# Quantifying the Difference Between Probability Distributions: Introducing KL Divergence

## Introducing the Kullback-Leibler (KL) Divergence

Have you ever wondered how different two probability distributions are? How about the amount of information that is lost when approximating one probability distribution with another?

These are two examples of questions that can be answered using the Kullback-Leibler (KL) Divergence. KL Divergence is a powerful mathematical concept that is used to quantify the difference between two probability distributions.

It is commonly used in machine learning, information theory, and statistics to measure the difference between two random variables. This article will provide an overview of what KL Divergence is, how to calculate it, and most importantly, what it means.

We will also discuss how to calculate the KL Divergence using Python.

## Definition and Calculation

KL Divergence measures how different two probability distributions are by quantifying the information lost when approximating one distribution with the other. It is calculated using the notation DKL(P || Q), where P and Q are probability distributions.

### The formula to calculate KL Divergence is:

DKL(P || Q) = Σ p(x) * log(p(x)/q(x)),

where p(x) and q(x) are the probabilities of occurrence for x in P and Q, respectively. The KL Divergence is always greater than or equal to zero, and it equals zero when P and Q are identical distributions.

For example, let’s consider two coins. Coin A has a probability of showing heads of 0.6 and tails of 0.4. Coin B has a probability of showing heads of 0.5 and tails of 0.5. To calculate the KL Divergence between these two coins, we use the formula as follows:

DKL(A || B) = (0.6 * log2(0.6/0.5)) + (0.4 * log2(0.4/0.5))

= 0.029

This means that the information lost when approximating Coin B with Coin A is 0.029 nats (natural logarithm of base e).

## Interpretation and Meaning

KL Divergence can be interpreted as a distance metric that measures how different two probability distributions are. It is important to note that KL Divergence is not symmetric, i.e., DKL(P || Q) ≠ DKL(Q || P).

The KL Divergence can also be interpreted as the amount of information lost when approximating one distribution with another. As mentioned earlier, the KL Divergence is always greater than or equal to zero and equals zero when P and Q are identical distributions.

It’s essential to know that KL Divergence is not a true distance metric in the sense that it violates the triangle inequality property. However, it is widely used in many applications due to its desirable properties.

## Calculation of KL Divergence using Python

### Importing Required Libraries and Defining Probability Distributions

Python provides a convenient way of calculating the KL Divergence using the scipy.special.rel_entr() function. Let’s start by importing the required libraries and defining the probability distributions.

``````from scipy.special import rel_entr
P = [0.6, 0.4]    # probabilities of Coin A
Q = [0.5, 0.5]    # probabilities of Coin B
``````

This code creates two lists, P and Q, which represent the probabilities of two different coins showing heads or tails.

### Calculation and Interpretation of KL Divergence

Now that we have defined the probability distributions, we can proceed to calculate the KL Divergence using the summed relative entropy. Let’s see how we can do this in Python:

``````KL = sum(rel_entr(P, Q))
print(f"KL(A || B) = {KL:.3f} nats")
``````

### The output is:

``````KL(A || B) = 0.029 nats
``````

The result is the same as the one we obtained manually, which demonstrates the accuracy of the scipy.special.rel_entr() function.

It is worth noting that the logarithm base used in the scipy.special.rel_entr() function is the natural logarithm of base e. If we want to express the result in bits, we need to divide the result by log base-2.

In conclusion, KL Divergence is a powerful mathematical concept used to quantify the difference between two probability distributions. In this article, we have discussed what KL Divergence is, how to calculate it using the formula, and how to calculate it using Python.

Understanding the KL Divergence is crucial in many applications, and the Python implementation provided here can facilitate its calculation.

While we have covered the basics of KL Divergence in the previous sections, there is still additional information and notes that can help deepen our understanding of the concept. In this section, we will discuss two important topics related to KL Divergence: Nats vs. Bits and the Symmetry of KL Divergence.

### Nats vs. Bits

When discussing KL Divergence, you may come across the term “nats” or “nat” as a unit of information. A nat is a natural unit of information that is based on the natural logarithm of base e.

Using this unit, we can represent the information content of a message in terms of the probability of its occurrence. On the other hand, bits are a more commonly used unit of information that is based on the binary logarithm of base 2.

A bit represents the amount of information needed to decide between two equally likely outcomes. While both units can be used to represent information, they are not interchangeable.

When dealing with KL Divergence, we usually use nats as the unit of information. This is because the formula for KL Divergence takes the natural logarithm of the probability ratios.

However, if we want to express the result in bits, we can simply divide the KL Divergence in nats by the logarithm of 2. For example, if we have calculated the KL Divergence to be 0.6 nats, the equivalent result in bits would be:

``````1 nat = 1/log e (2) bits ≈ 1.4427 bits
0.6 nats ≈ 0.6 * 1.4427 ≈ 0.8656 bits
``````

Keep in mind that the unit of information used for expressing the KL Divergence is important, especially when comparing results between different experiments.

### Symmetry of KL Divergence

One important aspect to note when working with KL Divergence is that it is not a symmetric metric. This means that the difference between two distributions is not the same as the difference between the same two distributions in reverse order.

In other words, DKL(P || Q) ≠ DKL(Q || P) in general. This is because of the logarithm in the formula of KL Divergence.

The logarithm is not a commutative operation, meaning the order of the inputs affects the result. Let’s consider an example where P and Q are two different probability distributions of the same set of outcomes.

If we calculate the KL Divergence with P as the first input and Q as the second input, we get a certain value. If we swap P and Q, so that Q is the first input and P is the second input, we will get a different value.

For instance, let’s calculate the KL Divergence for two different probability distributions:

P = [0.6, 0.4]

Q = [0.5, 0.5]

If we calculate DKL(P || Q), we obtain 0.029 nats. On the other hand, if we calculate DKL(Q || P), we get 0.056 nats:

``````DKL(P || Q) = (0.6 * log2(0.6/0.5)) + (0.4 * log2(0.4/0.5)) ≈ 0.029 nats
DKL(Q || P) = (0.5 * log2(0.5/0.6)) + (0.5 * log2(0.5/0.4)) ≈ 0.056 nats
``````

This means that KL Divergence is sensitive to the ordering of the probability distributions.

This sensitivity should be taken into consideration when interpreting and comparing KL Divergence values. In conclusion, understanding the nuances behind KL Divergence can help us better appreciate its power and interpret the results accurately.

In this section, we have discussed the difference between nats and bits as units of information and how the symmetry property of KL Divergence affects the interpretation of its values. In this article, we have explored the Kullback-Leibler (KL) Divergence, a powerful mathematical concept used to quantify the difference between two probability distributions.

We have learned how to define and calculate KL Divergence using the formula, as well as how to calculate it using Python. We have also discussed additional information about nats vs. bits as units of information and the asymmetry property of KL Divergence. It is important to understand these nuances to interpret and compare KL Divergence values accurately.

Overall, KL Divergence is an essential concept in many fields, including machine learning, information theory, and statistics, and mastering it can enhance our understanding and applications in these fields.