Flexible Approximate Inference via Stratified Normalizing Flows

Chris Cundy, Stefano Ermon
Proceedings of the 36th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI), PMLR 124:1288-1297, 2020.

Abstract

A major obstacle to forming posterior distributions in machine learning is the difficulty of evaluating partition functions. Monte-Carlo approaches are unbiased, but can suffer from high variance. Variational methods are biased, but tend to have lower variance. We develop an approximate inference procedure that allows explicit control of the bias/variance tradeoff, interpolating between the sampling and the variational regime. We use a normalizing flow to map the integrand onto a uniform distribution. We then randomly sample regions from a partition of this uniform distribution and fit simpler, local variational approximations in the image of these regions through the flow. When a partition with only one region is used, we recover standard variational inference, and in the limit of an infinitely fine partition we recover Monte-Carlo sampling. We show experiments validating the effectiveness of our approach.

Cite this Paper


BibTeX
@InProceedings{pmlr-v124-cundy20a, title = {Flexible Approximate Inference via Stratified Normalizing Flows}, author = {Cundy, Chris and Ermon, Stefano}, booktitle = {Proceedings of the 36th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI)}, pages = {1288--1297}, year = {2020}, editor = {Jonas Peters and David Sontag}, volume = {124}, series = {Proceedings of Machine Learning Research}, month = {03--06 Aug}, publisher = {PMLR}, pdf = {http://proceedings.mlr.press/v124/cundy20a/cundy20a.pdf}, url = { http://proceedings.mlr.press/v124/cundy20a.html }, abstract = {A major obstacle to forming posterior distributions in machine learning is the difficulty of evaluating partition functions. Monte-Carlo approaches are unbiased, but can suffer from high variance. Variational methods are biased, but tend to have lower variance. We develop an approximate inference procedure that allows explicit control of the bias/variance tradeoff, interpolating between the sampling and the variational regime. We use a normalizing flow to map the integrand onto a uniform distribution. We then randomly sample regions from a partition of this uniform distribution and fit simpler, local variational approximations in the image of these regions through the flow. When a partition with only one region is used, we recover standard variational inference, and in the limit of an infinitely fine partition we recover Monte-Carlo sampling. We show experiments validating the effectiveness of our approach.} }
Endnote
%0 Conference Paper %T Flexible Approximate Inference via Stratified Normalizing Flows %A Chris Cundy %A Stefano Ermon %B Proceedings of the 36th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI) %C Proceedings of Machine Learning Research %D 2020 %E Jonas Peters %E David Sontag %F pmlr-v124-cundy20a %I PMLR %P 1288--1297 %U http://proceedings.mlr.press/v124/cundy20a.html %V 124 %X A major obstacle to forming posterior distributions in machine learning is the difficulty of evaluating partition functions. Monte-Carlo approaches are unbiased, but can suffer from high variance. Variational methods are biased, but tend to have lower variance. We develop an approximate inference procedure that allows explicit control of the bias/variance tradeoff, interpolating between the sampling and the variational regime. We use a normalizing flow to map the integrand onto a uniform distribution. We then randomly sample regions from a partition of this uniform distribution and fit simpler, local variational approximations in the image of these regions through the flow. When a partition with only one region is used, we recover standard variational inference, and in the limit of an infinitely fine partition we recover Monte-Carlo sampling. We show experiments validating the effectiveness of our approach.
APA
Cundy, C. & Ermon, S.. (2020). Flexible Approximate Inference via Stratified Normalizing Flows. Proceedings of the 36th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI), in Proceedings of Machine Learning Research 124:1288-1297 Available from http://proceedings.mlr.press/v124/cundy20a.html .

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