Recent work on fairness in machine learning has primarily emphasized how to define, quantify, and encourage "fair" outcomes. Less attention has been paid, however, to the ethical foundations which underlie such efforts. Among the ethical perspectives that should be taken into consideration is consequentialism, the position that, roughly speaking, outcomes are all that matter. Although consequentialism is not free from difficulties, and although it does not necessarily provide a tractable way of choosing actions (because of the combined problems of uncertainty, subjectivity, and aggregation), it nevertheless provides a powerful foundation from which to critique the existing literature on machine learning fairness. Moreover, it brings to the fore some of the tradeoffs involved, including the problem of who counts, the pros and cons of using a policy, and the relative value of the distant future. In this paper we provide a consequentialist critique of common definitions of fairness within machine learning, as well as a machine learning perspective on consequentialism. We conclude with a broader discussion of the issues of learning and randomization, which have important implications for the ethics of automated decision making systems.
- Pub Date:
- January 2020
- Computer Science - Artificial Intelligence;
- Computer Science - Computers and Society;
- Computer Science - Machine Learning;
- Statistics - Machine Learning
- Updating to published version