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Monte Carlo Gradient Estimation in Machine Learning

Shakir Mohamed, Mihaela Rosca, Michael Figurnov, Andriy Mnih

This paper is a broad and accessible survey of the methods we have at our disposal for Monte Carlo gradient estimation in machine learning and across the statistical sciences: the problem of computing the gradient of an expectation of a function with respect to parameters defining the distribution that is integrated; the problem of sensitivity analysis. In machine learning research, this gradient problem lies at the core of many learning problems, in supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning. We will generally seek to rewrite such gradients in a form that allows for Monte Carlo estimation, allowing them to be easily and efficiently used and analysed. We explore three strategies--the pathwise, score function, and measure-valued gradient estimators--exploring their historical developments, derivation, and underlying assumptions. We describe their use in other fields, show how they are related and can be combined, and expand on their possible generalisations. Wherever Monte Carlo gradient estimators have been derived and deployed in the past, important advances have followed. A deeper and more widely-held understanding of this problem will lead to further advances, and it is these advances that we wish to support.

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Sequential Neural Processes

Gautam Singh, Jaesik Yoon, Youngsung Son, Sungjin Ahn

Neural processes combine the strengths of neural networks and Gaussian processes to achieve both flexible learning and fast prediction of stochastic processes. However, neural processes do not consider the temporal dependency structure of underlying processes and thus are limited in modeling a large class of problems with temporal structure. In this paper, we propose Sequential Neural Processes (SNP). By incorporating temporal state-transition model into neural processes, the proposed model extends the potential of neural processes to modeling dynamic stochastic processes. In applying SNP to dynamic 3D scene modeling, we also introduce the Temporal Generative Query Networks. To our knowledge, this is the first 4D model that can deal with temporal dynamics of 3D scenes. In experiments, we evaluate the proposed methods in dynamic (non-stationary) regression and 4D scene inference and rendering.

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Compound Probabilistic Context-Free Grammars for Grammar Induction

Yoon Kim, Chris Dyer, Alexander M. Rush

We study a formalization of the grammar induction problem that models sentences as being generated by a compound probabilistic context-free grammar. In contrast to traditional formulations which learn a single stochastic grammar, our context-free rule probabilities are modulated by a per-sentence continuous latent variable, which induces marginal dependencies beyond the traditional context-free assumptions. Inference in this grammar is performed by collapsed variational inference, in which an amortized variational posterior is placed on the continuous variable, and the latent trees are marginalized with dynamic programming. Experiments on English and Chinese show the effectiveness of our approach compared to recent state-of-the-art methods for grammar induction from words with neural language models.

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Dense Scale Network for Crowd Counting

Feng Dai, Hao Liu, Yike Ma, Juan Cao, Qiang Zhao, Yongdong Zhang

Crowd counting has been widely studied by computer vision community in recent years. Due to the large scale variation, it remains to be a challenging task. Previous methods adopt either multi-column CNN or single-column CNN with multiple branches to deal with this problem. However, restricted by the number of columns or branches, these methods can only capture a few different scales and have limited capability. In this paper, we propose a simple but effective network called DSNet for crowd counting, which can be easily trained in an end-to-end fashion. The key component of our network is the dense dilated convolution block, in which each dilation layer is densely connected with the others to preserve information from continuously varied scales. The dilation rates in dilation layers are carefully selected to prevent the block from gridding artifacts. To further enlarge the range of scales covered by the network, we cascade three blocks and link them with dense residual connections. We also introduce a novel multi-scale density level consistency loss for performance improvement. To evaluate our method, we compare it with state-of-the-art algorithms on four crowd counting datasets (ShanghaiTech, UCF-QNRF, UCF_CC_50 and UCSD). Experimental results demonstrate that DSNet can achieve the best performance and make significant improvements on all the four datasets (30% on the UCF-QNRF and UCF_CC_50, and 20% on the others).

