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A Free-Energy Principle for Representation Learning

Yansong Gao · Pratik Chaudhari

Keywords: [ Bayesian Deep Learning ] [ Information Theory and Estimation ] [ Representation Learning ] [ Transfer and Multitask Learning ]


This paper employs a formal connection of machine learning with thermodynamics to characterize the quality of learnt representations for transfer learning. We discuss how information-theoretic functionals such as rate, distortion and classification loss of a model lie on a convex, so-called equilibrium surface. We prescribe dynamical processes to traverse this surface under constraints, e.g., an iso-classification process that trades off rate and distortion to keep the classification loss unchanged. We demonstrate how this process can be used for transferring representations from a source dataset to a target dataset while keeping the classification loss constant. Experimental validation of the theoretical results is provided on standard image-classification datasets.

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