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Advances in identifiability of nonlinear probabilistic models

Khemakhem, Ilyes; (2022) Advances in identifiability of nonlinear probabilistic models. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Identifiability is a highly prized property of statistical models. This thesis investigates this property in nonlinear models encountered in two fields of statistics: representation learning and causal discovery. In representation learning, identifiability leads to learning interpretable and reproducible representations, while in causal discovery, it is necessary for the estimation of correct causal directions. We begin by leveraging recent advances in nonlinear ICA to show that the latent space of a VAE is identifiable up to a permutation and pointwise nonlinear transformations of its components. A factorized prior distribution over the latent variables conditioned on an auxiliary observed variable, such as a class label or nearly any other observation, is required for our result. We also extend previous identifiability results in nonlinear ICA to the case of noisy or undercomplete observations, and incorporate them into a maximum likelihood framework. Our second contribution is to develop the Independently Modulated Component Analysis (IMCA) framework, a generalization of nonlinear ICA to non-independent latent variables. We show that we can drop the independence assumption in ICA while maintaining identifiability, resulting in a very flexible and generic framework for principled disentangled representation learning. This finding is predicated on the existence of an auxiliary variable that modulates the joint distribution of the latent variables in a factorizable manner. As a third contribution, we extend the identifiability theory to a broad family of conditional energy-based models (EBMs). This novel model generalizes earlier results by removing any distributional assumptions on the representations, which are ubiquitous in the latent variable setting. The conditional EBM can learn identifiable overcomplete representations and has universal approximation capabilities/. Finally, we investigate a connection between the framework of autoregressive normalizing flow models and causal discovery. Causal models derived from affine autoregressive flows are shown to be identifiable, generalizing the wellknown additive noise model. Using normalizing flows, we can compute the exact likelihood of the causal model, which is subsequently used to derive a likelihood ratio measure for causal discovery. They are also invertible, making them perfectly suitable for performing causal inference tasks like interventions and counterfactuals.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Advances in identifiability of nonlinear probabilistic models
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2022. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neurosci Unit
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10148091
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