Random variables#

Using Random Numbers#

Because in Aesara you first express everything symbolically and afterwards compile this expression to get functions, using pseudo-random numbers is not as straightforward as it is in NumPy, though also not too complicated.

The way to think about putting randomness into Aesara’s computations is to put random variables in your graph. Aesara will allocate a NumPy RandomStream object (a random number generator) for each such variable, and draw from it as necessary. We will call this sort of sequence of random numbers a random stream. Random streams are at their core shared variables, so the observations on shared variables hold here as well. Aesara’s random objects are defined and implemented in RandomStream and, at a lower level, in RandomVariable.

Brief Example#

Here’s a brief example. The setup code is:

from aesara.tensor.random.utils import RandomStream
from aesara import function

srng = RandomStream(seed=234)
rv_u = srng.uniform(0, 1, size=(2,2))
rv_n = srng.normal(0, 1, size=(2,2))
f = function([], rv_u)
g = function([], rv_n, no_default_updates=True)
nearly_zeros = function([], rv_u + rv_u - 2 * rv_u)

Here, rv_u represents a random stream of 2x2 matrices of draws from a uniform distribution. Likewise, rv_n represents a random stream of 2x2 matrices of draws from a normal distribution. The distributions that are implemented are defined as RandomVariables. They only work on CPU.

Now let’s use these objects. If we call f(), we get random uniform numbers. The internal state of the random number generator is automatically updated, so we get different random numbers every time.

>>> f_val0 = f()
>>> f_val1 = f()  #different numbers from f_val0

When we add the extra argument no_default_updates=True to function (as in g), then the random number generator state is not affected by calling the returned function. So, for example, calling g multiple times will return the same numbers.

>>> g_val0 = g()  # different numbers from f_val0 and f_val1
>>> g_val1 = g()  # same numbers as g_val0!

An important remark is that a random variable is drawn at most once during any single function execution. So the nearly_zeros function is guaranteed to return approximately 0 (except for rounding error) even though the rv_u random variable appears three times in the output expression.

>>> nearly_zeros = function([], rv_u + rv_u - 2 * rv_u)

Seeding Streams#

You can seed all of the random variables allocated by a RandomStream object by that object’s RandomStream.seed() method. This seed will be used to seed a temporary random number generator, that will in turn generate seeds for each of the random variables.

>>> srng.seed(902340)  # seeds rv_u and rv_n with different seeds each

Sharing Streams Between Functions#

As usual for shared variables, the random number generators used for random variables are common between functions. So our nearly_zeros function will update the state of the generators used in function f above.

Copying Random State Between Aesara Graphs#

In some use cases, a user might want to transfer the “state” of all random number generators associated with a given Aesara graph (e.g. g1, with compiled function f1 below) to a second graph (e.g. g2, with function f2). This might arise for example if you are trying to initialize the state of a model, from the parameters of a pickled version of a previous model. For aesara.tensor.random.utils.RandomStream and aesara.sandbox.rng_mrg.MRG_RandomStream this can be achieved by copying elements of the state_updates parameter.

Each time a random variable is drawn from a RandomStream object, a tuple is added to its state_updates list. The first element is a shared variable, which represents the state of the random number generator associated with this particular variable, while the second represents the Aesara graph corresponding to the random number generation process.

A Real Example: Logistic Regression#

The preceding elements are featured in this more realistic example. It will be used repeatedly.

import numpy as np
import aesara
import aesara.tensor as at

rng = np.random.default_rng(2882)

N = 400                                   # training sample size
feats = 784                               # number of input variables

# generate a dataset: D = (input_values, target_class)
D = (rng.standard_normal((N, feats)), rng.integers(size=N, low=0, high=2))
training_steps = 10000

# Declare Aesara symbolic variables
x = at.dmatrix("x")
y = at.dvector("y")

# initialize the weight vector w randomly
# this and the following bias variable b
# are shared so they keep their values
# between training iterations (updates)
w = aesara.shared(rng.standard_normal(feats), name="w")

# initialize the bias term
b = aesara.shared(0., name="b")

print("Initial model:")

# Construct Aesara expression graph
p_1 = 1 / (1 + at.exp(-at.dot(x, w) - b))       # Probability that target = 1
prediction = p_1 > 0.5                          # The prediction thresholded
xent = -y * at.log(p_1) - (1-y) * at.log(1-p_1) # Cross-entropy loss function
cost = xent.mean() + 0.01 * (w ** 2).sum()      # The cost to minimize
gw, gb = at.grad(cost, [w, b])                  # Compute the gradient of the cost
                                                # w.r.t weight vector w and
                                                # bias term b (we shall
                                                # return to this in a
                                                # following section of this
                                                # tutorial)

# Compile
train = aesara.function(
          outputs=[prediction, xent],
          updates=((w, w - 0.1 * gw), (b, b - 0.1 * gb)))
predict = aesara.function(inputs=[x], outputs=prediction)

# Train
for i in range(training_steps):
    pred, err = train(D[0], D[1])

print("Final model:")
print("target values for D:")
print("prediction on D:")

The aesara.tensor.random module provides random-number drawing functionality that closely resembles the numpy.random module.