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Exploring Model-based Planning with Policy Networks

Tingwu Wang, Jimmy Ba

Model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) with model-predictive control or online planning has shown great potential for locomotion control tasks in terms of both sample efficiency and asymptotic performance. Despite their initial successes, the existing planning methods search from candidate sequences randomly generated in the action space, which is inefficient in complex high-dimensional environments. In this paper, we propose a novel MBRL algorithm, model-based policy planning (POPLIN), that combines policy networks with online planning. More specifically, we formulate action planning at each time-step as an optimization problem using neural networks. We experiment with both optimization w.r.t. the action sequences initialized from the policy network, and also online optimization directly w.r.t. the parameters of the policy network. We show that POPLIN obtains state-of-the-art performance in the MuJoCo benchmarking environments, being about 3x more sample efficient than the state-of-the-art algorithms, such as PETS, TD3 and SAC. To explain the effectiveness of our algorithm, we show that the optimization surface in parameter space is smoother than in action space. Further more, we found the distilled policy network can be effectively applied without the expansive model predictive control during test time for some environments such as Cheetah. Code is released in https://github.com/WilsonWangTHU/POPLIN.

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The Functional Neural Process

Christos Louizos, Xiahan Shi, Klamer Schutte, Max Welling

We present a new family of exchangeable stochastic processes, the Functional Neural Processes (FNPs). FNPs model distributions over functions by learning a graph of dependencies on top of latent representations of the points in the given dataset. In doing so, they define a Bayesian model without explicitly positing a prior distribution over latent global parameters; they instead adopt priors over the relational structure of the given dataset, a task that is much simpler. We show how we can learn such models from data, demonstrate that they are scalable to large datasets through mini-batch optimization and describe how we can make predictions for new points via their posterior predictive distribution. We experimentally evaluate FNPs on the tasks of toy regression and image classification and show that, when compared to baselines that employ global latent parameters, they offer both competitive predictions as well as more robust uncertainty estimates.

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XLNet: Generalized Autoregressive Pretraining for Language Understanding

Zhilin Yang, Zihang Dai, Yiming Yang, Jaime Carbonell, Ruslan Salakhutdinov, Quoc V. Le

With the capability of modeling bidirectional contexts, denoising autoencoding based pretraining like BERT achieves better performance than pretraining approaches based on autoregressive language modeling. However, relying on corrupting the input with masks, BERT neglects dependency between the masked positions and suffers from a pretrain-finetune discrepancy. In light of these pros and cons, we propose XLNet, a generalized autoregressive pretraining method that (1) enables learning bidirectional contexts by maximizing the expected likelihood over all permutations of the factorization order and (2) overcomes the limitations of BERT thanks to its autoregressive formulation. Furthermore, XLNet integrates ideas from Transformer-XL, the state-of-the-art autoregressive model, into pretraining. Empirically, XLNet outperforms BERT on 20 tasks, often by a large margin, and achieves state-of-the-art results on 18 tasks including question answering, natural language inference, sentiment analysis, and document ranking.

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Losing Confidence in Quality: Unspoken Evolution of Computer Vision Services

Alex Cummaudo, Rajesh Vasa, John Grundy, Mohamed Abdelrazek, Andrew Cain

Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), such as computer vision, are now available as intelligent services and their accessibility and simplicity is compelling. Multiple vendors now offer this technology as cloud services and developers want to leverage these advances to provide value to end-users. However, there is no firm investigation into the maintenance and evolution risks arising from use of these intelligent services; in particular, their behavioural consistency and transparency of their functionality. We evaluated the responses of three different intelligent services (specifically computer vision) over 11 months using 3 different data sets, verifying responses against the respective documentation and assessing evolution risk. We found that there are: (1) inconsistencies in how these services behave; (2) evolution risk in the responses; and (3) a lack of clear communication that documents these risks and inconsistencies. We propose a set of recommendations to both developers and intelligent service providers to inform risk and assist maintainability.

