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Contrastive Learning Inverts the Data Generating Process [ICML 2021]

Official code to reproduce the results and data presented in the paper Contrastive Learning Inverts the Data Generating Process.

3DIdent dataset example images


To reproduce the disentanglement results for the MLP mixing, use the script. For the experiments on KITTI Masks use the script. For those on 3DIdent, use

MLP Mixing

> python --help
       [-h] [--sphere-r SPHERE_R] [--box-min BOX_MIN] [--box-max BOX_MAX]
       [--sphere-norm] [--box-norm] [--only-supervised] [--only-unsupervised]
       [--more-unsupervised MORE_UNSUPERVISED] [--save-dir SAVE_DIR]
       [--num-eval-batches NUM_EVAL_BATCHES] [--rej-mult REJ_MULT]
       [--seed SEED] [--act-fct ACT_FCT] [--c-param C_PARAM]
       [--m-param M_PARAM] [--tau TAU] [--n-mixing-layer N_MIXING_LAYER]
       [--n N] [--space-type {box,sphere,unbounded}] [--m-p M_P] [--c-p C_P]
       [--lr LR] [--p P] [--batch-size BATCH_SIZE] [--n-log-steps N_LOG_STEPS]
       [--n-steps N_STEPS] [--resume-training]

Disentanglement with InfoNCE/Contrastive Learning - MLP Mixing

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --sphere-r SPHERE_R
  --box-min BOX_MIN     For box normalization only. Minimal value of box.
  --box-max BOX_MAX     For box normalization only. Maximal value of box.
  --sphere-norm         Normalize output to a sphere.
  --box-norm            Normalize output to a box.
  --only-supervised     Only train supervised model.
  --only-unsupervised   Only train unsupervised model.
  --more-unsupervised MORE_UNSUPERVISED
                        How many more steps to do for unsupervised compared to
                        supervised training.
  --save-dir SAVE_DIR
  --num-eval-batches NUM_EVAL_BATCHES
                        Number of batches to average evaluation performance at
                        the end.
  --rej-mult REJ_MULT   Memory/CPU trade-off factor for rejection resampling.
  --seed SEED
  --act-fct ACT_FCT     Activation function in mixing network g.
  --c-param C_PARAM     Concentration parameter of the conditional
  --m-param M_PARAM     Additional parameter for the marginal (only relevant
                        if it is not uniform).
  --tau TAU
  --n-mixing-layer N_MIXING_LAYER
                        Number of layers in nonlinear mixing network g.
  --n N                 Dimensionality of the latents.
  --space-type {box,sphere,unbounded}
  --m-p M_P             Type of ground-truth marginal distribution. p=0 means
                        uniform; all other p values correspond to (projected)
                        Lp Exponential
  --c-p C_P             Exponent of ground-truth Lp Exponential distribution.
  --lr LR
  --p P                 Exponent of the assumed model Lp Exponential
  --batch-size BATCH_SIZE
  --n-log-steps N_LOG_STEPS
  --n-steps N_STEPS


>python --help
usage: [-h] [--box-norm BOX_NORM] [--p P] [--experiment-dir EXPERIMENT_DIR] [--evaluate] [--specify SPECIFY] [--random-search] [--random-seeds] [--seed SEED] [--beta BETA] [--gamma GAMMA]
                     [--rate-prior RATE_PRIOR] [--data-distribution DATA_DISTRIBUTION] [--rate-data RATE_DATA] [--data-k DATA_K] [--betavae] [--search-beta] [--output-dir OUTPUT_DIR] [--log-dir LOG_DIR]
                     [--ckpt-dir CKPT_DIR] [--max-iter MAX_ITER] [--dataset DATASET] [--batch-size BATCH_SIZE] [--num-workers NUM_WORKERS] [--image-size IMAGE_SIZE] [--use-writer] [--z-dim Z_DIM] [--lr LR]
                     [--beta1 BETA1] [--beta2 BETA2] [--ckpt-name CKPT_NAME] [--log-step LOG_STEP] [--save-step SAVE_STEP] [--kitti-max-delta-t KITTI_MAX_DELTA_T] [--natural-discrete] [--verbose] [--cuda]
                     [--num_runs NUM_RUNS]

