Delphic Offline Reinforcement Learning under Nonidentifiable Hidden Confounding

Published: 16 Jan 2024, Last Modified: 15 Mar 2024ICLR 2024 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
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Keywords: offline reinforcement learning, hidden confounding, uncertainty quantification, causal inference, healthcare, vasopressor and fluid administration
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TL;DR: The paper tackles nonidentifiable hidden confounding in offline RL by introducing and leveraging delphic uncertainty -- a novel uncertainty estimation method for confounding bias, improving performance on simulated and real-world confounded data.
Abstract: A prominent challenge of offline reinforcement learning (RL) is the issue of hidden confounding: unobserved variables may influence both the actions taken by the agent and the observed outcomes. Hidden confounding can compromise the validity of any causal conclusion drawn from data and presents a major obstacle to effective offline RL. In the present paper, we tackle the problem of hidden confounding in the nonidentifiable setting. We propose a definition of uncertainty due to hidden confounding bias, termed delphic uncertainty, which uses variation over world models compatible with the observations, and differentiate it from the well-known epistemic and aleatoric uncertainties. We derive a practical method for estimating the three types of uncertainties, and construct a pessimistic offline RL algorithm to account for them. Our method does not assume identifiability of the unobserved confounders, and attempts to reduce the amount of confounding bias. We demonstrate through extensive experiments and ablations the efficacy of our approach on a sepsis management benchmark, as well as on electronic health records. Our results suggest that nonidentifiable hidden confounding bias can be mitigated to improve offline RL solutions in practice.
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Primary Area: reinforcement learning
Submission Number: 5633