Robust agents learn causal world models

Published: 16 Jan 2024, Last Modified: 10 Apr 2024ICLR 2024 oralEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
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Keywords: causality, generalisation, causal discovery, domain adaptation, out-of-distribution generalization
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TL;DR: We prove that agents that are capable of adapting to distributional shifts must have learned a causal model of their environment, establishing a formal equivalence between causality and transfer learning
Abstract: It has long been hypothesised that causal reasoning plays a fundamental role in robust and general intelligence. However, it is not known if agents must learn causal models in order to generalise to new domains, or if other inductive biases are sufficient. We answer this question, showing that any agent capable of satisfying a regret bound for a large set of distributional shifts must have learned an approximate causal model of the data generating process, which converges to the true causal model for optimal agents. We discuss the implications of this result for several research areas including transfer learning and causal inference.
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Primary Area: causal reasoning
Submission Number: 2566