Session

Poster Session 3



Abstract:

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Decoupling Exploration and Exploitation for Meta-Reinforcement Learning without Sacrifices

Evan Liu · Aditi Raghunathan · Percy Liang · Chelsea Finn

The goal of meta-reinforcement learning (meta-RL) is to build agents that can quickly learn new tasks by leveraging prior experience on related tasks. Learning a new task often requires both exploring to gather task-relevant information and exploiting this information to solve the task. In principle, optimal exploration and exploitation can be learned end-to-end by simply maximizing task performance. However, such meta-RL approaches struggle with local optima due to a chicken-and-egg problem: learning to explore requires good exploitation to gauge the exploration’s utility, but learning to exploit requires information gathered via exploration. Optimizing separate objectives for exploration and exploitation can avoid this problem, but prior meta-RL exploration objectives yield suboptimal policies that gather information irrelevant to the task. We alleviate both concerns by constructing an exploitation objective that automatically identifies task-relevant information and an exploration objective to recover only this information. This avoids local optima in end-to-end training, without sacrificing optimal exploration. Empirically, DREAM substantially outperforms existing approaches on complex meta-RL problems, such as sparse-reward 3D visual navigation. Videos of DREAM: https://ezliu.github.io/dream/

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Estimating $\alpha$-Rank from A Few Entries with Low Rank Matrix Completion

Yali Du · Xue Yan · Xu Chen · Jun Wang · Haifeng Zhang

Multi-agent evaluation aims at the assessment of an agent's strategy on the basis of interaction with others. Typically, existing methods such as $\alpha$-rank and its approximation still require to exhaustively compare all pairs of joint strategies for an accurate ranking, which in practice is computationally expensive. In this paper, we aim to reduce the number of pairwise comparisons in recovering a satisfying ranking for $n$ strategies in two-player meta-games, by exploring the fact that agents with similar skills may achieve similar payoffs against others. Two situations are considered: the first one is when we can obtain the true payoffs; the other one is when we can only access noisy payoff. Based on these formulations, we leverage low-rank matrix completion and design two novel algorithms for noise-free and noisy evaluations respectively. For both of these settings, we theorize that $O(nr \log n)$ ($n$ is the number of agents and $r$ is the rank of the payoff matrix) payoff entries are required to achieve sufficiently well strategy evaluation performance. Empirical results on evaluating the strategies in three synthetic games and twelve real world games demonstrate that strategy evaluation from a few entries can lead to comparable performance to algorithms with full knowledge of the payoff matrix.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
MARINA: Faster Non-Convex Distributed Learning with Compression

Eduard Gorbunov · Konstantin Burlachenko · Zhize Li · Peter Richtarik

We develop and analyze MARINA: a new communication efficient method for non-convex distributed learning over heterogeneous datasets. MARINA employs a novel communication compression strategy based on the compression of gradient differences that is reminiscent of but different from the strategy employed in the DIANA method of Mishchenko et al. (2019). Unlike virtually all competing distributed first-order methods, including DIANA, ours is based on a carefully designed biased gradient estimator, which is the key to its superior theoretical and practical performance. The communication complexity bounds we prove for MARINA are evidently better than those of all previous first-order methods. Further, we develop and analyze two variants of MARINA: VR-MARINA and PP-MARINA. The first method is designed for the case when the local loss functions owned by clients are either of a finite sum or of an expectation form, and the second method allows for a partial participation of clients – a feature important in federated learning. All our methods are superior to previous state-of-the-art methods in terms of oracle/communication complexity. Finally, we provide a convergence analysis of all methods for problems satisfying the Polyak-Łojasiewicz condition.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Tractable structured natural-gradient descent using local parameterizations

Wu Lin · Frank Nielsen · Khan Emtiyaz · Mark Schmidt

Natural-gradient descent (NGD) on structured parameter spaces (e.g., low-rank covariances) is computationally challenging due to difficult Fisher-matrix computations. We address this issue by using \emph{local-parameter coordinates} to obtain a flexible and efficient NGD method that works well for a wide-variety of structured parameterizations. We show four applications where our method (1) generalizes the exponential natural evolutionary strategy, (2) recovers existing Newton-like algorithms, (3) yields new structured second-order algorithms, and (4) gives new algorithms to learn covariances of Gaussian and Wishart-based distributions. We show results on a range of problems from deep learning, variational inference, and evolution strategies. Our work opens a new direction for scalable structured geometric methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Towards Open Ad Hoc Teamwork Using Graph-based Policy Learning

Muhammad Arrasy Rahman · Niklas Hopner · Filippos Christianos · Stefano V. Albrecht

Ad hoc teamwork is the challenging problem of designing an autonomous agent which can adapt quickly to collaborate with teammates without prior coordination mechanisms, including joint training. Prior work in this area has focused on closed teams in which the number of agents is fixed. In this work, we consider open teams by allowing agents with different fixed policies to enter and leave the environment without prior notification. Our solution builds on graph neural networks to learn agent models and joint-action value models under varying team compositions. We contribute a novel action-value computation that integrates the agent model and joint-action value model to produce action-value estimates. We empirically demonstrate that our approach successfully models the effects other agents have on the learner, leading to policies that robustly adapt to dynamic team compositions and significantly outperform several alternative methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Provable Generalization of SGD-trained Neural Networks of Any Width in the Presence of Adversarial Label Noise

