Breaking the bandwidth barrier: Geometrical adaptive entropy estimation

Weihao Gao, Sewoong Oh, Pramod Viswanath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Estimators of information theoretic measures such as entropy and mutual information are a basic workhorse for many downstream applications in modern data science. State of the art approaches have been either geometric (nearest neighbor (NN) based) or kernel based (with a globally chosen bandwidth). In this paper, we combine both these approaches to design new estimators of entropy and mutual information that outperform state of the art methods. Our estimator uses local bandwidth choices of k-NN distances with a finite k, independent of the sample size. Such a local and data dependent choice improves performance in practice, but the bandwidth is vanishing at a fast rate, leading to a non-vanishing bias. We show that the asymptotic bias of the proposed estimator is universal; it is independent of the underlying distribution. Hence, it can be precomputed and subtracted from the estimate. As a byproduct, we obtain a unified way of obtaining both kernel and NN estimators. The corresponding theoretical contribution relating the asymptotic geometry of nearest neighbors to order statistics is of independent mathematical interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2468-2476
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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