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Fixed-Form Variational Posterior Approximation through Stochastic Linear Regression

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We propose a general algorithm for approximating nonstandard Bayesian posterior distributions. The algorithm minimizes the Kullback-Leibler divergence of an approximating distribution to the intractable posterior distribution. Our method can be used to approximate any posterior distribution, provided that it is given in closed form up to the proportionality constant. The approximation can be any distribution in the exponential family or any mixture of such distributions, which means that it can be made arbitrarily precise. Several examples illustrate the speed and accuracy of our approximation method in practice.


Nonparametric learning from Bayesian models with randomized objective functions

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Bayesian learning is built on an assumption that the model space contains a true reflection of the data generating mechanism. This assumption is problematic, particularly in complex data environments. Here we present a Bayesian nonparametric approach to learning that makes use of statistical models, but does not assume that the model is true. Our approach has provably better properties than using a parametric model and admits a trivially parallelizable Monte Carlo sampling scheme that affords massive scalability on modern computer architectures. The model-based aspect of learning is particularly attractive for regularizing nonparametric inference when the sample size is small, and also for correcting approximate approaches such as variational Bayes (VB). We demonstrate the approach on a number of examples including VB classifiers and Bayesian random forests.


Approximate Bayesian Computation with the Sliced-Wasserstein Distance

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) is a popular method for approximate inference in generative models with intractable but easy-to-sample likelihood. It constructs an approximate posterior distribution by finding parameters for which the simulated data are close to the observations in terms of summary statistics. These statistics are defined beforehand and might induce a loss of information, which has been shown to deteriorate the quality of the approximation. To overcome this problem, Wasserstein-ABC has been recently proposed, and compares the datasets via the Wasserstein distance between their empirical distributions, but does not scale well to the dimension or the number of samples. We propose a new ABC technique, called Sliced-Wasserstein ABC and based on the Sliced-Wasserstein distance, which has better computational and statistical properties. We derive two theoretical results showing the asymptotical consistency of our approach, and we illustrate its advantages on synthetic data and an image denoising task.


Efficient Bayesian synthetic likelihood with whitening transformations

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Likelihood-free methods are an established approach for performing approximate Bayesian inference for models with intractable likelihood functions. However, they can be computationally demanding. Bayesian synthetic likelihood (BSL) is a popular such method that approximates the likelihood function of the summary statistic with a known, tractable distribution -- typically Gaussian -- and then performs statistical inference using standard likelihood-based techniques. However, as the number of summary statistics grows, the number of model simulations required to accurately estimate the covariance matrix for this likelihood rapidly increases. This poses significant challenge for the application of BSL, especially in cases where model simulation is expensive. In this article we propose whitening BSL (wBSL) -- an efficient BSL method that uses approximate whitening transformations to decorrelate the summary statistics at each algorithm iteration. We show empirically that this can reduce the number of model simulations required to implement BSL by more than an order of magnitude, without much loss of accuracy. We explore a range of whitening procedures and demonstrate the performance of wBSL on a range of simulated and real modelling scenarios from ecology and biology.


Nonparametric learning from Bayesian models with randomized objective functions

Neural Information Processing Systems

Bayesian learning is built on an assumption that the model space contains a true reflection of the data generating mechanism. This assumption is problematic, particularly in complex data environments. Here we present a Bayesian nonparametric approach to learning that makes use of statistical models, but does not assume that the model is true. Our approach has provably better properties than using a parametric model and admits a Monte Carlo sampling scheme that can afford massive scalability on modern computer architectures. The model-based aspect of learning is particularly attractive for regularizing nonparametric inference when the sample size is small, and also for correcting approximate approaches such as variational Bayes (VB). We demonstrate the approach on a number of examples including VB classifiers and Bayesian random forests.