Doctoral Thesis Defense of Daniel Barrejon Moreno

  • Title: How can humans leverage machine learning? From Medical Data Wrangling to Learning to Defer to Multiple Experts.
  • Author: Daniel Barrejon Moreno.
  • Abstract:The irruption of the smartphone into everyone’s life and the ease with which we digitise or record any data supposed an explosion of quantities of data. Smartphones, equipped with advanced cameras and sensors, have empowered individuals to capture moments and contribute to the growing pool of data. This data-rich landscape holds great promise for research, decision-making, and personalized applications. By carefully analyzing and interpreting this wealth of information, valuable insights, patterns, and trends can be uncovered. However, big data is worthless in vacuum. Its potential value is unlocked only when leveraged to drive decision-making. In recent times we have been participants of the outburst of artificial intelligence: the development of computer systems and algorithms capable of perceiving, reasoning, learning, and problem-solving, emulating certain aspects of human cognitive abilities. Nevertheless, our focus tends to be limited, merely skimming the surface of the problem, while the reality is that the application of machine learning models to data introduces is usually fraught. More specifically, there are two crucial pitfalls frequently neglected in the field of machine learning: the quality of the data and the erroneous assumption that machine learning models operate autonomously. These two issues have established the foundation for the motivation driving this thesis, which strives to offer solutions to two major associated challenges: 1) dealing with irregular observations and 2) learning when and who should we trust.

    The first challenge originates from our observation that the majority of machine learning research primarily concentrates on handling regular observations, neglecting a crucial technological obstacle encountered in practical big-data scenarios: the aggregation and curation of heterogeneous streams of information. Before applying machine learning algorithms, it is crucial to establish robust techniques for handling big data, as this specific aspect presents a notable bottleneck in the creation of robust algorithms. Data wrangling, which encompasses the extraction, integration, and cleaning processes necessary for data analysis, plays a crucial role in this regard. Therefore, the first objective of this thesis is to tackle the frequently disregarded challenge of addressing irregularities within the context of medical data. We will focus on three specific aspects. Firstly, we will tackle the issue of missing data by developing a framework that facilitates the imputation of missing data points using relevant information derived from alternative data sources or past observations. Secondly, we will move beyond the assumption of homogeneous observations, where only one statistical data type (such as Gaussian) is considered, and instead, work with heterogeneous observations. This means that different data sources can be represented by various statistical likelihoods, such as Gaussian, Bernoulli, categorical, etc. Lastly, considering the temporal enrichment of todays collected data and our focus on medical data, we will develop a novel algorithm capable of capturing and propagating correlations among different data streams over time. All these three problems are addressed in our first contribution which involves the development of a novel method based on Deep Generative Models (DGM) using Variational Autoencoders (VAE). The proposed model, the Sequential Heterogeneous Incomplete VAE (Shi-VAE), enables the aggregation of multiple heterogeneous data streams in a modular manner, taking into consideration the presence of potential missing data. To demonstrate the feasibility of our approach, we present proof-of-concept results obtained from a real database generated through continuous passive monitoring of psychiatric patients.Our second challenge relates to the misbelief that machine learning algorithms can perform independently. However, this notion that AI systems can solely account for automated decision-making, especially in critical domains such as healthcare, is far from reality. Our focus now shifts towards a specific scenario where the algorithm has the ability to make predictions independently or alternatively defer the responsibility to a human expert. The purpose of including the human is not to obtain just better performance, but also more reliable and trustworthy predictions we can rely on. In reality, however, important decisions are not made by one person but are usually committed by an ensemble of human experts. With this in mind, two important questions arise: 1) When should the human or the machine bear responsibility and 2) among the experts, who should we trust? To answer the first question, we will employ a recent theory known as Learning to defer (L2D). In L2D we are not only interested in abstaining from prediction but also in understanding the humans confidence for making such prediction. thus deferring only when the human is more likely to be correct. The second question about who to defer among a pool of experts has not been yet answered in the L2D literature, and this is what our contributions
    aim to provide. First, we extend the two yet proposed consistent surrogate losses in the L2D literature to the multiple-expert setting. Second, we study the frameworks ability to estimate the probability that a given expert correctly predicts and assess whether the two surrogate losses are confidence calibrated. Finally, we propose a conformal inference technique that chooses a subset of experts to query when the system defers. Ensembling experts based on confidence levels is vital to optimize human-machine collaboration.
    In conclusion, this doctoral thesis has investigated two cases where humans can leverage the power of machine learning: first, as a tool to assist in data wrangling and data understanding problems and second, as a collaborative tool where decision-making can be automated by the machine or delegated to human experts, fostering more transparent and trustworthy solutions.