Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Research Program

Toward Good AI

As discussed by [141], the topic of ethical AI was non-existent until 2010, was laughed at in 2016, and became a hot topic in 2017 as the AI disruptivity with respect to the fabric of life (travel, education, entertainment, social networks, politics, to name a few) became unavoidable [138], together with its expected impacts on the nature and amount of jobs. As of now, it seems that the risk of a new AI Winter might arise from legal(For instance, the (fictitious) plea challenge proposed to law students in Oct. 2018 considered a chain reaction pileup occurred among autonomous and humanly operated vehicles on a highway.) and societal(For instance related to information bubbles and nudge [100], [155].) issues. While privacy is now recognized as a civil right in Europe, it is feared that the GAFAM, BATX and others can already capture a sufficient fraction of human preferences and their dynamics to achieve their commercial and other goals, and build a Brave New Big Brother (BNBB, a system that is openly beneficial to many, covertly nudging, and possibly dictatorial).

The ambition of Tau is to mitigate the BNBB risk along several intricated dimensions, and build i) causal and explainable models; ii) fair data and models; iii) provably robust models.

Causal modeling and biases

Participants: Isabelle Guyon, Michèle Sebag, Philippe Caillou, Paola Tubaro

PhD: Diviyan Kalainathan

Collaboration: Olivier Goudet (Université d'Angers), David Lopez-Paz (Facebook)

The extraction of causal models, a long goal of AI [139], [117], [140], became a strategic issue as the usage of learned models gradually shifted from prediction to prescription in the last years. This evolution, following Auguste Comte's vision of science (Savoir pour prévoir, afin de pouvoir) indeed reflects the exuberant optimism about AI: Knowledge enables Prediction; Prediction enables Control. However, although predictive models can be based on correlations, prescriptions can only be based on causal models(One can predict that it rains based on the presence of umbrellas in the street; but one cannot induce rainfall by going out with an umbrella. Likewise, the presence of books/tablets at home and the good scores of children at school are correlated; but offering books/tablets to all children might fail to improve their scores per se, if both good scores and books are explained by a so-called confounder variable, like the presence of adults versed in books/tablets at home.).

Among the research applications concerned with causal modeling, predictive modeling or collaborative filtering at Tau are all projects described in section 4.1 (see also Section 3.4), studying the relationships between: i) the educational background of persons and the job openings (FUI project JobAgile and DataIA project Vadore); ii) the quality of life at work and the economic performance indicators of the enterprises (ISN Lidex project Amiqap) [119] ; iii) the nutritional items bought by households (at the level of granularity of the barcode) and their health status, as approximated from their body-mass-index (IRS UPSaclay Nutriperso); iv) the actual offer of restaurants and their scores on online rating systems. In these projects, a wealth of data is available (though hardly sufficient for applications ii), iii and iv))) and there is little doubt that these data reflect the imbalances and biases of the world as is, ranging from gender to racial to economical prejudices. Preventing the learned models from perpetuating such biases is essential to deliver an AI endowed with common decency.

In some cases, the bias is known; for instance, the cohorts in the Nutriperso study are more well-off than the average French population, and the Kantar database includes explicit weights to address this bias through importance sampling. In other cases, the bias is only guessed; for instance, the companies for which Secafi data are available hardly correspond to a uniform sample as these data have been gathered upon the request of the company trade union.

Robustness of Learned Models

Participants: Guillaume Charpiat, Marc Schoenauer, Michèle Sebag

PhDs: Julien Girard, Marc Nabhan, Nizham Makhoud

Collaboration: Zakarian Chihani (CEA); Hiba Hage, and Yves Tourbier (Renault); Jérôme Kodjabachian (Thalès THERESIS)

Due to their outstanding performances, deep neural networks and more generally machine learning-based decision making systems, referred to as MLs in the following, have been raising hopes in the recent years to achieve breakthroughs in critical systems, ranging from autonomous vehicles to defense. The main pitfall for such applications lies in the lack of guarantees for MLs robustness.

Specifically, MLs are used when the mainstream software design process does not apply, that is, when no formal specification of the target software behavior is available and/or when the system is embedded in an open unpredictable world. The extensive body of knowledge developed to deliver guarantees about mainstream software - ranging from formal verification, model checking and abstract interpretation to testing, simulation and monitoring - thus does not directly apply either. Another weakness of MLs regards their dependency to the amount and quality of the training data, as their performances are sensitive to slight perturbations of the data distribution. Such perturbations can occur naturally due to domain or concept drift (e.g. due to a change in light intensity or a scratch on a camera lens); they can also result from intentional malicious attacks, a.k.a adversarial examples [156].

These downsides, currently preventing the dissemination of MLs in safety-critical systems (SCS), call for a considerable amount of research, in order to understand when and to which extent an MLs can be certified to provide the desired level of guarantees.

Julien Girard's PhD (CEA scholarship), started in Oct. 2018, co-supervised by Guillaume Charpiat and Zakaria Chihani (CEA), is devoted to the extension of abstract interpretation to deep neural nets, and the formal characterization of the transition kernel from input to output space achieved by a DNN (robustness by design, coupled with formally assessing the coverage of the training set). This approach is tightly related to the inspection and opening of black-box models, aimed to characterize the patterns in the input instances responsible for a decision – another step toward explainability.

On the other hand, experimental validation of MLs, akin statistical testing, also faces three limitations: i) real-world examples are notoriously insufficient to ensure a good coverage in general; ii) for this reason, simulated examples are extensively used; but their use raises the reality gap issue [128] of the distance between real and simulated worlds; iii) independently, the real-world is naturally subject to domain shift (e.g. due to the technical improvement and/or aging of sensors). Our collaborations with Renault tackle such issues in the context of the autonomous vehicle (see Section 7.1.3).