, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 161-175

MDL convergence speed for Bernoulli sequences

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The Minimum Description Length principle for online sequence estimation/prediction in a proper learning setup is studied. If the underlying model class is discrete, then the total expected square loss is a particularly interesting performance measure: (a) this quantity is finitely bounded, implying convergence with probability one, and (b) it additionally specifies the convergence speed. For MDL, in general one can only have loss bounds which are finite but exponentially larger than those for Bayes mixtures. We show that this is even the case if the model class contains only Bernoulli distributions. We derive a new upper bound on the prediction error for countable Bernoulli classes. This implies a small bound (comparable to the one for Bayes mixtures) for certain important model classes. We discuss the application to Machine Learning tasks such as classification and hypothesis testing, and generalization to countable classes of i.i.d. models.

A shorter version of this paper (Poland and Hutter, 2004b) appeared in ALT 2004.
This work was supported by SNF grant 2100-67712.02
This research was done while the first author was with IDSIA, Switzerland.