Reliable Uncertainty Estimates in Deep Neural Networks using Noise Contrastive Priors

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Obtaining reliable uncertainty estimates of neural network predictions is a long standing challenge. Bayesian neural networks have been proposed as a solution, but it remains open how to specify their prior. In particular, the common practice of a standard normal prior in weight space imposes only weak regularities, causing the function posterior to possibly generalize in unforeseen ways on inputs outside of the training distribution. We propose noise contrastive priors (NCPs) to obtain reliable uncertainty estimates. The key idea is to train the model to output high uncertainty for data points outside of the training distribution. NCPs do so using an input prior, which adds noise to the inputs of the current mini batch, and an output prior, which is a wide distribution given these inputs. NCPs are compatible with any model that can output uncertainty estimates, are easy to scale, and yield reliable uncertainty estimates throughout training. Empirically, we show that NCPs prevent overfitting outside of the training distribution and result in uncertainty estimates that are useful for active learning. We demonstrate the scalability of our method on the flight delays data set, where we significantly improve upon previously published results.
  • Keywords: uncertainty estimates, out of distribution, bayesian neural network, neural network priors, regression, active learning
  • TL;DR: We train neural networks to be uncertain on noisy inputs to avoid overconfident predictions outside of the training distribution.
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