Learning Representations With Linear-Algebraic Structure

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2022

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Abstract

Representation learning is a key step for enabling algorithms to make sense of data and output good decisions. Good data representations preserve useful information, discard irrelevant features, and simplify complex relationships between data. We approach the problem of representation learning through the lens of latent variable models. In such models, the representations are directly given as unobserved variables encoding the core structure of the data. We utilize linear algebraic structure to specify the properties of the representations, which enables rigorous analysis and efficient, provable algorithms.

We first consider the area of natural language processing, where the data are comprised of words. We propose a novel model for word representations that encodes compositional syntactic and semantic structure as latent multilinear structure. We prove that the representations can be efficiently recovered and develop a practical learning algorithm.

We show that learning the word embedding model is closely connected to the Tucker decomposition, an important basic operation in tensor analysis that also arises in the context of other latent variable models. We formulate the Tucker decomposition as a nonconvex optimization problem and prove that its landscape is benign. We then give a local search algorithm that provably finds the global optimum.

We finally consider the area of reinforcement learning and control, where the time dynamics of the data are vital. We propose a model in which the state observations are high-dimensional with nonlinear dynamics, but depend on a latent low-dimensional linear control system. We develop state representation learning algorithms based on both forward and inverse dynamics that provably and efficiently recover the hidden linear system.

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Frandsen, Abraham (2022). Learning Representations With Linear-Algebraic Structure. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25224.

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