Edward: A library for probabilistic modeling, inference, and criticism

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Probabilistic modeling is a powerful approach for analyzing empirical information. We describe Edward, a library for probabilistic modeling. Edward's design reflects an iterative process pioneered by George Box: build a model of a phenomenon, make inferences about the model given data, and criticize the model's fit to the data. Edward supports a broad class of probabilistic models, efficient algorithms for inference, and many techniques for model criticism. The library builds on top of TensorFlow to support distributed training and hardware such as GPUs. Edward enables the development of complex probabilistic models and their algorithms at a massive scale.


Likelihood-free inference via classification

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Increasingly complex generative models are being used across disciplines as they allow for realistic characterization of data, but a common difficulty with them is the prohibitively large computational cost to evaluate the likelihood function and thus to perform likelihood-based statistical inference. A likelihood-free inference framework has emerged where the parameters are identified by finding values that yield simulated data resembling the observed data. While widely applicable, a major difficulty in this framework is how to measure the discrepancy between the simulated and observed data. Transforming the original problem into a problem of classifying the data into simulated versus observed, we find that classification accuracy can be used to assess the discrepancy. The complete arsenal of classification methods becomes thereby available for inference of intractable generative models. We validate our approach using theory and simulations for both point estimation and Bayesian inference, and demonstrate its use on real data by inferring an individual-based epidemiological model for bacterial infections in child care centers.


PASS-GLM: polynomial approximate sufficient statistics for scalable Bayesian GLM inference

Neural Information Processing Systems

Generalized linear models (GLMs)--such as logistic regression, Poisson regression, androbust regression--provide interpretable models for diverse data types. Probabilistic approaches, particularly Bayesian ones, allow coherent estimates of uncertainty, incorporation of prior information, and sharing of power across experiments viahierarchical models. In practice, however, the approximate Bayesian methods necessary for inference have either failed to scale to large data sets or failed to provide theoretical guarantees on the quality of inference. We propose a new approach based on constructing polynomial approximate sufficient statistics for GLMs (PASS-GLM). We demonstrate that our method admits a simple algorithm aswell as trivial streaming and distributed extensions that do not compound error across computations. We provide theoretical guarantees on the quality of point (MAP) estimates, the approximate posterior, and posterior mean and uncertainty estimates.We validate our approach empirically in the case of logistic regression using a quadratic approximation and show competitive performance with stochastic gradient descent, MCMC, and the Laplace approximation in terms of speed and multiple measures of accuracy--including on an advertising data set with 40 million data points and 20,000 covariates.


PASS-GLM: polynomial approximate sufficient statistics for scalable Bayesian GLM inference

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Generalized linear models (GLMs) -- such as logistic regression, Poisson regression, and robust regression -- provide interpretable models for diverse data types. Probabilistic approaches, particularly Bayesian ones, allow coherent estimates of uncertainty, incorporation of prior information, and sharing of power across experiments via hierarchical models. In practice, however, the approximate Bayesian methods necessary for inference have either failed to scale to large data sets or failed to provide theoretical guarantees on the quality of inference. We propose a new approach based on constructing polynomial approximate sufficient statistics for GLMs (PASS-GLM). We demonstrate that our method admits a simple algorithm as well as trivial streaming and distributed extensions that do not compound error across computations. We provide theoretical guarantees on the quality of point (MAP) estimates, the approximate posterior, and posterior mean and uncertainty estimates. We validate our approach empirically in the case of logistic regression using a quadratic approximation and show competitive performance with stochastic gradient descent, MCMC, and the Laplace approximation in terms of speed and multiple measures of accuracy -- including on an advertising data set with 40 million data points and 20,000 covariates.


Dynamic Likelihood-free Inference via Ratio Estimation (DIRE)

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Parametric statistical models that are implicitly defined in terms of a stochastic data generating process are used in a wide range of scientific disciplines because they enable accurate modeling. However, learning the parameters from observed data is generally very difficult because their likelihood function is typically intractable. Likelihood-free Bayesian inference methods have been proposed which include the frameworks of approximate Bayesian computation (ABC), synthetic likelihood, and its recent generalization that performs likelihood-free inference by ratio estimation (LFIRE). A major difficulty in all these methods is choosing summary statistics that reduce the dimensionality of the data to facilitate inference. While several methods for choosing summary statistics have been proposed for ABC, the literature for synthetic likelihood and LFIRE is very thin to date. We here address this gap in the literature, focusing on the important special case of time-series models. We show that convolutional neural networks trained to predict the input parameters from the data provide suitable summary statistics for LFIRE. On a wide range of time-series models, a single neural network architecture produced equally or more accurate posteriors than alternative methods.