Symmetric Equilibrium Learning of VAEs

19 Jul 2023  ·  Boris Flach, Dmitrij Schlesinger, Alexander Shekhovtsov ·

We view variational autoencoders (VAE) as decoder-encoder pairs, which map distributions in the data space to distributions in the latent space and vice versa. The standard learning approach for VAEs, i.e. maximisation of the evidence lower bound (ELBO), has an obvious asymmetry in that respect. Moreover, it requires a closed form a-priori latent distribution. This limits the applicability of VAEs in more complex scenarios, such as general semi-supervised learning and employing complex generative models as priors. We propose a Nash equilibrium learning approach that relaxes these restrictions and allows learning VAEs in situations where both the data and the latent distributions are accessible only by sampling. The flexibility and simplicity of this approach allows its application to a wide range of learning scenarios and downstream tasks. We show experimentally that the models learned by this method are comparable to those obtained by ELBO learning and demonstrate its applicability for tasks that are not accessible by standard VAE learning.

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