Abstract:
Bayesian networks provide a modeling language and associated inference algorithm for stochastic domains. They have been successfully applied in a variety of medium-scale applications. However, when faced with a large complex domain, the task of modeling using Bayesian networks begins to resemble the task of programming using logical circuits. In this paper, we describe an object-oriented Bayesian network (OOBN) language, which allows complex domains to be described in terms of inter-related objects. We use a Bayesian network fragment to describe the probabilistic relations between the attributes of an object. These attributes can themselves be objects, providing a natural framework for encoding part-of hierarchies. Classes are used to provide a reusable probabilistic model which can be applied to multiple similar objects. Classes also support inheritance of model fragments from a class to a subclass, allowing the common aspects of related classes to be defined only once. Our language has clear declarative semantics: an OOBN can be interpreted as a stochastic functional program, so that it uniquely specifies a probabilistic model. We provide an inference algorithm for OOBNs, and show that much of the structural information encoded by an OOBN--particularly the encapsulation of variables within an object and the reuse of model fragments in different contexts--can also be used to speed up the inference process.

Abstract:
One of the basic tasks for Bayesian networks (BNs) is that of learning a network structure from data. The BN-learning problem is NP-hard, so the standard solution is heuristic search. Many approaches have been proposed for this task, but only a very small number outperform the baseline of greedy hill-climbing with tabu lists; moreover, many of the proposed algorithms are quite complex and hard to implement. In this paper, we propose a very simple and easy-to-implement method for addressing this task. Our approach is based on the well-known fact that the best network (of bounded in-degree) consistent with a given node ordering can be found very efficiently. We therefore propose a search not over the space of structures, but over the space of orderings, selecting for each ordering the best network consistent with it. This search space is much smaller, makes more global search steps, has a lower branching factor, and avoids costly acyclicity checks. We present results for this algorithm on both synthetic and real data sets, evaluating both the score of the network found and in the running time. We show that ordering-based search outperforms the standard baseline, and is competitive with recent algorithms that are much harder to implement.

Abstract:
In many domains, we are interested in analyzing the structure of the underlying distribution, e.g., whether one variable is a direct parent of the other. Bayesian model-selection attempts to find the MAP model and use its structure to answer these questions. However, when the amount of available data is modest, there might be many models that have non-negligible posterior. Thus, we want compute the Bayesian posterior of a feature, i.e., the total posterior probability of all models that contain it. In this paper, we propose a new approach for this task. We first show how to efficiently compute a sum over the exponential number of networks that are consistent with a fixed ordering over network variables. This allows us to compute, for a given ordering, both the marginal probability of the data and the posterior of a feature. We then use this result as the basis for an algorithm that approximates the Bayesian posterior of a feature. Our approach uses a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method, but over orderings rather than over network structures. The space of orderings is much smaller and more regular than the space of structures, and has a smoother posterior `landscape'. We present empirical results on synthetic and real-life datasets that compare our approach to full model averaging (when possible), to MCMC over network structures, and to a non-Bayesian bootstrap approach.

Abstract:
Decision theory does not traditionally include uncertainty over utility functions. We argue that the a person's utility value for a given outcome can be treated as we treat other domain attributes: as a random variable with a density function over its possible values. We show that we can apply statistical density estimation techniques to learn such a density function from a database of partially elicited utility functions. In particular, we define a Bayesian learning framework for this problem, assuming the distribution over utilities is a mixture of Gaussians, where the mixture components represent statistically coherent subpopulations. We can also extend our techniques to the problem of discovering generalized additivity structure in the utility functions in the population. We define a Bayesian model selection criterion for utility function structure and a search procedure over structures. The factorization of the utilities in the learned model, and the generalization obtained from density estimation, allows us to provide robust estimates of utilities using a significantly smaller number of utility elicitation questions. We experiment with our technique on synthetic utility data and on a real database of utility functions in the domain of prenatal diagnosis.

