Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Ethical Algorithm

I've had the good fortune to be able work on a number of research topics so far: including privacy, fairness, algorithmic game theory, and adaptive data analysis, and the relationship between all of these things and machine learning. As an academic, we do a lot of writing about the things we work on, but usually our audience is narrow and technical: other researchers in our sub-specialty. But it can be both fun and important to communicate to a wider audience as well. So my amazing colleague Michael Kearns and I wrote a book, called The Ethical Algorithm. It's coming out in October (Amazon says the release date is November 1st, but my understanding is that pre-orders will start shipping on October 4).

This was the first time for either of us writing something like this: it's not a textbook, it's a "trade book" -- a popular science book. Its intended readership isn't just computer science PhDs, but the educated public broadly. But there should be plenty in it to interest experts too, because we cover quite a bit of ground. The book is about the problems that arise when algorithmic decision making interacts with human beings --- and the emerging science about how to fix them. The topics we cover include privacy, fairness, strategic interactions and gaming, and the scientific reproducibility crisis.

Lots has been written about the problems that can arise, especially related to privacy and fairness. And we're not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, the focus of our book is the exciting and embryonic algorithmic science that has grown to address these issues.

The privacy chapter develops differential privacy, and its strengths and weaknesses. The fairness chapter covers recent work on algorithmic fairness that has come out of the computer science literature. The gaming chapter studies how algorithm design can affect the equilibria that emerge from large scale interactions. The reproducibility chapter explores the underlying issues that lead to false discovery, and recent algorithmic advances that hold promise in avoiding them. We try and set expectations appropriately. We don't pretend that the solutions to complex societal problems can be entirely (or even primarily) algorithmic. But we argue that embedding social values into algorithms will inevitably form an important component of any solution.

I'm really excited for it to come out. If you want, you can pre-order it now, either at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ethical-Algorithm-Science-Socially-Design/dp/0190948205 or directly from the publisher: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-ethical-algorithm-9780190948207?cc=us&lang=en&#.XKegC9eWi2w.twitter

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