Extendability of Causal Graphical Models: Algorithms and Computational Complexity

July, 2021


Finding a consistent DAG extension for a given partially directed acyclic graph (PDAG) is a basic building block used in graphical causal analysis. In 1992, Dor and Tarsi proposed an algorithm with time complexity O(n 4 ), which has been widely used in causal theory and practice so far. It is a long-standing open question whether an extension can be computed faster and, in particular, it was conjectured that a linear-time method may exist. The main contributions of our work are two-fold: Firstly, we propose a new algorithm for the extension problem for PDAGs which runs in time O(n 3 ); secondly, we show that, under a computational intractability assumption, our cubic algorithm is optimal. Thus, our impossibility result disproves the conjecture that a linear-time method exists. Based on these results, we present a full complexity landscape for finding extensions in various causal graphical models. We extend the techniques to recognition problems and apply them to design an effective algorithm for closing a PDAG under the orientation rules of Meek.

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