Factorial code

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Most real world data sets consist of data vectors whose individual components are not statistically independent. In other words, knowing the value of an element will provide information about the value of elements in the data vector. When this occurs, it can be desirable to create a factorial code of the data, i. e., a new vector-valued representation of each data vector such that it gets uniquely encoded by the resulting code vector (loss-free coding), but the code components are statistically independent.

Later supervised learning usually works much better when the raw input data is first translated into such a factorial code. For example, suppose the final goal is to classify images with highly redundant pixels. A naive Bayes classifier will assume the pixels are statistically independent random variables and therefore fail to produce good results. If the data are first encoded in a factorial way, however, then the naive Bayes classifier will achieve its optimal performance (compare Schmidhuber et al. 1996).

To create factorial codes, Horace Barlow and co-workers suggested to minimize the sum of the bit entropies of the code components of binary codes (1989). Jürgen Schmidhuber (1992) re-formulated the problem in terms of predictors and binary feature detectors, each receiving the raw data as an input. For each detector there is a predictor that sees the other detectors and learns to predict the output of its own detector in response to the various input vectors or images. But each detector uses a machine learning algorithm to become as unpredictable as possible. The global optimum of this objective function corresponds to a factorial code represented in a distributed fashion across the outputs of the feature detectors.

See also[edit]


  • Horace Barlow, T. P. Kaushal, and G. J. Mitchison. Finding minimum entropy codes. Neural Computation, 1:412-423, 1989.
  • Jürgen Schmidhuber. Learning factorial codes by predictability minimization. Neural Computation, 4(6):863-879, 1992
  • J. Schmidhuber and M. Eldracher and B. Foltin. Semilinear predictability minimization produces well-known feature detectors. Neural Computation, 8(4):773-786, 1996