Algorithms 2

Moderator: Yisen Wang


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Wed 21 July 19:00 - 19:20 PDT

Can Subnetwork Structure Be the Key to Out-of-Distribution Generalization?

Dinghuai Zhang · Kartik Ahuja · Yilun Xu · Yisen Wang · Aaron Courville

Can models with particular structure avoid being biased towards spurious correlation in out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization? Peters et al. (2016) provides a positive answer for linear cases. In this paper, we use a functional modular probing method to analyze deep model structures under OOD setting. We demonstrate that even in biased models (which focus on spurious correlation) there still exist unbiased functional subnetworks. Furthermore, we articulate and confirm the functional lottery ticket hypothesis: the full network contains a subnetwork with proper structure that can achieve better OOD performance. We then propose Modular Risk Minimization to solve the subnetwork selection problem. Our algorithm learns the functional structure from a given dataset, and can be combined with any other OOD regularization methods. Experiments on various OOD generalization tasks corroborate the effectiveness of our method.

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Wed 21 July 19:20 - 19:25 PDT

DORO: Distributional and Outlier Robust Optimization

Runtian Zhai · Chen Dan · Zico Kolter · Pradeep Ravikumar

Many machine learning tasks involve subpopulation shift where the testing data distribution is a subpopulation of the training distribution. For such settings, a line of recent work has proposed the use of a variant of empirical risk minimization(ERM) known as distributionally robust optimization (DRO). In this work, we apply DRO to real, large-scale tasks with subpopulation shift, and observe that DRO performs relatively poorly, and moreover has severe instability. We identify one direct cause of this phenomenon: sensitivity of DRO to outliers in the datasets. To resolve this issue, we propose the framework of DORO, for Distributional and Outlier Robust Optimization. At the core of this approach is a refined risk function which prevents DRO from overfitting to potential outliers. We instantiate DORO for the Cressie-Read family of R\'enyi divergence, and delve into two specific instances of this family: CVaR and $\chi^2$-DRO. We theoretically prove the effectiveness of the proposed method, and empirically show that DORO improves the performance and stability of DRO with experiments on large modern datasets, thereby positively addressing the open question raised by Hashimoto et al., 2018. Codes are available at

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Wed 21 July 19:25 - 19:30 PDT

AdaXpert: Adapting Neural Architecture for Growing Data

Shuaicheng Niu · Jiaxiang Wu · Guanghui Xu · Yifan Zhang · Yong Guo · Peilin Zhao · Peng Wang · Mingkui Tan

In real-world applications, data often come in a growing manner, where the data volume and the number of classes may increase dynamically. This will bring a critical challenge for learning: given the increasing data volume or the number of classes, one has to instantaneously adjust the neural model capacity to obtain promising performance. Existing methods either ignore the growing nature of data or seek to independently search an optimal architecture for a given dataset, and thus are incapable of promptly adjusting the architectures for the changed data. To address this, we present a neural architecture adaptation method, namely Adaptation eXpert (AdaXpert), to efficiently adjust previous architectures on the growing data. Specifically, we introduce an architecture adjuster to generate a suitable architecture for each data snapshot, based on the previous architecture and the different extent between current and previous data distributions. Furthermore, we propose an adaptation condition to determine the necessity of adjustment, thereby avoiding unnecessary and time-consuming adjustments. Extensive experiments on two growth scenarios (increasing data volume and number of classes) demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method.

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Wed 21 July 19:30 - 19:35 PDT

Neural SDEs as Infinite-Dimensional GANs

Patrick Kidger · James Foster · Xuechen Li · Terry Lyons

Stochastic differential equations (SDEs) are a staple of mathematical modelling of temporal dynamics. However, a fundamental limitation has been that such models have typically been relatively inflexible, which recent work introducing Neural SDEs has sought to solve. Here, we show that the current classical approach to fitting SDEs may be approached as a special case of (Wasserstein) GANs, and in doing so the neural and classical regimes may be brought together. The input noise is Brownian motion, the output samples are time-evolving paths produced by a numerical solver, and by parameterising a discriminator as a Neural Controlled Differential Equation (CDE), we obtain Neural SDEs as (in modern machine learning parlance) continuous-time generative time series models. Unlike previous work on this problem, this is a direct extension of the classical approach without reference to either prespecified statistics or density functions. Arbitrary drift and diffusions are admissible, so as the Wasserstein loss has a unique global minima, in the infinite data limit \textit{any} SDE may be learnt.

