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On the Fairness of Disentangled Representations
Francesco Locatello · Gabriele Abbati · Thomas Rainforth · Stefan Bauer · Bernhard Schölkopf · Olivier Bachem

Thu Dec 05:00 PM -- 07:00 PM PST @ East Exhibition Hall B + C #34

Recently there has been a significant interest in learning disentangled representations, as they promise increased interpretability, generalization to unseen scenarios and faster learning on downstream tasks. In this paper, we investigate the usefulness of different notions of disentanglement for improving the fairness of downstream prediction tasks based on representations. We consider the setting where the goal is to predict a target variable based on the learned representation of high-dimensional observations (such as images) that depend on both the target variable and an unobserved sensitive variable. We show that in this setting both the optimal and empirical predictions can be unfair, even if the target variable and the sensitive variable are independent. Analyzing the representations of more than 12600 trained state-of-the-art disentangled models, we observe that several disentanglement scores are consistently correlated with increased fairness, suggesting that disentanglement may be a useful property to encourage fairness when sensitive variables are not observed.

Author Information

Francesco Locatello (ETH Zürich - MPI Tübingen)
Gabriele Abbati (University of Oxford)
Tom Rainforth (University of Oxford)
Stefan Bauer (MPI for Intelligent Systems)
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.

Olivier Bachem (Google Brain)

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