MCMC vs. Variational Inference for Credible Learning and Decision Making at Scale
Yian Ma, Assistant Professor, UC San Diego
Abstract: Professor Ma will introduce some recent progress towards understanding the scalability of Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods and their comparative advantage with respect to variational inference. Further, he will discuss an optimization perspective on the infinite dimensional probability space, where MCMC leverages stochastic sample paths while variational inference projects the probabilities onto a finite dimensional parameter space. Three ingredients will be the focus of this discussion: non-convexity, acceleration, and stochasticity. This line of work is motivated by epidemic prediction, where we need uncertainty quantification for credible predictions and informed decision making with complex models and evolving data.