Probability Distillation: A Caveat and Alternatives
Proceedings of The 35th Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence Conference, PMLR 115:1212-1221, 2020.
Due to Van den Oord et al. (2018), probability distillation has recently been of interest to deep learning practitioners, where, as a practical workaround for deploying autoregressive models in real-time applications, a student net-work is used to obtain quality samples in parallel. We identify a pathological optimization issue with the adopted stochastic minimization of the reverse-KL divergence: the curse of dimensionality results in a skewed gradient distribution that renders training inefficient. This means that KL-based "evaluative" training can be susceptible to poor exploration if the target distribution is highly structured. We then explore alternative principles for distillation, including one with an "instructive" signal, and show that it is possible to achieve qualitatively better results than with KL minimization.