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This paper presents a novel neural network approach (though see [here](https://www.facebook.com/hugo.larochelle.35/posts/172841743130126?pnref=story) for a discussion on prior work) to density estimation, with a focus on image modeling. At its core, it exploits the following property on the densities of random variables. Let $x$ and $z$ be two random variables of equal dimensionality such that $x = g(z)$, where $g$ is some bijective and deterministic function (we'll note its inverse as $f = g^{1}$). Then the change of variable formula gives us this relationship between the densities of $x$ and $z$: $p_X(x) = p_Z(z) \left{\rm det}\left(\frac{\partial g(z)}{\partial z}\right)\right^{1}$ Moreover, since the determinant of the Jacobian matrix of the inverse $f$ of a function $g$ is simply the inverse of the Jacobian of the function $g$, we can also write: $p_X(x) = p_Z(f(x)) \left{\rm det}\left(\frac{\partial f(x)}{\partial x}\right)\right$ where we've replaced $z$ by its deterministically inferred value $f(x)$ from $x$. So, the core of the proposed model is in proposing a design for bijective functions $g$ (actually, they design its inverse $f$, from which $g$ can be derived by inversion), that have the properties of being easily invertible and having an easytocompute determinant of Jacobian. Specifically, the authors propose to construct $f$ from various modules that all preserve these properties and allows to construct highly nonlinear $f$ functions. Then, assuming a simple choice for the density $p_Z$ (they use a multidimensional Gaussian), it becomes possible to both compute $p_X(x)$ tractably and to sample from that density, by first samples $z\sim p_Z$ and then computing $x=g(z)$. The building blocks for constructing $f$ are the following: **Coupling layers**: This is perhaps the most important piece. It simply computes as its output $b\odot x + (1b) \odot (x \odot \exp(l(b\odot x)) + m(b\odot x))$, where $b$ is a binary mask (with half of its values set to 0 and the others to 1) over the input of the layer $x$, while $l$ and $m$ are arbitrarily complex neural networks with input and output layers of equal dimensionality. In brief, for dimensions for which $b_i = 1$ it simply copies the input value into the output. As for the other dimensions (for which $b_i = 0$) it linearly transforms them as $x_i * \exp(l(b\odot x)_i) + m(b\odot x)_i$. Crucially, the bias ($m(b\odot x)_i$) and coefficient ($\exp(l(b\odot x)_i)$) of the linear transformation are nonlinear transformations (i.e. the output of neural networks) that only have access to the masked input (i.e. the nontransformed dimensions). While this layer might seem odd, it has the important property that it is invertible and the determinant of its Jacobian is simply $\exp(\sum_i (1b_i) l(b\odot x)_i)$. See Section 3.3 for more details on that. **Alternating masks**: One important property of coupling layers is that they can be stacked (i.e. composed), and the resulting composition is still a bijection and is invertible (since each layer is individually a bijection) and has a tractable determinant for its Jacobian (since the Jacobian of the composition of functions is simply the multiplication of each function's Jacobian matrix, and the determinant of the product of square matrices is the product of the determinant of each matrix). This is also true, even if the mask $b$ of each layer is different. Thus, the authors propose using masks that alternate across layer, by masking a different subset of (half of) the dimensions. For images, they propose using masks with a checkerboard pattern (see Figure 3). Intuitively, alternating masks are better because then after at least 2 layers, all dimensions have been transformed at least once. **Squeezing operations**: Squeezing operations corresponds to a reorganization of a 2D spatial layout of dimensions into 4 sets of features maps with spatial resolutions reduced by half (see Figure 3). This allows to expose multiple scales of resolutions to the model. Moreover, after a squeezing operation, instead of using a checkerboard pattern for masking, the authors propose to use a per channel masking pattern, so that "the resulting partitioning is not redundant with the previous checkerboard masking". See Figure 3 for an illustration. Overall, the models used in the experiments usually stack a few of the following "chunks" of layers: 1) a few coupling layers with alternating checkboard masks, 2) followed by squeezing, 3) followed by a few coupling layers with alternating channelwise masks. Since the output of each layerschunk must technically be of the same size as the input image, this could become expensive in terms of computations and space when using a lot of layers. Thus, the authors propose to explicitly pass on (copy) to the very last layer ($z$) half of the dimensions after each layerschunk, adding another chunk of layers only on the other half. This is illustrated in Figure 4b. Experiments on CIFAR10, and 32x32 and 64x64 versions of ImageNet show that the proposed model (coined the realvalued nonvolume preserving or Real NVP) has competitive performance (in bits per dimension), though slightly worse than the Pixel RNN. **My Two Cents** The proposed approach is quite unique and thought provoking. Most interestingly, it is the only powerful generative model I know that combines A) a tractable likelihood, B) an efficient / onepass sampling procedure and C) the explicit learning of a latent representation. While achieving this required a model definition that is somewhat unintuitive, it is nonetheless mathematically really beautiful! I wonder to what extent Real NVP is penalized in its results by the fact that it models pixels as realvalued observations. First, it implies that its estimate of bits/dimensions is an upper bound on what it could be if the uniform subpixel noise was integrated out (see Equations 345 of [this paper](http://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.01844v3.pdf)). Moreover, the authors had to apply a nonlinear transformation (${\rm logit}(\alpha + (1\alpha)\odot x)$) to the pixels, to spread the $[0,255]$ interval further over the reals. Since the Pixel RNN models pixels as discrete observations directly, the Real NVP might be at a disadvantage. I'm also curious to know how easy it would be to do conditional inference with the Real NVP. One could imagine doing approximate MAP conditional inference, by clamping the observed dimensions and doing gradient descent on the loglikelihood with respect to the value of remaining dimensions. This could be interesting for image completion, or for structured output prediction with realvalued outputs in general. I also wonder how expensive that would be. In all cases, I'm looking forward to saying interesting applications and variations of this model in the future! 
