General Transportability of Soft Interventions: Completeness Results

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2020)

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Juan Correa, Elias Bareinboim


The challenge of generalizing causal knowledge across different environments is pervasive in scientific explorations, including in AI, ML, and Data Science. Experiments are usually performed in one environment (e.g., in a lab, on Earth) with the intent, almost invariably, of being used elsewhere (e.g., outside the lab, on Mars), where the conditions are likely to be different. In the causal inference literature, this generalization task has been formalized under the rubric of transportability (Pearl and Bareinboim, 2011), where a number of criteria and algorithms have been developed for various settings. Despite the generality of such results, transportability theory has been confined to atomic, do()-interventions. In practice, many real-world applications require more complex, stochastic interventions; for instance, in reinforcement learning, agents need to continuously adapt to the changing conditions of an uncertain and unknown environment. In this paper, we extend transportability theory to encompass these more complex types of interventions, which are known as "soft," both relative to the input as well as the target distribution of the analysis. Specifically, we develop a graphical condition that is both necessary and sufficient for deciding soft-transportability. Second, we develop an algorithm to determine whether a non-atomic intervention is computable from a combination of the distributions available across domains. As a corollary, we show that the $\sigma$-calculus is complete for the task of soft-transportability.