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Identifying Causal-Effect Inference Failure with Uncertainty-Aware Models

Andrew Jesson · Sören Mindermann · Uri Shalit · Yarin Gal

Poster Session 3 #785

Keywords: [ Learning Theory ] [ Theory ]


Recommending the best course of action for an individual is a major application of individual-level causal effect estimation. This application is often needed in safety-critical domains such as healthcare, where estimating and communicating uncertainty to decision-makers is crucial. We introduce a practical approach for integrating uncertainty estimation into a class of state-of-the-art neural network methods used for individual-level causal estimates. We show that our methods enable us to deal gracefully with situations of "no-overlap", common in high-dimensional data, where standard applications of causal effect approaches fail. Further, our methods allow us to handle covariate shift, where the train and test distributions differ, common when systems are deployed in practice. We show that when such a covariate shift occurs, correctly modeling uncertainty can keep us from giving overconfident and potentially harmful recommendations. We demonstrate our methodology with a range of state-of-the-art models. Under both covariate shift and lack of overlap, our uncertainty-equipped methods can alert decision makers when predictions are not to be trusted while outperforming standard methods that use the propensity score to identify lack of overlap.

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