Leveraging sparse and shared feature activations for disentangled representation learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Marco Fumero, Florian Wenzel, Luca Zancato, Alessandro Achille, Emanuele Rodolà, Stefano Soatto, Bernhard Schölkopf, Francesco Locatello


Recovering the latent factors of variation of high dimensional data has so far focused on simple synthetic settings. Mostly building on unsupervised and weakly-supervised objectives, prior work missed out on the positive implications for representation learning on real world data. In this work, we propose to leverage knowledge extracted from a diversified set of supervised tasks to learn a common disentangled representation. Assuming each supervised task only depends on an unknown subset of the factors of variation, we disentangle the feature space of a supervised multi-task model, with features activating sparsely across different tasks and information being shared as appropriate. Importantly, we never directly observe the factors of variations but establish that access to multiple tasks is sufficient for identifiability under sufficiency and minimality assumptions.We validate our approach on six real world distribution shift benchmarks, and different data modalities (images, text), demonstrating how disentangled representations can be transferred to real settings.