Epistemic Neural Networks

Ian Osband, Zheng Wen, Mohammad Asghari, Morteza Ibrahimi, Xiyuan Lu, Benjamin van Roy

We introduce the \textit{epistemic neural network} (ENN) as an interface for uncertainty modeling in deep learning. All existing approaches to uncertainty modeling can be expressed as ENNs, and any ENN can be identified with a Bayesian neural network. However, this new perspective provides several promising directions for future research. Where prior work has developed probabilistic inference tools for neural networks; we ask instead, `which neural networks are suitable as tools for probabilistic inference?'. We propose a clear and simple metric for progress in ENNs: the KL-divergence with respect to a target distribution. We develop a computational testbed based on inference in a neural network Gaussian process and release our code as a benchmark at \url{https://github.com/deepmind/enn}. We evaluate several canonical approaches to uncertainty modeling in deep learning, and find they vary greatly in their performance. We provide insight to the sensitivity of these results and show that our metric is highly correlated with performance in sequential decision problems. Finally, we provide indications that new ENN architectures can improve performance in both the statistical quality and computational cost.

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