Learning Optimal Flows for Non-Equilibrium Importance Sampling

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Many applications in computational sciences and statistical inference require the computation of expectations with respect to complex high-dimensional distributions with unknown normalization constants, as well as the estimation of these constants. Here we develop a method to perform these calculations based on generating samples from a simple base distribution, transporting them by the flow generated by a velocity field, and performing averages along these flowlines. This nonequilibrium importance sampling (NEIS) strategy is straightforward to implement and can be used for calculations with arbitrary target distributions. On the theory side, we discuss how to tailor the velocity field to the target and establish general conditions under which the proposed estimator is a perfect estimator with zero-variance. We also draw connections between NEIS and approaches based on mapping a base distribution onto a target via a transport map. On the computational side, we show how to use deep learning to represent the velocity field by a neural network and train it towards the zero variance optimum. These results are illustrated numerically on benchmark examples (with dimension up to 10), where after training the velocity field, the variance of the NEIS estimator is reduced by up to 6 orders of magnitude than that of a vanilla estimator. We also compare the performances of NEIS with those of Neal's annealed importance sampling (AIS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 - 36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
EditorsS. Koyejo, S. Mohamed, A. Agarwal, D. Belgrave, K. Cho, A. Oh
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Electronic)9781713871088
StatePublished - 2022
Event36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Nov 28 2022Dec 9 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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