Computationally and statistically efficient learning of causal Bayes nets using path queries

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

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Kevin Bello, Jean Honorio


Causal discovery from empirical data is a fundamental problem in many scientific domains. Observational data allows for identifiability only up to Markov equivalence class. In this paper we first propose a polynomial time algorithm for learning the exact correctly-oriented structure of the transitive reduction of any causal Bayesian network with high probability, by using interventional path queries. Each path query takes as input an origin node and a target node, and answers whether there is a directed path from the origin to the target. This is done by intervening on the origin node and observing samples from the target node. We theoretically show the logarithmic sample complexity for the size of interventional data per path query, for continuous and discrete networks. We then show how to learn the transitive edges using also logarithmic sample complexity (albeit in time exponential in the maximum number of parents for discrete networks), which allows us to learn the full network. We further extend our work by reducing the number of interventional path queries for learning rooted trees. We also provide an analysis of imperfect interventions.