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Deep Reinforcement Learning for Industrial Insertion Tasks with Visual Inputs and Natural Rewards

Gerrit Schoettler, Ashvin Nair, Jianlan Luo, Shikhar Bahl, Juan Aparicio Ojea, Eugen Solowjow, Sergey Levine

Connector insertion and many other tasks commonly found in modern manufacturing settings involve complex contact dynamics and friction. Since it is difficult to capture related physical effects with first-order modeling, traditional control methods often result in brittle and inaccurate controllers, which have to be manually tuned. Reinforcement learning (RL) methods have been demonstrated to be capable of learning controllers in such environments from autonomous interaction with the environment, but running RL algorithms in the real world poses sample efficiency and safety challenges. Moreover, in practical real-world settings we cannot assume access to perfect state information or dense reward signals. In this paper, we consider a variety of difficult industrial insertion tasks with visual inputs and different natural reward specifications, namely sparse rewards and goal images. We show that methods that combine RL with prior information, such as classical controllers or demonstrations, can solve these tasks from a reasonable amount of real-world interaction.

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Monotonic Infinite Lookback Attention for Simultaneous Machine Translation

Naveen Arivazhagan, Colin Cherry, Wolfgang Macherey, Chung-Cheng Chiu, Semih Yavuz, Ruoming Pang, Wei Li, Colin Raffel

Simultaneous machine translation begins to translate each source sentence before the source speaker is finished speaking, with applications to live and streaming scenarios. Simultaneous systems must carefully schedule their reading of the source sentence to balance quality against latency. We present the first simultaneous translation system to learn an adaptive schedule jointly with a neural machine translation (NMT) model that attends over all source tokens read thus far. We do so by introducing Monotonic Infinite Lookback (MILk) attention, which maintains both a hard, monotonic attention head to schedule the reading of the source sentence, and a soft attention head that extends from the monotonic head back to the beginning of the source. We show that MILk's adaptive schedule allows it to arrive at latency-quality trade-offs that are favorable to those of a recently proposed wait-k strategy for many latency values.

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Table-Based Neural Units: Fully Quantizing Networks for Multiply-Free Inference

Michele Covell, David Marwood, Shumeet Baluja, Nick Johnston

In this work, we propose to quantize all parts of standard classification networks and replace the activation-weight--multiply step with a simple table-based lookup. This approach results in networks that are free of floating-point operations and free of multiplications, suitable for direct FPGA and ASIC implementations. It also provides us with two simple measures of per-layer and network-wide compactness as well as insight into the distribution characteristics of activationoutput and weight values. We run controlled studies across different quantization schemes, both fixed and adaptive and, within the set of adaptive approaches, both parametric and model-free. We implement our approach to quantization with minimal, localized changes to the training process, allowing us to benefit from advances in training continuous-valued network architectures. We apply our approach successfully to AlexNet, ResNet, and MobileNet. We show results that are within 1.6% of the reported, non-quantized performance on MobileNet using only 40 entries in our table. This performance gap narrows to zero when we allow tables with 320 entries. Our results give the best accuracies among multiply-free networks.

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Real or Fake? Learning to Discriminate Machine from Human Generated Text

Anton Bakhtin, Sam Gross, Myle Ott, Yuntian Deng, Marc'Aurelio Ranzato, Arthur Szlam

Recent advances in generative modeling of text have demonstrated remarkable improvements in terms of fluency and coherency. In this work we investigate to which extent a machine can discriminate real from machine generated text. This is important in itself for automatic detection of computer generated stories, but can also serve as a tool for further improving text generation. We show that learning a dedicated scoring function to discriminate between real and fake text achieves higher precision than employing the likelihood of a generative model. The scoring functions generalize to other generators than those used for training as long as these generators have comparable model complexity and are trained on similar datasets.

