Variational Sparse Coding with Learned Thresholding
Proceedings of the 39th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 162:6034-6058, 2022.
Sparse coding strategies have been lauded for their parsimonious representations of data that leverage low dimensional structure. However, inference of these codes typically relies on an optimization procedure with poor computational scaling in high-dimensional problems. For example, sparse inference in the representations learned in the high-dimensional intermediary layers of deep neural networks (DNNs) requires an iterative minimization to be performed at each training step. As such, recent, quick methods in variational inference have been proposed to infer sparse codes by learning a distribution over the codes with a DNN. In this work, we propose a new approach to variational sparse coding that allows us to learn sparse distributions by thresholding samples, avoiding the use of problematic relaxations. We first evaluate and analyze our method by training a linear generator, showing that it has superior performance, statistical efficiency, and gradient estimation compared to other sparse distributions. We then compare to a standard variational autoencoder using a DNN generator on the CelebA dataset.