Workshop: Causal Inference & Machine Learning: Why now?

Synthesis of Reactive Programs with Structured Latent State

Ria Das · Zenna Tavares · Armando Solar-Lezama · Josh Tenenbaum


The human ability to efficiently discover causal theories of their environments from observations is a feat of nature that remains elusive in machines. In this work, we attempt to make progress on this frontier by formulating the challenge of causal mechanism discovery from observed data as one of program synthesis. We focus on the domain of time-varying, Atari-like 2D grid worlds, and represent causal models in this domain using a programming language called Autumn. Discovering the causal structure underlying a sequence of observations is equivalent to identifying the program in the Autumn language that generates the observations. We introduce a novel program synthesis algorithm, called AutumnSynth, that approaches this synthesis challenge by integrating standard methods of synthesizing functions with an automata synthesis approach, used to discover the model's latent state. We evaluate our method on a suite of Autumn programs designed to express the richness of the domain, which signals of the potential of our formulation.

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