Rates of Convergence for Sparse Variational Gaussian Process Regression


David Burt, Carl Edward Rasmussen, Mark Van Der Wilk ;
Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 97:862-871, 2019.


Excellent variational approximations to Gaussian process posteriors have been developed which avoid the $\mathcal{O}\left(N^3\right)$ scaling with dataset size $N$. They reduce the computational cost to $\mathcal{O}\left(NM^2\right)$, with $M\ll N$ the number of inducing variables, which summarise the process. While the computational cost seems to be linear in $N$, the true complexity of the algorithm depends on how $M$ must increase to ensure a certain quality of approximation. We show that with high probability the KL divergence can be made arbitrarily small by growing $M$ more slowly than $N$. A particular case is that for regression with normally distributed inputs in D-dimensions with the Squared Exponential kernel, $M=\mathcal{O}(\log^D N)$ suffices. Our results show that as datasets grow, Gaussian process posteriors can be approximated cheaply, and provide a concrete rule for how to increase $M$ in continual learning scenarios.

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