We consider a distributed learning setup where a network of agents sequentially access realizations of a set of random variables with unknown distributions. The network objective is to find a parametrized distribution that best describes their joint observations in the sense of the Kullback-Leibler divergence. Apart from recent efforts in the literature, we analyze the case of countably many hypotheses and the case of a continuum of hypotheses. We provide non-asymptotic bounds for the concentration rate of the agents' beliefs around the correct hypothesis in terms of the number of agents, the network parameters, and the learning abilities of the agents. Additionally, we provide a novel motivation for a general set of distributed Non-Bayesian update rules as instances of the distributed stochastic mirror descent algorithm.
Non-Bayesian social learning theory provides a framework that models distributed inference for a group of agents interacting over a social network. In this framework, each agent iteratively forms and communicates beliefs about an unknown state of the world with their neighbors using a learning rule. Existing approaches assume agents have access to precise statistical models (in the form of likelihoods) for the state of the world. However in many situations, such models must be learned from finite data. We propose a social learning rule that takes into account uncertainty in the statistical models using second-order probabilities. Therefore, beliefs derived from uncertain models are sensitive to the amount of past evidence collected for each hypothesis. We characterize how well the hypotheses can be tested on a social network, as consistent or not with the state of the world. We explicitly show the dependency of the generated beliefs with respect to the amount of prior evidence. Moreover, as the amount of prior evidence goes to infinity, learning occurs and is consistent with traditional social learning theory.
A network of agents attempt to learn some unknown state of the world drawn by nature from a finite set. Agents observe private signals conditioned on the true state, and form beliefs about the unknown state accordingly. Each agent may face an identification problem in the sense that she cannot distinguish the truth in isolation. However, by communicating with each other, agents are able to benefit from side observations to learn the truth collectively. Unlike many distributed algorithms which rely on all-time communication protocols, we propose an efficient method by switching between Bayesian and non-Bayesian regimes. In this model, agents exchange information only when their private signals are not informative enough; thence, by switching between the two regimes, agents efficiently learn the truth using only a few rounds of communications. The proposed algorithm preserves learnability while incurring a lower communication cost. We also verify our theoretical findings by simulation examples.
We study the problem of cooperative inference where a group of agents interact over a network and seek to estimate a joint parameter that best explains a set of observations. Agents do not know the network topology or the observations of other agents. We explore a variational interpretation of the Bayesian posterior density, and its relation to the stochastic mirror descent algorithm, to propose a new distributed learning algorithm. We show that, under appropriate assumptions, the beliefs generated by the proposed algorithm concentrate around the true parameter exponentially fast. We provide explicit non-asymptotic bounds for the convergence rate. Moreover, we develop explicit and computationally efficient algorithms for observation models belonging to exponential families.
We analyze a model of learning and belief formation in networks in which agents follow Bayes rule yet they do not recall their history of past observations and cannot reason about how other agents' beliefs are formed. They do so by making rational inferences about their observations which include a sequence of independent and identically distributed private signals as well as the beliefs of their neighboring agents at each time. Fully rational agents would successively apply Bayes rule to the entire history of observations. This leads to forebodingly complex inferences due to lack of knowledge about the global network structure that causes those observations. To address these complexities, we consider a Learning without Recall model, which in addition to providing a tractable framework for analyzing the behavior of rational agents in social networks, can also provide a behavioral foundation for the variety of non-Bayesian update rules in the literature. We present the implications of various choices for time-varying priors of such agents and how this choice affects learning and its rate.