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Information Technology


Analyzing human feature learning as nonparametric Bayesian inference

Neural Information Processing Systems

Almost all successful machine learning algorithms and cognitive models require powerful representations capturing the features that are relevant to a particular problem. We draw on recent work in nonparametric Bayesian statistics to define a rational model of human feature learning that forms a featural representation from raw sensory data without pre-specifying the number of features. By comparing how the human perceptual system and our rational model use distributional and category information to infer feature representations, we seek to identify some of the forces that govern the process by which people separate and combine sensory primitives to form features.


Oriented Straight Line Segment Algebra: Qualitative Spatial Reasoning about Oriented Objects

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Nearly 15 years ago, a set of qualitative spatial relations between oriented straight line segments (dipoles) was suggested by Schlieder. This work received substantial interest amongst the qualitative spatial reasoning community. However, it turned out to be difficult to establish a sound constraint calculus based on these relations. In this paper, we present the results of a new investigation into dipole constraint calculi which uses algebraic methods to derive sound results on the composition of relations and other properties of dipole calculi. Our results are based on a condensed semantics of the dipole relations. In contrast to the points that are normally used, dipoles are extended and have an intrinsic direction. Both features are important properties of natural objects. This allows for a straightforward representation of prototypical reasoning tasks for spatial agents. As an example, we show how to generate survey knowledge from local observations in a street network. The example illustrates the fast constraint-based reasoning capabilities of the dipole calculus. We integrate our results into two reasoning tools which are publicly available.


Believe It or Not: Adding Belief Annotations to Databases

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We propose a database model that allows users to annotate data with belief statements. Our motivation comes from scientific database applications where a community of users is working together to assemble, revise, and curate a shared data repository. As the community accumulates knowledge and the database content evolves over time, it may contain conflicting information and members can disagree on the information it should store. For example, Alice may believe that a tuple should be in the database, whereas Bob disagrees. He may also insert the reason why he thinks Alice believes the tuple should be in the database, and explain what he thinks the correct tuple should be instead. We propose a formal model for Belief Databases that interprets users' annotations as belief statements. These annotations can refer both to the base data and to other annotations. We give a formal semantics based on a fragment of multi-agent epistemic logic and define a query language over belief databases. We then prove a key technical result, stating that every belief database can be encoded as a canonical Kripke structure. We use this structure to describe a relational representation of belief databases, and give an algorithm for translating queries over the belief database into standard relational queries. Finally, we report early experimental results with our prototype implementation on synthetic data.


A general approach to belief change in answer set programming

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

We address the problem of belief change in (nonmonotonic) logic programming under answer set semantics. Unlike previous approaches to belief change in logic programming, our formal techniques are analogous to those of distance-based belief revision in propositional logic. In developing our results, we build upon the model theory of logic programs furnished by SE models. Since SE models provide a formal, monotonic characterisation of logic programs, we can adapt techniques from the area of belief revision to belief change in logic programs. We introduce methods for revising and merging logic programs, respectively. For the former, we study both subset-based revision as well as cardinality-based revision, and we show that they satisfy the majority of the AGM postulates for revision. For merging, we consider operators following arbitration merging and IC merging, respectively. We also present encodings for computing the revision as well as the merging of logic programs within the same logic programming framework, giving rise to a direct implementation of our approach in terms of off-the-shelf answer set solvers. These encodings reflect in turn the fact that our change operators do not increase the complexity of the base formalism.


MedLDA: A General Framework of Maximum Margin Supervised Topic Models

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Supervised topic models utilize document's side information for discovering predictive low dimensional representations of documents. Existing models apply the likelihood-based estimation. In this paper, we present a general framework of max-margin supervised topic models for both continuous and categorical response variables. Our approach, the maximum entropy discrimination latent Dirichlet allocation (MedLDA), utilizes the max-margin principle to train supervised topic models and estimate predictive topic representations that are arguably more suitable for prediction tasks. The general principle of MedLDA can be applied to perform joint max-margin learning and maximum likelihood estimation for arbitrary topic models, directed or undirected, and supervised or unsupervised, when the supervised side information is available. We develop efficient variational methods for posterior inference and parameter estimation, and demonstrate qualitatively and quantitatively the advantages of MedLDA over likelihood-based topic models on movie review and 20 Newsgroups data sets.


A conversion between utility and information

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Rewards typically express desirabilities or preferences over a set of alternatives. Here we propose that rewards can be defined for any probability distribution based on three desiderata, namely that rewards should be real-valued, additive and order-preserving, where the latter implies that more probable events should also be more desirable. Our main result states that rewards are then uniquely determined by the negative information content. To analyze stochastic processes, we define the utility of a realization as its reward rate. Under this interpretation, we show that the expected utility of a stochastic process is its negative entropy rate. Furthermore, we apply our results to analyze agent-environment interactions. We show that the expected utility that will actually be achieved by the agent is given by the negative cross-entropy from the input-output (I/O) distribution of the coupled interaction system and the agent's I/O distribution. Thus, our results allow for an information-theoretic interpretation of the notion of utility and the characterization of agent-environment interactions in terms of entropy dynamics.


