Ipse Dixit


Aaron Roth & Michael Kearns on Ethical Algorithms

Season 1, Ep. 495

In this episode, Aaron Roth and Michael Kearns, both professors of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, discuss their new book, The Ethical Algorithm (Oxford U. Press 2020). This wide-ranging interview covers issues related to privacy, fairness, and explainable algorithms. The interview has three parts. First, Aaron and Michael explain the goal, process, and limits of differential private data. Second, they discuss various definitions of fairness in algorithmic decision-making and point out that simultaneously maximizing fairness along several dimensions may be impossible to achieve. Finally, they briefly discuss how an inscrutable, “black box” algorithm can be made to produce explainable decisions in specific contexts. Most interestingly, the authors provide several examples of how the process of translating laws into specific directions that machine learning models can follow may demonstrate that our laws are asking for the impossible. For example, it may be impossible to create a credit-underwriting algorithm that is “fair” to both women and black borrowers at the same time despite what the Equal Credit Opportunity Act purports to require. Roth and Kearns are both on Twitter at @Aaroth and @mkearnsupenn, respectively. This episode was hosted by Matthew Bruckner, an associate professor of law at Howard University School of Law. He is on Twitter at @Prof_Bruckner.

More Episodes


Aliza Shatzman on Holding Judges Accountable

Season 1, Ep. 758
In this episode, Aliza Shatzman, an attorney and advocate based in Washington, DC, discusses her article "Untouchable Judges? What I've learned about harassment in the judiciary, and what we can do to stop it," which will be published in the UCLA Journal of Gender & Law. Here is the abstract:Drawing from the author’s own experience of gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation during her clerkship and in the years following it by a former DC Superior Court judge, this Article analyzes the deficits in current federal and DC judicial reporting systems to demonstrate the urgent need for reform. I argue that harassment in the judiciary is pervasive, due to both enormous power disparities between judges and law clerks, and various institutional barriers that perpetuate misconduct and discourage reporting. I survey existing methods of judicial discipline in both the federal and DC Courts and argue that these provide insufficient redress for workplace misconduct. I then discuss the Judiciary Accountability Act (JAA) (HR 4827/S 2553), which would finally protect judiciary employees, including law clerks and federal public defenders, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enabling employees to sue their harassers and seek damages for harm done to their careers, reputations, and future earning potential. Furthermore, I argue that the DC Courts should be included in the JAA, because they are Article I courts created and regulated by Congress, and DC Courts judges are arguably federal judges for Title VII and disciplinary purposes. I also offer a variety of other proposed reforms, which would both strengthen the JAA and provide additional protections to uniquely vulnerable judiciary employees. I conclude by reflecting on my attempts to report the misconduct I experienced, how the systems failed me when I tried to report, and my efforts to seek justice for myself and accountability for the misbehaving former judge.This episode was hosted by Brian L. Frye, Spears-Gilbert Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Frye is on Twitter at @brianlfrye.