Please join us for a meeting of the Flatiron Institute Computational Methods and Data Science Journal Club with Johann Brehmer, Research Scientist at Qualcomm AI Research Amsterdam. Johann's talk will take place in the CCN Classroom from 3:00-4:00 PM, and a reception will follow from 4:00-5:00 PM in the CCN 4th Floor Pantry.
Title: Learning causal representations through weak supervision
Abstract: Many systems can be described in terms of some high-level variables and causal relations between them. Often, these causal variables are not known but only observed in some unstructured, low-level representation, like the pixels of a camera feed. Learning the high-level representations together with their causal structure from pixel-level data is a challenging problem – and known to be impossible from unsupervised observational data. We prove that causal variables and structure can however be learned from weak supervision. This setting involves a dataset with paired samples before and after random, unknown interventions, but no further labels. We then introduce implicit latent causal models, variational autoencoders that represent causal structure without having to optimize an explicit graph. On simple image data, we demonstrate that such models disentangle causal variables and allow for causal reasoning. Finally, we briefly comment of the limitations of causal representation learning in its current form and speculate about the path to practically useful methods.