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Conversing by Reading: Contentful Neural Conversation with On-demand Machine Reading

Lianhui Qin, Michel Galley, Chris Brockett, Xiaodong Liu, Xiang Gao, Bill Dolan, Yejin Choi, Jianfeng Gao

Although neural conversation models are effective in learning how to produce fluent responses, their primary challenge lies in knowing what to say to make the conversation contentful and non-vacuous. We present a new end-to-end approach to contentful neural conversation that jointly models response generation and on-demand machine reading. The key idea is to provide the conversation model with relevant long-form text on the fly as a source of external knowledge. The model performs QA-style reading comprehension on this text in response to each conversational turn, thereby allowing for more focused integration of external knowledge than has been possible in prior approaches. To support further research on knowledge-grounded conversation, we introduce a new large-scale conversation dataset grounded in external web pages (2.8M turns, 7.4M sentences of grounding). Both human evaluation and automated metrics show that our approach results in more contentful responses compared to a variety of previous methods, improving both the informativeness and diversity of generated output.

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Generating Diverse High-Fidelity Images with VQ-VAE-2

Ali Razavi, Aaron van den Oord, Oriol Vinyals

We explore the use of Vector Quantized Variational AutoEncoder (VQ-VAE) models for large scale image generation. To this end, we scale and enhance the autoregressive priors used in VQ-VAE to generate synthetic samples of much higher coherence and fidelity than possible before. We use simple feed-forward encoder and decoder networks, making our model an attractive candidate for applications where the encoding and/or decoding speed is critical. Additionally, VQ-VAE requires sampling an autoregressive model only in the compressed latent space, which is an order of magnitude faster than sampling in the pixel space, especially for large images. We demonstrate that a multi-scale hierarchical organization of VQ-VAE, augmented with powerful priors over the latent codes, is able to generate samples with quality that rivals that of state of the art Generative Adversarial Networks on multifaceted datasets such as ImageNet, while not suffering from GAN's known shortcomings such as mode collapse and lack of diversity.

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Luck Matters: Understanding Training Dynamics of Deep ReLU Networks

Yuandong Tian, Tina Jiang, Qucheng Gong, Ari Morcos

We analyze the dynamics of training deep ReLU networks and their implications on generalization capability. Using a teacher-student setting, we discovered a novel relationship between the gradient received by hidden student nodes and the activations of teacher nodes for deep ReLU networks. With this relationship and the assumption of small overlapping teacher node activations, we prove that (1) student nodes whose weights are initialized to be close to teacher nodes converge to them at a faster rate, and (2) in over-parameterized regimes and 2-layer case, while a small set of lucky nodes do converge to the teacher nodes, the fan-out weights of other nodes converge to zero. This framework provides insight into multiple puzzling phenomena in deep learning like over-parameterization, implicit regularization, lottery tickets, etc. We verify our assumption by showing that the majority of BatchNorm biases of pre-trained VGG11/16 models are negative. Experiments on (1) random deep teacher networks with Gaussian inputs, (2) teacher network pre-trained on CIFAR-10 and (3) extensive ablation studies validate our multiple theoretical predictions.

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A Generalized Framework of Sequence Generation with Application to Undirected Sequence Models

Elman Mansimov, Alex Wang, Kyunghyun Cho

Undirected neural sequence models such as BERT have received renewed interest due to their success on discriminative natural language understanding tasks such as question-answering and natural language inference. The problem of generating sequences directly from these models has received relatively little attention, in part because generating from such models departs significantly from the conventional approach of monotonic generation in directed sequence models. We investigate this problem by first proposing a generalized model of sequence generation that unifies decoding in directed and undirected models. The proposed framework models the process of generation rather than a resulting sequence, and under this framework, we derive various neural sequence models as special cases, such as autoregressive, semi-autoregressive, and refinement-based non-autoregressive models. This unification enables us to adapt decoding algorithms originally developed for directed sequence models to undirected models. We demonstrate this by evaluating various decoding strategies for the recently proposed cross-lingual masked translation model. Our experiments reveal that generation from undirected sequence models, under our framework, is competitive against the state of the art on WMT'14 English-German translation. We furthermore observe that the proposed approach enables constant-time translation while losing only 1 BLEU score compared to linear-time translation from the same undirected neural sequence model.

