Inferring causal structure: a quantum advantage

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A fundamental question in trying to understand the world -- be it classical or quantum -- is why things happen. We seek a causal account of events, and merely noting correlations between them does not provide a satisfactory answer. Classical statistics provides a better alternative: the framework of causal models proved itself a powerful tool for studying causal relations in a range of disciplines. We aim to adapt this formalism to allow for quantum variables and in the process discover a new perspective on how causality is different in the quantum world. Causal inference is a central task in the context of causal models: given observed statistics over a set of variables, one aims to infer how they are causally related. Yet in the seemingly simple case of just two classical variables, this is impossible (unless one makes additional assumptions). I will show how the analogous task for quantum variables can be solved. This quantum advantage is reminiscent of the advantages that quantum mechanics offers in computing and communication, and may lead to similarly rich insights. Our scheme is corroborated by data obtained in collaboration with Kevin Resch's experimental group. Time permitting, I will also address other applications of the quantum causal models. arXiv:1406.5036