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Delphic Offline Reinforcement Learning under Nonidentifiable Hidden Confounding
Alizée Pace · Hugo Yèche · Bernhard Schölkopf · Gunnar Ratsch · Guy Tennenholtz

A prominent challenge of offline reinforcement learning (RL) is the issue of hidden confounding: unobserved variables may influence both the actions taken by the agent and the observed outcomes. Hidden confounding can compromise the validity of any causal conclusion drawn from data and presents a major obstacle to effective offline RL. In the present paper, we tackle the problem of hidden confounding in the nonidentifiable setting. We propose a definition of uncertainty due to hidden confounding bias, termed delphic uncertainty, which measures variation over counterfactual predictions compatible with the observations, and differentiate it from the well-known epistemic and aleatoric uncertainties. We derive a practical method for estimating the three types of uncertainties, and construct a pessimistic offline RL algorithm to account for them. Our method does not assume identifiability of the unobserved confounders, and attempts to reduce the amount of confounding bias. We demonstrate through extensive experiments and ablations the efficacy of our approach on a sepsis management benchmark, as well as on electronic health records. Our results suggest that nonidentifiable hidden confounding bias can be mitigated to improve offline RL solutions in practice.

Author Information

Alizée Pace (ETH Zurich)
Hugo Yèche (ETH Zürich)
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.

Gunnar Ratsch (ETH Zurich)
Guy Tennenholtz (Google Research)

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