Machine Learning and Irresponsible Inference: Morally Assessing the Training Data for Image Recognition Systems

Owen Christopher King

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
191 Downloads (Pure)


Just as humans can draw conclusions responsibly or irresponsibly, so too can computers. Machine learning systems that have been trained on data sets that include irresponsible judgments are likely to yield irresponsible predictions as outputs. In this paper I focus on a particular kind of inference a computer system might make: identification of the intentions with which a person acted on the basis of photographic evidence. Such inferences are liable to be morally objectionable, because of a way in which they are presumptuous. After elaborating this moral concern, I explore the possibility that carefully procuring the training data for image recognition systems could ensure that the systems avoid the problem. The lesson of this paper extends beyond just the particular case of image recognition systems and the challenge of responsibly identifying a person’s intentions. Reflection on this particular case demonstrates the importance (as well as the difficulty) of evaluating machine learning systems and their training data from the standpoint of moral considerations that are not encompassed by ordinary assessments of predictive accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn the Cognitive, Ethical, and Scientific Dimensions of Artificial Intelligence
Subtitle of host publicationThemes from IACAP 2016
EditorsDon Berkich, Matteo Vincenzo d'Alfonso
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-01800-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-01799-6
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePhilosophical Studies Series
ISSN (Print)0921-8599
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8349


  • Machine Learning
  • Image Recognition
  • training data
  • data ethics


Dive into the research topics of 'Machine Learning and Irresponsible Inference: Morally Assessing the Training Data for Image Recognition Systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this