Electrical Engineering Seminars

A World of Divergences

Flavio P. Calmon, Assistant Professor, Harvard University

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

This talk presents information-theoretic results on three facets of trustworthy machine learning: fairness, arbitrariness, and privacy. We highlight recent findings at the interface of information theory and differential privacy, including new methods for privacy accounting and the design of privacy mechanisms. We then discuss a post-processing technique, “FairProjection,” designed to ensure group fairness in prediction and classification. We present converse results based on Blackwell’s “comparison of experiments” theorem that captures the limits of group fairness assurance in classification. These results show that existing techniques (including FairProjection) can approach the optimal Pareto frontier between accuracy and group fairness in specific settings. We conclude by reviewing the concept of predictive multiplicity in machine learning. Predictive multiplicity arises when different classifiers achieve similar average performance for a specific learning task yet produce conflicting predictions for individual samples. We present recent metrics and findings on multiplicity and their implications for applications such as content moderation.

Location: SEC LL2.221 or Zoom

Speaker Bio

Flavio P. Calmon is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Before joining Harvard, he was the inaugural Data Science for Social Good Post-Doctoral Fellow at IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, New York. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. His research develops information-theoretic tools for trustworthy and reliable machine learning. Prof. Calmon has received the NSF CAREER award, faculty awards from Google, IBM, and Amazon, the NSF-Amazon Fairness in AI award, the Harvard Data Science Initiative Bias2 award, the Harvard Lemann Brazil Research Fund Award, and the Harvard Dean of Undergraduate Studies Commendation for “Extraordinary Teaching during Extraordinary Times.” He also received the inaugural "Título de Honra ao Mérito" (Honor to the Merit Title) given to alumni from the Universidade de Brasília (Brazil).


Marko Loncar


Jessica Brenn