Unsupervised Embedding of Hierarchical Structure in Euclidean Space

30 Oct 2020  ·  Jinyu Zhao, Yi Hao, Cyrus Rashtchian ·

Deep embedding methods have influenced many areas of unsupervised learning. However, the best methods for learning hierarchical structure use non-Euclidean representations, whereas Euclidean geometry underlies the theory behind many hierarchical clustering algorithms. To bridge the gap between these two areas, we consider learning a non-linear embedding of data into Euclidean space as a way to improve the hierarchical clustering produced by agglomerative algorithms. To learn the embedding, we revisit using a variational autoencoder with a Gaussian mixture prior, and we show that rescaling the latent space embedding and then applying Ward's linkage-based algorithm leads to improved results for both dendrogram purity and the Moseley-Wang cost function. Finally, we complement our empirical results with a theoretical explanation of the success of this approach. We study a synthetic model of the embedded vectors and prove that Ward's method exactly recovers the planted hierarchical clustering with high probability.

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