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Normal RL agents in multiagent scenarios treat their opponents as a static part of the environment, not taking into account the fact that other agents are learning as well. This paper proposes LOLA, a learning rule that should take the agency and learning of opponents into account by optimizing "return under one step lookahead of opponent learning" So instead of optimizing under the current parameters of agent 1 and 2 $$V^1(\theta_i^1, \theta_i^2)$$ LOLA proposes to optimize taking into account one step of opponent (agent 2) learning $$V^1(\theta_i^1, \theta_i^2 + \Delta \theta^2_i)$$ where we assume the opponent's naive learning update $\Delta \theta^2_i = \nabla_{\theta^2} V^2(\theta^1, \theta^2) \cdot \eta$ and we add a secondorder correction term on top of this, the authors propose  a learning rule with policy gradients in the case that the agent does not have access to exact gradients  a way to estimate the parameters of the opponent, $\theta^2$, from its trajectories using maximum likelihood in the case you can't access them directly $$\hat \theta^2 = \text{argmax}_{\theta^2} \sum_t \log \pi_{\theta^2}(u_t^2s_t)$$ LOLA is tested on iterated prisoner's dilemma and converges to a titfortat strategy more frequently than the naive RL learning algorithm, and outperforms it. LOLA is tested on iterated matching pennies (similar to prisoner's dilemma) and stably converges to the Nash equilibrium whereas the naive learners do not. In testing on coin game (a higher dimensional version of prisoner's dilemma) they find that naive learners generally choose the defect option whereas LOLA agents have a mostlycooperative strategy. As well, the authors show that LOLA is a dominant learning rule in IPD, where both agents always do better if either is using LOLA (and even better if both are using LOLA). Finally, the authors also propose second order LOLA, which instead of assuming the opponent is a naive learner, assumes the opponent uses a LOLA learning rule. They show that second order LOLA does not lead to improved performance so there is no need to have a $n$th order LOLA arms race. 
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Everyone has been thinking about how to apply GANs to discrete sequence data for the past year or so. This paper presents the model that I would guess most people thought of as the firstthingtotry: 1. Build a recurrent generator model which samples from its softmax outputs at each timestep. 2. Pass sampled sequences to a recurrent discriminator model which distinguishes between sampled sequences and realdata sequences. 3. Train the discriminator under the standard GAN loss. 4. Train the generator with a REINFORCE (policy gradient) objective, where each trajectory is assigned a single episodic reward: the score assigned to the generated sequence by the discriminator. Sounds hacky, right? We're learning a generator with a highvariance modelfree reinforcement learning algorithm, in a very seriously nonstationary environment. (Here the "environment" is a discriminator being jointly learned with the generator.) There's just one trick in this paper on top of that setup: for nonterminal states, the reward is defined as the *expectation* of the discriminator score after stochastically generating from that state forward. To restate using standard (somewhat sloppy) RL syntax, in different terms than the paper: (under stochastic sequential policy $\pi$, with current state $s_t$, trajectory $\tau_{1:T}$ and discriminator $D(\tau)$) $$r_t = \mathbb E_{\tau_{t+1:T} \sim \pi(s_t)} \left[ D(\tau_{1:T}) \right]$$ The rewards are estimated via Monte Carlo — i.e., just take the mean of $N$ rollouts from each intermediate state. They claim this helps to reduce variance. That makes intuitive sense, but I don't see any results in the paper demonstrating the effect of varying $N$.  Yep, so it turns out that this sort of works.. with a big caveat: ## The big caveat Graph from appendix: ![](https://www.dropbox.com/s/5fqh6my63sgv5y4/Bildschirmfoto%2020160927%20um%2021.34.44.png?raw=1) SeqGANs don't work without supervised pretraining. Makes sense — with a cold start, the generator just samples a bunch of nonsense and the discriminator overfits. Both the generator and discriminator are pretrained on supervised data in this paper (see Algorithm 1). I think it must be possible to overcome this with the proper training tricks and enough sweat. But it's probably more worth our time to address the fundamental problem here of developing better RL for structured prediction tasks.
