Hildebrandt and Meessen gave a keynote and a talk during the FALL DAYS of the Institute for Programming research and Algorithmics (IPA) in the Netherlands. The focus will be on sustainable software for data- en code-driven systems, highlighting the impact of upstream design decisions that have normative effects on downstream deployment and end-users.
In her keynote Hildebrandt discussed the three types of bias (productive, ethically problematic and unlawful bias) and the notions of proxification and ground truthing as key to the development of sustainable machine learning software. The point will be to highlight the choices made when deciding upon training data (unsupervised), the choice of variables (supervised) and the articulation of the goal (reinforcement), demonstrating that and how these choices are normative and directly related to sustainability in the broad sense of being robust, not wasteful and therefore necessary for the task they are expected to perform.
In his talk Meessen discussed how we are increasingly subjected to automated legal and administrative practices. The automation of legal norms, he argued, can only exist because of compromises made when translating laws from natural languages to code (executables) in formal languages.
In his presentation Meessen took us into some of the details of modern systems of tax automation in France and the Netherlands. Many of the components of these systems exist purely in a domain of computer engineering expertise. This includes domain-specific languages, modes of automated reasoning, compilers, and the methodologies used in the software engineering of the systems.
These components have a significant effect on how the norms from the tax code get implemented. Moreover, Meessen argued that often it can be the software developers who make the decisions that shape the legal norms instead of societal or legal experts.
Meessen concluded with some recommendations for working on sustainable legal automation in order to safeguard important legal protections.
You can find Hildebrandt’s slides here.
You can find Meessen’s slides here.