Model-based Causal Bayesian Optimization

by   Scott Sussex, et al.

How should we intervene on an unknown structural causal model to maximize a downstream variable of interest? This optimization of the output of a system of interconnected variables, also known as causal Bayesian optimization (CBO), has important applications in medicine, ecology, and manufacturing. Standard Bayesian optimization algorithms fail to effectively leverage the underlying causal structure. Existing CBO approaches assume noiseless measurements and do not come with guarantees. We propose model-based causal Bayesian optimization (MCBO), an algorithm that learns a full system model instead of only modeling intervention-reward pairs. MCBO propagates epistemic uncertainty about the causal mechanisms through the graph and trades off exploration and exploitation via the optimism principle. We bound its cumulative regret, and obtain the first non-asymptotic bounds for CBO. Unlike in standard Bayesian optimization, our acquisition function cannot be evaluated in closed form, so we show how the reparameterization trick can be used to apply gradient-based optimizers. Empirically we find that MCBO compares favorably with existing state-of-the-art approaches.


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