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Causal Modeling for Fairness In Dynamical Systems

Elliot Creager · David Madras · Toniann Pitassi · Richard Zemel

Keywords: [ Causality ] [ Fairness, Equity and Justice ] [ Fairness, Equity, Justice, and Safety ]


In many applications areas---lending, education, and online recommenders, for example---fairness and equity concerns emerge when a machine learning system interacts with a dynamically changing environment to produce both immediate and long-term effects for individuals and demographic groups. We discuss causal directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) as a unifying framework for the recent literature on fairness in such dynamical systems. We show that this formulation affords several new directions of inquiry to the modeler, where sound causal assumptions can be expressed and manipulated. We emphasize the importance of computing interventional quantities in the dynamical fairness setting, and show how causal assumptions enable simulation (when environment dynamics are known) and estimation by adjustment (when dynamics are unknown) of intervention on short- and long-term outcomes, at both the group and individual levels.

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