NIPS Proceedingsβ

Compact Representation of Uncertainty in Clustering

Part of: Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NIPS 2018) pre-proceedings

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Conference Event Type: Poster


For many classic structured prediction problems, probability distributions over the dependent variables can be efficiently computed using widely-known algorithms and data structures (such as forward-backward, and its corresponding trellis for exact probability distributions in Markov models). However, we know of no previous work studying efficient representations of exact distributions over clusterings. This paper presents definitions and proofs for a dynamic-programming inference procedure that computes the partition function, the marginal probability of a cluster, and the MAP clustering---all exactly. Rather than the Nth Bell number, these exact solutions take time and space proportional to the substantially smaller powerset of N. Indeed, we improve upon the time complexity of the algorithm introduced by Kohonen and Corander (2016) for this problem by a factor of N. While still large, this previously unknown result is intellectually interesting in its own right, makes feasible exact inference for important real-world small data applications (such as medicine), and provides a natural stepping stone towards sparse-trellis approximations that enable further scalability (which we also explore). In experiments, we demonstrate the superiority of our approach over approximate methods in analyzing real-world gene expression data used in cancer treatment.