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Orals & Spotlights Track 25: Probabilistic Models/Statistics

Marc Deisenroth · Matthew D. Hoffman


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Thu 10 Dec. 6:00 - 6:15 PST

Training Normalizing Flows with the Information Bottleneck for Competitive Generative Classification

Lynton Ardizzone · Radek Mackowiak · Carsten Rother · Ullrich Köthe

The Information Bottleneck (IB) objective uses information theory to formulate a task-performance versus robustness trade-off. It has been successfully applied in the standard discriminative classification setting. We pose the question whether the IB can also be used to train generative likelihood models such as normalizing flows. Since normalizing flows use invertible network architectures (INNs), they are information-preserving by construction. This seems contradictory to the idea of a bottleneck. In this work, firstly, we develop the theory and methodology of IB-INNs, a class of conditional normalizing flows where INNs are trained using the IB objective: Introducing a small amount of controlled information loss allows for an asymptotically exact formulation of the IB, while keeping the INN's generative capabilities intact. Secondly, we investigate the properties of these models experimentally, specifically used as generative classifiers. This model class offers advantages such as improved uncertainty quantification and out-of-distribution detection, but traditional generative classifier solutions suffer considerably in classification accuracy. We find the trade-off parameter in the IB controls a mix of generative capabilities and accuracy close to standard classifiers. Empirically, our uncertainty estimates in this mixed regime compare favourably to conventional generative and discriminative classifiers. Code is provided in the supplement.

Thu 10 Dec. 6:15 - 6:30 PST

Fast and Flexible Temporal Point Processes with Triangular Maps

Oleksandr Shchur · Nicholas Gao · Marin Biloš · Stephan Günnemann

Temporal point process (TPP) models combined with recurrent neural networks provide a powerful framework for modeling continuous-time event data. While such models are flexible, they are inherently sequential and therefore cannot benefit from the parallelism of modern hardware. By exploiting the recent developments in the field of normalizing flows, we design TriTPP - a new class of non-recurrent TPP models, where both sampling and likelihood computation can be done in parallel. TriTPP matches the flexibility of RNN-based methods but permits several orders of magnitude faster sampling. This enables us to use the new model for variational inference in continuous-time discrete-state systems. We demonstrate the advantages of the proposed framework on synthetic and real-world datasets.

Thu 10 Dec. 6:30 - 6:45 PST

Greedy inference with structure-exploiting lazy maps

Michael Brennan · Daniele Bigoni · Olivier Zahm · Alessio Spantini · Youssef Marzouk

We propose a framework for solving high-dimensional Bayesian inference problems using \emph{structure-exploiting} low-dimensional transport maps or flows. These maps are confined to a low-dimensional subspace (hence, lazy), and the subspace is identified by minimizing an upper bound on the Kullback--Leibler divergence (hence, structured). Our framework provides a principled way of identifying and exploiting low-dimensional structure in an inference problem. It focuses the expressiveness of a transport map along the directions of most significant discrepancy from the posterior, and can be used to build deep compositions of lazy maps, where low-dimensional projections of the parameters are iteratively transformed to match the posterior. We prove weak convergence of the generated sequence of distributions to the posterior, and we demonstrate the benefits of the framework on challenging inference problems in machine learning and differential equations, using inverse autoregressive flows and polynomial maps as examples of the underlying density estimators.

Thu 10 Dec. 6:45 - 7:00 PST


Thu 10 Dec. 7:00 - 7:10 PST

Sampling from a k-DPP without looking at all items

Daniele Calandriello · Michal Derezinski · Michal Valko

Determinantal point processes (DPPs) are a useful probabilistic model for selecting a small diverse subset out of a large collection of items, with applications in summarization, recommendation, stochastic optimization, experimental design and more. Given a kernel function and a subset size k, our goal is to sample k out of n items with probability proportional to the determinant of the kernel matrix induced by the subset (a.k.a. k-DPP). Existing k-DPP sampling algorithms require an expensive preprocessing step which involves multiple passes over all n items, making it infeasible for large datasets. A naïve heuristic addressing this problem is to uniformly subsample a fraction of the data and perform k-DPP sampling only on those items, however this method offers no guarantee that the produced sample will even approximately resemble the target distribution over the original dataset. In this paper, we develop alpha-DPP, an algorithm which adaptively builds a sufficiently large uniform sample of data that is then used to efficiently generate a smaller set of k items, while ensuring that this set is drawn exactly from the target distribution defined on all n items. We show empirically that our algorithm produces a k-DPP sample after observing only a small fraction of all elements, leading to several orders of magnitude faster performance compared to the state-of-the-art. Our implementation of alpha-DPP is provided at

