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Workshop: Algorithmic Fairness through the Lens of Time

FAIR-Ensemble: Homogeneous Deep Ensembling Naturally Attenuates Disparate Group Performances

Wei-Yin Ko · Daniel Dsouza · Karina Nguyen · Randall Balestriero · Sara Hooker


Ensembling multiple Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) is a simple and effective way to improve top-line metrics and to outperform a larger single model. In this work, we go beyond top-line metrics and instead explore the impact of ensembling on subgroup performances. Surprisingly, we observe that even with a simple homogeneous ensemble --all the individual DNNs share the same training set, architecture, and design choices-- the minority group performance disproportionately improves with the number of models compared to the majority group, i.e. fairness naturally emerges from ensembling. Even more surprising, we find that this gain keeps occurring even when a large number of models is considered, e.g. 20, despite the fact that the average performance of the ensemble plateaus with fewer models. Our work establishes that simple DNN ensembles can be a powerful tool for alleviating disparate impact from DNN classifiers, thus curbing algorithmic harm. We also explore why this is the case. We find that even in homogeneous ensembles, varying the sources of stochasticity through parameter initialization, mini-batch sampling, and data-augmentation realizations, results in different fairness outcomes.

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