Variational Bayesian Decision-making for Continuous Utilities

Tomasz Kuśmierczyk, Joseph Sakaya, Arto Klami

Bayesian decision theory outlines a rigorous framework for making optimal decisions based on maximizing expected utility over a model posterior. However, practitioners often do not have access to the full posterior and resort to approximate inference strategies. In such cases, taking the eventual decision-making task into account while performing the inference allows for calibrating the posterior approximation to maximize the utility. We present an automatic pipeline that co-opts continuous utilities into variational inference algorithms to account for decision-making. We provide practical strategies for approximating and maximizing the gain, and empirically demonstrate consistent improvement when calibrating approximations for specific utilities.

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