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Functional Variational Bayesian Neural Networks

Shengyang Sun, Guodong Zhang, Jiaxin Shi, Roger Grosse

Variational Bayesian neural networks (BNNs) perform variational inference over weights, but it is difficult to specify meaningful priors and approximate posteriors in a high-dimensional weight space. We introduce functional variational Bayesian neural networks (fBNNs), which maximize an Evidence Lower BOund (ELBO) defined directly on stochastic processes, i.e. distributions over functions. We prove that the KL divergence between stochastic processes equals the supremum of marginal KL divergences over all finite sets of inputs. Based on this, we introduce a practical training objective which approximates the functional ELBO using finite measurement sets and the spectral Stein gradient estimator. With fBNNs, we can specify priors entailing rich structures, including Gaussian processes and implicit stochastic processes. Empirically, we find fBNNs extrapolate well using various structured priors, provide reliable uncertainty estimates, and scale to large datasets.

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