Learning Theory 2

Moderator: A. Rosa Castillo


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Wed 21 July 5:00 - 5:20 PDT
Robust Density Estimation from Batches: The Best Things in Life are (Nearly) Free

Ayush Jain · Alon Orlitsky

In many applications data are collected in batches, some potentially biased, corrupt, or even adversarial. Learning algorithms for this setting have therefore garnered considerable recent attention. In particular, a sequence of works has shown that all approximately piecewise polynomial distributions---and in particular all Gaussian, Gaussian-mixture, log-concave, low-modal, and monotone-hazard distributions---can be learned robustly in polynomial time. However, these results left open the question, stated explicitly in~\cite{chen2020learning}, about the best possible sample complexity of such algorithms. We answer this question, showing that, perhaps surprisingly, up to logarithmic factors, the optimal sample complexity is the same as for genuine, non-adversarial, data! To establish the result, we reduce robust learning of approximately piecewise polynomial distributions to robust learning of the probability of all subsets of size at most $k$ of a larger discrete domain, and learn these probabilities in optimal sample complexity linear in $k$ regardless of the domain size. In simulations, the algorithm runs very quickly and estimates distributions to essentially the accuracy achieved when all adversarial batches are removed. The results also imply the first polynomial-time sample-optimal algorithm for robust interval-based classification based on batched data.

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Wed 21 July 5:20 - 5:25 PDT
Generalization Bounds in the Presence of Outliers: a Median-of-Means Study

Pierre Laforgue · Guillaume Staerman · Stephan Clémençon

In contrast to the empirical mean, the Median-of-Means (MoM) is an estimator of the mean θ of a square integrable r.v. Z, around which accurate nonasymptotic confidence bounds can be built, even when Z does not exhibit a sub-Gaussian tail behavior. Thanks to the high confidence it achieves on heavy-tailed data, MoM has found various applications in machine learning, where it is used to design training procedures that are not sensitive to atypical observations. More recently, a new line of work is now trying to characterize and leverage MoM’s ability to deal with corrupted data. In this context, the present work proposes a general study of MoM’s concentration properties under the contamination regime, that provides a clear understanding on the impact of the outlier proportion and the number of blocks chosen. The analysis is extended to (multisample) U-statistics, i.e. averages over tuples of observations, that raise additional challenges due to the dependence induced. Finally, we show that the latter bounds can be used in a straightforward fashion to derive generalization guarantees for pairwise learning in a contaminated setting, and propose an algorithm to compute provably reliable decision functions.

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Wed 21 July 5:25 - 5:30 PDT
Meta Learning for Support Recovery in High-dimensional Precision Matrix Estimation

Qian Zhang · Yilin Zheng · Jean Honorio

In this paper, we study meta learning for support (i.e., the set of non-zero entries) recovery in high-dimensional precision matrix estimation where we reduce the sufficient sample complexity in a novel task with the information learned from other auxiliary tasks. In our setup, each task has a different random true precision matrix, each with a possibly different support. We assume that the union of the supports of all the true precision matrices (i.e., the true support union) is small in size. We propose to pool all the samples from different tasks, and \emph{improperly} estimate a single precision matrix by minimizing the $\ell_1$-regularized log-determinant Bregman divergence. We show that with high probability, the support of the \emph{improperly} estimated single precision matrix is equal to the true support union, provided a sufficient number of samples per task $n \in O((\log N)/K)$, for $N$-dimensional vectors and $K$ tasks. That is, one requires less samples per task when more tasks are available. We prove a matching information-theoretic lower bound for the necessary number of samples, which is $n \in \Omega((\log N)/K)$, and thus, our algorithm is minimax optimal. Then for the novel task, we prove that the minimization of the $\ell_1$-regularized log-determinant Bregman divergence with the additional constraint that the support is a subset of the estimated support union could reduce the sufficient sample complexity of successful support recovery to $O(\log(|S_{\text{off}}|))$ where $|S_{\text{off}}|$ is the number of off-diagonal elements in the support union and is much less than $N$ for sparse matrices. We also prove a matching information-theoretic lower bound of $\Omega(\log(|S_{\text{off}}|))$ for the necessary number of samples.

