Scalable Discrete Sampling as a Multi-Armed Bandit Problem


Yutian Chen, Zoubin Ghahramani ;
Proceedings of The 33rd International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 48:2492-2501, 2016.


Drawing a sample from a discrete distribution is one of the building components for Monte Carlo methods. Like other sampling algorithms, discrete sampling suffers from the high computational burden in large-scale inference problems. We study the problem of sampling a discrete random variable with a high degree of dependency that is typical in large-scale Bayesian inference and graphical models, and propose an efficient approximate solution with a subsampling approach. We make a novel connection between the discrete sampling and Multi-Armed Bandits problems with a finite reward population and provide three algorithms with theoretical guarantees. Empirical evaluations show the robustness and efficiency of the approximate algorithms in both synthetic and real-world large-scale problems.

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