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ARMS: Antithetic-REINFORCE-Multi-Sample Gradient for Binary Variables

Alek Dimitriev · Mingyuan Zhou


Keywords: [ Probabilistic Methods ]


Estimating the gradients for binary variables is a task that arises frequently in various domains, such as training discrete latent variable models. What has been commonly used is a REINFORCE based Monte Carlo estimation method that uses either independent samples or pairs of negatively correlated samples. To better utilize more than two samples, we propose ARMS, an Antithetic REINFORCE-based Multi-Sample gradient estimator. ARMS uses a copula to generate any number of mutually antithetic samples. It is unbiased, has low variance, and generalizes both DisARM, which we show to be ARMS with two samples, and the leave-one-out REINFORCE (LOORF) estimator, which is ARMS with uncorrelated samples. We evaluate ARMS on several datasets for training generative models, and our experimental results show that it outperforms competing methods. We also develop a version of ARMS for optimizing the multi-sample variational bound, and show that it outperforms both VIMCO and DisARM. The code is publicly available.

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