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ATHENA SEMINAR SERIES: Do Simpler Machine Learning Models Exist and How Can We Find Them?

Cynthia Rudin
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Dr. Cynthia Rudin

While the trend in machine learning has tended towards building more complicated (black box) models, such models are not as useful for high stakes decisions - black box models have led to mistakes in bail and parole decisions in criminal justice, flawed models in healthcare, and inexplicable loan decisions in finance. Simpler, interpretable models would be better. Thus, we consider questions that diametrically oppose the trend in the field: for which types of datasets would we expect to get simpler models at the same level of accuracy as black box models? If such simpler-yet-accurate models exist, how can we use optimization to find these simpler models? In this talk, I present an easy calculation to check for the possibility of a simpler (yet accurate) model before computing one. This calculation indicates that simpler-but-accurate models do exist in practice more often than you might think. Also, some types of these simple models are (surprisingly) small enough that they can be memorized or printed on an index card.

This is joint work with many wonderful students including Lesia Semenova, Chudi Zhong, Zhi Chen, Rui Xin, Jiachang Liu, Hayden McTavish, Jay Wang, Reto Achermann, Ilias Karimalis, Jacques Chen as well as senior collaborators Margo Seltzer, Ron Parr, Brandon Westover, Aaron Struck, Berk Ustun, and Takuya Takagi.

Cynthia Rudin is Earl D. McLean, Jr. Professor of Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Statistical Science, Mathematics, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics at Duke University. She directs the Interpretable Machine Learning Lab, whose goal is to design predictive models that people can understand. Her lab applies machine learning in many areas, such as healthcare, criminal justice, and energy reliability.

Prof. Rudin holds an undergraduate degree from the University at Buffalo and a PhD from Princeton University. She is the recipient of the 2022 Squirrel AI Award for Artificial Intelligence for the Benefit of Humanity from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (the "Nobel Prize of AI"). She is also a three-time winner of the INFORMS Innovative Applications in Analytics Award, and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow. She is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Contact: Rajashi Runton