Thu 10 Dec. 7:10 - 7:20 PST

Non-parametric Models for Non-negative Functions

Ulysse Marteau-Ferey · Francis Bach · Alessandro Rudi

Linear models have shown great effectiveness and flexibility in many fields such as machine learning, signal processing and statistics. They can represent rich spaces of functions while preserving the convexity of the optimization problems where they are used, and are simple to evaluate, differentiate and integrate. However, for modeling non-negative functions, which are crucial for unsupervised learning, density estimation, or non-parametric Bayesian methods, linear models are not applicable directly. Moreover, current state-of-the-art models like generalized linear models either lead to non-convex optimization problems, or cannot be easily integrated. In this paper we provide the first model for non-negative functions which benefits from the same good properties of linear models. In particular, we prove that it admits a representer theorem and provide an efficient dual formulation for convex problems. We study its representation power, showing that the resulting space of functions is strictly richer than that of generalized linear models. Finally we extend the model and the theoretical results to functions with outputs in convex cones. The paper is complemented by an experimental evaluation of the model showing its effectiveness in terms of formulation, algorithmic derivation and practical results on the problems of density estimation, regression with heteroscedastic errors, and multiple quantile regression.

Thu 10 Dec. 7:20 - 7:30 PST

Distribution-free binary classification: prediction sets, confidence intervals and calibration

Chirag Gupta · Aleksandr Podkopaev · Aaditya Ramdas

We study three notions of uncertainty quantification---calibration, confidence intervals and prediction sets---for binary classification in the distribution-free setting, that is without making any distributional assumptions on the data. With a focus towards calibration, we establish a 'tripod' of theorems that connect these three notions for score-based classifiers. A direct implication is that distribution-free calibration is only possible, even asymptotically, using a scoring function whose level sets partition the feature space into at most countably many sets. Parametric calibration schemes such as variants of Platt scaling do not satisfy this requirement, while nonparametric schemes based on binning do. To close the loop, we derive distribution-free confidence intervals for binned probabilities for both fixed-width and uniform-mass binning. As a consequence of our 'tripod' theorems, these confidence intervals for binned probabilities lead to distribution-free calibration. We also derive extensions to settings with streaming data and covariate shift.

Thu 10 Dec. 7:30 - 7:40 PST

Factor Graph Grammars

David Chiang · Darcey Riley

We propose the use of hyperedge replacement graph grammars for factor graphs, or actor graph grammars (FGGs) for short. FGGs generate sets of factor graphs and can describe a more general class of models than plate notation, dynamic graphical models, case-factor diagrams, and sum-product networks can. Moreover, inference can be done on FGGs without enumerating all the generated factor graphs. For finite variable domains (but possibly infinite sets of graphs), a generalization of variable elimination to FGGs allows exact and tractable inference in many situations. For finite sets of graphs (but possibly infinite variable domains), a FGG can be converted to a single factor graph amenable to standard inference techniques.

Thu 10 Dec. 7:40 - 7:50 PST

Joint Q&A for Preceeding Spotlights

Thu 10 Dec. 7:50 - 8:00 PST

Asymptotically Optimal Exact Minibatch Metropolis-Hastings

Ruqi Zhang · A. Feder Cooper · Christopher De Sa

Metropolis-Hastings (MH) is a commonly-used MCMC algorithm, but it can be intractable on large datasets due to requiring computations over the whole dataset. In this paper, we study \emph{minibatch MH} methods, which instead use subsamples to enable scaling. We observe that most existing minibatch MH methods are inexact (i.e. they may change the target distribution), and show that this inexactness can cause arbitrarily large errors in inference. We propose a new exact minibatch MH method, \emph{TunaMH}, which exposes a tunable trade-off between its minibatch size and its theoretically guaranteed convergence rate. We prove a lower bound on the batch size that any minibatch MH method \emph{must} use to retain exactness while guaranteeing fast convergence---the first such bound for minibatch MH---and show TunaMH is asymptotically optimal in terms of the batch size. Empirically, we show TunaMH outperforms other exact minibatch MH methods on robust linear regression, truncated Gaussian mixtures, and logistic regression.

