Keywords: Algorithmic Recourse, Counterfactual Explanations, Explainable AI, Dynamic Systems
TL;DR: We present evidence suggesting that state-of-the-art applications of Algorithmic Recourse to groups of individuals induce large domain and model shifts and propose ways to mitigate this.
Abstract: Existing work on Counterfactual Explanations (CE) and Algorithmic Recourse (AR) has largely been limited to the static setting and focused on single individuals: given some estimated model, the goal is to find valid counterfactuals for an individual instance that fulfill various desiderata. The ability of such counterfactuals to handle dynamics like data and model drift remains a largely unexplored research challenge at this point. There has also been surprisingly little work on the related question of how the actual implementation of recourse by one individual may affect other individuals. Through this work we aim to close that gap by systematizing and extending existing knowledge. We first show that many of the existing methodologies can be collectively described by a generalized framework. We then argue that the existing framework fails to account for a hidden external cost of recourse, that only reveals itself when studying the endogenous dynamics of recourse at the group level. Through simulation experiments involving various state-of-the-art counterfactual generators and several benchmark datasets, we generate large numbers of counterfactuals and study the resulting domain and model shifts. We find that the induced shifts are substantial enough to likely impede the applicability of Algorithmic Recourse in situations that involve large groups of individuals. Fortunately, we find various potential mitigation strategies that can be used in combination with existing approaches. Our simulation framework for studying recourse dynamics is fast and open-sourced.