Augment and Reduce: Stochastic Inference for Large Categorical Distributions
Francisco Ruiz · Michalis Titsias · Adji Bousso Dieng · David Blei

Wed Jul 11th 05:20 -- 05:40 PM @ A4

Categorical distributions are ubiquitous in machine learning, e.g., in classification, language models, and recommendation systems. However, when the number of possible outcomes is very large, using categorical distributions becomes computationally expensive, as the complexity scales linearly with the number of outcomes. To address this problem, we propose augment and reduce (A&R), a method to alleviate the computational complexity. A&R uses two ideas: latent variable augmentation and stochastic variational inference. It maximizes a lower bound on the marginal likelihood of the data. Unlike existing methods which are specific to softmax, A&R is more general and is amenable to other categorical models, such as multinomial probit. On several large-scale classification problems, we show that A&R provides a tighter bound on the marginal likelihood and has better predictive performance than existing approaches.

Author Information

Francisco Ruiz (University of Cambridge / Columbia University)
Michalis Titsias (Athens University of Economics and Business)
Adji Bousso Dieng (Columbia University)
David Blei (Columbia University)

David Blei is a Professor of Statistics and Computer Science at Columbia University, and a member of the Columbia Data Science Institute. His research is in statistical machine learning, involving probabilistic topic models, Bayesian nonparametric methods, and approximate posterior inference algorithms for massive data. He works on a variety of applications, including text, images, music, social networks, user behavior, and scientific data. David has received several awards for his research, including a Sloan Fellowship (2010), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2011), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2011), Blavatnik Faculty Award (2013), and ACM-Infosys Foundation Award (2013). He is a fellow of the ACM.

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