Universal Causality

Entropy (Basel). 2023 Mar 27;25(4):574. doi: 10.3390/e25040574.


Universal Causality is a mathematical framework based on higher-order category theory, which generalizes previous approaches based on directed graphs and regular categories. We present a hierarchical framework called UCLA (Universal Causality Layered Architecture), where at the top-most level, causal interventions are modeled as a higher-order category over simplicial sets and objects. Simplicial sets are contravariant functors from the category of ordinal numbers Δ into sets, and whose morphisms are order-preserving injections and surjections over finite ordered sets. Non-random interventions on causal structures are modeled as face operators that map n-simplices into lower-level simplices. At the second layer, causal models are defined as a category, for example defining the schema of a relational causal model or a symmetric monoidal category representation of DAG models. The third layer corresponds to the data layer in causal inference, where each causal object is mapped functorially into a set of instances using the category of sets and functions between sets. The fourth homotopy layer defines ways of abstractly characterizing causal models in terms of homotopy colimits, defined in terms of the nerve of a category, a functor that converts a causal (category) model into a simplicial object. Each functor between layers is characterized by a universal arrow, which define universal elements and representations through the Yoneda Lemma, and induces a Grothendieck category of elements that enables combining formal causal models with data instances, and is related to the notion of ground graphs in relational causal models. Causal inference between layers is defined as a lifting problem, a commutative diagram whose objects are categories, and whose morphisms are functors that are characterized as different types of fibrations. We illustrate UCLA using a variety of representations, including causal relational models, symmetric monoidal categorical variants of DAG models, and non-graphical representations, such as integer-valued multisets and separoids, and measure-theoretic and topological models.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; causality; higher-order category theory; machine learning; statistics.

Grants and funding

This research was supported by Adobe Corporation.