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Models and functions

Table of Contents

This library was originally developed for as part of a robotics research project[13][12], where a Gaussian process with hyperpriors on the mean and signal covariance parameters. Then, the metamodel was constructed using the Maximum a Posteriory (MAP) of the parameters. By that time, it only supported one kernel function, one mean function and one criterion.

However, the library now has grown to support many more surrogate models, with different distributions (Gaussian processes, Student's-t processes, etc.), with many kernels and mean functions. It also provides different criteria (even some combined criteria) so the library can be used to any problem involving some bounded optimization, stochastic bandits, active learning for regression, etc.

Surrogate models

As seen in Section modopt this library implements only one general regression model. However, we can assign a set of priors on the parameters of the model $\mathbf{w}$, $\sigma_s^2$ (the kernel hyperparameter will be discussed in Section learnker). Thus, the options are:

Gaussian processes are a very general model that can achieve good performance with a reasonable computational cost. However, Student's t processes, thanks to the hierarchical structure of priors, provide an even more general setup for a minor extra cost. Furthermore, the Student's t distribution is robust to outliers and heavy tails in the data.

Kernel (covariance) models

One of the critical components of Gaussian and Student's t processes is the definition of the kernel function, which defines the correlation between points in the input space. As a correlation function, the kernel must satisfy a set of properties (e.g.: being positive definite). All the kernel models available and its combinations satisfy the kernel restrictions.

The functions with "ISO" in their name are isotropic function, that is, they share a single set of parameters for all the dimensions of the input space.

The functions with "ARD" in their name use Automatic Relevance Determination, that is, they use independent parameters for every dimension of the problem. Therefore, they can be use to find the relevance of the each feature in the input space. In the limit, this can be used for feature selection.

Atomic kernels

Binary kernels

This kernels allow to combine some of the previous kernels.

Note that the binary kernels only admits two terms. However, we can combine them for more complex operations. For example if we write:


it represents the expresion: Matern(3) + RationalQuadratic + C*Polynomial^4

In this case, the vector of parameters is splited from left to right: 1 for the Matern function, 2 for the RQ function, 2 for polynomial function and 1 for the constant. If the vector of parameters have more or less than 6 elements, the system complains.

Parametric (mean) functions

Although the nonparametric process is able to model a large amount of funtions, we can model the expected value of the nonparametric process as a parametric function. This parametric model will help to capture large offsets and global trends.

The usage is analogous to the kernel functions.

Selection criteria

As discussed in Introduction to Bayesian Optimization, one of the critical aspects for Bayesian optimization is the decision (loss) function. Unfortunately, the functions described there are unavailable, because they assume knowledge of the optimal value $x^*$. However, we can define proxies for those functions.

Some criteria, such as the expected improvement and the lower confidence bound admits an annealed version "cXXXa". In that version, the parameter that is used to trade off exploration and exploitation changes over time to priorize exploration at the begining and exploitation at the end.

Many criteria depends on the prediction function, which can be a Gaussian or a Student's t distribution, depending on the surrogate model. However, the library includes all the criteria for both distributions, and the system automatically selected the correct one.

Atomic criteria

Combined criteria

In this case, the combined criteria admits more that two functions. For example:


Methods for learning the kernel parameters

The posterior distribution of the model, which is necessary to compute the criterion function, cannot be computed in closed form if the kernel hyperparameters are unknown. Thus, we need a find to approximate this posterior distribution conditional on the kernel hyperparameters.

First, we need to consider if we are going to use a full Bayesian approach or an empirical Bayesian approach. The first one, computes the full posterior distribution by propagation of the uncertainty of each element and hyperparameter to the posterior. In this case, it can be done by discretization of the hyperparameter space or by using MCMC (not yet implemented). In theory, it is more precise but the computation burden can be orders of magnitude higher. The empirical approach on the other hand computes a point estimate of the hyperparameters based on some score function and use it as a "true" value. Although the uncertainty estimation in this case might not be as accurate as the full Bayesian, the computation overhead is minimal.

For the score function, we need to find the likelihood function of the observed data for the parameters. Depending on the model, this function will be a multivariate Gaussian distribution or multivariate t distribution. In general, we present the likelihood as a log-likelihood function up to a constant factor, that is, we remove the terms independent of $\theta$ from the log likelihood. In practice, whether we use a point estimate (maximum score) or full Bayes MCMC/discrete posterior, the constant factor is not needed.

We are going to consider the following score functions to learn the kernel hyperparameters:

Initial design methods

In order to build a suitable surrogate function, we a need a preliminar set of samples. In Bayesian optimization this is typically performed using alternative experimental design criteria. In this first step, usually the main criteria is space filling. Thus, we have implemented the subsequent designs:

Note: Since we do not assume any struture in the set of discrete points during discrete optimization, only uniform sampling of the discrete set is available in that case.