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Linear Causal Disentanglement via Interventions

Chandler Squires · Anna Seigal · Salil Bhate · Caroline Uhler

Exhibit Hall 1 #718


Causal disentanglement seeks a representation of data involving latent variables that are related via a causal model. A representation is identifiable if both the latent model and the transformation from latent to observed variables are unique. In this paper, we study observed variables that are a linear transformation of a linear latent causal model. Data from interventions are necessary for identifiability: if one latent variable is missing an intervention, we show that there exist distinct models that cannot be distinguished. Conversely, we show that a single intervention on each latent variable is sufficient for identifiability. Our proof uses a generalization of the RQ decomposition of a matrix that replaces the usual orthogonal and upper triangular conditions with analogues depending on a partial order on the rows of the matrix, with partial order determined by a latent causal model. We corroborate our theoretical results with a method for causal disentanglement. We show that the method accurately recovers a latent causal model on synthetic and semi-synthetic data and we illustrate a use case on a dataset of single-cell RNA sequencing measurements.

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