February 13, 2011

ITA 2011: Favorite Talks

UCSD campus during ITA 2011

ITA was great, partly for the reasons visible at right, and partly for getting to enjoy to gracious hospitality of Doug White, but mostly for the scientific exchange. So, some links to my favorite talks. (Note "favorite" and not "best".) I will not attempt to explain any of these adequately, or to list everyone's co-authors. It's good that so many of the papers are on arxiv, but unfortunate that not all of them are.

Todd Coleman, "A relationship between information theory and stochastic control when beliefs are decision variables" (Abstract, arxiv:1102.0250)
Ali Jadbabaie, "Consensus, Social Learning, and Distributed Estimation" (Abstract [in the evil Word format], SSRN/1550809)
The talk focused on new results which are not included in the SSRN paper, but in the same set-up --- if I can trust my notes, replacing sufficient conditions from the old paper with weaker necessary-and-sufficient conditions.
Aryeh Kontorovich, "Efficient classification for metric data" (Abstract, PDF of COLT 2010 paper)
It would be nice to know how this relates to Laplacian regularization methods, as in Belkin and Niyogi (journal version).
Daniel Lee, "Learning metrics for nearest neighbor classification" (Abstract, PDF of NIPS 23 (2010) paper)
The results for nearest-neighbor classification are nice, but it's the extension to estimating f-divergences, including Kullback-Leibler divergences and total variation distance, that I find most interesting.
Maxim Raginsky, "Shannon meets Blackwell and Le Cam: Coding Theorems of Information Theory and Comparison of Experiments"
Sasha Rakhlin, "From statistical learning to online learning and games" (Abstract, arxiv:1011.3168, arxiv:1006.1138)
Irina Rish, "A greedy coordinate ascent method for learning sparse Gaussian MRFs" (PDF of paper)
Is it possible to remove the Gaussian assumption by combining this with the non-paranormal?
Aarti Singh, "Consistent recovery of high-dimensional graph-structured patterns" (Abstract, PDF of NIPS 23 (2010) paper)
Ramon van Handel, "On a question of Blackwell concerning hidden Markov chains" (Abstract, arxiv:0910.3603)
Ramon had just nine slides, including title and references, and they weren't over-packed either. I envy this skill.
Frank Wood, "The Sequence Memoizer" (Abstract, PDF of ICML 2009 paper, website)
Roughly speaking, the sequence memoizer is a nonparametric-Bayesian version of variable-length Markov chains, with prior distributions tuned to handle the large-number-of-rare-events issue ubiquitous in text. The compression performance of the sequence memoizer is really remarkable, as you can see for yourself, and it would be nice to understand it better. Likewise, Frank's work, with David Pfau and Nicholas Bartlett, on infinite mixtures of probabilistic deterministic finite automata, is like a nonparametric-Bayesian version of CSSR. It would be good to understand the conditions under which either the memoizer or the PDFA mixture are consistent estimators, but I would think that.
Serdar Yüksel, "Comparison and characterization of observation channels for stochastic stabilization of noisy linear systems" (Abstract, arxiv.org:1009.3824)
Brian Ziebart, "Behavior forecasting with the principle of maximum causal entropy" (Abstract; see webpage for related papers)
Actually, I didn't go to Brian's talk, but he was kind enough to explain it to me anyway. It doesn't make me reconsider my general skepticism about entropy maximization as a principal of inference, but does make me even more interested in what sorts of large deviations principles might apply to cabbies, and to games more generally.

In addition to the talks, and many enlightening conversations, Anand introduced Maxim and me to the Noble Experiment, surely the best cocktail lounge in which the wall opposite the bar is entirely covered in gilded skulls. At least one of the three of us should probably have done some memento mori blogging.

Manual trackback: Anand, "zombie-blogging" the workshop, which makes me fear for the future of ITA. (He says he was only sick with the flu, but by this point we all know how the rest of that story goes.)

Enigmas of Chance; Postcards; Incestuous Amplification

Posted at February 13, 2011 17:30 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth