Annette Zimmermann, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison & Technology and Human Rights Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard University
October 27 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Justice, AI, and the Importance of Choosing the Right Problem
In light of clear evidence of racial and gender bias in algorithmic decision-making across various domains, recent work on algorithmic justice has focused on optimizing the quality of decision outcomes reached by algorithmic systems by asking: does a given system adhere to plausible fairness metrics, mathematically defined, and does this enable the system to reach decision outcomes that are qualitatively better than decisions reached by a human decision-maker, or a competing algorithmic system? This paper argues that if what we care about is justice, we must move beyond an AI optimization approach that focuses exclusively on decision quality. In addition, we must critically scrutinize the decision landscapes in which systems operate. Doing so requires investigating not only which alternative decision outcomes are available, but also which alternative decision problems we could, and should, be solving with the help of algorithmic systems. I develop three arguments for why scrutinizing available decision landscapes matters morally and politically. Subsequently, I identify their respective implications for future research directions and policy interventions.