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The information bottleneck method
, 1999
"... We define the relevant information in a signal x ∈ X as being the information that this signal provides about another signal y ∈ Y. Examples include the information that face images provide about the names of the people portrayed, or the information that speech sounds provide about the words spoken. ..."
Abstract

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We define the relevant information in a signal x ∈ X as being the information that this signal provides about another signal y ∈ Y. Examples include the information that face images provide about the names of the people portrayed, or the information that speech sounds provide about the words spoken. Understanding the signal x requires more than just predicting y, it also requires specifying which features of X play a role in the prediction. We formalize this problem as that of finding a short code for X that preserves the maximum information about Y. That is, we squeeze the information that X provides about Y through a ‘bottleneck ’ formed by a limited set of codewords ˜X. This constrained optimization problem can be seen as a generalization of rate distortion theory in which the distortion measure d(x, ˜x) emerges from the joint statistics of X and Y. This approach yields an exact set of self consistent equations for the coding rules X → ˜ X and ˜ X → Y. Solutions to these equations can be found by a convergent re–estimation method that generalizes the Blahut–Arimoto algorithm. Our variational principle provides a surprisingly rich framework for discussing a variety of problems in signal processing and learning, as will be described in detail elsewhere.