Modeling Structured Data with Invertible Generative Models

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Virginia Tech

Data is complex and has a variety of structures and formats. Modeling datasets is a core problem in modern artificial intelligence. Generative models are machine learning models, which model datasets with probability distributions. Deep generative models combine deep learning with probability theory, so that can model complicated datasets with flexible models. They have become one of the most popular models in machine learning, and have been applied to many problems.

Normalizing flows are a novel class of deep generative models that allow efficient exact likelihood calculation, exact latent variable inference and sampling. They are constructed using functions whose inverse and Jacobian determinant can be efficiently computed. In this paper, we develop normalizing flow based generative models to model complex datasets. In general, data can be categorized to unlabeled data, labeled data, and weakly labeled data. We develop models for these three types of data, respectively.

First, we develop Woodbury transformations, which are flow layers for general unsupervised normalizing flows, and can improve the flexibility and scalability of current flow based models. Woodbury transformations achieve efficient invertibility via Woodbury matrix identity and efficient determinant calculation via Sylvester's determinant identity. In contrast with other operations used in state-of-the-art normalizing flows, Woodbury transformations enable (1) high-dimensional interactions, (2) efficient sampling, and (3) efficient likelihood evaluation. Other similar operations, such as 1x1 convolutions, emerging convolutions, or periodic convolutions allow at most two of these three advantages. In our experiments on multiple image datasets, we find that Woodbury transformations allow learning of higher-likelihood models than other flow architectures while still enjoying their efficiency advantages.

Second, we propose conditional Glow (c-Glow), a conditional generative flow for structured output learning, which is an advanced variant of supervised learning with structured labels. Traditional structured prediction models try to learn a conditional likelihood, i.e., p(y|x), to capture the relationship between the structured output y and the input features x. For many models, computing the likelihood is intractable. These models are therefore hard to train, requiring the use of surrogate objectives or variational inference to approximate likelihood. C-Glow benefits from the ability of flow-based models to compute p(y|x) exactly and efficiently. Learning with c-Glow does not require a surrogate objective or performing inference during training. Once trained, we can directly and efficiently generate conditional samples. We develop a sample-based prediction method, which can use this advantage to do efficient and effective inference. In our experiments, we test c-Glow on five different tasks. C-Glow outperforms the state-of-the-art baselines in some tasks and predicts comparable outputs in the other tasks. The results show that c-Glow is applicable to many different structured prediction problems.

Third, we develop label learning flows (LLF), which is a general framework for weakly supervised learning problems. Our method is a generative model based on normalizing flows. The main idea of LLF is to optimize the conditional likelihoods of all possible labelings of the data within a constrained space defined by weak signals. We develop a training method for LLF that trains the conditional flow inversely and avoids estimating the labels. Once a model is trained, we can make predictions with a sampling algorithm. We apply LLF to three weakly supervised learning problems. Experiment results show that our method outperforms many state-of-the-art alternatives.

Our research shows the advantages and versatility of normalizing flows.

Machine learning, Computer Vision, Deep Generative Models, Structured Prediction, Weakly Supervised Learning, Normalizing Flows