Stochastic Expectation Propagation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)

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Yingzhen Li, José Miguel Hernández-Lobato, Richard E. Turner


Expectation propagation (EP) is a deterministic approximation algorithm that is often used to perform approximate Bayesian parameter learning. EP approximates the full intractable posterior distribution through a set of local-approximations that are iteratively refined for each datapoint. EP can offer analytic and computational advantages over other approximations, such as Variational Inference (VI), and is the method of choice for a number of models. The local nature of EP appears to make it an ideal candidate for performing Bayesian learning on large models in large-scale datasets settings. However, EP has a crucial limitation in this context: the number approximating factors needs to increase with the number of data-points, N, which often entails a prohibitively large memory overhead. This paper presents an extension to EP, called stochastic expectation propagation (SEP), that maintains a global posterior approximation (like VI) but updates it in a local way (like EP). Experiments on a number of canonical learning problems using synthetic and real-world datasets indicate that SEP performs almost as well as full EP, but reduces the memory consumption by a factor of N. SEP is therefore ideally suited to performing approximate Bayesian learning in the large model, large dataset setting.