Formalising trade-offs beyond algorithmic fairness: lessons from ethical philosophy and welfare economics

33 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2020 Last revised: 8 Jun 2021

See all articles by Michelle Seng Ah Lee

Michelle Seng Ah Lee

University of Cambridge

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute; University of Bologna- Department of Legal Studies

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory)

Date Written: July 31, 2020

Abstract

There is growing concern that decision-making informed by machine learning (ML) algorithms may unfairly discriminate based on personal demographic attributes, such as race and gender. Scholars have responded by introducing numerous mathematical definitions of fairness to test the algorithm, many of which are in conflict with one another. However, these reductionist representations of fairness often bear little resemblance to real-life fairness considerations, which in practice are highly contextual. Moreover, fairness metrics tend to be implemented in narrow and targeted toolkits that are difficult to integrate into an algorithm’s broader ethical assessment. In this paper, we derive lessons from ethical philosophy and welfare economics as they relate to the contextual factors relevant for fairness. In particular we highlight the debate around acceptability of particular inequalities and the inextricable links between fairness, welfare and autonomy. We propose Key Ethics Indicators (KEIs) as a way towards providing a more holistic understanding of whether or not an algorithm is aligned to the decision-maker’s ethical values.

Keywords: algorithmic fairness, algorithmic ethics, fairness, ethical AI, machine learning, key ethics indicators, KEI

Suggested Citation

Lee, Michelle Seng Ah and Floridi, Luciano and Singh, Jatinder, Formalising trade-offs beyond algorithmic fairness: lessons from ethical philosophy and welfare economics (July 31, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3679975 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3679975

Michelle Seng Ah Lee (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Ave
William Gates Building
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://compacctsys.soc.srcf.net/team/

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.philosophyofinformation.net/about/

University of Bologna- Department of Legal Studies ( email )

Via Zamboni 22
Bologna, Bo 40100
Italy

HOME PAGE: http://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/luciano.floridi/en

Jatinder Singh

University of Cambridge -- Dept. Computer Science & Technology (Computer Laboratory) ( email )

15 JJ Thomson Avenue
William Gates Building
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom

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