Paper Session 27
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Bridging Machine Learning and Mechanism Design towards Algorithmic Fairness
Decision-making systems increasingly orchestrate our world: how to intervene on the algorithmic components to build fair and equitable systems is therefore a question of utmost importance; one that is substantially complicated by the context-dependent nature of fairness and discrimination. Modern decision-making systems that involve allocating resources or information to people (e.g., school choice, advertising) incorporate machine-learned predictions in their pipelines, raising concerns about potential strategic behavior or constrained allocation, concerns usually tackled in the context of mechanism design. Although both machine learning and mechanism design have developed frameworks for addressing issues of fairness and equity, in some complex decision-making systems, neither framework is individually sufficient. In this paper, we develop the position that building fair decision-making systems requires overcoming these limitations which, we argue, are inherent to each field. Our ultimate objective is to build an encompassing framework that cohesively bridges the individual frameworks of mechanism design and machine learning. We begin to lay the ground work towards this goal by comparing the perspective each discipline takes on fair decision-making, teasing out the lessons each field has taught and can teach the other, and highlighting application domains that require a strong collaboration between these disciplines.
Fair Classification with Group-Dependent Label Noise
This work examines how to train fair classifiers in settings where training labels are corrupted with random noise, and where the error rates of corruption depend both on the label class and on the membership function for a protected subgroup. Heterogeneous label noise models systematic biases towards particular groups when generating annotations. We begin by presenting analytical results which show that naively imposing parity constraints on demographic disparity measures, without accounting for heterogeneous and group-dependent error rates, can decrease both the accuracy and the fairness of the resulting classifier. Our experiments demonstrate these issues arise in practice as well. We address these problems by performing empirical risk minimization with carefully defined surrogate loss functions and surrogate constraints that help avoid the pitfalls introduced by heterogeneous label noise. We provide both theoretical and empirical justifications for the efficacy of our methods. We view our results as an important example of how imposing fairness on biased data sets without proper care can do at least as much harm as it does good.
A Statistical Test for Probabilistic Fairness
Algorithms are now routinely used to make consequential decisions that affect human lives. Examples include college admissions, medical interventions or law enforcement. While algorithms empower us to harness all information hidden in vast amounts of data, they may inadvertently amplify existing biases in the available datasets. This concern has sparked increasing interest in fair machine learning, which aims to quantify and mitigate algorithmic discrimination. Indeed, machine learning models should undergo intensive tests to detect algorithmic biases before being deployed at scale. In this paper, we use ideas from the theory of optimal transport to propose a statistical hypothesis test for detecting unfair classifiers. Leveraging the geometry of the feature space, the test statistic quantifies the distance of the empirical distribution supported on the test samples to the manifold of distributions that render a pre-trained classifier fair. We develop a rigorous hypothesis testing mechanism for assessing the probabilistic fairness of any pre-trained logistic classifier, and we show both theoretically as well as empirically that the proposed test is asymptotically correct. In addition, the proposed framework offers interpretability by identifying the most favorable perturbation of the data so that the given classifier becomes fair.