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Unsupervised representation learning with recognition-parametrised probabilistic models

William Walker · Hugo Soulat · Changmin Yu · Maneesh Sahani

Auditorium 1 Foyer 137


We introduce a new approach to probabilistic unsupervised learning based on the recognition-parametrised model (RPM): a normalised semi-parametric hypothesis class for joint distributions over observed and latent variables. Under the key assumption that observations are conditionally independent given latents, the RPM combines parametric prior and observation-conditioned latent distributions with non-parametric observation marginals. This approach leads to a flexible learnt recognition model capturing latent dependence between observations, without the need for an explicit, parametric generative model. The RPM often admits exact maximum-likelihood learning even for powerful neural-network-based recognition. We develop effective approximations applicable in other cases. Experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of the RPM on high-dimensional data, learning image classification from weak indirect supervision; direct image-level latent Dirichlet allocation; and Recognition-Parametrised Gaussian Process Factor Analysis (RP-GPFA) applied to multi-factorial spatiotemporal datasets. The RPM provides a powerful framework to discover meaningful latent structure underlying observational data, a function critical to both animal and artificial intelligence.

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