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Mitigating the Effects of Non-Identifiability on Inference for Bayesian Neural Networks with Latent Variables

Yaniv Yacoby, Weiwei Pan, Finale Doshi-Velez; 23(244):1−54, 2022.


Bayesian Neural Networks with Latent Variables (BNN+LVs) capture predictive uncertainty by explicitly modeling model uncertainty (via priors on network weights) and environmental stochasticity (via a latent input noise variable). In this work, we first show that BNN+LV suffers from a serious form of non-identifiability: explanatory power can be transferred between the model parameters and latent variables while fitting the data equally well. We demonstrate that as a result, in the limit of infinite data, the posterior mode over the network weights and latent variables is asymptotically biased away from the ground-truth. Due to this asymptotic bias, traditional inference methods may in practice yield parameters that generalize poorly and misestimate uncertainty. Next, we develop a novel inference procedure that explicitly mitigates the effects of likelihood non-identifiability during training and yields high-quality predictions as well as uncertainty estimates. We demonstrate that our inference method improves upon benchmark methods across a range of synthetic and real data-sets.

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