Borja Balle and William Hamilton and Joelle Pineau
Probabilistic latent-variable models are a powerful tool for modelling structured data. However, traditional expectation-maximization methods of learning such models are both computationally expensive and prone to local-minima. In contrast to these traditional methods, recently developed learning algorithms based upon the method of moments are both computationally efficient and provide strong statistical guarantees. In this work, we provide a unified presentation and empirical comparison of three general moment-based methods in the context of modelling stochastic languages. By rephrasing these methods upon a common theoretical ground, introducing novel theoretical results where necessary, we provide a clear comparison, making explicit the statistical assumptions upon which each method relies. With this theoretical grounding, we then provide an in-depth empirical analysis of the methods on both real and synthetic data with the goal of elucidating performance trends and highlighting important implementation details.
Dani Yogatama and Noah Smith
In many high-dimensional learning problems, only some parts of an observation are important to the prediction task; for example, the cues to correctly categorizing a document may lie in a handful of its sentences. We introduce a learning algorithm that exploits this intuition by encoding it in a regularizer. Specifically, we apply the sparse overlapping group lasso with one group for every bundle of features occurring together in a training-data sentence, leading to thousands to millions of overlapping groups. We show how to efficiently solve the resulting optimization challenge using the alternating directions method of multipliers. We find that the resulting method significantly outperforms competitive baselines (standard ridge, lasso, and elastic net regularizers) on a suite of real-world text categorization problems.
Le Song and Animashree Anandkumar and Bo Dai and Bo Xie
Spectral methods have greatly advanced the estimation of latent variable models, generating a sequence of novel and efficient algorithms with strong theoretical guarantees. However, current spectral algorithms are largely restricted to mixtures of discrete or Gaussian distributions. In this paper, we propose a kernel method for learning multi-view latent variable models, allowing each mixture component to be nonparametric and learned from data in an unsupervised fashion. The key idea of our method is to embed the joint distribution of a multi-view latent variable model into a reproducing kernel Hilbert space, and then the latent parameters are recovered using a robust tensor power method. We establish that the sample complexity for the proposed method is quadratic in the number of latent components and is a low order polynomial in the other relevant parameters. Thus, our nonparametric tensor approach to learning latent variable models enjoys good sample and computational efficiencies. As a special case of our framework, we also obtain a first unsupervised conditional density estimator of the kind with provable guarantees. In both synthetic and real world datasets, the nonparametric tensor power method compares favorably to EM algorithm and other spectral algorithms.
Greg Ver Steeg and Aram Galstyan and Fei Sha and Simon DeDeo
We propose a novel method for clustering data which is grounded in information-theoretic principles and requires no parametric assumptions. Previous attempts to use information theory to define clusters in an assumption-free way are based on maximizing mutual information between data and cluster labels. We demonstrate that this intuition suffers from a fundamental conceptual flaw that causes clustering performance to deteriorate as the amount of data increases. Instead, we return to the axiomatic foundations of information theory to define a meaningful clustering measure based on the notion of consistency under coarse-graining for finite data.
Yuekai Sun and Stratis Ioannidis and Andrea Montanari
We consider a discriminative learning (regression) problem, whereby the regression function is a convex combination of k linear classifiers. Existing approaches are based on the EM algorithm, or similar techniques, without provable guarantees. We develop a simple method based on spectral techniques and a `mirroring' trick, that discovers the subspace spanned by the classifiers' parameter vectors. Under a probabilistic assumption on the feature vector distribution, we prove that this approach has nearly optimal statistical efficiency.
Andriy Mnih and Karol Gregor
Highly expressive directed latent variable models, such as sigmoid belief networks, are difficult to train on large datasets because exact inference in them is intractable and none of the approximate inference methods that have been applied to them scale well. We propose a fast non-iterative approximate inference method that uses a feedforward network to implement efficient exact sampling from the variational posterior. The model and this inference network are trained jointly by maximizing a variational lower bound on the log-likelihood. Although the naive estimator of the inference network gradient is too high-variance to be useful, we make it practical by applying several straightforward model-independent variance reduction techniques. Applying our approach to training sigmoid belief networks and deep autoregressive networks, we show that it outperforms the wake-sleep algorithm on MNIST and achieves state-of-the-art results on the Reuters RCV1 document dataset.
Danilo Jimenez Rezende and Shakir Mohamed and Daan Wierstra
We marry ideas from deep neural networks and approximate Bayesian inference to derive a generalised class of deep, directed generative models, endowed with a new algorithm for scalable inference and learning. Our algorithm introduces a recognition model to represent an approximate posterior distribution and uses this for optimisation of a variational lower bound. We develop stochastic backpropagation -- rules for gradient backpropagation through stochastic variables -- and derive an algorithm that allows for joint optimisation of the parameters of both the generative and recognition models. We demonstrate on several real-world data sets that by using stochastic backpropagation and variational inference, we obtain models that are able to generate realistic samples of data, allow for accurate imputations of missing data, and provide a useful tool for high-dimensional data visualisation.