Artificial Intelligence, 182-183, pages: 1-31, May 2012 (article)
While conventional approaches to causal inference are mainly based on conditional (in)dependences, recent methods also account for the shape of (conditional) distributions. The idea is that the causal hypothesis “X causes Y” imposes that the marginal distribution PX and the conditional distribution PY|X represent independent mechanisms of nature. Recently it has been postulated that the shortest description of the joint distribution PX,Y should therefore be given by separate descriptions of PX and PY|X. Since description length in the sense of Kolmogorov complexity is uncomputable, practical implementations rely on other notions of independence. Here we define independence via orthogonality in information space. This way, we can explicitly describe the kind of dependence that occurs between PY and PX|Y making the causal hypothesis “Y causes X” implausible. Remarkably, this asymmetry between cause and effect becomes particularly simple if X and Y are deterministically related. We present an inference method that works in this case. We also discuss some theoretical results for the non-deterministic case although it is not clear how to employ them for a more general inference method.
In Proceedings of the 26th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, pages: 143-150, (Editors: P Grünwald and P Spirtes), AUAI Press, Corvallis, OR, USA, UAI, July 2010 (inproceedings)
We consider two variables that are related to each other by an invertible function. While it has previously been shown that the dependence structure of the noise can provide hints
to determine which of the two variables is the cause, we presently show that even in the deterministic (noise-free) case, there are asymmetries that can be exploited for causal inference. Our method is based on the idea that if the function and the probability density of the cause are chosen independently, then the distribution of the effect will, in a certain sense, depend on the function. We
provide a theoretical analysis of this method, showing that it also works in the low noise regime, and link it to information geometry. We report strong empirical results on various real-world data sets from different domains.
In Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference on Learning Theory, pages: 464-476, (Editors: AT Kalai and M Mohri), OmniPress, Madison, WI, USA, COLT, June 2010 (inproceedings)
The causal Markov condition (CMC) is a postulate that links observations to causality. It describes the conditional independences among the observations that are entailed by a causal hypothesis in terms of a directed acyclic graph. In the conventional setting, the observations are random variables and the independence is a statistical one, i.e., the information content of observations is measured in
terms of Shannon entropy. We formulate a generalized CMC for any kind of observations on which independence is defined via an arbitrary submodular information measure. Recently, this has been discussed for observations in terms of binary strings where information is understood in the sense of Kolmogorov complexity. Our approach enables us to find computable alternatives to Kolmogorov complexity, e.g., the length of a text after applying existing data compression schemes. We show that our CMC is justified if one restricts the attention to a class of causal mechanisms that is adapted to the respective information measure. Our justification is similar to deriving the statistical CMC
from functional models of causality, where every variable is a deterministic function of its observed causes and an unobserved noise term. Our experiments on real data demonstrate the performance of compression based causal inference.
Open Systems and Information Dynamics, 17(2):189-212, June 2010 (article)
A recent method for causal discovery is in many cases able to infer whether X causes Y or Y causes X for just two observed variables X and Y. It is based on the observation that there exist (non-Gaussian) joint distributions P(X,Y) for which Y may be written as a function of X up to an additive noise term that is independent of X and no such model exists from Y to X. Whenever this is the case, one prefers the causal model X → Y. Here we justify this method by showing that the causal hypothesis Y → X is unlikely because it requires a specific tuning between P(Y) and P(X|Y) to generate a distribution that admits an additive noise model from X to Y. To quantify the amount of tuning, needed we derive lower bounds on the algorithmic information shared by P(Y) and P(X|Y). This way, our justification is consistent with recent approaches for using algorithmic information theory for causal reasoning. We extend this principle to the case where P(X,Y) almost admits an additive noise model. Our results suggest that the above conclusion is more reliable if the complexity of P(Y) is high.
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