In the last two posts, we’ve looked at using machine learning for playing iterated Roshambo. Specifically, we saw how to use Bayes’ theorem to try to detect and exploit patterns, and then saw how Fourier transforms can give us a concrete measurement of the randomness (and non-randomness) in our opponent’s play. Today’s post is about how we can use representation theory to improve our chances of finding interesting patterns.

# machine learning

## Roshambo Part II – Fourier Analysis

In the last post, we looked at using an algorithm suggested by Bayes’ Theorem to learn patterns in an opponent’s play and exploit them. The game we’re playing is iterated rock-paper-scissors, with 1000 rounds of play per game. The opponent’s moves are a string of choices, ‘r’, ‘p’, or ‘s’, and if we can predict what they will play, we’ll be able to beat them. In trying to discover patterns automatically we’ll gain some general knowledge about detecting patterns in streams of characters, which has interesting applications ranging from biology (imagine ‘GATC’ instead of ‘rps’) to cryptography.

Fourier analysis is helpful in a wide variety of domains, ranging from music to image encoding. A great example suggested by ‘Building Machine Learning Algorithms with Python‘ is classifying pieces of music by genre. If we’re given a wave-form of a piece of music, automatically detecting its genre is difficult. But applying the Fourier transform breaks the music up into its component frequencies, which turn out to be quite useful in determining whether a song is (say) classical or metal.

## Thoughts on Machine Learning, Representation Theory, and RoShamBo – Part I

I’ve recently been doing some reading on machine learning with a mind towards applying some of my prior knowledge of representation theory. The initial realization that representation theory might have some interesting applications in machine learning came from discussions with Chris Olah at the Toronto HackLab a couple months ago; you can get interesting new insights by exploring new spaces! Over winter break I’ve been reading Bishop’s ‘Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning‘ (slowly), alongside faster reads like ‘Building Machine Learning Systems with Python.‘ As I’ve read, I’ve realized that there is plenty of room for introducing group theory into machine learning in interesting ways. (Note: This is the first of a few posts on this topic.)

There’s a strong tradition of statisticians using group theory, perhaps most famously Persi Diaconis, who used representation theory of the symmetric group to find the mixing time for card shuffling. His notes ‘Group Representations in Probability and Statistics‘ are an excellent place to pick up the background material with a strong eye towards applications. Over the next few posts I’ll make a case for the use of representation theory in machine learning, emphasizing automatic factor selection and Bayesian methods.

First, an extremely brief overview of what machine learning is about, and an introduction to using a Bayesian approach to play RoShamBo, or rock paper scissors. In the second post, I’ll motivate the viewpoint of representation by exploring the Fourier transform and how to use it to beat repetitive opponents. Finally, in the third post I’ll look at how we can use representations to select factors for our Bayesian algorithm by examining likelihood functions as functions on a group.