Ensuring Fairness in AI: Diversity, Non-Discrimination, and Transparency

Jul 24, 2023

Orlando Scarpa

Ensuring fairness in AI
Ensuring fairness in AI
Ensuring fairness in AI

Being part of our Data Science team, I love to explore the potential of AI while ensuring that our models are responsible. Today I will talk about the crucial aspects of diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness in AI.

With the increasing use of AI in various domains, it is of utmost importance to ensure that AI models make decisions independent of sensitive factors such as ethnicity, gender, and religion.

As most AI models rely on large amounts of data to learn the patterns and behaviors they are meant to reproduce, there are obvious risks associated with human biases present in training data that could be reflected by the models.

Training data is however not the only source of bias, as the engineers developing models could also unconsciously have their cognitive biases reflected in their products. That’s why it is crucial to explore the steps required to foster fairness in AI models and create a more inclusive future.

Removing Biases: Beyond Irrelevant Inputs

A naïve, but still necessary, approach to avoid bias is to simply remove any irrelevant and potentially discriminatory inputs. In the vast majority of cases, a model has no need to know an individual’s gender, ethnicity, or religion, so is removing these variables enough to guarantee that the model will not discriminate based on these factors?

While removing sensitive information from the inputs is necessary, it’s not enough. The main reason for that is what we call “proxy variables”. To put it simply, a proxy variable is a variable that indirectly encodes information present in another variable. To make an example that is relevant to the subject of this blog post, a model could pick up ethnic or economic information in the data by looking at an individual’s address, by identifying whether they live in a so-called “good” or “bad” neighborhood. It goes without saying, this needs to be prevented at all costs.

Assessing Model Fairness: A Step-by-Step Process

To assess the fairness of our models, we follow a set process:

1. Use an ensemble of different statistical methods to determine if there is any association between our models’ outputs and all the sensitive information that was removed from the inputs. This is to check whether the model is behaving unfairly.

2. If a statistically significant association is found, the next step is to identify the source of this bias, i.e., find which of the model’s input variables is behaving as a proxy.

3. Once the proxies are found, they are removed from the inputs, the model is retrained, and the process is repeated until no bias can be found in the model’s outputs.

Strive for true fairness: identify and eliminate the underlying sources of bias.

 While the above-mentioned process is a good approach to avoiding the reproduction of training data or developer bias, to achieve true fairness organizations must go further than statistical analysis and attempt to eliminate the underlying sources of bias. For this reason, it is necessary to invest in research and transparency to understand the societal impact of business processes and of the AIs that influence them.

A collaborative approach, engaging with diverse stakeholders and communities affected by AI, can provide valuable insights and perspectives to create fair and equitable models. Only then can we realize the full potential of AI in improving our lives while upholding the values of diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness.

Realizing the Full Potential of AI

 Ensuring fairness in artificial intelligence is of utmost importance in our increasingly AI-driven world. By addressing diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness, we can mitigate the risks of biases and discrimination in AI model decisions.

While removing irrelevant inputs and identifying proxies are necessary steps, achieving true fairness requires a comprehensive approach. Organizations must invest in research, transparency, and an understanding of the societal impact of AI. Additionally, engaging with diverse stakeholders and communities affected by AI technologies is crucial for creating fair and equitable models.  

Only by upholding the values of diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness can we fully harness the potential of AI to improve lives and create a more inclusive future. Let us strive towards responsible AI development that upholds these principles and ensures a fair and just technological landscape.


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