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Abstract: Latent variable models have been an integral part of probabilistic machine learning, ranging from simple mixture models to variational autoencoders to powerful diffusion probabilistic models at the center of recent media attention. Perhaps less well-appreciated is the intimate connection between latent variable models and data compression, and the potential of these models for advancing natural science. This talk will explore these topics. I will begin by showcasing connections between variational methods and the theory and practice of neural data compression. On the applied side, variational methods lead to machine-learned compressors of data such as images and videos and offer principled techniques for enhancing their compression performance, as well as reducing their decoding complexity. On the theory side, variational methods also provide scalable bounds on the fundamental compressibility of real-world data, such as images and particle physics data. Lastly, I will also delve into climate science projects, where a combination of deep latent variable modeling and vector quantization enables assessing distribution shifts induced by varying climate models and the effects of global warming.
Bio: Stephan Mandt is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at the University of California, Irvine. From 2016 until 2018, he was a Senior Researcher and Head of the statistical machine learning group at Disney Research in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. He held previous postdoctoral positions at Columbia University and Princeton University. Stephan holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University of Cologne in Germany, where he received the National Merit Scholarship. He received the NSF CAREER Award, a Kavli Fellowship of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the German Research Foundation’s Mercator Fellowship, and the UCI ICS Mid-Career Excellence in Research Award. He is a member of the ELLIS Society and a former visiting researcher at Google Brain. Stephan will serve as Program Chair of the AISTATS 2024 conference, currently serves as an Action Editor for JMLR and TMLR, and frequently serves as Area Chair for NeurIPS, ICML, AAAI, and ICLR.