Self-fulfilling Prophecy in Practical and Automated Prediction

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-26 (forthcoming)
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A self-fulfilling prophecy is, roughly, a prediction that brings about its own truth. Although true predictions are hard to fault, self-fulfilling prophecies are often regarded with suspicion. In this article, we vindicate this suspicion by explaining what self-fulfilling prophecies are and what is problematic about them, paying special attention to how their problems are exacerbated through automated prediction. Our descriptive account of self-fulfilling prophecies articulates the four elements that define them. Based on this account, we begin our critique by showing that typical self-fulfilling prophecies arise due to mistakes about the relationship between a prediction and its object. Such mistakes—along with other mistakes in predicting or in the larger practical endeavor—are easily overlooked when the predictions turn out true. Thus we note that self-fulfilling prophecies prompt no error signals; truth shrouds their mistakes from humans and machines alike. Consequently, self-fulfilling prophecies create several obstacles to accountability for the outcomes they produce. We conclude our critique by showing how failures of accountability, and the associated failures to make corrections, explain the connection between self-fulfilling prophecies and feedback loops. By analyzing the complex relationships between accuracy and other evaluatively significant features of predictions, this article sheds light both on the special case of self-fulfilling prophecies and on the ethics of prediction more generally.

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Responsibility for implicit bias.Jules Holroyd - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (3).
Responsibility as Answerability.Angela M. Smith - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (2):99-126.
Agency Laundering and Information Technologies.Alan Rubel, Clinton Castro & Adam Pham - 2019 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4):1017-1041.

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