Abstract: Discovering and exploiting the causal structure in the environment is a crucial challenge for intelligent agents. Here we explore whether modern deep reinforcement learning can be used to train agents to perform causal reasoning. We adopt a meta-learning approach, where the agent learns a policy for conducting experiments via causal interventions, in order to support a subsequent task which rewards making accurate causal inferences.We also found the agent could make sophisticated counterfactual predictions, as well as learn to draw causal inferences from purely observational data. Though powerful formalisms for causal reasoning have been developed, applying them in real-world domains can be difficult because fitting to large amounts of high dimensional data often requires making idealized assumptions. Our results suggest that causal reasoning in complex settings may benefit from powerful learning-based approaches. More generally, this work may offer new strategies for structured exploration in reinforcement learning, by providing agents with the ability to perform—and interpret—experiments.
Keywords: meta-learning, causal reasoning, deep reinforcement learning, artificial intelligence
TL;DR: meta-learn a learning algorithm capable of causal reasoning
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