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ROCK: Causal Inference Principles for Reasoning about Commonsense Causality
Jiayao Zhang · Hongming ZHANG · Weijie Su · Dan Roth

Tue Jul 19 08:55 AM -- 09:00 AM (PDT) @ Room 301 - 303

Commonsense causality reasoning (CCR) aims at identifying plausible causes and effects in natural language descriptions that are deemed reasonable by an average person. Although being of great academic and practical interest, this problem is still shadowed by the lack of a well-posed theoretical framework; existing work usually relies on deep language models wholeheartedly, and is potentially susceptible to confounding co-occurrences. Motivated by classical causal principles, we articulate the central question of CCR and draw parallels between human subjects in observational studies and natural languages to adopt CCR to the potential-outcomes framework, which is the first such attempt for commonsense tasks. We propose a novel framework, ROCK, to Reason O(A)bout Commonsense K(C)ausality, which utilizes temporal signals as incidental supervision, and balances confounding effects using temporal propensities that are analogous to propensity scores. The ROCK implementation is modular and zero-shot, and demonstrates good CCR capabilities.

Author Information

Jiayao Zhang (University of Pennsylvania)
Hongming ZHANG (Tencent AI Lab, Seattle)
Weijie Su (University of Pennsylvania)
Dan Roth (University of Pennsylvania and AWS AI Labs)
Dan Roth

Dan Roth is the Eduardo D. Glandt Distinguished Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania, lead of NLP Science at AWS AI Labs., and a Fellow of the AAAS, the ACM, AAAI, and the ACL. In 2017 Roth was awarded the John McCarthy Award, the highest award the AI community gives to mid-career AI researchers. Roth was recognized “for major conceptual and theoretical advances in the modeling of natural language understanding, machine learning, and reasoning.” Roth has published broadly in machine learning, natural language processing, knowledge representation and reasoning, and learning theory, and has developed advanced machine learning based tools for natural language applications that are being used widely. Roth was the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR) and a program chair of AAAI, ACL, and CoNLL. Roth has been involved in several startups; most recently he was a co-founder and chief scientist of NexLP, a startup that leverages the latest advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), Cognitive Analytics, and Machine Learning in the legal and compliance domains. NexLP was acquired by Reveal in 2020. Prof. Roth received his B.A Summa cum laude in Mathematics from the Technion, Israel, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard University in 1995.

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