Probabilistic Meta-Learning for Bayesian Optimization

Transfer and meta-learning algorithms leverage evaluations on related tasks in order to significantly speed up learning or optimization on a new problem. For applications that depend on uncertainty estimates, e.g., in Bayesian optimization, recent probabilistic approaches have shown good performance at test time, but either scale poorly with the number of data points or under-perform with little data on the test task. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to probabilistic transfer learning that uses a generative model for the underlying data distribution and simultaneously learns a latent feature distribution to represent unknown task properties. To enable fast and accurate inference at test-time, we introduce a novel meta-loss that structures the latent space to match the prior used for inference. Together, these contributions ensure that our probabilistic model exhibits high sample-efficiency and provides well-calibrated uncertainty estimates. We evaluate the proposed approach and compare its performance to probabilistic models from the literature on a set of Bayesian optimization transfer-learning tasks.

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