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Invited Talk

Causal Effect Estimation with Context and Confounders

Arthur Gretton

Auditorium 1


A fundamental causal modelling task is to predict the effect of an intervention (or treatment) on an outcome, given context/covariates. Examples include predicting the effect of a medical treatment on patient health given patient symptoms and demographic information, or predicting the effect of ticket pricing on airline sales given seasonal fluctuations in demand. The problem becomes especially challenging when the treatment and context are complex (for instance, "treatment" might be a web ad design or a radiotherapy plan), and when only observational data is available (i.e., we have access to historical data, but cannot intervene ourselves). The challenge is greater still when the covariates are not observed, and constitute a hidden source of confounding.

We will provide practical tools and methods for estimating causal effects of complex, high dimensional treatments from observational data. The approach is based on conditional feature means, which represent conditional expectations of relevant model features. These features can be deep neural nets (adaptive, finite dimensional, learned from data), or kernel features (fixed, infinite dimensional, enforcing smoothness). When hidden confounding is present, we will demonstrate a neural net implementation of instrumental variable regression to correct for this confounding. We will apply these methods to modelling employment outcomes for the US Job Corps program for Disadvantaged Youth, and in policy evaluation for reinforcement learning.

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