Empirical Study of the Benefits of Overparameterization in Learning Latent Variable Models

Jul 12, 2020

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One of the most surprising and exciting discoveries in supervising learning was the benefit of overparameterization (i.e. training a very large model) to improving the optimization landscape of a problem, with minimal effect on statistical performance (i.e. generalization). In contrast, unsupervised settings have been under-explored, despite the fact that it was observed that overparameterization can be helpful as early as Dasgupta Schulman (2007). We perform an empirical study of different aspects of overparameterization in unsupervised learning of latent variable models via synthetic and semi-synthetic experiments. We discuss benefits to different metrics of success (recovering the parameters of the ground-truth model, held-out log-likelihood), sensitivity to variations of the training algorithm, and behavior as the amount of overparameterization increases. We find that across a variety of models (noisy-OR networks, sparse coding, probabilistic context-free grammars) and training algorithms (variational inference, alternating minimization, expectation-maximization), overparameterization can significantly increase the number of ground truth latent variables recovered.

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The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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