## Orderly Randomness

#### Quasirandom Numbers and Quasi–Monte Carlo

Brian Hayes

Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Science, 2015-02-06

Slides at: bit-player.org/extras/quasi

## Integration by Darts ### Random Sampling

Darts:

Hits:

Area:

True area: 0.4178

### Lattice Sampling

Darts:

Hits:

Area:

True area: 0.4178

### Quasirandom Sampling

Darts:

Hits:

Area:

True area: 0.4178

## Varieties of Randomness

 • eurandom (eu = good, true) • pseudorandom (pseudo = false, fake) • quasirandom (quasi = as if, seemingly) • nonrandom (non = not)

### Eurandom Numbers

• Unpredictable. (Also unrepeatable.)
• Uncorrelated, or independent.
• Unbiased, or uniformly distributed.

### Eurandom Numbers

• Adversarial contexts: cryptography, gambling, proof.
• Need a source of entropy.
• A curious link between mathematics and physics, between the world of bits and the world of atoms.

### Eurandom Numbers

• The gold standard, yet famously unreliable.
• Weldon and Tebb: after many years of rolling dice for science, Karl Pearson found an excess of fives and sixes.
• Almost always, the raw bits need to be “whitened.”
• ### What could possibly go wrong?

A prime number for a cryptographic key, produced by the random number generator on a certain “smart card”:

 10055855947456947824680518748654384595609524365 44429503329267108279132302255516023260140572362 51775707675238936398645381403154121089599274598 25236754563833 

#### The same number written in binary:

 11000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000001011111001 

[Bernstein et al. 2013]

### Pseudorandom Numbers

• Unpredictable. (Also unrepeatable.)
• Uncorrelated, or independent.
• Unbiased, or uniformly distributed.

### Pseudorandom Numbers

Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.—von Neumann (1951)

Subtle is the Lord..., but he’s not out to get us.—Einstein (1921)

### Pseudorandom Numbers

• Commonly generated by a linear recurrence, e.g.: $$x_k = a x_{k-1} + b \pmod{m}$$.
• Not really uncorrelated: Finite cycle length, at most $$m$$.
• Not really unbiased: Runs of 0s underrepresented.

### Pseudorandomness: The Full Monte

$$x_k = 41 x_{k-1} + 1 \pmod{256},\quad x_0 = 3$$

### Quasirandom Numbers

• Unpredictable. (Also unrepeatable.)
• Uncorrelated, or independent.
• Unbiased, or uniformly distributed.

### Quasirandom Numbers

• We’re in the realm of deterministic machines.
• They don’t pretend to be random.
• They don’t even look random.

## A Slight Discrepancy

### Counting points and measuring volume in axis-aligned rectangles $D(a,b) = \left\lvert\frac{\mathrm{count}[a,b)^2}{\mathrm{count}[0,1)^2} - \frac{\mathrm{vol}[a,b)^2}{\mathrm{vol}[0,1)^2}\right\rvert$

### Counting points and measuring volume in axis-aligned rectangles $D(a,b) = \left \lvert \mathrm{count}[a,b)^2 - \mathrm{count}[0,1)^2 \frac{\mathrm{vol}[a,b)^2}{\mathrm{vol}[0,1)^2}\right\rvert$

### Worst-case measure: $$\max$$ over all axis-aligned rectangles $$[a,b)^2$$ $D = \max_{[a,b)^2 \in [0,1)^2} \left\lvert\frac{\mathrm{count}[a,b)^2}{\mathrm{count}[0,1)^2} - \frac{\mathrm{vol}[a,b)^2}{\mathrm{vol}[0,1)^2}\right\rvert$

### Star discrepancy: axis-aligned anchored rectangles $D* = \max_{[0,b)^2 \in [0,1)^2} \left\lvert\frac{\mathrm{count}[0,b)^2}{\mathrm{count}[0,1)^2} - \frac{\mathrm{vol}[0,b)^2}{\mathrm{vol}[0,1)^2}\right\rvert$

## Quasi History

### Mathematical Origins

• Ergodic theory: Well-stirred systems.
• Can we fill the unit interval uniformly?
• Simple arithmetic progression seems to be the answer.
• • But how do we add points one at a time while preserving uniformity?

### Covering the Interval [0, 1)

• Hermann Weyl 100 years ago: the sequence $$\alpha, 2\alpha, 3\alpha,\dots,n\alpha \pmod{1}$$ is equidistributed if $$\alpha$$ is any irrational number.
• Proved by an argument about Riemann integrals that leads directly to the idea of Monte Carlo integration.
• Irrationality is necessary; without it, only a finite set of fractions.
• Irrationality is inconvenient for finite computing machines.

### Covering the Interval [0, 1)

• Johannes van der Corput, 1930s: Asked if any sequence could have discrepancy bounded by a constant for all N.
• In other words, if the discrepancy is given by some function $$f(N)/N$$, can $$f(N)$$ remain below some constant $$C$$ as $$N$$ goes to infinity?
• The answer is no. Proved in the 1940s by Tatyana Pavlovna van Aardenne-Ehrenfest.
• Stronger bounds by K. F. Roth in the 1950s, and others.
• Extensions to point sets in two or more dimensions.