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This paper presents a combination of the inception architecture with residual networks. This is done by adding a shortcut connection to each inception module. This can alternatively be seen as a resnet where the 2 conv layers are replaced by a (slightly modified) inception module. The paper (claims to) provide results against the hypothesis that adding residual connections improves training, rather increasing the model size is what makes the difference. 
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This paper investigates different paradigms for learning how to answer natural language queries through various forms of feedback. Most interestingly, it investigates whether a model can learn to answer correctly questions when the feedback is presented purely in the form of a sentence (e.g. "Yes, that's right", "Yes, that's correct", "No, that's incorrect", etc.). This later form of feedback is particularly hard to leverage, since the model has to somehow learn that the word "Yes" is a sign of a positive feedback, but not the word "No". Normally, we'd trained a model to directly predict the correct answer to questions based on feedback provided by an expert that always answers correctly. "Imitating" this expert just corresponds to regular supervised learning. The paper however explores other variations on this learning scenario. Specifically, they consider 3 dimensions of variations. The first dimension of variation is who is providing the answers. Instead of an expert (who is always right), the paper considers the case where the model is instead observing a different, "imperfect" expert whose answers come from a fixed policy that answers correctly only a fraction of the time (the paper looked at 0.5, 0.1 and 0.01). Note that the paper refers to these answers as coming from "the learner" (which should be the model), but since the policy is fixed and actually doesn't depend on the model, I think one can also think of it as coming from another agent, which I'll refer to as the imperfect expert (I think this is also known as "off policy learning" in the RL world). The second dimension of variation on the learning scenario that is explored is in the nature of the "supervision type" (i.e. nature of the labels). There are 10 of them (see Figure 1 for a nice illustration). In addition to the real expert's answers only (Type 1), the paper considers other types that instead involve the imperfect expert and fall in one of the two categories below: 1. Explicit positive / negative rewards based on whether the imperfect expert's answer is correct. 2. Various forms of natural language responses to the imperfect expert's answers, which vary from worded positive/negative feedback, to hints, to mentions of the supporting fact for the correct answer. Also, mixtures of the above are considered. Finally, the third dimension of variation is how the model learns from the observed data. In addition to the regular supervised learning approach of imitating the observed answers (whether it's from the real expert or the imperfect expert), two other distinct approaches are considered, each inspired by the two categories of feedback mentioned above: 1. Rewardbased imitation: this simply corresponds to ignoring answers from the imperfect expert for which the reward is not positive (as for when the answers come from the regular expert, they are always used I believe). 2. Forward prediction: this consists in predicting the natural language feedback to the answer of the imperfect expert. This is essentially treated as a classification problem over possible feedback (with negative sampling, since there are many possible feedback responses), that leverages a softattention architecture over the answers the expert could have given, which is also informed by the actual answer that was given (see Equation 2). Also, a mixture of both of these learning approaches is considered. The paper thoroughly explores experimentally all these dimensions, on two questionanswering datasets (single supporting fact bAbI dataset and MovieQA). The neural net model architectures used are all based on memory networks. Without much surprise, imitating the true expert performs best. But quite surprisingly, forward prediction leveraging only natural language feedback to an imperfect expert often performs competitively compared to rewardbased imitation. #### My two cents This is a very thought provoking paper! I very much like the idea of exploring how a model could learn a task based on instructions in natural language. This makes me think of this work \cite{conf/iccv/BaSFS15} on using zeroshot learning to learn a model that can produce a visual classifier based on a description of what must be recognized. Another component that is interesting here is studying how a model can learn without knowing a priori whether a feedback is positive or negative. This sort of makes me think of [this work](http://www.thespermwhale.com/jaseweston/ram/papers/paper_16.pdf) (which is also close to this work \cite{conf/icann/HochreiterYC01}) where a recurrent network is trained to process a training set (inputs and targets) to later produce another model that's applied on a test set, without the RNN explicitly knowing what the training gradients are on this other model's parameters. In other words, it has to effectively learn to execute (presumably a form of) gradient descent on the other model's parameters. I find all such forms of "learning to learn" incredibly interesting. Coming back to this paper, unfortunately I've yet to really understand why forward prediction actually works. An explanation is given, that is that "this is because there is a natural coherence to predicting true answers that leads to greater accuracy in forward prediction" (see paragraph before conclusion). I can sort of understand what is meant by that, but it would be nice to somehow dig deeper into this hypothesis. Or I might be misunderstanding something here, since the paper mentions that changing how wrong answers are sampled yields a "worse" accuracy of 80% on Task 2 for the bAbI dataset and a policy accuracy of 0.1, but Table 1 reports an accuracy 54% for this case (which is not better, but worse). Similarly, I'd like to better understand Equation 2, specifically the β* term, and why exactly this is an appropriate form of incorporating which answer was given and why it works. I really was unable to form an intuition around Equation 2. In any case, I really like that there's work investigating this theme and hope there can be more in the future! 