Alexander is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Technomoral Futures and philosophy department at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on the intersection of philosophy of science and AI ethics and, in particular, the use of machine learning in development economics. 

Attend this talk via ZOOM

Talk: Stop Predicting? Machine Learning and Measurement

Abstract: Motivated by a rather narrow focus on predictive accuracy and a problematic framing of “ground truth data,” recent scholarship has connected concepts and practices from measurement to applied machine learning and AI ethics (Jacobs & Wallach, 2021; Mussgnug, 2022; Tal, 2023). This talk will give an overview of this emerging domain of research while underscoring its two different orientations.  

On one side of the debate, authors have emphasized the benefits of bringing approaches from metrology (the science of measurement) to bear on applied machine learning research. For instance, Eran Tal (2023) has advocated for the adoption of a metrological notion of accuracy to address a particular source of bias in machine learning applications to health care. Relatedly, Jacobs and Wallach (2021) have presented measurement validation as a framework for disentangling debates surrounding algorithmic fairness. 

On the other side of the debate, I propose a much more radical solution to some epistemic and ethical issues relating to the reliability and fairness of machine learning applications. Rather than bringing metrology to bear on applied machine learning, I argue that certain machine learning applications should be understood and, thus, developed as forms of measurement themselves. In this talk, I will justify my position and develop this argument further. Ultimately, I argue applied machine learning should stop “predicting” (almost) entirely.