A Filtering Approach to Stochastic Variational Inference

Neil Houlsby, David Blei

Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), 2014

Stochastic variational inference (SVI) uses stochastic optimization to scale up Bayesian computation to massive data. We present an alternative perspective on SVI as approximate parallel coordinate ascent. SVI trades-off bias and variance to step close to the unknown true coordinate optimum given by batch variational Bayes (VB). We define a model to automate this process. The model infers the location of the next VB optimum from a sequence of noisy realizations. As a consequence of this construction, we update the variational parameters using Bayes rule, rather than a hand-crafted optimization schedule. When our model is a Kalman filter this procedure can recover the original SVI algorithm and SVI with adaptive steps. We may also encode additional assumptions in the model, such as heavy-tailed noise. By doing so, our algorithm outperforms the original SVI schedule and a state-of-the-art adaptive SVI algorithm in two diverse domains.

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