HypeR: Hypothetical Reasoning With What-If and How-To Queries Using a Probabilistic Causal Approach


What-if (provisioning for an update to a database) and how-to (how to modify the database to achieve a goal) analyses provide insights to users who wish to examine hypothetical scenarios without making actual changes to a database and thereby help plan strategies in their fields. Typically, such analyses are done by testing the effect of an update in the existing database on a specific view created by a query of interest. In real-world scenarios, however, an update to a particular part of the database may affect tuples and attributes in a completely different part due to implicit semantic dependencies. To allow for hypothetical reasoning while accommodating such dependencies, we develop HypeR, a framework that supports what-if and how-to queries accounting for probabilistic dependencies among attributes captured by a probabilistic causal model. We extend the SQL syntax to include the necessary operators for expressing these hypothetical queries, define their semantics, devise efficient algorithms and optimizations to compute their results using concepts from causality and probabilistic databases, and evaluate the effectiveness of our approach experimentally.