Abstract:
Many large MDPs can be represented compactly using a dynamic Bayesian network. Although the structure of the value function does not retain the structure of the process, recent work has shown that value functions in factored MDPs can often be approximated well using a decomposed value function: a linear combination of restricted basis functions, each of which refers only to a small subset of variables. An approximate value function for a particular policy can be computed using approximate dynamic programming, but this approach (and others) can only produce an approximation relative to a distance metric which is weighted by the stationary distribution of the current policy. This type of weighted projection is ill-suited to policy improvement. We present a new approach to value determination, that uses a simple closed-form computation to directly compute a least-squares decomposed approximation to the value function for any weights. We then use this value determination algorithm as a subroutine in a policy iteration process. We show that, under reasonable restrictions, the policies induced by a factored value function are compactly represented, and can be manipulated efficiently in a policy iteration process. We also present a method for computing error bounds for decomposed value functions using a variable-elimination algorithm for function optimization. The complexity of all of our algorithms depends on the factorization of system dynamics and of the approximate value function.

Abstract:
The monitoring and control of any dynamic system depends crucially on the ability to reason about its current status and its future trajectory. In the case of a stochastic system, these tasks typically involve the use of a belief state- a probability distribution over the state of the process at a given point in time. Unfortunately, the state spaces of complex processes are very large, making an explicit representation of a belief state intractable. Even in dynamic Bayesian networks (DBNs), where the process itself can be represented compactly, the representation of the belief state is intractable. We investigate the idea of maintaining a compact approximation to the true belief state, and analyze the conditions under which the errors due to the approximations taken over the lifetime of the process do not accumulate to make our answers completely irrelevant. We show that the error in a belief state contracts exponentially as the process evolves. Thus, even with multiple approximations, the error in our process remains bounded indefinitely. We show how the additional structure of a DBN can be used to design our approximation scheme, improving its performance significantly. We demonstrate the applicability of our ideas in the context of a monitoring task, showing that orders of magnitude faster inference can be achieved with only a small degradation in accuracy.

Abstract:
This is the Proceedings of the Seventeenth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, which was held in Seattle, WA, August 2-5 2001

Abstract:
Many applications of intelligent systems require reasoning about the mental states of agents in the domain. We may want to reason about an agent's beliefs, including beliefs about other agents; we may also want to reason about an agent's preferences, and how his beliefs and preferences relate to his behavior. We define a probabilistic epistemic logic (PEL) in which belief statements are given a formal semantics, and provide an algorithm for asserting and querying PEL formulas in Bayesian networks. We then show how to reason about an agent's behavior by modeling his decision process as an influence diagram and assuming that he behaves rationally. PEL can then be used for reasoning from an agent's observed actions to conclusions about other aspects of the domain, including unobserved domain variables and the agent's mental states.

Abstract:
Non-deductive reasoning systems are often {\em representation dependent}: representing the same situation in two different ways may cause such a system to return two different answers. Some have viewed this as a significant problem. For example, the principle of maximum entropy has been subjected to much criticism due to its representation dependence. There has, however, been almost no work investigating representation dependence. In this paper, we formalize this notion and show that it is not a problem specific to maximum entropy. In fact, we show that any representation-independent probabilistic inference procedure that ignores irrelevant information is essentially entailment, in a precise sense. Moreover, we show that representation independence is incompatible with even a weak default assumption of independence. We then show that invariance under a restricted class of representation changes can form a reasonable compromise between representation independence and other desiderata, and provide a construction of a family of inference procedures that provides such restricted representation independence, using relative entropy.

Abstract:
We consider the task of obtaining the maximum a posteriori estimate of discrete pairwise random fields with arbitrary unary potentials and semimetric pairwise potentials. For this problem, we propose an accurate hierarchical move making strategy where each move is computed efficiently by solving an st-MINCUT problem. Unlike previous move making approaches, e.g. the widely used a-expansion algorithm, our method obtains the guarantees of the standard linear programming (LP) relaxation for the important special case of metric labeling. Unlike the existing LP relaxation solvers, e.g. interior-point algorithms or tree-reweighted message passing, our method is significantly faster as it uses only the efficient st-MINCUT algorithm in its design. Using both synthetic and real data experiments, we show that our technique outperforms several commonly used algorithms.