We approach self-supervised learning of image representations from a statistical dependence perspective, proposing Self-Supervised Learning with the Hilbert-Schmidt Independence Criterion (SSL-HSIC). SSL-HSIC maximizes dependence between representations of transformations of an image and the image identity, while minimizing the kernelized variance of those representations. This framework yields a new understanding of InfoNCE, a variational lower bound on the mutual information (MI) between different transformations. While the MI itself is known to have pathologies which can result in learning meaningless representations, its bound is much better behaved: we show that it implicitly approximates SSL-HSIC (with a slightly different regularizer).
Our approach also gives us insight into BYOL, a negative-free SSL method, since SSL-HSIC similarly learns local neighborhoods of samples. SSL-HSIC allows us to directly optimize statistical dependence in time linear in the batch size, without restrictive data assumptions or indirect mutual information estimators. Trained with or without a target network, SSL-HSIC matches the current state-of-the-art for standard linear evaluation on ImageNet, semi-supervised learning and transfer to other classification and vision tasks such as semantic segmentation, depth estimation and object recognition.