SPPL: Probabilistic Programming with Fast Exact Symbolic Inference

Feras A. Saad, Martin C. Rinard, Vikash K. Mansinghka

Keywords: probabilistic programming, symbolic execution, Technical Talks 5A, Posters 5

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Abstract: We present the Sum-Product Probabilistic Language (SPPL), a new probabilistic programming language that automatically delivers exact solutions to a broad range of probabilistic inference queries. SPPL translates probabilistic programs into sum-product expressions, a new symbolic representation and associated semantic domain that extends standard sum-product networks to support mixed-type distributions, numeric transformations, logical formulas, and pointwise and set-valued constraints. We formalize SPPL via a novel translation strategy from probabilistic programs to sum-product expressions and give sound exact algorithms for conditioning on and computing probabilities of events. SPPL imposes a collection of restrictions on probabilistic programs to ensure they can be translated into sum-product expressions, which allow the system to leverage new techniques for improving the scalability of translation and inference by automatically exploiting probabilistic structure. We implement a prototype of SPPL with a modular architecture and evaluate it on benchmarks the system targets, showing that it obtains up to 3500x speedups over state-of-the-art symbolic systems on tasks such as verifying the fairness of decision tree classifiers, smoothing hidden Markov models, conditioning transformed random variables, and computing rare event probabilities.

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