In this work, we present causal directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) as a unifying framework for the recent literature on fairness in dynamical systems. We advocate for the use of causal DAGs as a tool in both designing equitable policies and estimating their impacts. By visualizing models of dynamic unfairness graphically, we expose implicit causal assumptions which can then be more easily interpreted and scrutinized by domain experts. We demonstrate that this method of reinterpretation can be used to critique the robustness of an existing model/policy, or uncover new policy evaluation questions. Causal models also enable a rich set of options for evaluating a new candidate policy without incurring the risk of implementing the policy in the real world. We close the paper with causal analyses of several models from the recent literature, and provide an in-depth case study to demonstrate the utility of causal DAGs for modeling fairness in dynamical systems.
Speakers: Elliot Creager, David Madras, Toniann Pitassi, Richard Zemel