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Amortized Generation of Sequential Counterfactual Explanations for Black-box Models

by   Sahil Verma, et al.

Explainable machine learning (ML) has gained traction in recent years due to the increasing adoption of ML-based systems in many sectors. Counterfactual explanations (CFEs) provide “what if” feedback of the form “if an input datapoint were x' instead of x, then an ML-based system's output would be y' instead of y.” CFEs are attractive due to their actionable feedback, amenability to existing legal frameworks, and fidelity to the underlying ML model. Yet, current CFE approaches are single shot – that is, they assume x can change to x' in a single time period. We propose a novel stochastic-control-based approach that generates sequential CFEs, that is, CFEs that allow x to move stochastically and sequentially across intermediate states to a final state x'. Our approach is model agnostic and black box. Furthermore, calculation of CFEs is amortized such that once trained, it applies to multiple datapoints without the need for re-optimization. In addition to these primary characteristics, our approach admits optional desiderata such as adherence to the data manifold, respect for causal relations, and sparsity – identified by past research as desirable properties of CFEs. We evaluate our approach using three real-world datasets and show successful generation of sequential CFEs that respect other counterfactual desiderata.


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