Problems with Shapley-value-based explanations as feature importance measures

Jul 12, 2020



Game-theoretic formulations of feature importance have become popular as a way to "explain" machine learning models. These methods define a cooperative game between the features of a model and distribute influence among these input elements using some form of the game's unique Shapley values. Justification for these methods rests on two pillars: their desirable mathematical properties, and their applicability to specific motivations for explanations. We show that mathematical problems arise when Shapley values are used for feature importance and that the solutions to mitigate these necessarily induce further complexity, such as the need for causal reasoning. We also draw on additional literature to argue that Shapley values do not provide explanations which suit human-centric goals of explainability.



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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