Structured Representation of Complex Stochastic Systems

Nir Friedman, Daphne Koller, Avi Pfeffer

This paper considers the problem of representing complex systems that evolve stochastically over time. Dynamic Bayesian networks provide a compact representation for stochastic processes. Unfortunately, they are often unwieldy since they cannot explicitly model the complex organizational structure of many real life systems: the fact that processes are typically composed of several interacting subprocesses, each of which can, in turn, be further decomposed. We propose a hierarchically structured representation language which extends both dynamic Bayesian networks and the object-oriented Bayesian network framework of [9], and showthat our language allows us to describe such systems in a natural and modular way. Our language supports a natural representation for certain system characteristics that are hard to capture using more traditional frameworks. For example, it allows us to represent systems where some processes evolve at a different rate than others, or systems where the processes interact only intermittently. We provide a simple inference mechanism for our represen-tation via translation to Bayesian networks, and suggest ways in which the inference algorithm can exploit the additional structure encoded in our representation.

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