A Glance of Noise Contrastive Estimation (NCE) and infoNCE

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Author: Changsheng Lu (卢长胜)


The softmax is nice normalizer whose formulation is $p=\exp(f^{\theta}(x))/\sum_{i}^{C}\exp(f^{\theta}_{i}(x))$. However, when $C$ is tremendous, it requires much time to compute the summation of all classes’ activations. To save time, the researchers propose to use Noise Contrastive Estimation (NCE) which samples negative noise for contrastive learning, thus we only need to compute the $c$-th activations for both postive sample and negative samples.

The key idea behind NCE [1,2,3] and also the following infoNCE [4] aim to maximize the activation value (or signal value) from postive samples while surpressing those values (or noise values) from negative samples, which forms contrastive learning. This has a solid mathematical proof in Noise Contrastive Estimation.

Mathematical Formulation for NCE Loss

\(J(\theta)=E_{w\sim P_{d}(w)}[\log \sigma(\triangle f^{\theta}(w))] + kE_{w \sim P_{noise}(w)}[\log (1- \sigma(\triangle f^{\theta}(w)))]\)
where $\sigma=\frac{1}{1+e^{-1}}$ is the sigmoid function, $\triangle f^{\theta}(w) = f^{\theta}(w) - \log kP_{noise}(w)$. Its empirical form is
\(\hat{J}(\theta)=\frac{1}{m}\sum_{i=1}^{m} \log \sigma(\triangle f^{\theta}(w_i)) +\frac{k}{n}\sum_{j=1}^{n} \log (1- \sigma(\triangle f^{\theta}(w_j)))\)
where $m$ is the number of positive samples and $n$ is number of noise samples. $k$ is the draw number for noise.

Remarks: The former part of formulation is to maximize signal while the latter part is to supress noise, forming the contrastive learning.

The infoNCE and Contrastive Predictive Coding (CPC)

The infoNCE’s formulation is
\(L_{infoNCE}=-E_{X} \log \frac{f_{k}(x_{t+k}, c_t)}{\sum_{x_{j} \in X} f_{k}(x_{j}, c_{t})}\)
where $(x_{t+k}, c_t)$ is a postive pair, $(x_{j}, c_{t}), j=1,2,\cdots, |X|$ are negative pairs. $f_{k}(x_{t+k}, c_t)=\exp(.)$ is the model output.

CPC is used in language models which improves the feature representation ability by measuring a repres feature’s prediction ability over following words. A good repres feature should preserve the important information contained in raw data while also have good prediction ability (for subsequent words), e.g., knowing several first words in a sentence will result in a guess for subsequent words. In [4], CPC is formed by
\(f_{k}(x_{t+k}, c_{t}) = \exp (z^{T}_{t+k}W_{k}c_{t})\)
where $z_{t+k}=g_{encoder}(x_{t+k})$, and $W_{k}c_{t}$ is a guess for $z_{t+k}$ by using $t$-th time step’s information $c_{t}$.



[1] Gutmann, Michael, and Aapo Hyvärinen. “Noise-contrastive estimation: A new estimation principle for unnormalized statistical models.” Proceedings of the thirteenth international conference on artificial intelligence and statistics. JMLR Workshop and Conference Proceedings, 2010.
[2] Mnih, Andriy, and Yee Whye Teh. “A fast and simple algorithm for training neural probabilistic language models.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1206.6426 (2012).
[3] Mnih, Andriy, and Koray Kavukcuoglu. “Learning word embeddings efficiently with noise-contrastive estimation.” Advances in neural information processing systems 26 (2013).
[4] Van den Oord, Aaron, Yazhe Li, and Oriol Vinyals. “Representation learning with contrastive predictive coding (CPC).” arXiv e-prints (2018): arXiv-1807.

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