Andrej Risteski: Beyond Log-concavity: Provable Guarantees for Sampling Multi-modal Distributions using Simulated Tempering Langevin Monte Carlo

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Location: 
32-G575
Speaker: 
Andrej Risteski
Biography: 
MIT

A key task in Bayesian statistics is sampling from distributions that are only specified up to a partition function (i.e., constant of proportionality). However, without any assumptions, sampling (even approximately) can be #P-hard, and few works have provided "beyond worst-case" guarantees for such settings.

For log-concave distributions, classical results going back to Bakry and Emery (1985) show that natural continuous-time Markov chains called Langevin diffusions mix in polynomial time. The most salient feature of log-concavity violated in practice is uni-modality: commonly, the distributions we wish to sample from are multi-modal. In the presence of multiple deep and well-separated modes, Langevin diffusion suffers from torpid mixing.

We address this problem by combining Langevin diffusion with simulated tempering. The result is a Markov chain that mixes more rapidly by transitioning between different temperatures of the distribution. We analyze this Markov chain for the canonical multi-modal distribution: a mixture of gaussians (of equal variance). The algorithm based on our Markov chain provably samples from distributions that are close to mixtures of gaussians, given access to the gradient of the log-pdf. For the analysis, we use a spectral decomposition theorem for graphs (Gharan and Trevisan, 2014) and a Markov chain decomposition technique (Madras and Randall, 2002).

Joint work with Rong Ge and Holden Lee.