Sequential Causal Imitation Learning with Unobserved ConfoundersDownload PDF

May 21, 2021 (edited Oct 26, 2021)NeurIPS 2021 OralReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: causality, reinforcement learning, imitation
  • TL;DR: We provide a complete graphical condition for determining feasibility of sequential imitation in the presence of latent confounding
  • Abstract: "Monkey see monkey do" is an age-old adage, referring to naive imitation without a deep understanding of a system's underlying mechanics. Indeed, if a demonstrator has access to information unavailable to the imitator (monkey), such as a different set of sensors, then no matter how perfectly the imitator models its perceived environment (See), attempting to directly reproduce the demonstrator's behavior (Do) can lead to poor outcomes. Imitation learning in the presence of a mismatch between demonstrator and imitator has been studied in the literature under the rubric of causal imitation learning (Zhang et. al. 2020), but existing solutions are limited to single-stage decision-making. This paper investigates the problem of causal imitation learning in sequential settings, where the imitator must make multiple decisions per episode. We develop a graphical criterion that is both necessary and sufficient for determining the feasibility of causal imitation, providing conditions when an imitator can match a demonstrator's performance despite differing capabilities. Finally, we provide an efficient algorithm for determining imitability, and corroborate our theory with simulations.
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