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# Monge, Bregman and Occam: Interpretable Optimal Transport in High-Dimensions with Feature-Sparse Maps

*Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 202:6671-6682, 2023.

#### Abstract

Optimal transport (OT) theory focuses, among all maps $T:\mathbb{R}^d\rightarrow \mathbb{R}^d$ that can morph a probability measure $\mu$ onto another $\nu$, on those that are the “thriftiest”, i.e. such that the average cost $c(x, T(x))$ between $x$ and its image $T(x)$ is as small as possible. Many computational approaches have been proposed to estimate such

*Monge*maps when $c$ is the squared-Euclidean distance, e.g., using entropic maps [Pooladian+2021], or input convex neural networks [Makkuva+2020, Korotin+2020]. We propose a new research direction, that leverages a specific translation invariant cost $c(x, y):=h(x-y)$ inspired by the elastic net. Here, $h:=\tfrac{1}{2}\|\cdot\|_2^2+\tau(\cdot)$, where $\tau$ is a convex function. We highlight a surprising link tying together a generalized entropic map for $h$,*Bregman*centroids induced by $h$, and the proximal operator of $\tau$. We show how setting $\tau$ to be a sparsity-inducing norm results in the first application of*Occam*’s razor to transport. These maps yield, mechanically, displacement vectors $\Delta(x):= T(x)-x$ that are sparse, with sparsity patterns that vary depending on $x$. We showcase the ability of our method to estimate meaningful OT maps for high-dimensional single-cell transcription data. We use our methods in the $34000$-d space of gene counts for cells,*without*using a prior dimensionality reduction, thus retaining the ability to interpret all displacements at the gene level.