Data Management

The Complexity of Causality and Responsibility for Query Answers and non-Answers

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Executive Summary

An answer to a query has a well-defined lineage expression (alternatively called how-provenance) that explains how the answer was derived. Recent work has also shown how to compute the lineage of a non-answer to a query. However, the cause of an answer or non-answer is a more subtle notion and consists, in general, of only a fragment of the lineage. In this paper, the authors adapt Halpern, Pearl, and Chockler's recent definitions of causality and responsibility to define the causes of answers and non-answers to queries, and their degree of responsibility. Responsibility captures the notion of degree of causality and serves to rank potentially many causes by their relative contributions to the effect.

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