Aesara assignes NumPy RNG states (e.g. Generator or RandomState objects) to each RandomVariable. The combination of an RNG state, a specific RandomVariable type (e.g. NormalRV), and a set of distribution parameters uniquely defines the RandomVariable instances in a graph.

This means that a “stream” of distinct RNG states is required in order to produce distinct random variables of the same kind. RandomStream provides a means of generating distinct random variables in a fully reproducible way.

RandomStream is also designed to produce simpler graphs and work with more sophisticated Ops like Scan, which makes it the de facto random variable interface in Aesara.

Quick start#

Create a new RandomStream instance, then call its methods to generate RandomVariable with different distributions. The RandomStream interface follows that of NumPy’s Generator; the implementation details depend on the backend to which the Aesara graph is compiled.

import aesara.tensor as at

srng = at.random.RandomStream(0)
x_rv = srng.normal(0, 1)
y_rv = srng.poisson(1.)


Aesara can produce RandomVariables that draw samples from many different statistical distributions, using the following Ops. The RandomVariables behave similarly to NumPy’s Generalized Universal Functions (or gunfunc): it supports “core” random variable Ops that map distinctly shaped inputs to potentially non-scalar outputs. We document this behavior in the following with gufunc-like signatures.


A Bernoulli discrete random variable.


A beta continuous random variable.


A beta-binomial discrete random variable.


A binomial discrete random variable.


A categorical discrete random variable.


A Cauchy continuous random variable.


A chi square continuous random variable.


Randomly choose an element in a sequence.


A Dirichlet continuous random variable.


An exponential continuous random variable.


A generalized gamma continuous random variable.


A geometric discrete random variable.


A gamma continuous random variable.


A gumbel continuous random variable.


A half-Cauchy continuous random variable.


A half-normal continuous random variable.


A hypergeometric discrete random variable.


A Laplace continuous random variable.


A logistic continuous random variable.


A lognormal continuous random variable.


A discrete uniform random variable.


An inverse-gamma continuous random variable.


A multinomial discrete random variable.


A multivariate normal random variable.


A negative binomial discrete random variable.


A negative binomial discrete random variable.


A normal continuous random variable.


Randomly shuffle a sequence.


A pareto continuous random variable.


A poisson discrete random variable.


A uniform continuous random variable.


A rayleigh continuous random variable.


A normal continuous random variable.


A Student's t continuous random variable.


A triangular continuous random variable.


A truncated exponential continuous random variable.


A uniform continuous random variable.


A von Misses continuous random variable.


A Wald (or inverse Gaussian) continuous random variable.


A weibull continuous random variable.


class aesara.tensor.random.RandomStream[source]#

This is a symbolic stand-in for numpy.random.Generator.

A helper class that tracks changes in a shared numpy.random.RandomState and behaves like numpy.random.RandomState by managing access to RandomVariables. For example:

from aesara.tensor.random.utils import RandomStream

rng = RandomStream()
sample = rng.normal(0, 1, size=(2, 2))

a list of all the (state, new_state) update pairs for the random variables created by this object

This can be a convenient shortcut to enumerating all the random variables in a large graph in the update argument to aesara.function.


meta_seed will be used to seed a temporary random number generator, that will in turn generate seeds for all random variables created by this object (via gen).



gen(op, *args, **kwargs)[source]#

Return the random variable from op(*args, **kwargs).

This function also adds the returned variable to an internal list so that it can be seeded later by a call to seed.

uniform, normal, binomial, multinomial, random_integers, ...

See basic.RandomVariable.

class aesara.tensor.random.RandomStateType(Type)[source]#

A Type for variables that will take numpy.random.RandomState values.


Return a new Variable whose Variable.type is an instance of RandomStateType.

class aesara.tensor.random.RandomVariable(Op)[source]#

Op that draws random numbers from a numpy.random.RandomState object. This Op is parameterized to draw numbers from many possible distributions.