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Better Training of GFlowNets with Local Credit and Incomplete Trajectories

Ling Pan · Nikolay Malkin · Dinghuai Zhang · Yoshua Bengio

Exhibit Hall 1 #810
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Abstract: Generative Flow Networks or GFlowNets are related to Monte-Carlo Markov chain methods (as they sample from a distribution specified by an energy function), reinforcement learning (as they learn a policy to sample composed objects through a sequence of steps), generative models (as they learn to represent and sample from a distribution) and amortized variational methods (as they can be used to learn to approximate and sample from an otherwise intractable posterior, given a prior and a likelihood). They are trained to generate an object $x$ through a sequence of steps with probability proportional to some reward function $R(x)$ (or $\exp(-\mathcal{E}(x))$ with $\mathcal{E}(x)$ denoting the energy function), given at the end of the generative trajectory. Like for other RL settings where the reward is only given at the end, the efficiency of training and credit assignment may suffer when those trajectories are longer. With previous GFlowNet work, no learning was possible from incomplete trajectories (lacking a terminal state and the computation of the associated reward). In this paper, we consider the case where the energy function can be applied not just to terminal states but also to intermediate states. This is for example achieved when the energy function is additive, with terms available along the trajectory. We show how to reparameterize the GFlowNet state flow function to take advantage of the partial reward already accrued at each state. This enables a training objective that can be applied to update parameters even with incomplete trajectories. Even when complete trajectories are available, being able to obtain more localized credit and gradients is found to speed up training convergence, as demonstrated across many simulations.

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