Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content

Oral Session

Oral 5C Probability/Sampling

Room R02-R05 (level 2)
Thu 14 Dec 8 a.m. PST — 8:45 a.m. PST


Thu 14 Dec. 8:00 - 8:15 PST

Sampling from Gaussian Process Posteriors using Stochastic Gradient Descent

Jihao Andreas Lin · Javier Antorán · Shreyas Padhy · David Janz · José Miguel Hernández-Lobato · Alexander Terenin

Gaussian processes are a powerful framework for quantifying uncertainty and for sequential decision-making but are limited by the requirement of solving linear systems. In general, this has a cubic cost in dataset size and is sensitive to conditioning. We explore stochastic gradient algorithms as a computationally efficient method of approximately solving these linear systems: we develop low-variance optimization objectives for sampling from the posterior and extend these to inducing points. Counterintuitively, stochastic gradient descent often produces accurate predictions, even in cases where it does not converge quickly to the optimum. We explain this through a spectral characterization of the implicit bias from non-convergence. We show that stochastic gradient descent produces predictive distributions close to the true posterior both in regions with sufficient data coverage, and in regions sufficiently far away from the data. Experimentally, stochastic gradient descent achieves state-of-the-art performance on sufficiently large-scale or ill-conditioned regression tasks. Its uncertainty estimates match the performance of significantly more expensive baselines on a large-scale Bayesian~optimization~task.

Thu 14 Dec. 8:15 - 8:30 PST

A Rigorous Link between Deep Ensembles and (Variational) Bayesian Methods

Veit David Wild · Sahra Ghalebikesabi · Dino Sejdinovic · Jeremias Knoblauch

We establish the first mathematically rigorous link between Bayesian, variational Bayesian, and ensemble methods. A key step towards this it to reformulate the non-convex optimisation problem typically encountered in deep learning as a convex optimisation in the space of probability measures. On a technical level, our contribution amounts to studying generalised variational inference through the lense of Wasserstein gradient flows. The result is a unified theory of various seemingly disconnected approaches that are commonly used for uncertainty quantification in deep learning---including deep ensembles and (variational) Bayesian methods. This offers a fresh perspective on the reasons behind the success of deep ensembles over procedures based on parameterised variational inference, and allows the derivation of new ensembling schemes with convergence guarantees. We showcase this by proposing a family of interacting deep ensembles with direct parallels to the interactions of particle systems in thermodynamics, and use our theory to prove the convergence of these algorithms to a well-defined global minimiser on the space of probability measures.

Thu 14 Dec. 8:30 - 8:45 PST

Optimizing Solution-Samplers for Combinatorial Problems: The Landscape of Policy-Gradient Method

Constantine Caramanis · Dimitris Fotakis · Alkis Kalavasis · Vasilis Kontonis · Christos Tzamos

Deep Neural Networks and Reinforcement Learning methods have empirically shown great promise in tackling challenging combinatorial problems. In those methods a deep neural network is used as a solution generator which is then trained by gradient-based methods (e.g., policy gradient) to successively obtain better solution distributions.In this work we introduce a novel theoretical framework for analyzing the effectiveness of such methods. We ask whether there exist generative models that (i) are expressive enough to generate approximately optimal solutions; (ii) have a tractable, i.e, polynomial in the size of the input, number of parameters; (iii) their optimization landscape is benign in the sense that it does not contain sub-optimal stationary points. Our main contribution is a positive answer to this question. Our result holds for a broad class of combinatorial problems including Max- and Min-Cut, Max-$k$-CSP, Maximum-Weight-Bipartite-Matching, and the Traveling Salesman Problem. As a byproduct of our analysis we introduce a novel regularization process over vanilla gradient descent and provide theoretical and experimental evidence that it helps address vanishing-gradient issues and escape bad stationary points.