Disentanglement with InfoNCE/Contrastive Learning - KITTI Masks

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --box-norm BOX_NORM
  --p P
  --experiment-dir EXPERIMENT_DIR
                        specify path
  --evaluate            evaluate instead of train
  --specify SPECIFY     use argument to only compute a subset of metrics
  --random-search       whether to random search for params
  --random-seeds        whether to go over random seeds with UDR params
  --seed SEED           random seed
  --beta BETA           weight for kl to normal
  --gamma GAMMA         weight for kl to laplace
  --rate-prior RATE_PRIOR
                        rate (or inverse scale) for prior laplace (larger -> sparser).
  --data-distribution DATA_DISTRIBUTION
                        (laplace, uniform)
  --rate-data RATE_DATA
                        rate (or inverse scale) for data laplace (larger -> sparser). (-1 = rand).
  --data-k DATA_K       k for data uniform (-1 = rand).
  --betavae             whether to do standard betavae training (gamma=0)
  --search-beta         whether to do rand search over beta
  --output-dir OUTPUT_DIR
                        output directory
  --log-dir LOG_DIR     log directory
  --ckpt-dir CKPT_DIR   checkpoint directory
  --max-iter MAX_ITER   maximum training iteration
  --dataset DATASET     dataset name (dsprites, cars3d,smallnorb, shapes3d, mpi3d, kittimasks, natural
  --batch-size BATCH_SIZE
                        batch size
  --num-workers NUM_WORKERS
                        dataloader num_workers
  --image-size IMAGE_SIZE
                        image size. now only (64,64) is supported
  --use-writer          whether to use a log writer
  --z-dim Z_DIM         dimension of the representation z
  --lr LR               learning rate
  --beta1 BETA1         Adam optimizer beta1
  --beta2 BETA2         Adam optimizer beta2
  --ckpt-name CKPT_NAME
                        load previous checkpoint. insert checkpoint filename
  --log-step LOG_STEP   numer of iterations after which data is logged
  --save-step SAVE_STEP
                        number of iterations after which a checkpoint is saved
  --kitti-max-delta-t KITTI_MAX_DELTA_T
                        max t difference between frames sampled from kitti data loader.
  --natural-discrete    discretize natural sprites
  --verbose             for evaluation
  --num_runs NUM_RUNS   when searching over seeds, do 10


>python --help
usage: [-h] [--batch-size BATCH_SIZE] [--n-eval-samples N_EVAL_SAMPLES] [--lr LR] [--optimizer {adam,sgd}] [--iterations ITERATIONS]
                                                                   [--n-log-steps N_LOG_STEPS] [--load-model LOAD_MODEL] [--save-model SAVE_MODEL] [--save-every SAVE_EVERY] [--no-cuda] [--position-only]
                                                                   [--rotation-and-color-only] [--rotation-only] [--color-only] [--no-spotlight-position] [--no-spotlight-color] [--no-spotlight]
                                                                   [--non-periodic-rotation-and-color] [--dummy-mixing] [--identity-solution] [--identity-mixing-and-solution]
                                                                   [--approximate-dataset-nn-search] --offline-dataset OFFLINE_DATASET [--faiss-omp-threads FAISS_OMP_THREADS]
                                                                   [--box-constraint {None,fix,learnable}] [--sphere-constraint {None,fix,learnable}] [--workers WORKERS]
                                                                   [--mode {supervised,unsupervised,test}] [--supervised-loss {mse,r2}] [--unsupervised-loss {l1,l2,l3,vmf}]
                                                                   [--non-periodical-conditional {l1,l2,l3}] [--sigma SIGMA] [--encoder {rn18,rn50,rn101,rn151}]

Disentanglement with InfoNCE/Contrastive Learning - 3DIdent

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --batch-size BATCH_SIZE
  --n-eval-samples N_EVAL_SAMPLES
  --lr LR
  --optimizer {adam,sgd}
  --iterations ITERATIONS
                        How long to train the model
  --n-log-steps N_LOG_STEPS
                        How often to calculate scores and print them
  --load-model LOAD_MODEL
                        Path from where to load the model
  --save-model SAVE_MODEL
                        Path where to save the model
  --save-every SAVE_EVERY
                        After how many steps to save the model (will always be saved at the end)
  --offline-dataset OFFLINE_DATASET
  --faiss-omp-threads FAISS_OMP_THREADS
  --box-constraint {None,fix,learnable}
  --sphere-constraint {None,fix,learnable}
  --workers WORKERS     Number of workers to use (0=#cpus)
  --mode {supervised,unsupervised,test}
  --supervised-loss {mse,r2}
  --unsupervised-loss {l1,l2,l3,vmf}
  --non-periodical-conditional {l1,l2,l3}
  --sigma SIGMA         Sigma of the conditional distribution (for vMF: 1/kappa)
  --encoder {rn18,rn50,rn101,rn151}

3DIdent Dataset

We introduce 3DIdent, a dataset with hallmarks of natural environments (shadows, different lighting conditions, 3D rotations, etc.).

3DIdent dataset example images

You can access the full dataset here. The training and test datasets consists of 250000 and 25000 samples, respectively. To load, you can use the ThreeDIdentDataset class defined in datasets/


If you find our analysis helpful, please cite our pre-print:

  author = {
    Zimmermann, Roland S. and
    Sharma, Yash and
    Schneider, Steffen and
    Bethge, Matthias and
    Brendel, Wieland
  title = {
    Contrastive Learning Inverts
    the Data Generating Process
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the 38th International Conference on Machine Learning,
    {ICML} 2021, 18-24 July 2021, Virtual Event},
  series = {Proceedings of Machine Learning Research},
  volume = {139},
  pages = {12979--12990},
  publisher = {{PMLR}},
  year = {2021},
  url = {},


Code for the paper "Contrastive Learning Inverts the Data Generating Process".