Theoretical Impediments to Machine Learning With Seven Sparks from the Causal Revolution

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Current machine learning systems operate, almost exclusively, in a statistical, or model-free mode, which entails severe theoretical limits on their power and performance. Such systems cannot reason about interventions and retrospection and, therefore, cannot serve as the basis for strong AI. To achieve human level intelligence, learning machines need the guidance of a model of reality, similar to the ones used in causal inference tasks. To demonstrate the essential role of such models, I will present a summary of seven tasks which are beyond reach of current machine learning systems and which have been accomplished using the tools of causal modeling.


A Primer on Causal Analysis

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We provide a conceptual map to navigate causal analysis problems. Focusing on the case of discrete random variables, we consider the case of causal effect estimation from observational data. The presented approaches apply also to continuous variables, but the issue of estimation becomes more complex. We then introduce the four schools of thought for causal analysis


A Primer on Causality in Data Science

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Many questions in Data Science are fundamentally causal in that our objective is to learn the effect of some exposure (randomized or not) on an outcome interest. Even studies that are seemingly non-causal (e.g. prediction or prevalence estimation) have causal elements, such as differential censoring or measurement. As a result, we, as Data Scientists, need to consider the underlying causal mechanisms that gave rise to the data, rather than simply the pattern or association observed in the data. In this work, we review the "Causal Roadmap", a formal framework to augment our traditional statistical analyses in an effort to answer the causal questions driving our research. Specific steps of the Roadmap include clearly stating the scientific question, defining of the causal model, translating the scientific question into a causal parameter, assessing the assumptions needed to translate the causal parameter into a statistical estimand, implementation of statistical estimators including parametric and semi-parametric methods, and interpretation of our findings. Throughout we focus on the effect of an exposure occurring at a single time point and provide extensions to more advanced settings.


Whittemore: An embedded domain specific language for causal programming

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This paper introduces Whittemore, a language for causal programming. Causal programming is based on the theory of structural causal models and consists of two primary operations: identification, which finds formulas that compute causal queries, and estimation, which applies formulas to transform probability distributions to other probability distribution. Causal programming provides abstractions to declare models, queries, and distributions with syntax similar to standard mathematical notation, and conducts rigorous causal inference, without requiring detailed knowledge of the underlying algorithms. Examples of causal inference with real data are provided, along with discussion of the implementation and possibilities for future extension.


Transfer Learning for Performance Modeling of Configurable Systems: A Causal Analysis

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Modern systems (e.g., deep neural networks, big data analytics, and compilers) are highly configurable, which means they expose different performance behavior under different configurations. The fundamental challenge is that one cannot simply measure all configurations due to the sheer size of the configuration space. Transfer learning has been used to reduce the measurement efforts by transferring knowledge about performance behavior of systems across environments. Previously, research has shown that statistical models are indeed transferable across environments. In this work, we investigate identifiability and transportability of causal effects and statistical relations in highly-configurable systems. Our causal analysis agrees with previous exploratory analysis \cite{Jamshidi17} and confirms that the causal effects of configuration options can be carried over across environments with high confidence. We expect that the ability to carry over causal relations will enable effective performance analysis of highly-configurable systems.