Not All Causal Inference is the Same

Published: 30 Oct 2023, Last Modified: 30 Oct 2023Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Abstract: Neurally-parameterized Structural Causal Models in the Pearlian notion to causality, referred to as NCM, were recently introduced as a step towards next-generation learning systems. However, said NCM are only concerned with the learning aspect of causal inference and totally miss out on the architecture aspect. That is, actual causal inference within NCM is intractable in that the NCM won’t return an answer to a query in polynomial time. This insight follows as corollary to the more general statement on the intractability of arbitrary structural causal model (SCM) parameterizations, which we prove in this work through classical 3-SAT reduction. Since future learning algorithms will be required to deal with both high dimensional data and highly complex mechanisms governing the data, we ultimately believe work on tractable inference for causality to be decisive. We also show that not all “causal” models are created equal. More specifically, there are models capable of answering causal queries that are not SCM, which we refer to as partially causal models (PCM). We provide a tabular taxonomy in terms of tractability properties for all of the different model families, namely correlation-based, PCM and SCM. To conclude our work, we also provide some initial ideas on how to overcome parts of the intractability of causal inference with SCM by showing an example of how parameterizing an SCM with SPN modules can at least allow for tractable mechanisms. With this work we hope that our insights can raise awareness for this novel research direction since achieving success with causality in real world downstream tasks will not only depend on learning correct models but also require having the practical ability to gain access to model inferences.
Submission Length: Long submission (more than 12 pages of main content)
Assigned Action Editor: ~Mingming_Gong1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 1144