An anytime algorithm for causal inference

Abstract

The Fast Casual Inference (FCI) algorithm searches for features common to observationally equivalent sets of causal directed acyclic graphs. It is correct in the large sample limit with probability one even if there is a possibility of hidden variables and selection bias. In the worst case, the number of conditional independence tests performed by the algorithm grows exponentially with the number of variables in the data set. This affects both the speed of the algorithm and the accuracy of the algorithm on small samples, because tests of independence conditional on large numbers of variables have very low power. In this paper, I prove that the FCI algorithm can be interrupted at any stage and asked for output. The output from the interrupted algorithm is still correct with probability one in the large sample limit, although possibly less informative (in the sense that it answers “Can’t tell” for a larger number of questions) than if the FCI algorithm had been allowed to continue uninterrupted.

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2009-01-28

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Peter Spirtes
Carnegie Mellon University

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