Machine Learning and the Future of Scientific Explanation

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 52 (1):171-176 (2021)
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Abstract

The workshop “Machine Learning: Prediction Without Explanation?” brought together philosophers of science and scholars from various fields who study and employ Machine Learning (ML) techniques, in order to discuss the changing face of science in the light of ML's constantly growing use. One major focus of the workshop was on the impact of ML on the concept and value of scientific explanation. One may speculate whether ML’s increased use in science exemplifies a paradigmatic turn towards mere pattern recognition and prediction and away from science’s traditional aim of explanation. In contrast, certain conceptions of explanation, such as statistical explanation, could turn out to fit well with the achievements of present-day ML and concede an explanatory value to these achievements after all. It is an open question how to explain ML successes themselves, and this question was in the focus of several talks in the workshop. Based on the topics raised, we will discuss the talks’ contents in more detail as organized into (i) practitioners’ perspectives, (ii) explanations from ML, (iii) explanations of ML, (iv) societal implications, and (v) global and historical perspectives.

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Author Profiles

Florian J. Boge
Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Michael Poznic
Universität Karlsruhe

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