The Computational Structure of Spike Trains

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Neurons perform computations, and convey the results of those computations through the statistical structure of their output spike trains. Here we present a practical method, grounded in the information-theoretic analysis of prediction, for inferring a minimal representation of that structure and for characterizing its complexity. Starting from spike trains, our approach finds their causal state models (CSMs), the minimal hidden Markov models or stochastic automata capable of generating statistically identical time series. We then use these CSMs to objectively quantify both the generalizable structure and the idiosyncratic randomness of the spike train. Specifically, we show that the expected algorithmic information content (the information needed to describe the spike train exactly) can be split into three parts describing (1) the time-invariant structure (complexity) of the minimal spike-generating process, which describes the spike train statistically; (2) the randomness (internal entropy rate) of the minimal spike-generating process; and (3) a residual pure noise term not described by the minimal spike-generating process. We use CSMs to approximate each of these quantities. The CSMs are inferred nonparametrically from the data, making only mild regularity assumptions, via the causal state splitting reconstruction algorithm. The methods presented here complement more traditional spike train analyses by describing not only spiking probability and spike train entropy, but also the complexity of a spike train's structure. We demonstrate our approach using both simulated spike trains and experimental data recorded in rat barrel cortex during vibrissa stimulation.


Soft Goals Can Be Compiled Away

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Soft goals extend the classical model of planning with a simple model of preferences. The best plans are then not the ones with least cost but the ones with maximum utility, where the utility of a plan is the sum of the utilities of the soft goals achieved minus the plan cost. Finding plans with high utility appears to involve two linked problems: choosing a subset of soft goals to achieve and finding a low-cost plan to achieve them. New search algorithms and heuristics have been developed for planning with soft goals, and a new track has been introduced in the International Planning Competition (IPC) to test their performance. In this note, we show however that these extensions are not needed: soft goals do not increase the expressive power of the basic model of planning with action costs, as they can easily be compiled away. We apply this compilation to the problems of the net-benefit track of the most recent IPC, and show that optimal and satisficing cost-based planners do better on the compiled problems than optimal and satisficing net-benefit planners on the original problems with explicit soft goals. Furthermore, we show that penalties, or negative preferences expressing conditions to avoid, can also be compiled away using a similar idea.


A survey of statistical network models

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Networks are ubiquitous in science and have become a focal point for discussion in everyday life. Formal statistical models for the analysis of network data have emerged as a major topic of interest in diverse areas of study, and most of these involve a form of graphical representation. Probability models on graphs date back to 1959. Along with empirical studies in social psychology and sociology from the 1960s, these early works generated an active network community and a substantial literature in the 1970s. This effort moved into the statistical literature in the late 1970s and 1980s, and the past decade has seen a burgeoning network literature in statistical physics and computer science. The growth of the World Wide Web and the emergence of online networking communities such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, and a host of more specialized professional network communities has intensified interest in the study of networks and network data. Our goal in this review is to provide the reader with an entry point to this burgeoning literature. We begin with an overview of the historical development of statistical network modeling and then we introduce a number of examples that have been studied in the network literature. Our subsequent discussion focuses on a number of prominent static and dynamic network models and their interconnections. We emphasize formal model descriptions, and pay special attention to the interpretation of parameters and their estimation. We end with a description of some open problems and challenges for machine learning and statistics.


Why so? or Why no? Functional Causality for Explaining Query Answers

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In this paper, we propose causality as a unified framework to explain query answers and non-answers, thus generalizing and extending several previously proposed approaches of provenance and missing query result explanations. We develop our framework starting from the well-studied definition of actual causes by Halpern and Pearl. After identifying some undesirable characteristics of the original definition, we propose functional causes as a refined definition of causality with several desirable properties. These properties allow us to apply our notion of causality in a database context and apply it uniformly to define the causes of query results and their individual contributions in several ways: (i) we can model both provenance as well as non-answers, (ii) we can define explanations as either data in the input relations or relational operations in a query plan, and (iii) we can give graded degrees of responsibility to individual causes, thus allowing us to rank causes. In particular, our approach allows us to explain contributions to relational aggregate functions and to rank causes according to their respective responsibilities. We give complexity results and describe polynomial algorithms for evaluating causality in tractable cases. Throughout the paper, we illustrate the applicability of our framework with several examples. Overall, we develop in this paper the theoretical foundations of causality theory in a database context.