Prediction and Generation of Binary Markov Processes: Can a Finite-State Fox Catch a Markov Mouse?

J. Ruebeck, R. G. James, J. R. Mahoney, J. P. Crutchfield

Understanding the generative mechanism of a natural system is a vital component of the scientific method. Here, we investigate one of the fundamental steps toward this goal by presenting the minimal generator of an arbitrary binary Markov process. This is a class of processes whose predictive model is well known. Surprisingly, the generative model requires three distinct topologies for different regions of parameter space. We show that a previously proposed generator for a particular set of binary Markov processes is, in fact, not minimal. Our results shed the first quantitative light on the relative (minimal) costs of prediction and generation. We find, for instance, that the difference between prediction and generation is maximized when the process is approximately independently, identically distributed.

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