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How Does Information Bottleneck Help Deep Learning?

Kenji Kawaguchi · Zhun Deng · Xu Ji · Jiaoyang Huang

Exhibit Hall 1 #205
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Numerous deep learning algorithms have been inspired by and understood via the notion of information bottleneck, where unnecessary information is (often implicitly) minimized while task-relevant information is maximized. However, a rigorous argument for justifying why it is desirable to control information bottlenecks has been elusive. In this paper, we provide the first rigorous learning theory for justifying the benefit of information bottleneck in deep learning by mathematically relating information bottleneck to generalization errors. Our theory proves that controlling information bottleneck is one way to control generalization errors in deep learning, although it is not the only or necessary way. We investigate the merit of our new mathematical findings with experiments across a range of architectures and learning settings. In many cases, generalization errors are shown to correlate with the degree of information bottleneck: i.e., the amount of the unnecessary information at hidden layers. This paper provides a theoretical foundation for current and future methods through the lens of information bottleneck. Our new generalization bounds scale with the degree of information bottleneck, unlike the previous bounds that scale with the number of parameters, VC dimension, Rademacher complexity, stability or robustness. Our code is publicly available at:

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