Human Induction in Machine Learning: A Survey of the Nexus

by Petr Špelda and Vít Střítecký

As our epistemic ambitions grow, the common and scientific endeavours are becoming increasingly dependent on Machine Learning (ML). The field rests on a single experimental paradigm, which consists of splitting the available data into a training and testing set and using the latter to measure how well the trained ML model generalises to unseen samples. If the model reaches acceptable accuracy, then an a posteriori contract comes into effect between humans and the model, supposedly allowing its deployment to target environments. Yet the latter part of the contract depends on human inductive predictions or generalisations, which infer a uniformity between the trained ML model and the targets. The article asks how we justify the contract between human and machine learning. It is argued that the justification becomes a pressing issue when we use ML to reach “elsewhere” in space and time or deploy ML models in non-benign environments. The article argues that the only viable version of the contract can be based on optimality (instead of on reliability, which cannot be justified without circularity) and aligns this position with Schurz’s optimality justification. It is shown that when dealing with inaccessible/unstable ground-truths (“elsewhere” and non-benign targets), the optimality justification undergoes a slight change, which should reflect critically on our epistemic ambitions. Therefore, the study of ML robustness should involve not only heuristics that lead to acceptable accuracies on testing sets. The justification of human inductive predictions or generalisations about the uniformity between ML models and targets should be included as well. Without it, the assumptions about inductive risk minimisation in ML are not addressed in full.

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