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Causal emergence is widespread across measures of causation

by   Renzo Comolatti, et al.
Tufts University

Causal emergence is the theory that macroscales can reduce the noise in causal relationships, leading to stronger causes at the macroscale. First identified using the effective information and later the integrated information in model systems, causal emergence has been analyzed in real data across the sciences since. But is it simply a quirk of these original measures? To answer this question we examined over a dozen popular measures of causation, all independently developed and widely used, and spanning different fields from philosophy to statistics to psychology to genetics. All showed cases of causal emergence. This is because, we prove, measures of causation are based on a small set of related "causal primitives." This consilience of independently-developed measures of causation shows that macroscale causation is a general fact about causal relationships, is scientifically detectable, and is not a quirk of any particular measure of causation. This finding sets the science of emergence on firmer ground, opening the door for the detection of intrinsic scales of function in complex systems, as well as assisting with scientific modeling and experimental interventions.


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