Causal Discovery, also known as causal inference, is the process of identifying and understanding the cause-and-effect relationships between variables in a system. It involves determining the direction and strength of causal connections among variables, helping to uncover the underlying mechanisms that drive observed phenomena.


Dynamic Causal Discovery in Imitation Learning

Imitation learning, which learns agent policy by mimicking expert demonstration, has shown promising results in many applications such as medical treatment regimes and self-driving vehicles. However, it remains a difficult task to interpret control policies learned by the agent. Difficulties mainly come from two aspects: 1) agents in imitation learning are usually implemented as deep neural networks, which are black-box models and lack interpretability; 2) the latent causal mechanism behind agents’ decisions may vary along the trajectory, rather than staying static throughout time steps. To increase transparency and offer better interpretability of the neural agent, we propose to expose its captured knowledge in the form of a directed acyclic causal graph, with nodes being action and state variables and edges denoting the causal relations behind predictions. Furthermore, we design this causal discovery process to be state-dependent, enabling it to model the dynamics in latent causal graphs. Concretely, we conduct causal discovery from the perspective of Granger causality and propose a self-explainable imitation learning framework, CAIL. The proposed framework is composed of three parts: a dynamic causal discovery module, a causality encoding module, and a prediction module, and is trained in an end-to-end manner. After the model is learned, we can obtain causal relations among states and action variables behind its decisions, exposing policies learned by it. Experimental results on both synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed CAIL in learning the dynamic causal graphs for understanding the decision-making of imitation learning meanwhilemaintaining high prediction accuracy.

Incremental Causal Graph Learning for Online Root Cause Localization

The task of root cause analysis (RCA) is to identify the root causes of system faults/failures by analyzing system monitoring data. Efficient RCA can greatly accelerate system failure recovery and mitigate system damages or financial losses. However, previous research has mostly focused on developing offline RCA algorithms, which often require manually initiating the RCA process, a significant amount of time and data to train a robust model, and then being retrained from scratch for a new system fault.In this paper, we propose CORAL, a novel online RCA framework that can automatically trigger the RCA process and incrementally update the RCA model. CORAL consists of Trigger Point Detection, Incremental Disentangled Causal Graph Learning, and Network Propagation-based Root Cause Localization. The Trigger Point Detection component aims to detect system state transitions automatically and in near-real-time. To achieve this, we develop an online trigger point detection approach based on multivariate singular spectrum analysis and cumulative sum statistics. To efficiently update the RCA model, we propose an incremental disentangled causal graph learning approach to decouple the state-invariant and state-dependent information. After that, CORAL applies a random walk with restarts to the updated causal graph to accurately identify root causes. The online RCA process terminates when the causal graph and the generated root cause list converge. Extensive experiments on three real-world datasets demonstrate the effectiveness and superiority of the proposed framework.