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Wed 21 July 5:30 - 5:35 PDT
Robust Inference for High-Dimensional Linear Models via Residual Randomization

Y. Samuel Wang · Si Kai Lee · Panos Toulis · Mladen Kolar

We propose a residual randomization procedure designed for robust inference using Lasso estimates in the high-dimensional setting. Compared to earlier work that focuses on sub-Gaussian errors, the proposed procedure is designed to work robustly in settings that also include heavy-tailed covariates and errors. Moreover, our procedure can be valid under clustered errors, which is important in practice, but has been largely overlooked by earlier work. Through extensive simulations, we illustrate our method's wider range of applicability as suggested by theory. In particular, we show that our method outperforms state-of-art methods in challenging, yet more realistic, settings where the distribution of covariates is heavy-tailed or the sample size is small, while it remains competitive in standard, ``well behaved" settings previously studied in the literature.

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Wed 21 July 5:35 - 5:40 PDT
Don’t Just Blame Over-parametrization for Over-confidence: Theoretical Analysis of Calibration in Binary Classification

Yu Bai · Song Mei · Huan Wang · Caiming Xiong

Modern machine learning models with high accuracy are often miscalibrated---the predicted top probability does not reflect the actual accuracy, and tends to be \emph{over-confident}. It is commonly believed that such over-confidence is mainly due to \emph{over-parametrization}, in particular when the model is large enough to memorize the training data and maximize the confidence.

In this paper, we show theoretically that over-parametrization is not the only reason for over-confidence. We prove that \emph{logistic regression is inherently over-confident}, in the realizable, under-parametrized setting where the data is generated from the logistic model, and the sample size is much larger than the number of parameters. Further, this over-confidence happens for general well-specified binary classification problems as long as the activation is symmetric and concave on the positive part. Perhaps surprisingly, we also show that over-confidence is not always the case---there exists another activation function (and a suitable loss function) under which the learned classifier is \emph{under-confident} at some probability values. Overall, our theory provides a precise characterization of calibration in realizable binary classification, which we verify on simulations and real data experiments.

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Wed 21 July 5:40 - 5:45 PDT
Generalization Guarantees for Neural Architecture Search with Train-Validation Split

Samet Oymak · Mingchen Li · Mahdi Soltanolkotabi

Neural Architecture Search (NAS) is a popular method for automatically designing optimized deep-learning architectures. NAS methods commonly use bilevel optimization where one optimizes the weights over the training data (lower-level problem) and hyperparameters - such as the architecture - over the validation data (upper-level problem). This paper explores the statistical aspects of such problems with train-validation splits. In practice, the lower-level problem is often overparameterized and can easily achieve zero loss. Thus, a-priori, it seems impossible to distinguish the right hyperparameters based on training loss alone which motivates a better understanding of train-validation split. To this aim, we first show that refined properties of the validation loss such as risk and hyper-gradients are indicative of those of the true test loss and help prevent overfitting with a near-minimal validation sample size. Importantly, this is established for continuous search spaces which are relevant for differentiable search schemes. We then establish generalization bounds for NAS problems with an emphasis on an activation search problem and gradient-based methods. Finally, we show rigorous connections between NAS and low-rank matrix learning which leads to algorithmic insights where the solution of the upper problem can be accurately learned via spectral methods to achieve near-minimal risk.

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Wed 21 July 5:45 - 5:50 PDT
Optimal Estimation of High Dimensional Smooth Additive Function Based on Noisy Observations

Fan Zhou · Ping Li

Given $\bx_j = \btheta + \bepsilon_j$, $j=1,...,n$ where $\btheta \in \RR^d$ is an unknown parameter and $\bepsilon_j$ are i.i.d. Gaussian noise vectors, we study the estimation of $f(\btheta)$ for a given smooth function $f:\RR^d \rightarrow \RR$ equipped with an additive structure. We inherit the idea from a recent work which introduced an effective bias reduction technique through iterative bootstrap and derive a bias-reducing estimator. By establishing its normal approximation results, we show that the proposed estimator can achieve asymptotic normality with a looser constraint on smoothness compared with general smooth function due to the additive structure. Such results further imply that the proposed estimator is asymptotically efficient. Both upper and lower bounds on mean squared error are proved which shows the proposed estimator is minimax optimal for the smooth class considered. Numerical simulation results are presented to validate our analysis and show its superior performance of the proposed estimator over the plug-in approach in terms of bias reduction and building confidence~intervals.

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Wed 21 July 5:50 - 5:55 PDT

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