Our NIPS 2014 Workshop papers

Two of our papers appeared at the NIPS 2014 workshops this past week.

  • On the Collective Stability of Variational Inference,” by Ben London, me, and Lise Getoor, shows some of our theoretical analyses on bounding the curvature of variational entropy surrogates. Since a lot of inference methods get around the computational difficulty of computing and optimizing the entropy of graphical models, people often replace the entropy term with a convex surrogate that’s efficient to work with. In the paper, we specifically analyze two of these: tree reweighting, and region-based counting-number adjustment. We provide new, tighter bounds on how strongly convex tree entropies can be, and provide new conditions for the counting numbers of regions that guarantee strongly convex entropies (whereas the previous conditions only guaranteed strict convexity). In both cases, we identify conditions under which the modulus of strong convexity does not grow as the number of variables grows, which our previous theory suggests is necessary for generalization.
  • Rounding Guarantees for Message-Passing MAP Inference with Logical Dependencies,” by Stephen H. Bach, me, and Lise Getoor, recounts our recent discovery that the local LP relaxation that is extremely popular for fast inference in discrete MRFs is actually equivalent to an old LP-based approximation algorithm for weighted MAX SAT, for a certain class of graphical models. This equivalence implies that the local LP relaxations, which our community has developed some blazing-fast algorithms to solve, automatically inherits the 3/4 approximation guarantees associated with the old MAX SAT method. And even better, the equivalence class also happens to include a huge subset of hinge-loss MRFs, which we’ve been looking at over the past few years.

Thanks to everyone who came to talk to us during the workshops! I was bouncing back and forth between the two workshops during the poster times, but the conversations I had were super interesting and helpful.

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