BOSS: Bayesian Optimization over String Spaces

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2020)

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Henry Moss, David Leslie, Daniel Beck, Javier Gonzalez, Paul Rayson


<p>This article develops a Bayesian optimization (BO) method which acts directly over raw strings, proposing the first uses of string kernels and genetic algorithms within BO loops. Recent applications of BO over strings have been hindered by the need to map inputs into a smooth and unconstrained latent space. Learning this projection is computationally and data-intensive. Our approach instead builds a powerful Gaussian process surrogate model based on string kernels, naturally supporting variable length inputs, and performs efficient acquisition function maximization for spaces with syntactic constraints. Experiments demonstrate considerably improved optimization over existing approaches across a broad range of constraints, including the popular setting where syntax is governed by a context-free grammar.</p>