Transparency in Complex Computational Systems

Philosophy of Science (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Scientists depend on complex computational systems that are often ineliminably opaque, to the detriment of our ability to give scientific explanations and detect artifacts. Some philosophers have suggested treating opaque systems instrumentally, but computer scientists developing strategies for increasing transparency are correct in finding this unsatisfying. Instead, I propose an analysis of transparency as having three forms: transparency of the algorithm, the realization of the algorithm in code, and the way that code is run on particular hardware and data. This targets the transparency most useful for a task, avoiding instrumentalism by providing partial transparency when full transparency is impossible.
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Archival date: 2020-02-08
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