A Series of Unfortunate Counterfactual Events: the Role of Time in Counterfactual Explanations
- Working Paper
Counterfactual explanations are a prominent example of post-hoc interpretability methods in the explainable Artificial Intelligence research domain. They provide individuals with alternative scenarios and a set of recommendations to achieve a sought-after machine learning model outcome. Recently, the literature has identified desiderata of counterfactual explanations, such as feasibility, actionability and sparsity that should support their applicability in real-world contexts. However, we show that the literature has neglected the problem of the time dependency of counterfactual explanations. We argue that, due to their time dependency and because of the provision of recommendations, even feasible, actionable and sparse counterfactual explanations may not be appropriate in real-world applications. This is due to the possible emergence of what we call "unfortunate counterfactual events." These events may occur due to the retraining of machine learning models whose outcomes have to be explained via counterfactual explanation. Series of unfortunate counterfactual events frustrate the efforts of those individuals who successfully implemented the recommendations of counterfactual explanations. This negatively affects people's trust in the ability of institutions to provide machine learning-supported decisions consistently. We introduce an approach to address the problem of the emergence of unfortunate counterfactual events that makes use of histories of counterfactual explanations. In the final part of the paper we propose an ethical analysis of two distinct strategies to cope with the challenge of unfortunate counterfactual events. We show that they respond to an ethically responsible imperative to preserve the trustworthiness of credit lending organizations, the decision models they employ, and the social-economic function of credit lending. Show more
Journal / seriesarXiv
Pages / Article No.
Organisational unit03995 - von Wangenheim, Florian / von Wangenheim, Florian
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