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Estimating Possible Causal Effects with Latent Variables via Adjustment

Tian-Zuo Wang · Tian Qin · Zhi-Hua Zhou

Exhibit Hall 1 #643
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Causal effect identification is a fundamental task in artificial intelligence. A most ideal scenario for causal effect identification is that there is a directed acyclic graph as a prior causal graph encoding the causal relations of all relevant variables. In real tasks, however, the prior causal graph is usually not available, and some relevant variables may be latent as well. With observational data, we can only learn a partial ancestral graph (PAG), which contains some indeterminate causal relations. Since many causal graphs can correspond to one PAG, they are possibly associated with different causal effects. The aim of this paper is to estimate these possible causal effects via covariate adjustment given a PAG. This task is challenging because the number of causal graphs corresponding to a PAG grows super-exponentially with the number of variables. We propose a new graphical characterization for possible adjustment sets, and based on this, we develop the first method to determine the set of possible causal effects that are consistent with the given PAG without enumerating any causal graphs. Our method can output the same set as the enumeration method with super-exponentially less complexity. Experiments validate the effectiveness and tremendous efficiency improvement of the proposed method.

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