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Oral Session

Oral 2C Causality

Room R02-R05 (level 2)

Tue 12 Dec. 13:40 - 13:55 PST

Learning Linear Causal Representations from Interventions under General Nonlinear Mixing

Simon Buchholz · Goutham Rajendran · Elan Rosenfeld · Bryon Aragam · Bernhard Schölkopf · Pradeep Ravikumar

We study the problem of learning causal representations from unknown, latent interventions in a general setting, where the latent distribution is Gaussian but the mixing function is completely general. We prove strong identifiability results given unknown single-node interventions, i.e., without having access to the intervention targets. This generalizes prior works which have focused on weaker classes, such as linear maps or paired counterfactual data. This is also the first instance of identifiability from non-paired interventions for deep neural network embeddings and general causal structures. Our proof relies on carefully uncovering the high-dimensional geometric structure present in the data distribution after a non-linear density transformation, which we capture by analyzing quadratic forms of precision matrices of the latent distributions. Finally, we propose a contrastive algorithm to identify the latent variables in practice and evaluate its performance on various tasks.

Tue 12 Dec. 13:55 - 14:10 PST

A Measure-Theoretic Axiomatisation of Causality

Junhyung Park · Simon Buchholz · Bernhard Schölkopf · Krikamol Muandet

Causality is a central concept in a wide range of research areas, yet there is still no universally agreed axiomatisation of causality. We view causality both as an extension of probability theory and as a study of what happens when one intervenes on a system, and argue in favour of taking Kolmogorov's measure-theoretic axiomatisation of probability as the starting point towards an axiomatisation of causality. To that end, we propose the notion of a causal space, consisting of a probability space along with a collection of transition probability kernels, called causal kernels, that encode the causal information of the space. Our proposed framework is not only rigorously grounded in measure theory, but it also sheds light on long-standing limitations of existing frameworks including, for example, cycles, latent variables and stochastic processes.

Tue 12 Dec. 14:10 - 14:25 PST

Conformal Meta-learners for Predictive Inference of Individual Treatment Effects

Ahmed Alaa · Zaid Ahmad · Mark van der Laan

We investigate the problem of machine learning-based (ML) predictive inference on individual treatment effects (ITEs). Previous work has focused primarily on developing ML-based “meta-learners” that can provide point estimates of the conditional average treatment effect (CATE)—these are model-agnostic approaches for combining intermediate nuisance estimates to produce estimates of CATE. In this paper, we develop conformal meta-learners, a general framework for issuing predictive intervals for ITEs by applying the standard conformal prediction (CP) procedure on top of CATE meta-learners. We focus on a broad class of meta-learners based on two-stage pseudo-outcome regression and develop a stochastic ordering framework to study their validity. We show that inference with conformal meta-learners is marginally valid if their (pseudo-outcome) conformity scores stochastically dominate “oracle” conformity scores evaluated on the unobserved ITEs. Additionally, we prove that commonly used CATE meta-learners, such as the doubly-robust learner, satisfy a model- and distribution-free stochastic (or convex) dominance condition, making their conformal inferences valid for practically-relevant levels of target coverage. Whereas existing procedures conduct inference on nuisance parameters (i.e., potential outcomes) via weighted CP, conformal meta-learners enable direct inference on the target parameter (ITE). Numerical experiments show that conformal meta-learners provide valid intervals with competitive efficiency while retaining the favorable point estimation properties of CATE meta-learners.

Tue 12 Dec. 14:25 - 14:40 PST

Causal normalizing flows: from theory to practice

Adrián Javaloy · Pablo Sanchez-Martin · Isabel Valera

In this work, we deepen on the use of normalizing flows for causal reasoning. Specifically, we first leverage recent results on non-linear ICA to show that causal models are identifiable from observational data given a causal ordering, and thus can be recovered using autoregressive normalizing flows (NFs). Second, we analyze different design and learning choices for causal normalizing flows to capture the underlying causal data-generating process. Third, we describe how to implement the do-operator in causal NFs, and thus, how to answer interventional and counterfactual questions. Finally, in our experiments, we validate our design and training choices through a comprehensive ablation study; compare causal NFs to other approaches for approximating causal models; and empirically demonstrate that causal NFs can be used to address real-world problems—where the presence of mixed discrete-continuous data and partial knowledge on the causal graph is the norm. The code for this work can be found at