Spring 2022

Causal Inference For Socio-Economic & Engineering Systems

Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 2:50 pm3:00 pm PST

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Anish Agarwal (MIT EECS)


Calvin Lab Auditorium

What will happen to Y if we do A? A variety of meaningful socio-economic and engineering questions can be formulated this way. To name a few: What will happen to a patient's health if they are given a new therapy? What will happen to a country's economy if policy-makers legislate a new tax? What will happen to a data center's latency if a new congestion control protocol is used? In this talk, we will explore how to answer such counterfactual questions using observational data---which is increasingly available due to digitization and pervasive sensors---and/or very limited experimental data. The two key challenges in doing so are: (i) counterfactual prediction in the presence of latent confounders; (ii) estimation with modern datasets which are high-dimensional, noisy, and sparse. Towards this goal, the key framework we introduce is connecting causal inference with tensor completion, a very active area of research across a variety of fields. In particular, we show how to represent the various potential outcomes (i.e., counterfactuals) of interest through an order-3 tensor. The key theoretical results presented are: (i) Formal identification results establishing under what missingness patterns, latent confounding, and structure on the tensor is recovery of unobserved potential outcomes possible. (ii) Introducing novel estimators to recover these unobserved potential outcomes and proving they are finite-sample consistent and asymptotically normal. The efficacy of the proposed estimators is shown on high-impact real-world applications. These include working with: (i) TaurRx Therapeutics to propose novel clinical trial designs to reduce the number of patients recruited for a trial and to correct for bias from patient dropouts; (ii) Uber Technologies on evaluating the impact of certain driver engagement policies without having to run an A/B test.