Spencer Frei · Yuan Cao · Quanquan Gu

We consider a one-hidden-layer leaky ReLU network of arbitrary width trained by stochastic gradient descent (SGD) following an arbitrary initialization. We prove that SGD produces neural networks that have classification accuracy competitive with that of the best halfspace over the distribution for a broad class of distributions that includes log-concave isotropic and hard margin distributions. Equivalently, such networks can generalize when the data distribution is linearly separable but corrupted with adversarial label noise, despite the capacity to overfit. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work to show that overparameterized neural networks trained by SGD can generalize when the data is corrupted with adversarial label noise.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
The Logical Options Framework

Brandon Araki · Xiao Li · Kiran Vodrahalli · Jonathan DeCastro · Micah Fry · Daniela Rus

Learning composable policies for environments with complex rules and tasks is a challenging problem. We introduce a hierarchical reinforcement learning framework called the Logical Options Framework (LOF) that learns policies that are satisfying, optimal, and composable. LOF efficiently learns policies that satisfy tasks by representing the task as an automaton and integrating it into learning and planning. We provide and prove conditions under which LOF will learn satisfying, optimal policies. And lastly, we show how LOF's learned policies can be composed to satisfy unseen tasks with only 10-50 retraining steps on our benchmarks. We evaluate LOF on four tasks in discrete and continuous domains, including a 3D pick-and-place environment.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Agnostic Learning of Halfspaces with Gradient Descent via Soft Margins

Spencer Frei · Yuan Cao · Quanquan Gu

We analyze the properties of gradient descent on convex surrogates for the zero-one loss for the agnostic learning of halfspaces. We show that when a quantity we refer to as the \textit{soft margin} is well-behaved---a condition satisfied by log-concave isotropic distributions among others---minimizers of convex surrogates for the zero-one loss are approximate minimizers for the zero-one loss itself. As standard convex optimization arguments lead to efficient guarantees for minimizing convex surrogates of the zero-one loss, our methods allow for the first positive guarantees for the classification error of halfspaces learned by gradient descent using the binary cross-entropy or hinge loss in the presence of agnostic label noise.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
ARMS: Antithetic-REINFORCE-Multi-Sample Gradient for Binary Variables

Alek Dimitriev · Mingyuan Zhou

Estimating the gradients for binary variables is a task that arises frequently in various domains, such as training discrete latent variable models. What has been commonly used is a REINFORCE based Monte Carlo estimation method that uses either independent samples or pairs of negatively correlated samples. To better utilize more than two samples, we propose ARMS, an Antithetic REINFORCE-based Multi-Sample gradient estimator. ARMS uses a copula to generate any number of mutually antithetic samples. It is unbiased, has low variance, and generalizes both DisARM, which we show to be ARMS with two samples, and the leave-one-out REINFORCE (LOORF) estimator, which is ARMS with uncorrelated samples. We evaluate ARMS on several datasets for training generative models, and our experimental results show that it outperforms competing methods. We also develop a version of ARMS for optimizing the multi-sample variational bound, and show that it outperforms both VIMCO and DisARM. The code is publicly available.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Prior Image-Constrained Reconstruction using Style-Based Generative Models

Varun A. Kelkar · Mark Anastasio

Obtaining a useful estimate of an object from highly incomplete imaging measurements remains a holy grail of imaging science. Deep learning methods have shown promise in learning object priors or constraints to improve the conditioning of an ill-posed imaging inverse problem. In this study, a framework for estimating an object of interest that is semantically related to a known prior image, is proposed. An optimization problem is formulated in the disentangled latent space of a style-based generative model, and semantically meaningful constraints are imposed using the disentangled latent representation of the prior image. Stable recovery from incomplete measurements with the help of a prior image is theoretically analyzed. Numerical experiments demonstrating the superior performance of our approach as compared to related methods are presented.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Joint Online Learning and Decision-making via Dual Mirror Descent

Alfonso Lobos Ruiz · Paul Grigas · Zheng Wen

We consider an online revenue maximization problem over a finite time horizon subject to lower and upper bounds on cost. At each period, an agent receives a context vector sampled i.i.d. from an unknown distribution and needs to make a decision adaptively. The revenue and cost functions depend on the context vector as well as some fixed but possibly unknown parameter vector to be learned. We propose a novel offline benchmark and a new algorithm that mixes an online dual mirror descent scheme with a generic parameter learning process. When the parameter vector is known, we demonstrate an $O(\sqrt{T})$ regret result as well an $O(\sqrt{T})$ bound on the possible constraint violations. When the parameter is not known and must be learned, we demonstrate that the regret and constraint violations are the sums of the previous $O(\sqrt{T})$ terms plus terms that directly depend on the convergence of the learning process.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Path Planning using Neural A* Search

Ryo Yonetani · Tatsunori Taniai · Mohammadamin Barekatain · Mai Nishimura · Asako Kanezaki

