Causal Reinforcement Learning - Slides

November, 2020

Slides for "Causal Reinforcement Learning" (CRL) by Elias Bareinboim

Tutorial Overview

Causal inference provides a set of tools and principles that allows one to combine data and structural invariances about the environment to reason about questions of counterfactual nature — i.e., what would have happened had reality been different, even when no data about this imagined reality is available. Reinforcement Learning is concerned with efficiently finding a policy that optimizes a specific function (e.g., reward, regret) in interactive and uncertain environments. These two disciplines have evolved independently and with virtually no interaction between them. In reality, however, they operate over different aspects of the same building block, i.e., counterfactual relations, which makes them umbilically tied.

In this tutorial, we introduce a unified treatment based on this observation, putting these two disciplines under the same conceptual and theoretical umbrella. We show that a number of natural and pervasive classes of learning problems emerge when this connection is fully established, which cannot be seen individually from either discipline alone. In particular, we'll discuss generalized policy learning (a combination of online, off-policy, and do-calculus learning), when and where to intervene, counterfactual decision-making (and free-will, autonomy, human-AI collaboration), policy generalizability, and causal imitation learning, among others. This new understanding leads to a broader view of what counterfactual learning is, and suggests the great potential for the study of causality and reinforcement learning side by side. We call this new line of investigation "Causal Reinforcement Learning" (CRL, for short).

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