Doubly Reparameterized Gradient Estimators for Monte Carlo Objectives

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Deep latent variable models have become a popular model choice due to the scalable learning algorithms introduced by (Kingma & Welling 2013, Rezende et al. 2014). These approaches maximize a variational lower bound on the intractable log likelihood of the observed data. Burda et al. (2015) introduced a multi-sample variational bound, IWAE, that is at least as tight as the standard variational lower bound and becomes increasingly tight as the number of samples increases. Counterintuitively, the typical inference network gradient estimator for the IWAE bound performs poorly as the number of samples increases (Rainforth et al. 2018, Le et al. 2018). Roeder et a. (2017) propose an improved gradient estimator, however, are unable to show it is unbiased. We show that it is in fact biased and that the bias can be estimated efficiently with a second application of the reparameterization trick. The doubly reparameterized gradient (DReG) estimator does not suffer as the number of samples increases, resolving the previously raised issues. The same idea can be used to improve many recently introduced training techniques for latent variable models. In particular, we show that this estimator reduces the variance of the IWAE gradient, the reweighted wake-sleep update (RWS) (Bornschein & Bengio 2014), and the jackknife variational inference (JVI) gradient (Nowozin 2018). Finally, we show that this computationally efficient, drop-in estimator translates to improved performance for all three objectives on several modeling tasks.
  • Keywords: variational autoencoder, reparameterization trick, IWAE, VAE, RWS, JVI
  • TL;DR: Doubly reparameterized gradient estimators provide unbiased variance reduction which leads to improved performance.
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