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September 25, 2020


Direct Effects

How should we measure racial discrimination?

A 2018 National Academy of Sciences report on American policing begins its section on racial bias by noting the abundance of scholarship that records disparities in the criminal justice system. But shortly thereafter, the authors make a strange clarification: “In…

January 30, 2020


The Long History of Algorithmic Fairness

Fair algorithms from the seventeenth century to the present

As national and regional governments form expert commissions to regulate “automated decision-making,” a new corporate-sponsored field of research proposes to formalize the elusive ideal of “fairness” as a mathematical property of algorithms and especially of their outputs.

October 17, 2019


Disparate Causes, pt. II

On the hunt for the correct counterfactual

An accurate understanding of the nature of race in our society is a prerequisite for an adequate normative theory of discrimination.

October 11, 2019


Disparate Causes, pt. I

The shortcomings of causal and counterfactual thinking about racial discrimination

Legal claims of disparate impact discrimination go something like this: A company uses some system (e.g., hiring test, performance review, risk assessment tool) in a way that impacts people. Somebody sues, arguing that it has a disproportionate adverse effect on…

August 5, 2019


Technology companies are coming under increased scrutiny for the ethical consequences of their work, and some have formed advisory boards or hired ethicists on staff. (Google's AI ethics board quickly disintegrated.) Another approach is to train computer scientists in ethics…

March 9, 2019


In the digital ethics literature, there's a consistent back-and-forth between attempts at designing algorithmic tools that promote fair outcomes in decision-making processes, and critiques that enumerate the limits of such attempts. A December paper by ANDREW SELBST, dana boyd, SORELLE…

March 24, 2018


FAIRNESS IN MACHINE LEARNING | METARESEARCH | MICROSTRUCTURE OF VIOLENCE DISTINCT FUSION Tracking the convergence of terms across disciplines In a new paper, CHRISTIAN VINCENOT looks at the process by which two synonymous concepts developed independently in separate disciplines, and…