Recent years have witnessed the rapid growth of machine learning in a wide range of fields such as image recognition, text classification, credit scoring prediction, recommendation system, etc. In spite of their great performance in different sectors, researchers still concern about the mechanism under any machine learning (ML) techniques that are inherently black-box and becoming more complex to achieve higher accuracy. Therefore, interpreting machine learning model is currently a mainstream topic in the research community. However, the traditional interpretable machine learning focuses on the association instead of the causality. This paper provides an overview of causal analysis with the fundamental background and key concepts, and then summarizes most recent causal approaches for interpretable machine learning. The evaluation techniques for assessing method quality, and open problems in causal interpretability are also discussed in this paper.
There has been a growing interest in model-agnostic methods that can make deep learning models more transparent and explainable to a user. Some researchers recently argued that for a machine to achieve a certain degree of human-level explainability, this machine needs to provide human causally understandable explanations, also known as causability. A specific class of algorithms that have the potential to provide causability are counterfactuals. This paper presents an in-depth systematic review of the diverse existing body of literature on counterfactuals and causability for explainable artificial intelligence. We performed an LDA topic modelling analysis under a PRISMA framework to find the most relevant literature articles. This analysis resulted in a novel taxonomy that considers the grounding theories of the surveyed algorithms, together with their underlying properties and applications in real-world data. This research suggests that current model-agnostic counterfactual algorithms for explainable AI are not grounded on a causal theoretical formalism and, consequently, cannot promote causability to a human decision-maker. Our findings suggest that the explanations derived from major algorithms in the literature provide spurious correlations rather than cause/effects relationships, leading to sub-optimal, erroneous or even biased explanations. This paper also advances the literature with new directions and challenges on promoting causability in model-agnostic approaches for explainable artificial intelligence.
Machine learning plays a role in many deployed decision systems, often in ways that are difficult or impossible to understand by human stakeholders. Explaining, in a human-understandable way, the relationship between the input and output of machine learning models is essential to the development of trustworthy machine-learning-based systems. A burgeoning body of research seeks to define the goals and methods of explainability in machine learning. In this paper, we seek to review and categorize research on counterfactual explanations, a specific class of explanation that provides a link between what could have happened had input to a model been changed in a particular way. Modern approaches to counterfactual explainability in machine learning draw connections to the established legal doctrine in many countries, making them appealing to fielded systems in high-impact areas such as finance and healthcare. Thus, we design a rubric with desirable properties of counterfactual explanation algorithms and comprehensively evaluate all currently-proposed algorithms against that rubric. Our rubric provides easy comparison and comprehension of the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and serves as an introduction to major research themes in this field. We also identify gaps and discuss promising research directions in the space of counterfactual explainability.
Post-hoc explanations of machine learning models are crucial for people to understand and act on algorithmic predictions. An intriguing class of explanations is through counterfactuals, hypothetical examples that show people how to obtain a different prediction. We posit that effective counterfactual explanations should satisfy two properties: feasibility of the counterfactual actions given user context and constraints, and diversity among the counterfactuals presented. To this end, we propose a framework for generating and evaluating a diverse set of counterfactual explanations based on average distance and determinantal point processes. To evaluate the actionability of counterfactuals, we provide metrics that enable comparison of counterfactual-based methods to other local explanation methods. We further address necessary tradeoffs and point to causal implications in optimizing for counterfactuals. Our experiments on three real-world datasets show that our framework can generate a set of counterfactuals that are diverse and well approximate local decision boundaries.
The convenient access to copious multi-faceted data has encouraged machine learning researchers to reconsider correlation-based learning and embrace the opportunity of causality-based learning, i.e., causal machine learning (causal learning). Recent years have therefore witnessed great effort in developing causal learning algorithms aiming to help AI achieve human-level intelligence. Due to the lack-of ground-truth data, one of the biggest challenges in current causal learning research is algorithm evaluations. This largely impedes the cross-pollination of AI and causal inference, and hinders the two fields to benefit from the advances of the other. To bridge from conventional causal inference (i.e., based on statistical methods) to causal learning with big data (i.e., the intersection of causal inference and machine learning), in this survey, we review commonly-used datasets, evaluation methods, and measures for causal learning using an evaluation pipeline similar to conventional machine learning. We focus on the two fundamental causal-inference tasks and causality-aware machine learning tasks. Limitations of current evaluation procedures are also discussed. We then examine popular causal inference tools/packages and conclude with primary challenges and opportunities for benchmarking causal learning algorithms in the era of big data. The survey seeks to bring to the forefront the urgency of developing publicly available benchmarks and consensus-building standards for causal learning evaluation with observational data. In doing so, we hope to broaden the discussions and facilitate collaboration to advance the innovation and application of causal learning.