Integrable Nonparametric Flows

David Pfau, Danilo Rezende

We introduce a method for reconstructing an infinitesimal normalizing flow given only an infinitesimal change to a (possibly unnormalized) probability distribution. This reverses the conventional task of normalizing flows -- rather than being given samples from a unknown target distribution and learning a flow that approximates the distribution, we are given a perturbation to an initial distribution and aim to reconstruct a flow that would generate samples from the known perturbed distribution. While this is an underdetermined problem, we find that choosing the flow to be an integrable vector field yields a solution closely related to electrostatics, and a solution can be computed by the method of Green's functions. Unlike conventional normalizing flows, this flow can be represented in an entirely nonparametric manner. We validate this derivation on low-dimensional problems, and discuss potential applications to problems in quantum Monte Carlo and machine learning.

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