Continuous Mixtures of Tractable Probabilistic Models


Probabilistic models based on continuous latent spaces, such as variational autoencoders, can be understood as uncountable mixture models where components depend continuously on the latent code. They have proven expressive tools for generative and probabilistic modelling, but are at odds with tractable probabilistic inference, that is, computing marginals and conditionals of the represented probability distribution. Meanwhile, tractable probabilistic models such as probabilistic circuits (PCs) can be understood as hierarchical discrete mixture models, which allows them to perform exact inference, but often they show subpar performance in comparison to continuous latent-space models. In this paper, we investigate a hybrid approach, namely continuous mixtures of tractable models with a small latent dimension. While these models are analytically intractable, they are well amenable to numerical integration schemes based on a finite set of integration points. With a large enough number of integration points the approximation becomes de-facto exact. Moreover, using a finite set of integration points, the approximation method can be compiled into a PC performing ‘exact inference in an approximate model’. In experiments, we show that this simple scheme proves remarkably effective, as PCs learned this way set new state-of-the-art for tractable models on many standard density estimation benchmarks.

to appear at AAAI-2023