The stakes associated with an algorithmic decision are often said to play a role in determining whether the decision engenders a right to an explanation. More specifically, “high stakes” decisions are often said to engender such a right to explanation whereas “low stakes” or “non-high” stakes decisions do not. While the overall gist of these ideas is clear enough, the details are lacking. In this paper, we aim to provide these details through a detailed investigation of what we will call the “Simple Stakes Thesis”. The Simple Stakes Thesis, as it will turn out, is too simple. For even if the stakes associated with a specific one-off decision are low—and hence does not engender a right to an explanation—such decisions may nevertheless form part of a high stakes pattern or aggregate of decisions. In such cases, we argue, even a low stakes decision may engender a right to explanation. Not only does this show that the right to explanation is more demanding than so far recognized. It also shows that the stakes thesis is significantly harder to apply in practice.
|Big Data & Society
|Accepteret/In press - 2023