Explainable AI: The New 42?

  • Randy GoebelEmail author
  • Ajay Chander
  • Katharina Holzinger
  • Freddy Lecue
  • Zeynep Akata
  • Simone Stumpf
  • Peter Kieseberg
  • Andreas Holzinger
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11015)


Explainable AI is not a new field. Since at least the early exploitation of C.S. Pierce’s abductive reasoning in expert systems of the 1980s, there were reasoning architectures to support an explanation function for complex AI systems, including applications in medical diagnosis, complex multi-component design, and reasoning about the real world. So explainability is at least as old as early AI, and a natural consequence of the design of AI systems. While early expert systems consisted of handcrafted knowledge bases that enabled reasoning over narrowly well-defined domains (e.g., INTERNIST, MYCIN), such systems had no learning capabilities and had only primitive uncertainty handling. But the evolution of formal reasoning architectures to incorporate principled probabilistic reasoning helped address the capture and use of uncertain knowledge.

There has been recent and relatively rapid success of AI/machine learning solutions arises from neural network architectures. A new generation of neural methods now scale to exploit the practical applicability of statistical and algebraic learning approaches in arbitrarily high dimensional spaces. But despite their huge successes, largely in problems which can be cast as classification problems, their effectiveness is still limited by their un-debuggability, and their inability to “explain” their decisions in a human understandable and reconstructable way. So while AlphaGo or DeepStack can crush the best humans at Go or Poker, neither program has any internal model of its task; its representations defy interpretation by humans, there is no mechanism to explain their actions and behaviour, and furthermore, there is no obvious instructional value ... the high performance systems can not help humans improve.

Even when we understand the underlying mathematical scaffolding of current machine learning architectures, it is often impossible to get insight into the internal working of the models; we need explicit modeling and reasoning tools to explain how and why a result was achieved. We also know that a significant challenge for future AI is contextual adaptation, i.e., systems that incrementally help to construct explanatory models for solving real-world problems. Here it would be beneficial not to exclude human expertise, but to augment human intelligence with artificial intelligence.


Artificial intelligence Machine learning Explainability Explainable AI 



The authors thanks their colleagues from local and international institutions for their valuable feedback, remarks and critics on this introduction to the MAKE-Explainable-AI workshop.


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alberta Machine Intelligence InstituteUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Fujitsu Labs of AmericaSunnyvaleUSA
  3. 3.SBA-ResearchViennaAustria
  4. 4.INRIASophia AntipolisFrance
  5. 5.Accenture LabsDublinIreland
  6. 6.Amsterdam Machine Learning LabUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  7. 7.Max Planck Institute for InformaticsSaarbrueckenGermany
  8. 8.City, University of LondonLondonUK
  9. 9.University of Applied Sciences St. PöltenSt. PöltenAustria
  10. 10.Holzinger Group HCI-KDD, Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and DocumentationMedical University GrazGrazAustria
  11. 11.Institute of Interactive Systems and Data ScienceGraz University of TechnologyGrazAustria

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