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Authors:Ran Wei, Joseph Lee, Shohei Wakayama, Alexander Tschantz, Conor Heins, Christopher Buckley, John Carenbauer, Hari Thiruvengada, Mahault Albarracin, Miguel de Prado(+3 more)

Abstract:Predicting future trajectories of nearby objects, especially under occlusion, is a crucial task in autonomous driving and safe robot navigation. Prior works typically neglect to maintain uncertainty about occluded objects and only predict trajectories of observed objects using high-capacity models such as Transformers trained on large datasets. While these approaches are effective in standard scenarios, they can struggle to generalize to the long-tail, safety-critical scenarios. In this work, we explore a conceptual framework unifying trajectory prediction and occlusion reasoning under the same class of structured probabilistic generative model, namely, switching dynamical systems. We then present some initial experiments illustrating its capabilities using the Waymo open dataset.

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Abstract:Balancing computational efficiency with robust predictive performance is crucial in supervised learning, especially for critical applications. Standard deep learning models, while accurate and scalable, often lack probabilistic features like calibrated predictions and uncertainty quantification. Bayesian methods address these issues but can be computationally expensive as model and data complexity increase. Previous work shows that fast variational methods can reduce the compute requirements of Bayesian methods by eliminating the need for gradient computation or sampling, but are often limited to simple models. We demonstrate that conditional mixture networks (CMNs), a probabilistic variant of the mixture-of-experts (MoE) model, are suitable for fast, gradient-free inference and can solve complex classification tasks. CMNs employ linear experts and a softmax gating network. By exploiting conditional conjugacy and P\'olya-Gamma augmentation, we furnish Gaussian likelihoods for the weights of both the linear experts and the gating network. This enables efficient variational updates using coordinate ascent variational inference (CAVI), avoiding traditional gradient-based optimization. We validate this approach by training two-layer CMNs on standard benchmarks from the UCI repository. Our method, CAVI-CMN, achieves competitive and often superior predictive accuracy compared to maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) with backpropagation, while maintaining competitive runtime and full posterior distributions over all model parameters. Moreover, as input size or the number of experts increases, computation time scales competitively with MLE and other gradient-based solutions like black-box variational inference (BBVI), making CAVI-CMN a promising tool for deep, fast, and gradient-free Bayesian networks.

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Authors:Karl Friston, Conor Heins, Tim Verbelen, Lancelot Da Costa, Tommaso Salvatori, Dimitrije Markovic, Alexander Tschantz, Magnus Koudahl, Christopher Buckley, Thomas Parr

Abstract:This paper describes a discrete state-space model -- and accompanying methods -- for generative modelling. This model generalises partially observed Markov decision processes to include paths as latent variables, rendering it suitable for active inference and learning in a dynamic setting. Specifically, we consider deep or hierarchical forms using the renormalisation group. The ensuing renormalising generative models (RGM) can be regarded as discrete homologues of deep convolutional neural networks or continuous state-space models in generalised coordinates of motion. By construction, these scale-invariant models can be used to learn compositionality over space and time, furnishing models of paths or orbits; i.e., events of increasing temporal depth and itinerancy. This technical note illustrates the automatic discovery, learning and deployment of RGMs using a series of applications. We start with image classification and then consider the compression and generation of movies and music. Finally, we apply the same variational principles to the learning of Atari-like games.

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Authors:Karl J. Friston, Lancelot Da Costa, Alexander Tschantz, Alex Kiefer, Tommaso Salvatori, Victorita Neacsu, Magnus Koudahl, Conor Heins, Noor Sajid, Dimitrije Markovic(+3 more)

Abstract:This paper concerns structure learning or discovery of discrete generative models. It focuses on Bayesian model selection and the assimilation of training data or content, with a special emphasis on the order in which data are ingested. A key move - in the ensuing schemes - is to place priors on the selection of models, based upon expected free energy. In this setting, expected free energy reduces to a constrained mutual information, where the constraints inherit from priors over outcomes (i.e., preferred outcomes). The resulting scheme is first used to perform image classification on the MNIST dataset to illustrate the basic idea, and then tested on a more challenging problem of discovering models with dynamics, using a simple sprite-based visual disentanglement paradigm and the Tower of Hanoi (cf., blocks world) problem. In these examples, generative models are constructed autodidactically to recover (i.e., disentangle) the factorial structure of latent states - and their characteristic paths or dynamics.

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Authors:Karl J Friston, Maxwell J D Ramstead, Alex B Kiefer, Alexander Tschantz, Christopher L Buckley, Mahault Albarracin, Riddhi J Pitliya, Conor Heins, Brennan Klein, Beren Millidge(+10 more)

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Abstract:This white paper lays out a vision of research and development in the field of artificial intelligence for the next decade (and beyond). Its denouement is a cyber-physical ecosystem of natural and synthetic sense-making, in which humans are integral participants$\unicode{x2014}$what we call ''shared intelligence''. This vision is premised on active inference, a formulation of adaptive behavior that can be read as a physics of intelligence, and which inherits from the physics of self-organization. In this context, we understand intelligence as the capacity to accumulate evidence for a generative model of one's sensed world$\unicode{x2014}$also known as self-evidencing. Formally, this corresponds to maximizing (Bayesian) model evidence, via belief updating over several scales: i.e., inference, learning, and model selection. Operationally, this self-evidencing can be realized via (variational) message passing or belief propagation on a factor graph. Crucially, active inference foregrounds an existential imperative of intelligent systems; namely, curiosity or the resolution of uncertainty. This same imperative underwrites belief sharing in ensembles of agents, in which certain aspects (i.e., factors) of each agent's generative world model provide a common ground or frame of reference. Active inference plays a foundational role in this ecology of belief sharing$\unicode{x2014}$leading to a formal account of collective intelligence that rests on shared narratives and goals. We also consider the kinds of communication protocols that must be developed to enable such an ecosystem of intelligences and motivate the development of a shared hyper-spatial modeling language and transaction protocol, as a first$\unicode{x2014}$and key$\unicode{x2014}$step towards such an ecology.

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Authors:Conor Heins, Beren Millidge, Daphne Demekas, Brennan Klein, Karl Friston, Iain Couzin, Alexander Tschantz

Abstract:Active inference is an account of cognition and behavior in complex systems which brings together action, perception, and learning under the theoretical mantle of Bayesian inference. Active inference has seen growing applications in academic research, especially in fields that seek to model human or animal behavior. While in recent years, some of the code arising from the active inference literature has been written in open source languages like Python and Julia, to-date, the most popular software for simulating active inference agents is the DEM toolbox of SPM, a MATLAB library originally developed for the statistical analysis and modelling of neuroimaging data. Increasing interest in active inference, manifested both in terms of sheer number as well as diversifying applications across scientific disciplines, has thus created a need for generic, widely-available, and user-friendly code for simulating active inference in open-source scientific computing languages like Python. The Python package we present here, pymdp (see https://github.com/infer-actively/pymdp), represents a significant step in this direction: namely, we provide the first open-source package for simulating active inference with partially-observable Markov Decision Processes or POMDPs. We review the package's structure and explain its advantages like modular design and customizability, while providing in-text code blocks along the way to demonstrate how it can be used to build and run active inference processes with ease. We developed pymdp to increase the accessibility and exposure of the active inference framework to researchers, engineers, and developers with diverse disciplinary backgrounds. In the spirit of open-source software, we also hope that it spurs new innovation, development, and collaboration in the growing active inference community.

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