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Learning Independent Causal Mechanisms
Giambattista Parascandolo · Niki Kilbertus · Mateo Rojas-Carulla · Bernhard Schölkopf

Wed Jul 11 06:10 AM -- 06:20 AM (PDT) @ A7

Statistical learning relies upon data sampled from a distribution, and we usually do not care what actually generated it in the first place. From the point of view of causal modeling, the structure of each distribution is induced by physical mechanisms that give rise to dependences between observables. Mechanisms, however, can be meaningful autonomous modules of generative models that make sense beyond a particular entailed data distribution, lending themselves to transfer between problems.We develop an algorithm to recover a set of independent (inverse) mechanisms from a set of transformed data points. The approach is unsupervised and based on a set of experts that compete for data generated by the mechanisms, driving specialization. We analyze the proposed method in a series of experiments on image data. Each expert learns to map a subset of the transformed data back to a reference distribution. The learned mechanisms generalize to novel domains. We discuss implications for transfer learning and links to recent trends in generative modeling.

Author Information

Giambattista Parascandolo (Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and ETH Zurich)
Niki Kilbertus (MPI Tübingen & Cambridge)
Mateo Rojas-Carulla (Cambridge/MPI)
Bernhard Schölkopf (MPI for Intelligent Systems Tübingen, Germany)

Bernhard Scholkopf received degrees in mathematics (London) and physics (Tubingen), and a doctorate in computer science from the Technical University Berlin. He has researched at AT&T Bell Labs, at GMD FIRST, Berlin, at the Australian National University, Canberra, and at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK). In 2001, he was appointed scientific member of the Max Planck Society and director at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics; in 2010 he founded the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. For further information, see www.kyb.tuebingen.mpg.de/~bs.

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