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NeuTra-lizing Bad Geometry in Hamiltonian Monte Carlo Using Neural Transport


Hamiltonian Monte Carlo is a powerful algorithm for sampling from difficult-to-normalize posterior distributions. However, when the geometry of the posterior is unfavorable, it may take many expensive evaluations of the target distribution and its gradient to converge and mix. We propose neural transport (NeuTra) HMC, a technique for learning to correct this sort of unfavorable geometry using inverse autoregressive flows (IAF), a powerful neural variational inference technique. The IAF is trained to minimize the KL divergence from an isotropic Gaussian to the warped posterior, and then HMC sampling is performed in the warped space. We evaluate NeuTra HMC on a variety of synthetic and real problems, and find that it significantly outperforms vanilla HMC both in time to reach the stationary distribution and asymptotic effective-sample-size rates.