Measuring Non-Expert Comprehension of Machine Learning Fairness Metrics

Jul 12, 2020

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Bias in machine learning has manifested injustice in several areas, such as medicine, hiring, and criminal justice. In response, computer scientists have developed myriad definitions of fairness to correct this bias in fielded algorithms. While some definitions are based on established legal and ethical norms, others are largely mathematical. It is unclear whether the general public agrees with these fairness definitions, and perhaps more importantly, whether they understand these definitions. We take initial steps toward bridging this gap between ML researchers and the public, by addressing the question: does a lay audience understand a basic definition of ML fairness? We develop a metric to measure comprehension of three such definitions–demographic parity, equal opportunity, and equalized odds. We evaluate this metric using an online survey, and investigate the relationship between comprehension and sentiment, demographics, and the definition itself.

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About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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