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Exploring the Latent Space of Autoencoders with Interventional Assays
Felix Leeb · Stefan Bauer · Michel Besserve · Bernhard Schölkopf

Thu Dec 01 02:00 PM -- 04:00 PM (PST) @ Hall J #430

Autoencoders exhibit impressive abilities to embed the data manifold into a low-dimensional latent space, making them a staple of representation learning methods. However, without explicit supervision, which is often unavailable, the representation is usually uninterpretable, making analysis and principled progress challenging. We propose a framework, called latent responses, which exploits the locally contractive behavior exhibited by variational autoencoders to explore the learned manifold. More specifically, we develop tools to probe the representation using interventions in the latent space to quantify the relationships between latent variables. We extend the notion of disentanglement to take the learned generative process into account and consequently avoid the limitations of existing metrics that may rely on spurious correlations. Our analyses underscore the importance of studying the causal structure of the representation to improve performance on downstream tasks such as generation, interpolation, and inference of the factors of variation.

Author Information

Felix Leeb (MPI for Intelligent Systems)
Stefan Bauer (Max Planck institute)
Michel Besserve (MPI for Intelligent Systems)
Bernhard Schölkopf (MPI for Intelligent Systems, Tübingen)

Bernhard Scholkopf received degrees in mathematics (London) and physics (Tubingen), and a doctorate in computer science from the Technical University Berlin. He has researched at AT&T Bell Labs, at GMD FIRST, Berlin, at the Australian National University, Canberra, and at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK). In 2001, he was appointed scientific member of the Max Planck Society and director at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics; in 2010 he founded the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. For further information, see www.kyb.tuebingen.mpg.de/~bs.

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