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Quasi-Monte Carlo Quasi-Newton in Variational Bayes

Sifan Liu, Art B. Owen; 22(243):1−23, 2021.


Many machine learning problems optimize an objective that must be measured with noise. The primary method is a first order stochastic gradient descent using one or more Monte Carlo (MC) samples at each step. There are settings where ill-conditioning makes second order methods such as limited-memory Broyden-Fletcher-Goldfarb-Shanno (L-BFGS) more effective. We study the use of randomized quasi-Monte Carlo (RQMC) sampling for such problems. When MC sampling has a root mean squared error (RMSE) of $O(n^{-1/2})$ then RQMC has an RMSE of $o(n^{-1/2})$ that can be close to $O(n^{-3/2})$ in favorable settings. We prove that improved sampling accuracy translates directly to improved optimization. In our empirical investigations for variational Bayes, using RQMC with stochastic quasi-Newton method greatly speeds up the optimization, and sometimes finds a better parameter value than MC does.

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