Thu 10 Dec. 8:00 - 8:10 PST

Bayes Consistency vs. H-Consistency: The Interplay between Surrogate Loss Functions and the Scoring Function Class

Mingyuan Zhang · Shivani Agarwal

A fundamental question in multiclass classification concerns understanding the consistency properties of surrogate risk minimization algorithms, which minimize a (often convex) surrogate to the multiclass 0-1 loss. In particular, the framework of calibrated surrogates has played an important role in analyzing the Bayes consistency properties of such algorithms, i.e. in studying convergence to a Bayes optimal classifier (Zhang, 2004; Tewari and Bartlett, 2007). However, follow-up work has suggested this framework can be of limited value when studying H-consistency; in particular, concerns have been raised that even when the data comes from an underlying linear model, minimizing certain convex calibrated surrogates over linear scoring functions fails to recover the true model (Long and Servedio, 2013). In this paper, we investigate this apparent conundrum. We find that while some calibrated surrogates can indeed fail to provide H-consistency when minimized over a natural-looking but naively chosen scoring function class F, the situation can potentially be remedied by minimizing them over a more carefully chosen class of scoring functions F. In particular, for the popular one-vs-all hinge and logistic surrogates, both of which are calibrated (and therefore provide Bayes consistency) under realizable models, but were previously shown to pose problems for realizable H-consistency, we derive a form of scoring function class F that enables H-consistency. When H is the class of linear models, the class F consists of certain piecewise linear scoring functions that are characterized by the same number of parameters as in the linear case, and minimization over which can be performed using an adaptation of the min-pooling idea from neural network training. Our experiments confirm that the one-vs-all surrogates, when trained over this class of nonlinear scoring functions F, yield better linear multiclass classifiers than when trained over standard linear scoring functions.

Thu 10 Dec. 8:10 - 8:20 PST

Confidence sequences for sampling without replacement

Ian Waudby-Smith · Aaditya Ramdas

Many practical tasks involve sampling sequentially without replacement (WoR) from a finite population of size $N$, in an attempt to estimate some parameter $\theta^\star$. Accurately quantifying uncertainty throughout this process is a nontrivial task, but is necessary because it often determines when we stop collecting samples and confidently report a result. We present a suite of tools for designing \textit{confidence sequences} (CS) for $\theta^\star$. A CS is a sequence of confidence sets $(C_n)_{n=1}^N$, that shrink in size, and all contain $\theta^\star$ simultaneously with high probability. We present a generic approach to constructing a frequentist CS using Bayesian tools, based on the fact that the ratio of a prior to the posterior at the ground truth is a martingale. We then present Hoeffding- and empirical-Bernstein-type time-uniform CSs and fixed-time confidence intervals for sampling WoR, which improve on previous bounds in the literature and explicitly quantify the benefit of WoR sampling.

Thu 10 Dec. 8:20 - 8:30 PST

Statistical and Topological Properties of Sliced Probability Divergences

Kimia Nadjahi · Alain Durmus · Lénaïc Chizat · Soheil Kolouri · Shahin Shahrampour · Umut Simsekli

The idea of slicing divergences has been proven to be successful when comparing two probability measures in various machine learning applications including generative modeling, and consists in computing the expected value of a `base divergence' between \emph{one-dimensional random projections} of the two measures. However, the topological, statistical, and computational consequences of this technique have not yet been well-established. In this paper, we aim at bridging this gap and derive various theoretical properties of sliced probability divergences. First, we show that slicing preserves the metric axioms and the weak continuity of the divergence, implying that the sliced divergence will share similar topological properties. We then precise the results in the case where the base divergence belongs to the class of integral probability metrics. On the other hand, we establish that, under mild conditions, the sample complexity of a sliced divergence does not depend on the problem dimension. We finally apply our general results to several base divergences, and illustrate our theory on both synthetic and real data experiments.

Thu 10 Dec. 8:30 - 8:40 PST

Testing Determinantal Point Processes

Khashayar Gatmiry · Maryam Aliakbarpour · Stefanie Jegelka

Determinantal point processes (DPPs) are popular probabilistic models of diversity. In this paper, we investigate DPPs from a new perspective: property testing of distributions. Given sample access to an unknown distribution $q$ over the subsets of a ground set, we aim to distinguish whether $q$ is a DPP distribution or $\epsilon$-far from all DPP distributions in $\ell_1$-distance. In this work, we propose the first algorithm for testing DPPs. Furthermore, we establish a matching lower bound on the sample complexity of DPP testing. This lower bound also extends to showing a new hardness result for the problem of testing the more general class of log-submodular distributions.

Thu 10 Dec. 8:40 - 8:50 PST

Joint Q&A for Preceeding Spotlights

Thu 10 Dec. 8:50 - 9:00 PST