CO-BED: Information-Theoretic Contextual Optimization via Bayesian Experimental Design
Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 202:14445-14464, 2023.
We formalize the problem of contextual optimization through the lens of Bayesian experimental design and propose CO-BED—a general, model-agnostic framework for designing contextual experiments using information-theoretic principles. After formulating a suitable information-based objective, we employ black-box variational methods to simultaneously estimate it and optimize the designs in a single stochastic gradient scheme. In addition, to accommodate discrete actions within our framework, we propose leveraging continuous relaxation schemes, which can naturally be integrated into our variational objective. As a result, CO-BED provides a general and automated solution to a wide range of contextual optimization problems. We illustrate its effectiveness in a number of experiments, where CO-BED demonstrates competitive performance even when compared to bespoke, model-specific alternatives.