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Rates of Convergence for Sparse Variational Gaussian Process Regression

David Burt · Carl E Rasmussen · Mark van der Wilk

Pacific Ballroom #270

Keywords: [ Gaussian Processes ] [ Bayesian Nonparametrics ] [ Approximate Inference ]

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Abstract: Excellent variational approximations to Gaussian process posteriors have been developed which avoid the $\mathcal{O}\left(N^3\right)$ scaling with dataset size $N$. They reduce the computational cost to $\mathcal{O}\left(NM^2\right)$, with $M\ll N$ the number of \emph{inducing variables}, which summarise the process. While the computational cost seems to be linear in $N$, the true complexity of the algorithm depends on how $M$ must increase to ensure a certain quality of approximation. We show that with high probability the KL divergence can be made arbitrarily small by growing $M$ more slowly than $N$. A particular case is that for regression with normally distributed inputs in D-dimensions with the Squared Exponential kernel, $M=\mathcal{O}(\log^D N)$ suffices. Our results show that as datasets grow, Gaussian process posteriors can be approximated cheaply, and provide a concrete rule for how to increase $M$ in continual learning scenarios.

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