The Label Blog

Trust in Machine Learning

machine learning

”I just want to trust my training data!”

Trust in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has become a focal point of discussion moving into an era increasingly defined by the integration of these technologies into our everyday lives. At the center of this discussion lies the intricate relationship between users and the algorithms they rely on. While machine learning holds tremendous promise for revolutionizing a range of industries, its inherent complexity often shrouds its output in a veil of uncertainty. This uncertainty not only challenges the reliability of machine learning models but also undermines the trust users place in them. 

A central dilemma that surrounds machine learning is disconnect between the sophistication of these algorithms and the ability of users to comprehend them. Unlike traditional models whose inner workings are often transparent and easily interpretable, machine learning models can be enigmatic entities, dubbed “black box” models, whose operations remain inscrutable to all but the most specialized experts. Consequently, users grapple with the daunting task of discerning whether a machine learning model’s output is accurate, and if not, why? 

Lack of transparency not only breeds skepticism among users but also fosters hesitance among researchers and end-users to fully embrace machine learning models. Compounding this issue is the absence of a universal standard for what constitutes trustworthy machine learning. As organizations and sectors navigate this landscape, they encounter challenges stemming from the opacity of these models, hindering their ability to assess performance, ensure equitable treatment, and maintain accountability. 

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report is an evaluative document produced by the Government Accountability Office, which is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the United States Congress. GAO reports are the result of comprehensive audits, investigations, and evaluations of federal programs and expenditures.

In the context of trust in data and the development of Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning, GAO reports are invaluable as they provide a trusted, third-party review of government activities and policies in these rapidly evolving fields. They serve as essential tools for policymakers and the public alike when considering the implications of AI and ML on society. The following information regarding the associated challenges and the importance of building trust in training data is reflective of the 2023 GAO Technology Assessment on Artificial Intelligence in Natural Hazard Modeling. 

Challenges to Trust in Machine Learning

Lack of Understandability: Machine learning models often operate at a level of complexity that surpasses the comprehension of many users. Unlike traditional models with transparent methodologies, the inner workings of machine learning algorithms can appear opaque and inaccessible. This lack of understandability undermines users’ confidence in the reliability and accuracy of these models. 

Difficulty in Determining Accuracy: Assessing the accuracy of machine learning models presents a significant challenge. Unlike non-machine learning models whose performance can be comparatively evaluated through straightforward metrics, such as error rates, determining the accuracy of machine learning outputs is often more convoluted. Users may struggle to discern whether discrepancies between model predictions and observed outcomes stem from genuine inaccuracies or inherent complexities within the model itself. 

“Black Box” Models: The emergence of “black box” models further compounds trust-related challenges in machine learning. These models operate with internal mechanisms that are highly complex and inscrutable, making it difficult for users to comprehend how inputs translate to outputs. Without visibility into the decision-making process of these models, users face uncertainty regarding the rationale behind their predictions and classifications. 

Varied Trust Standards: Across different organizations and sectors, there is a lack of consensus on what constitutes trustworthy machine learning. As a result, trust standards vary widely, further complicating efforts to establish universal criteria for evaluating the reliability and dependability of machine learning models. This variability contributes to the fragmented landscape of trust in machine learning, impeding widespread adoption and acceptance. 

Impact on Research and End-User Adoption: The challenges surrounding trust in machine learning models extend beyond individual users to encompass broader implications for research and end-user adoption. Researchers and practitioners may hesitate to fully embrace machine learning technologies due to concerns about their trustworthiness. Similarly, end-users may exhibit reluctance to adopt machine learning solutions in critical domains, such as healthcare or finance, where trust and reliability are paramount. 

Building Trust: Dimensions and Frameworks

Establishing trust in machine learning systems necessitates attention to various dimensions and frameworks aimed at enhancing transparency, interpretability, and explainability. By addressing these key aspects, stakeholders can cultivate confidence in the reliability and accountability of machine learning models. 

Transparent AI

Transparent AI focuses on making information about the data, methodologies, and decisions used throughout the model’s lifecycle accessible and comprehensible to users. This includes disclosing details about data sources, preprocessing techniques, model architecture, training procedures, and performance metrics. Transparency enables users to scrutinize the model’s inputs and outputs, detect errors or biases, and ensure equitable treatment of individuals affected by the model’s decisions. 

Interpretable AI

Interpretable AI entails designing machine learning models in a manner that facilitates user understanding of their development process and output rationale. Unlike opaque “black box” models, interpretable models allow users to intuitively grasp how inputs are transformed into predictions or classifications. Achieving interpretability involves employing model architectures, feature representations, and decision-making mechanisms that align with human cognitive processes, enabling users to interpret and trust the model’s behavior. 

Explainable AI

Explainable AI entails the development of methods and techniques aimed at elucidating why and how an AI algorithm arrives at specific decisions. While interpretable models provide insight into the model’s workings, explainable AI goes a step further by providing explicit explanations for individual predictions or classifications. This involves generating post-hoc explanations, such as feature importance scores, decision trees, or textual justifications, that shed light on the underlying reasoning behind the model’s outputs. 

Frameworks such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) AI Accountability Framework offer guidance on cultivating trust in machine learning through transparent interpretable, and explainable practices. By adhering to these frameworks, organizations can ensure that their machine-learning systems are built and deployed with accountability, fairness, and transparency in mind. Furthermore, these frameworks serve as valuable tools for assessing and benchmarking the trustworthiness of machine-learning models across diverse contexts and applications.


Despite the formidable obstacles encountered along the path of trust in AI and machine learning, there exists a resounding call to action for stakeholders across academia, industry, and government to collectively address these challenges and cultivate trust in machine learning systems. By prioritizing transparency, interpretability, and explainability in model development and deployment, it is possible to bridge the gap between users and algorithms, fostering confidence in the reliability, fairness, and accountability of machine learning technologies. 

The imperative to promote trust in machine learning extends beyond technical considerations to encompass broader societal implications, including ethical, regulatory, and equity-related concerns. As stewards of these transformative technologies, we bear a collective responsibility to navigate these challenges with diligence, integrity, and a steadfast commitment to the principles of transparency, fairness, and human-centered design.