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Statistical Guarantees for Transformation Based Models with applications to Implicit Variational Inference

Sean Plummer · Shuang Zhou · Anirban Bhattacharya · David Dunson · Debdeep Pati

Keywords: [ Probabilistic Methods ] [ Approximate Inference ]

Abstract: Transformation based methods have been an attractive approach in non-parametric inference for problems such as unconditioned and conditional density estimation due to their unique hierarchical structure that models the data as flexible transformation of a set of common latent variables. More recently, transformation based models have been used in variational inference (VI) to construct flexible implicit families of variational distributions. However, their use in both non-parametric inference and variational inference lacks theoretical justification. In the context of non-linear latent variable models (NL-LVM), we provide theoretical justification for the use of these models in non-parametric inference by showing that the support of the transformation induced prior in the space of densities is sufficiently large in the $L_1$ sense and show that for this class of priors the posterior concentrates at the optimal rate up to a logarithmic factor. Adopting the flexibility demonstrated in the non-parametric setting we use the NL-LVM to construct an implicit family of variational distributions, deemed as GP-IVI. We delineate sufficient conditions under which GP-IVI achieves optimal risk bounds and approximates the true posterior in the sense of the Kullback-Leibler divergence. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work on providing theoretical guarantees for implicit variational inference.

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