cambridge, Max Planck for Intelligent Systems)
Giambattista Parascandolo (Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and and Max Planck ETH CLS)
Moritz Hardt (UC Berkeley)
Dominik Janzing (MPI Tübingen)
Bernhard Schölkopf (MPI for Intelligent Systems)

Bernhard Scholkopf received degrees in mathematics (London) and physics (Tubingen), and a doctorate in computer science from the Technical University Berlin. He has researched at AT&T Bell Labs, at GMD FIRST, Berlin, at the Australian National University, Canberra, and at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK). In 2001, he was appointed scientific member of the Max Planck Society and director at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics; in 2010 he founded the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. For further information, see www.kyb.tuebingen.mpg.de/~bs.

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