While Anglican incorporates a sophisticated theoretical background that you are invited to explore, its value proposition is to allow intuitive modeling in a stochastic environment. It is not an academic exercise, but a practical everyday machine learning tool that makes probabilistic reasoning effective for you.
Do you interact with users or remote systems? Then you often make the unfortunate experience that they act unpredictably. Mathematically speaking you observe undeterministic or stochastic behaviour. Anglican allows you to express random variables capturing all this stochasticity for you and helps you to learn from data to execute informed decisions in your Clojure programs.
Join us on slack if you have any questions or suggestions. We are happy to learn about your experience!
Add the following dependency to your project (e.g. with Leiningen):
You can also clone the examples
repository and run
gorilla to get a quick setup.
A typical hello world example in statistics is a coin flip model. Our coin has two sides, head and tail. Intuitively given a set of observed values of a coin you would now like to know how fair it is. Mathematically speaking we want to know the probability of head turning up. Let’s encode a model for this:
(ns anglican.coin-flips (:use [anglican core emit runtime])) (defquery coin-model [coin-series] (let [prob (sample (beta 1 1))] ;; 1. prior (loop [[f & r] coin-series] (when f (observe (flip prob) f) ;; 2. incorporate data (recur r))) prob))
Anglican provides us primitives to build a model for our coin. If you are
familiar with Clojure, you will spot them:
defquery just sets up the scope of our model and allows us to give it the name
coin-model and define an input slot for our data as
coin-series. In 1. we
define our prior belief without seeing any data. Let’s just pick the beta
distribution, because it
defines a probability between 0 and 1 and we assume that the coin is rather
fair. You can incorporate any other prior belief by tweaking the two parameters
of the Beta distribution though.
(sample* (beta 1 1)) ;; => 0.7185479773538508
sample* has to be used if you run it outside a query.)
In our model we then
sample this value in the query and will plug it into the
flip distribution to
observe each data point in 2.. If we have no data then
the loop will not run and we will get just our prior belief samples. This is not
really that helpful though. Anglican does its magic when you start to provide
observed values from the coin. For this we use
(->> (doquery :smc coin-model [[true]] :number-of-particles 10000) (take 10) (map :result)) ;; => (0.98529804829141 0.5948306954057996 0.5948306954057996 0.3579256597687244 0.9818148690925241 0.9818148690925241 0.4539746712124162 0.8944478678159888 0.8944478678159888 0.3433014675748332)
doquery receives a few arguments for the Sequential Monte Carlo method.
You can look up each of those for inference. An attribute of the
method is that you might get the same value multiple times in a statistically
You might know from real-life or a statistics course that having very few examples, only one here, will not allow you to infer the probability of head. Anglican provides you a so called posterior distribution after seeing the values. As you can see our distribution is already considerably tilted towards 1.
Let’s assume we observe 8 times heads:
(->> (doquery :smc coin-model [[true true true true true true true true]] :number-of-particles 10000) (take 10) (map :result)) ;; => (0.9068541546104443 0.9068541546104443 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636 0.9664328786599636)
Our posterior distribution confirms our intuition that this coin is very unlikely, but still incorporates some uncertainty about the actual flipping probability. We can be pretty sure that somebody is trying to cheat with this coin here… Congratulations! You have just conducted your first Bayesian inference. Bayesian inference allows you to both intuitively incorporate expert knowledge in the prior to work in a small data regime, while correcting wrong prior beliefs with more data.
What happens if you pick a different prior, e.g. tweaking the
to 10 and 10? Try to use a larger data set. Do you see that the effect of the
prior belief vanishes?
Anglican and Clojure share a common syntax, and can be invoked from each other. This allows Anglican programs to make use of a rich set of libraries written in both Clojure and Java. Conversely Anglican allows intuitive and compact specification of models for which inference may be performed as part of a larger Clojure project.
Anglican provides a language to abstract the statistical inference from the Clojure runtime. If you are just interested in using Anglican, you can read the details of it in the language section and ignore the details about inference. You might have to try to different inference methods depending on the nature of your model, but you do not need to learn any of the statistics involved.
The underlying inference methods are document in the inference section. If you have a statistics background or are interested to learn more about the mechanics behind Anglican’s language primitives you are invited to study the details. If you have any particular questions feel free to join our slack channel.
The theoretical background is documented in peer-reviewed, state-of-the-art academic literature.
Core contributors, in order of joining:
as well as many others, in alphabetical order:
This work is supported under DARPA PPAML through the U.S. AFRL under Cooperative Agreement number FA8750-14-2-0004. The U.S. Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation heron. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should be not interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of DARPA, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government.