Refining the variational posterior through iterative optimizationDownload PDF

25 Sep 2019 (modified: 24 Dec 2019)ICLR 2020 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
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  • Keywords: uncertainty estimation, variational inference, auxiliary variables, Bayesian neural networks
  • TL;DR: The paper proposes an algorithm to increase the flexibility of the variational posterior in Bayesian neural networks through iterative optimization.
  • Abstract: Variational inference (VI) is a popular approach for approximate Bayesian inference that is particularly promising for highly parameterized models such as deep neural networks. A key challenge of variational inference is to approximate the posterior over model parameters with a distribution that is simpler and tractable yet sufficiently expressive. In this work, we propose a method for training highly flexible variational distributions by starting with a coarse approximation and iteratively refining it. Each refinement step makes cheap, local adjustments and only requires optimization of simple variational families. We demonstrate theoretically that our method always improves a bound on the approximation (the Evidence Lower BOund) and observe this empirically across a variety of benchmark tasks. In experiments, our method consistently outperforms recent variational inference methods for deep learning in terms of log-likelihood and the ELBO. We see that the gains are further amplified on larger scale models, significantly outperforming standard VI and deep ensembles on residual networks on CIFAR10.
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