Authors
Stacy S. Chen
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Abstract
Objective: To examine the role of explainability in machine learning for healthcare (MLHC), and its necessity and significance with respect to effective and ethical MLHC application. Study Design and Setting: This commentary engages with the growing and dynamic corpus of literature on the use of MLHC and artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine, which provide the context for a focused narrative review of arguments presented in favour of and opposition to explainability in MLHC. Results: We find that concerns regarding explainability are not limited to MLHC, but rather extend to numerous well-validated treatment interventions as well as to human clinical judgment itself. We examine the role of evidence-based medicine in evaluating unexplainable treatments and technologies, and highlight the analogy between the concept of explainability in MLHC and the related concept of mechanistic reasoning in evidence-based medicine. Conclusion: Ultimately, we conclude that the value of explainability in MLHC is not intrinsic, but is instead instrumental to achieving greater imperatives such as performance and trust. We caution against the uncompromising pursuit of explainability, and advocate instead for the development of robust empirical methods to successfully evaluate increasingly inexplicable algorithmic systems.
Keywords machine learning  explainability  evidence-based medicine  mechanistic reasoning  algorithms  artificial intelligence
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DOI 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2021.11.001
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