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Partial Counterfactual Identification from Observational and Experimental Data
Junzhe Zhang · Jin Tian · Elias Bareinboim

Tue Jul 19 03:30 PM -- 05:30 PM (PDT) @ Hall E #505

This paper investigates the problem of bounding counterfactual queries from an arbitrary collection of observational and experimental distributions and qualitative knowledge about the underlying data-generating model represented in the form of a causal diagram. We show that all counterfactual distributions in an arbitrary structural causal model (SCM) could be generated by a canonical family of SCMs with the same causal diagram where unobserved (exogenous) variables are discrete with a finite domain. Utilizing the canonical SCMs, we translate the problem of bounding counterfactuals into that of polynomial programming whose solution provides optimal bounds for the counterfactual query. Solving such polynomial programs is in general computationally expensive. We therefore develop effective Monte Carlo algorithms to approximate optimal bounds from a combination of observational and experimental data. Our algorithms are validated extensively on synthetic and real-world datasets.

Author Information

Junzhe Zhang (Columbia University)
Jin Tian (Iowa State University)
Elias Bareinboim (Columbia)
Elias Bareinboim

Elias Bareinboim is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and the director of the Causal Artificial Intelligence (CausalAI) Laboratory at Columbia University. His research focuses on causal and counterfactual inference and their applications to artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as data-driven fields in the health and social sciences. His work was the first to propose a general solution to the problem of ``causal data-fusion,'' providing practical methods for combining datasets generated under different experimental conditions and plagued with various biases. In the last years, Bareinboim has been exploring the intersection of causal inference with decision-making (including reinforcement learning) and explainability (including fairness analysis). Before joining Columbia, he was an assistant professor at Purdue University and received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Bareinboim was named one of ``AI's 10 to Watch'' by IEEE, and is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award, the Dan David Prize Scholarship, the 2014 AAAI Outstanding Paper Award, and the 2019 UAI Best Paper Award.

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