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A* Sampling

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The problem of drawing samples from a discrete distribution can be converted into a discrete optimization problem. In this work, we show how sampling from a continuous distribution can be converted into an optimization problem over continuous space. Central to the method is a stochastic process recently described in mathematical statistics that we call the Gumbel process. We present a new construction of the Gumbel process and A-star sampling, a practical generic sampling algorithm that searches for the maximum of a Gumbel process using A-star search. We analyze the correctness and convergence time of A-star sampling and demonstrate empirically that it makes more efficient use of bound and likelihood evaluations than the most closely related adaptive rejection sampling-based algorithms.

This talk is part of the Machine Learning @ CUED series.

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