Energy Discrepancies: A Score-Independent Loss for Energy-Based Models

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Tobias Schröder, Zijing Ou, Jen Lim, Yingzhen Li, Sebastian Vollmer, Andrew Duncan


Energy-based models are a simple yet powerful class of probabilistic models, but their widespread adoption has been limited by the computational burden of training them. We propose a novel loss function called Energy Discrepancy (ED) which does not rely on the computation of scores or expensive Markov chain Monte Carlo. We show that energy discrepancy approaches the explicit score matching and negative log-likelihood loss under different limits, effectively interpolating between both. Consequently, minimum energy discrepancy estimation overcomes the problem of nearsightedness encountered in score-based estimation methods, while also enjoying theoretical guarantees. Through numerical experiments, we demonstrate that ED learns low-dimensional data distributions faster and more accurately than explicit score matching or contrastive divergence. For high-dimensional image data, we describe how the manifold hypothesis puts limitations on our approach and demonstrate the effectiveness of energy discrepancy by training the energy-based model as a prior of a variational decoder model.