Bridging Prediction and Intervention Problems in Social Systems (24w5283)


Lydia Liu (Princeton University)

Inioluwa Deborah Raji (University of California - Berkeley)

(University of Southern California)

Arvind Narayanan (Princeton)


The Banff International Research Station will host the “Bridging Prediction and Intervention Problems in Social Systems” workshop in Banff from June 2 - 7, 2024.

Data-driven machine learning and algorithmic tools are increasingly employed in critical decision-making processes, in healthcare, education, criminal justice, and social welfare. Many of the involved models are often framed as isolated prediction problems - with the goal of capturing relevant information about one sample of the population and extrapolating those learned patterns to any another relevant sample within the same population. However, in reality, these models actually operate more like holistic policy interventions once deployed. The predictions are actually deeply informed and influenced by interactions between various stakeholders and existing infrastructure, and various deployment factors shape the impact of the model's use in existing decision-making processes, which in turn contributes directly to downstream consequences. Therefore, myopically limiting the characterization of the model to just a prediction closes the door to the potentially richer discourse that could happen when we consider the model to be an intervention or part of an intervention pipeline.

In this workshop, we re-visit the limitations of relying on the prediction paradigm description of machine learning to describe its design, development and influence within social systems. Offering statistical tools to analyze the impact of the model beyond its prediction outcomes, we will bring together an inter-disciplinary cohort to explore alternative views of adopting a more intervention-based lens to machine learning design, development and evaluation.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta’s Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).