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Variable binding is a cornerstone of symbolic reasoning and cognition. But how binding can be implemented in connectionist models has puzzled neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and neural network researchers for many decades. One type of connectionist model that naturally includes a binding operation is vector symbolic architectures (VSAs). In contrast to other proposals for variable binding, the binding operation in VSAs is dimensionality-preserving, which enables representing complex hierarchical data structures, such as trees, while avoiding a combinatoric expansion of dimensionality. Classical VSAs encode symbols by dense randomized vectors, in which information is distributed throughout the entire neuron population. By contrast, in the brain, features are encoded more locally, by the activity of single neurons or small groups of neurons, often forming sparse vectors of neural activation. Following Laiho et al. (2015), we explore symbolic reasoning with a special case of sparse distributed representations. Using techniques from compressed sensing, we first show that variable binding in classical VSAs is mathematically equivalent to tensor product binding between sparse feature vectors, another well-known binding operation which increases dimensionality. This theoretical result motivates us to study two dimensionality-preserving binding methods that include a reduction of the tensor matrix into a single sparse vector. One bindingmore »
Vector space models for symbolic processing that encode symbols by random vectors have been proposed in cognitive science and connectionist communities under the names Vector Symbolic Architecture (VSA), and, synonymously, Hyperdimensional (HD) computing. In this paper, we generalize VSAs to function spaces by mapping continuous-valued data into a vector space such that the inner product between the representations of any two data points represents a similarity kernel. By analogy to VSA, we call this new function encoding and computing framework Vector Function Architecture (VFA). In VFAs, vectors can represent individual data points as well as elements of a function space (a reproducing kernel Hilbert space). The algebraic vector operations, inherited from VSA, correspond to well-defined operations in function space. Furthermore, we study a previously proposed method for encoding continuous data, fractional power encoding (FPE), which uses exponentiation of a random base vector to produce randomized representations of data points and fulfills the kernel properties for inducing a VFA. We show that the distribution from which elements of the base vector are sampled determines the shape of the FPE kernel, which in turn induces a VFA for computing with band-limited functions. In particular, VFAs provide an algebraic framework for implementing large-scalemore »