On Memorization in Probabilistic Deep Generative Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Gerrit van den Burg, Chris Williams


Recent advances in deep generative models have led to impressive results in a variety of application domains. Motivated by the possibility that deep learning models might memorize part of the input data, there have been increased efforts to understand how memorization arises. In this work, we extend a recently proposed measure of memorization for supervised learning (Feldman, 2019) to the unsupervised density estimation problem and adapt it to be more computationally efficient. Next, we present a study that demonstrates how memorization can occur in probabilistic deep generative models such as variational autoencoders. This reveals that the form of memorization to which these models are susceptible differs fundamentally from mode collapse and overfitting. Furthermore, we show that the proposed memorization score measures a phenomenon that is not captured by commonly-used nearest neighbor tests. Finally, we discuss several strategies that can be used to limit memorization in practice. Our work thus provides a framework for understanding problematic memorization in probabilistic generative models.