Variational Causal Dynamics: Discovering Modular World Models from Interventions

Published: 30 Nov 2023, Last Modified: 30 Nov 2023Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Abstract: Latent world models allow agents to reason about complex environments with high-dimensional observations. However, adapting to new environments and effectively leveraging previous knowledge remain significant challenges. We present Variational Causal Dynamics (VCD), a structured world model that exploits the invariance of causal mechanisms across environments to achieve fast and modular adaptation. By causally factorising a transition model, VCD is able to identify reusable components across different environments. This is achieved by combining causal discovery and variational inference to learn a latent representation and transition model jointly in an unsupervised manner. Specifically, we optimise the evidence lower bound jointly over a representation model and a transition model structured as a causal graphical model. In evaluations on simulated environments with state and image observations, we show that VCD is able to successfully identify causal variables, and to discover consistent causal structures across different environments. Moreover, given a small number of observations in a previously unseen, intervened environment, VCD is able to identify the sparse changes in the dynamics and to adapt efficiently. In doing so, VCD significantly extends the capabilities of the current state-of-the-art in latent world models while also comparing favourably in terms of prediction accuracy.
Submission Length: Regular submission (no more than 12 pages of main content)
Assigned Action Editor: ~Eleni_Triantafillou1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 1473