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Venture: a higherorder probabilistic programming platform with programmable inference
 CoRR
"... We describe Venture, an interactive virtual machine for probabilistic programming that aims to be sufficiently expressive, extensible, and efficient for generalpurpose use. Like Church, probabilistic models and inference problems in Venture are specified via a Turingcomplete, higherorder probabi ..."
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Cited by 6 (3 self)
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We describe Venture, an interactive virtual machine for probabilistic programming that aims to be sufficiently expressive, extensible, and efficient for generalpurpose use. Like Church, probabilistic models and inference problems in Venture are specified via a Turingcomplete, higherorder probabilistic language descended from Lisp. Unlike Church, Venture also provides a compositional language for custom inference strategies, assembled from scalable implementations of several exact and approximate techniques. Venture is thus applicable to problems involving widely varying model families, dataset sizes and runtime/accuracy constraints. We also describe four key aspects of Venture’s implementation that build on ideas from probabilistic graphical models. First, we describe the stochastic procedure interface (SPI) that specifies and encapsulates primitive random variables, analogously to conditional probability tables in a Bayesian network. The SPI supports custom control flow, higherorder probabilistic procedures, partially exchangeable sequences and “likelihoodfree ” stochastic simulators, all with custom proposals. It also supports the integration of external models that dynamically create, destroy and perform inference over latent variables hidden from Venture. Second, we describe probabilistic execution traces (PETs), which represent
Representations and Algorithms
, 2015
"... This thesis develops probabilistic programming as a productive metaphor for understanding cognition, both with respect to mental representations and the manipulation of such representations. In the first half of the thesis, I demonstrate the representational power of probabilistic programs in the ..."
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This thesis develops probabilistic programming as a productive metaphor for understanding cognition, both with respect to mental representations and the manipulation of such representations. In the first half of the thesis, I demonstrate the representational power of probabilistic programs in the domains of concept learning and social reasoning. I provide examples of richly structured concepts, defined in terms of systems of relations, subparts, and recursive embeddings, that are naturally expressed as programs and show initial experimental evidence that they match human generalization patterns. I then proceed to models of reasoning about reasoning, a domain where the expressive power of probabilistic programs is necessary to formalize our intuitive domain understanding due to the fact that, unlike previous formalisms, probabilistic programs allow