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SATNet: Bridging deep learning and logical reasoning using a differentiable satisfiability solver

Po-Wei Wang, Priya L. Donti, Bryan Wilder, Zico Kolter

Integrating logical reasoning within deep learning architectures has been a major goal of modern AI systems. In this paper, we propose a new direction toward this goal by introducing a differentiable (smoothed) maximum satisfiability (MAXSAT) solver that can be integrated into the loop of larger deep learning systems. Our (approximate) solver is based upon a fast coordinate descent approach to solving the semidefinite program (SDP) associated with the MAXSAT problem. We show how to analytically differentiate through the solution to this SDP and efficiently solve the associated backward pass. We demonstrate that by integrating this solver into end-to-end learning systems, we can learn the logical structure of challenging problems in a minimally supervised fashion. In particular, we show that we can learn the parity function using single-bit supervision (a traditionally hard task for deep networks) and learn how to play 9x9 Sudoku solely from examples. We also solve a "visual Sudok" problem that maps images of Sudoku puzzles to their associated logical solutions by combining our MAXSAT solver with a traditional convolutional architecture. Our approach thus shows promise in integrating logical structures within deep learning.

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SpArSe: Sparse Architecture Search for CNNs on Resource-Constrained Microcontrollers

Igor Fedorov, Ryan P. Adams, Matthew Mattina, Paul N. Whatmough

The vast majority of processors in the world are actually microcontroller units (MCUs), which find widespread use performing simple control tasks in applications ranging from automobiles to medical devices and office equipment. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to inject machine learning into many of these every-day objects via tiny, cheap MCUs. However, these resource-impoverished hardware platforms severely limit the complexity of machine learning models that can be deployed. For example, although convolutional neural networks (CNNs) achieve state-of-the-art results on many visual recognition tasks, CNN inference on MCUs is challenging due to severe finite memory limitations. To circumvent the memory challenge associated with CNNs, various alternatives have been proposed that do fit within the memory budget of an MCU, albeit at the cost of prediction accuracy. This paper challenges the idea that CNNs are not suitable for deployment on MCUs. We demonstrate that it is possible to automatically design CNNs which generalize well, while also being small enough to fit onto memory-limited MCUs. Our Sparse Architecture Search method combines neural architecture search with pruning in a single, unified approach, which learns superior models on four popular IoT datasets. The CNNs we find are more accurate and up to $4.35\times$ smaller than previous approaches, while meeting the strict MCU working memory constraint.

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Learning Portable Representations for High-Level Planning

Steven James, Benjamin Rosman, George Konidaris

We present a framework for autonomously learning a portable representation that describes a collection of low-level continuous environments. We show that these abstract representations can be learned in a task-independent egocentric space specific to the agent that, when grounded with problem-specific information, are provably sufficient for planning. We demonstrate transfer in two different domains, where an agent learns a portable, task-independent symbolic vocabulary, as well as rules expressed in that vocabulary, and then learns to instantiate those rules on a per-task basis. This reduces the number of samples required to learn a representation of a new task.

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Object Discovery with a Copy-Pasting GAN

Relja Arandjelović, Andrew Zisserman

We tackle the problem of object discovery, where objects are segmented for a given input image, and the system is trained without using any direct supervision whatsoever. A novel copy-pasting GAN framework is proposed, where the generator learns to discover an object in one image by compositing it into another image such that the discriminator cannot tell that the resulting image is fake. After carefully addressing subtle issues, such as preventing the generator from `cheating', this game results in the generator learning to select objects, as copy-pasting objects is most likely to fool the discriminator. The system is shown to work well on four very different datasets, including large object appearance variations in challenging cluttered backgrounds.

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