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Abstract:Several algorithms involving the Variational R\'enyi (VR) bound have been proposed to minimize an alpha-divergence between a target posterior distribution and a variational distribution. Despite promising empirical results, those algorithms resort to biased stochastic gradient descent procedures and thus lack theoretical guarantees. In this paper, we formalize and study the VR-IWAE bound, a generalization of the Importance Weighted Auto-Encoder (IWAE) bound. We show that the VR-IWAE bound enjoys several desirable properties and notably leads to the same stochastic gradient descent procedure as the VR bound in the reparameterized case, but this time by relying on unbiased gradient estimators. We then provide two complementary theoretical analyses of the VR-IWAE bound and thus of the standard IWAE bound. Those analyses shed light on the benefits or lack thereof of these bounds. Lastly, we illustrate our theoretical claims over toy and real-data examples.

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Abstract:This paper focuses on $\alpha$-divergence minimisation methods for Variational Inference. More precisely, we are interested in algorithms optimising the mixture weights of any given mixture model, without any information on the underlying distribution of its mixture components parameters. The Power Descent, defined for all $\alpha \neq 1$, is one such algorithm and we establish in our work the full proof of its convergence towards the optimal mixture weights when $\alpha <1$. Since the $\alpha$-divergence recovers the widely-used forward Kullback-Leibler when $\alpha \to 1$, we then extend the Power Descent to the case $\alpha = 1$ and show that we obtain an Entropic Mirror Descent. This leads us to investigate the link between Power Descent and Entropic Mirror Descent: first-order approximations allow us to introduce the Renyi Descent, a novel algorithm for which we prove an $O(1/N)$ convergence rate. Lastly, we compare numerically the behavior of the unbiased Power Descent and of the biased Renyi Descent and we discuss the potential advantages of one algorithm over the other.

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Abstract:In this paper, we introduce a novel iterative algorithm which carries out $\alpha$-divergence minimisation by ensuring a systematic decrease in the $\alpha$-divergence at each step. In its most general form, our framework allows us to simultaneously optimise the weights and components parameters of a given mixture model. Notably, our approach permits to build on various methods previously proposed for $\alpha$-divergence minimisation such as gradient or power descent schemes. Furthermore, we shed a new light on an integrated Expectation Maximization algorithm. We provide empirical evidence that our methodology yields improved results, all the while illustrating the numerical benefits of having introduced some flexibility through the parameter $\alpha$ of the $\alpha$-divergence.

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