Learning Energy-based Model via Dual-MCMC Teaching

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jiali Cui, Tian Han


This paper studies the fundamental learning problem of the energy-based model (EBM). Learning the EBM can be achieved using the maximum likelihood estimation (MLE), which typically involves the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling, such as the Langevin dynamics. However, the noise-initialized Langevin dynamics can be challenging in practice and hard to mix. This motivates the exploration of joint training with the generator model where the generator model serves as a complementary model to bypass MCMC sampling. However, such a method can be less accurate than the MCMC and result in biased EBM learning. While the generator can also serve as an initializer model for better MCMC sampling, its learning can be biased since it only matches the EBM and has no access to empirical training examples. Such biased generator learning may limit the potential of learning the EBM. To address this issue, we present a joint learning framework that interweaves the maximum likelihood learning algorithm for both the EBM and the complementary generator model. In particular, the generator model is learned by MLE to match both the EBM and the empirical data distribution, making it a more informative initializer for MCMC sampling of EBM. Learning generator with observed examples typically requires inference of the generator posterior. To ensure accurate and efficient inference, we adopt the MCMC posterior sampling and introduce a complementary inference model to initialize such latent MCMC sampling. We show that three separate models can be seamlessly integrated into our joint framework through two (dual-) MCMC teaching, enabling effective and efficient EBM learning.