Posts by Maxim Kochurov

Introduction to Variational Inference with PyMC

The most common strategy for computing posterior quantities of Bayesian models is via sampling, particularly Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithms. While sampling algorithms and associated computing have continually improved in performance and efficiency, MCMC methods still scale poorly with data size, and become prohibitive for more than a few thousand observations. A more scalable alternative to sampling is variational inference (VI), which re-frames the problem of computing the posterior distribution as an optimization problem.

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Empirical Approximation overview

For most models we use sampling MCMC algorithms like Metropolis or NUTS. In PyMC we got used to store traces of MCMC samples and then do analysis using them. There is a similar concept for the variational inference submodule in PyMC: Empirical. This type of approximation stores particles for the SVGD sampler. There is no difference between independent SVGD particles and MCMC samples. Empirical acts as a bridge between MCMC sampling output and full-fledged VI utils like apply_replacements or sample_node. For the interface description, see variational_api_quickstart. Here we will just focus on Emprical and give an overview of specific things for the Empirical approximation.

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