Explainability as a first-class model selection criterion

Nov 2019

Deep neural networks have demonstrated remarkable recall and accuracy across a wide range of problems. Given sufficient training data and an appropriately chosen topology, these models meet and exceed human capabilities in certain select problem spaces. However, they're inherently opaque. Although parts of models can be reused through transfer learning, we're seldom able to ascribe any human-understandable meaning to these elements. In contrast, an explainable model is one that allows us to say how a decision was made. For example, a decision tree yields a chain of inference that describes the classification process. Explainability becomes critical in certain regulated industries or when we're concerned about the ethical impact of a decision. As these models are incorporated more widely into critical business systems, it's important to consider explainability as a first-class model selection criterion. Despite their power, neural networks might not be an appropriate choice when explainability requirements are strict.