### A First Attempt at Quasi-MC

• R. D. Richtmyer, Los Alamos, 1951.
• Problem of neutron diffusion (same as first MC studies).
• A Weyl sequence: $$n \alpha \pmod 1$$ for irrational $$\alpha$$.
• Outcome: No better than ordinary Monte Carlo.
• But he published the negative result! (This is to be encouraged: You can claim priority even for your failures.)

## Making Quasirandom Numbers

### Van der Corput Procedure ### Quasirandomness Generators

• Van der Corput algorithm is a bizarre mashup of operations on numbers and operation on numerals—the representation of numbers.
• Other quasirandom generators are just as strange.
• Maybe this sort of bit-twiddling is where the “randomness” comes from in quasirandom sequences.

### I. M. Sobol Quasipattern Wikipedia

## Convergence Rates

### Convergence Rates

• How many points do you have to sample to achieve a given accuracy?
• For pseudorandom Monte Carlo, the expected sampling error is proportional to $$\sqrt{N}/N$$.
• This bound follows from the law of large numbers or the central limit theorem.

### Convergence Rates

• In quasi-Monte Carlo, the corresponding expected error goes as $$(\log N)^{d}/N$$, where $$d$$ is the spatial dimension.
• Trading $$\log N$$ for $$\sqrt{N}$$ is potentially a huge improvement: the square root of 1,000,000 is 1,000, but $$\log_{2}$$ 1,000,000 is only 20.
• But there’s that pesky exponent $$d$$. For any fixed $$d$$, $$\sqrt{N}/N$$ will eventually exceed $$(\log N)^{d}/N$$, but it may take a very large value of $$N$$ to reach the crossover.

### The Curse of Dimensionality

• In high dimensions, all the volume is in the corners.
• Measuring that volume, effort grows as $$2^d$$. ### Another Problem: Error Estimates

• Randomness in conventional MC yields an intrinsic error estimate: Just measure the variance of multiple trials.
• Deterministic methods (quasi or lattice) have no concept of variance.

### The Twilight of Quasi-MC

The situation from the 1950s into the 1990s:

• Quasi-Monte Carlo has a theoretical advantage in low dimensions.
• But most low-dimensional problems are easy for any numeric integration scheme.
• For pseudorandom MC, the $$\sqrt{N}$$ convergence rate is less than wonderful, but it does have the virtue of being independent of dimension.
• As a result, quasi-MC was largely set aside by practitioners, although mathematical work continued.

## A New Dawn for Quasi-MC

### Financial Engineering

• Collateralized mortgage obligation (CMO): One of the clever inventions that brought us the great recession of 2008.
• Gathers thousands of mortgage loans into a single, marketable security.
• Whether you’re buying or selling, you need a way to assign a price to a specific CMO.

### Pricing a CMO

• Isn’t this a straightforward problem of calculating net present value?
• A 30-year mortgage represents a stream of 360 monthly payments; you apply a discount rate to determine how much you ought to pay now for the promise of a dollar 30 years hence.
• But most mortgages do not survive for a full 360 monthly payments. When a house is sold or refinanced, the balance is paid in advance. There’s also the possibility of default.

### Monte Carlo on Wall Street

• Formulate the problem as an integral in a space of 360 dimensions.
• For evaluating such integrals Monte Carlo methods are favored not because they work well but because nothing else works at all.
• The use of such techniques, borrowed from physics or computer science, became part of the great “quant” revolution in finance in subsequent years.

### Quasi-Monte Carlo on Wall Street

• In 1992 Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, approached Joseph Traub’s group at Columbia seeking advice on methods for evaluating CMOs.
• Traub and several graduate students, including Spassimir Paskov, decided to try quasi-Monte Carlo, ignoring the received wisdom.
• It worked. Convergence was faster by a factor between 2 and 5. ### The Aftermath

• Paskov earned his degree and went to work for a Swiss bank.
• Traub, Paskov, and another colleague received a patent related to the work.
• Use of quasi-MC spread rapidly through the world of investment banking.
• Twelve years later, the economy tanked. (Causation?)
• Meanwhile, the small community of quasi-fanatics went to work figuring out what it all means.

## Quasi Miracles?

### Laws of Nature Still Enforced

• The earlier results on convergence rates and accuracy were not wrong.
• The curse of dimensionality has not been lifted.
• Fully evaluating a 360-dimensional integral requires $$\approx 2^{360}$$ samples, not $$10^{6}$$.
• $$\therefore$$ either the quasi-MC technique is more powerful than we knew, or the problem is easier than it looks.

### Effective Dimensions?

• The Paskov-Traub result provoked a spate of quasi reassessments (e.g., [Caflisch 1998], [Owen 2002], [Sloan 2005].
• The verdict: The 360-dimensional integral doesn’t really have 360 “effective” dimensions.
• ANOVA approach: If almost all the variance lies in a few dimensions, the rest can be truncated.
• Analogous to compressed-sensing.

### Open Questions

• How do we recognize that a problem has effective dimensionality lower than its formal dimensionality?
• How common are such problems?
• Will quasirandom methods work for other kinds of Monte Carlo studies (e.g., random walks, percolation, statistical mechanics, optimization)?

## Thanks!

#### Bibliography (PDF)

brian@bit-player.org

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