Meta-Learning MCMC Proposals

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

Bibtex »Metadata »Paper »Reviews »Supplemental »


Tongzhou Wang, YI WU, Dave Moore, Stuart J. Russell


Effective implementations of sampling-based probabilistic inference often require manually constructed, model-specific proposals. Inspired by recent progresses in meta-learning for training learning agents that can generalize to unseen environments, we propose a meta-learning approach to building effective and generalizable MCMC proposals. We parametrize the proposal as a neural network to provide fast approximations to block Gibbs conditionals. The learned neural proposals generalize to occurrences of common structural motifs across different models, allowing for the construction of a library of learned inference primitives that can accelerate inference on unseen models with no model-specific training required. We explore several applications including open-universe Gaussian mixture models, in which our learned proposals outperform a hand-tuned sampler, and a real-world named entity recognition task, in which our sampler yields higher final F1 scores than classical single-site Gibbs sampling.