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Wed 21 July 19:35 - 19:40 PDT

Exact Optimization of Conformal Predictors via Incremental and Decremental Learning

Giovanni Cherubin · Konstantinos Chatzikokolakis · Martin Jaggi

Conformal Predictors (CP) are wrappers around ML models, providing error guarantees under weak assumptions on the data distribution. They are suitable for a wide range of problems, from classification and regression to anomaly detection. Unfortunately, their very high computational complexity limits their applicability to large datasets. In this work, we show that it is possible to speed up a CP classifier considerably, by studying it in conjunction with the underlying ML method, and by exploiting incremental\&decremental learning. For methods such as k-NN, KDE, and kernel LS-SVM, our approach reduces the running time by one order of magnitude, whilst producing exact solutions. With similar ideas, we also achieve a linear speed up for the harder case of bootstrapping. Finally, we extend these techniques to improve upon an optimization of k-NN CP for regression. We evaluate our findings empirically, and discuss when methods are suitable for CP optimization.

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Wed 21 July 19:40 - 19:45 PDT

Mandoline: Model Evaluation under Distribution Shift

Mayee Chen · Karan Goel · Nimit Sohoni · Fait Poms · Kayvon Fatahalian · Christopher Re

Machine learning models are often deployed in different settings than they were trained and validated on, posing a challenge to practitioners who wish to predict how well the deployed model will perform on a target distribution. If an unlabeled sample from the target distribution is available, along with a labeled sample from a possibly different source distribution, standard approaches such as importance weighting can be applied to estimate performance on the target. However, importance weighting struggles when the source and target distributions have non-overlapping support or are high-dimensional. Taking inspiration from fields such as epidemiology and polling, we develop Mandoline, a new evaluation framework that mitigates these issues. Our key insight is that practitioners may have prior knowledge about the ways in which the distribution shifts, which we can use to better guide the importance weighting procedure. Specifically, users write simple "slicing functions" – noisy, potentially correlated binary functions intended to capture possible axes of distribution shift – to compute reweighted performance estimates. We further describe a density ratio estimation framework for the slices and show how its estimation error scales with slice quality and dataset size. Empirical validation on NLP and vision tasks shows that Mandoline can estimate performance on the target distribution up to 3x more accurately compared to standard baselines.

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Wed 21 July 19:45 - 19:50 PDT

How and Why to Use Experimental Data to Evaluate Methods for Observational Causal Inference

Amanda Gentzel · Purva Pruthi · David Jensen

Methods that infer causal dependence from observational data are central to many areas of science, including medicine, economics, and the social sciences. A variety of theoretical properties of these methods have been proven, but empirical evaluation remains a challenge, largely due to the lack of observational data sets for which treatment effect is known. We describe and analyze observational sampling from randomized controlled trials (OSRCT), a method for evaluating causal inference methods using data from randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This method can be used to create constructed observational data sets with corresponding unbiased estimates of treatment effect, substantially increasing the number of data sets available for evaluating causal inference methods. We show that, in expectation, OSRCT creates data sets that are equivalent to those produced by randomly sampling from empirical data sets in which all potential outcomes are available. We then perform a large-scale evaluation of seven causal inference methods over 37 data sets, drawn from RCTs, as well as simulators, real-world computational systems, and observational data sets augmented with a synthetic response variable. We find notable performance differences when comparing across data from different sources, demonstrating the importance of using data from a variety of sources when evaluating any causal inference method.

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Wed 21 July 19:50 - 19:55 PDT


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