Model Projection: Theory and Applications to Fair Machine Learning


Wael Alghamdi, Shahab Asoodeh, Hao Wang, Flavio P. Calmon, Dennis Wei, and Karthikeyan Natesan Ramamurthy. 2020. “Model Projection: Theory and Applications to Fair Machine Learning.” In IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory (ISIT).
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We study the problem of finding the element within a convex set of conditional distributions with the smallest f-divergence to a reference distribution. Motivated by applications in machine learning, we refer to this problem as model projection since any probabilistic classification model can be viewed as a conditional distribution. We provide conditions under which the existence and uniqueness of the optimal model can be guaranteed and establish strong duality results. Strong duality, in turn, allows the model projection problem to be reduced to a tractable finite-dimensional optimization. Our application of interest is fair machine learning: the model projection formulation can be directly used to design fair models according to different group fairness metrics. Moreover, this information-theoretic formulation generalizes existing approaches within the fair machine learning literature. We give explicit formulas for the optimal fair model and a systematic procedure for computing it.