A New Paradigm for Counterfactual Reasoning in Fairness and Recourse

25 Jan 2024  ·  Lucius E. J. Bynum, Joshua R. Loftus, Julia Stoyanovich ·

Counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning underpin numerous techniques for auditing and understanding artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The traditional paradigm for counterfactual reasoning in this literature is the interventional counterfactual, where hypothetical interventions are imagined and simulated. For this reason, the starting point for causal reasoning about legal protections and demographic data in AI is an imagined intervention on a legally-protected characteristic, such as ethnicity, race, gender, disability, age, etc. We ask, for example, what would have happened had your race been different? An inherent limitation of this paradigm is that some demographic interventions -- like interventions on race -- may not translate into the formalisms of interventional counterfactuals. In this work, we explore a new paradigm based instead on the backtracking counterfactual, where rather than imagine hypothetical interventions on legally-protected characteristics, we imagine alternate initial conditions while holding these characteristics fixed. We ask instead, what would explain a counterfactual outcome for you as you actually are or could be? This alternate framework allows us to address many of the same social concerns, but to do so while asking fundamentally different questions that do not rely on demographic interventions.

PDF Abstract


  Add Datasets introduced or used in this paper

Results from the Paper

  Submit results from this paper to get state-of-the-art GitHub badges and help the community compare results to other papers.


No methods listed for this paper. Add relevant methods here