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  1. Bayesian optimization is a coherent, ubiquitous approach to decision-making under uncertainty, with applications including multi-arm bandits, active learning, and black-box optimization. Bayesian optimization selects decisions (i.e. objective function queries) with maximal expected utility with respect to the posterior distribution of a Bayesian model, which quantifies reducible, epistemic uncertainty about query outcomes. In practice, subjectively implausible outcomes can occur regularly for two reasons: 1) model misspecification and 2) covariate shift. Conformal prediction is an uncertainty quantification method with coverage guarantees even for misspecified models and a simple mechanism to correct for covariate shift. We propose conformal Bayesian optimization, which directs queries towards regions of search space where the model predictions have guaranteed validity, and investigate its behavior on a suite of black-box optimization tasks and tabular ranking tasks. In many cases we find that query coverage can be significantly improved without harming sample-efficiency. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Gaussian processes (GPs) provide a gold standard for performance in online settings, such as sample-efficient control and black box optimization, where we need to update a posterior distribution as we acquire data in a sequential fashion. However, updating a GP posterior to accommodate even a single new observation after having observed n points incurs at least O(n) computations in the exact setting. We show how to use structured kernel interpolation to efficiently recycle computations for constant-time O(1) online updates with respect to the number of points n, while retaining exact inference. We demonstrate the promise of our approach in a range of online regression and classification settings, Bayesian optimization, and active sampling to reduce error in malaria incidence forecasting. 
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  3. null (Ed.)
    For over a decade, model-based reinforcement learning has been seen as a way to leverage control-based domain knowledge to improve the sample-efficiency of reinforcement learning agents. While model-based agents are conceptually appealing, their policies tend to lag behind those of model-free agents in terms of final reward, especially in non-trivial environments. In response, researchers have proposed model-based agents with increasingly complex components, from ensembles of probabilistic dynamics models, to heuristics for mitigating model error. In a reversal of this trend, we show that simple model-based agents can be derived from existing ideas that not only match, but outperform state-of-the-art model-free agents in terms of both sample-efficiency and final reward. We find that a model-free soft value estimate for policy evaluation and a model-based stochastic value gradient for policy improvement is an effective combination, achieving state-of-the-art results on a high-dimensional humanoid control task, which most model-based agents are unable to solve. Our findings suggest that model-based policy evaluation deserves closer attention. 
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  4. With a principled representation of uncertainty and closed form posterior updates, Gaussian processes (GPs) are a natural choice for online decision making. However, Gaussian processes typically require at least O(n2) computations for n training points, limiting their general applicability. Stochastic variational Gaussian processes (SVGPs) can provide scalable inference for a dataset of fixed size, but are difficult to efficiently condition on new data. We propose online variational conditioning (OVC), a procedure for efficiently conditioning SVGPs in an online setting that does not require re-training through the evidence lower bound with the addition of new data. OVC enables the pairing of SVGPs with advanced look-ahead acquisition functions for black-box optimization, even with non-Gaussian likelihoods. We show OVC provides compelling performance in a range of applications including active learning of malaria incidence, and reinforcement learning on MuJoCo simulated robotic control tasks. 
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  5. The translation equivariance of convolutional layers enables convolutional neural networks to generalize well on image problems. While translation equivariance provides a powerful inductive bias for images, we often additionally desire equivariance to other transformations, such as rotations, especially for non-image data. We propose a general method to construct a convolutional layer that is equivariant to transformations from any specified Lie group with a surjective exponential map. Incorporating equivariance to a new group requires implementing only the group exponential and logarithm maps, enabling rapid prototyping. Showcasing the simplicity and generality of our method, we apply the same model architecture to images, ball-and-stick molecular data, and Hamiltonian dynamical systems. For Hamiltonian systems, the equivariance of our models is especially impactful, leading to exact conservation of linear and angular momentum. 
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  6. The translation equivariance of convolutional layers enables convolutional neural networks to generalize well on image problems. While translation equivariance provides a powerful inductive bias for images, we often additionally desire equivariance to other transformations, such as rotations, especially for non-image data. We propose a general method to construct a convolutional layer that is equivariant to transformations from any specified Lie group with a surjective exponential map. Incorporating equivariance to a new group requires implementing only the group exponential and logarithm maps, enabling rapid prototyping. Showcasing the simplicity and generality of our method, we apply the same model architecture to images, ball-and-stick molecular data, and Hamiltonian dynamical systems. For Hamiltonian systems, the equivariance of our models is especially impactful, leading to exact conservation of linear and angular momentum. 
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  7. The translation equivariance of convolutional layers enables convolutional neural networks to generalize well on image problems. While translation equivariance provides a powerful inductive bias for images, we often additionally desire equivariance to other transformations, such as rotations, especially for non-image data. We propose a general method to construct a convolutional layer that is equivariant to transformations from any specified Lie group with a surjective exponential map. Incorporating equivariance to a new group requires implementing only the group exponential and logarithm maps, enabling rapid prototyping. Showcasing the simplicity and generality of our method, we apply the same model architecture to images, ball-and-stick molecular data, and Hamiltonian dynamical systems. For Hamiltonian systems, the equivariance of our models is especially impactful, leading to exact conservation of linear and angular momentum. 
    more » « less