We present Neural A, a novel data-driven search method for path planning problems. Despite the recent increasing attention to data-driven path planning, machine learning approaches to search-based planning are still challenging due to the discrete nature of search algorithms. In this work, we reformulate a canonical A search algorithm to be differentiable and couple it with a convolutional encoder to form an end-to-end trainable neural network planner. Neural A* solves a path planning problem by encoding a problem instance to a guidance map and then performing the differentiable A* search with the guidance map. By learning to match the search results with ground-truth paths provided by experts, Neural A* can produce a path consistent with the ground truth accurately and efficiently. Our extensive experiments confirmed that Neural A* outperformed state-of-the-art data-driven planners in terms of the search optimality and efficiency trade-off. Furthermore, Neural A* successfully predicted realistic human trajectories by directly performing search-based planning on natural image inputs.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
TempoRL: Learning When to Act

André Biedenkapp · Raghu Rajan · Frank Hutter · Marius Lindauer

Reinforcement learning is a powerful approach to learn behaviour through interactions with an environment. However, behaviours are usually learned in a purely reactive fashion, where an appropriate action is selected based on an observation. In this form, it is challenging to learn when it is necessary to execute new decisions. This makes learning inefficient especially in environments that need various degrees of fine and coarse control. To address this, we propose a proactive setting in which the agent not only selects an action in a state but also for how long to commit to that action. Our TempoRL approach introduces skip connections between states and learns a skip-policy for repeating the same action along these skips. We demonstrate the effectiveness of TempoRL on a variety of traditional and deep RL environments, showing that our approach is capable of learning successful policies up to an order of magnitude faster than vanilla Q-learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
A statistical perspective on distillation

Aditya Menon · Ankit Singh Rawat · Sashank Jakkam Reddi · Seungyeon Kim · Sanjiv Kumar

Knowledge distillation is a technique for improving a student'' model by replacing its one-hot training labels with a label distribution obtained from ateacher'' model. Despite its broad success, several basic questions --- e.g., Why does distillation help? Why do more accurate teachers not necessarily distill better? --- have received limited formal study. In this paper, we present a statistical perspective on distillation which provides an answer to these questions. Our core observation is that a Bayes teacher'' providing the true class-probabilities can lower the variance of the student objective, and thus improve performance. We then establish a bias-variance tradeoff that quantifies the value of teachers that approximate the Bayes class-probabilities. This provides a formal criterion as to what constitutes agood'' teacher, namely, the quality of its probability estimates. Finally, we illustrate how our statistical perspective facilitates novel applications of distillation to bipartite ranking and multiclass retrieval.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Bilinear Classes: A Structural Framework for Provable Generalization in RL

Simon Du · Sham Kakade · Jason Lee · Shachar Lovett · Gaurav Mahajan · Wen Sun · Ruosong Wang

This work introduces Bilinear Classes, a new structural framework, which permit generalization in reinforcement learning in a wide variety of settings through the use of function approximation. The framework incorporates nearly all existing models in which a polynomial sample complexity is achievable, and, notably, also includes new models, such as the Linear Q/V model in which both the optimal Q-function and the optimal V-function are linear in some known feature space. Our main result provides an RL algorithm which has polynomial sample complexity for Bilinear Classes; notably, this sample complexity is stated in terms of a reduction to the generalization error of an underlying supervised learning sub-problem. These bounds nearly match the best known sample complexity bounds for existing models. Furthermore, this framework also extends to the infinite dimensional (RKHS) setting: for the the Linear Q/V model, linear MDPs, and linear mixture MDPs, we provide sample complexities that have no explicit dependence on the explicit feature dimension (which could be infinite), but instead depends only on information theoretic quantities.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Self-Paced Context Evaluation for Contextual Reinforcement Learning

Theresa Eimer · André Biedenkapp · Frank Hutter · Marius Lindauer

Reinforcement learning (RL) has made a lot of advances for solving a single problem in a given environment; but learning policies that generalize to unseen variations of a problem remains challenging. To improve sample efficiency for learning on such instances of a problem domain, we present Self-Paced Context Evaluation (SPaCE). Based on self-paced learning, SPaCE automatically generates instance curricula online with little computational overhead. To this end, SPaCE leverages information contained in state values during training to accelerate and improve training performance as well as generalization capabilities to new \tasks from the same problem domain. Nevertheless, SPaCE is independent of the problem domain at hand and can be applied on top of any RL agent with state-value function approximation. We demonstrate SPaCE's ability to speed up learning of different value-based RL agents on two environments, showing better generalization capabilities and up to 10x faster learning compared to naive approaches such as round robin or SPDRL, as the closest state-of-the-art approach.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
How Do Adam and Training Strategies Help BNNs Optimization

Zechun Liu · Zhiqiang Shen · Shichao Li · Koen Helwegen · Dong Huang · Kwang-Ting Cheng

The best performing Binary Neural Networks (BNNs) are usually attained using Adam optimization and its multi-step training variants. However, to the best of our knowledge, few studies explore the fundamental reasons why Adam is superior to other optimizers like SGD for BNN optimization or provide analytical explanations that support specific training strategies. To address this, in this paper we first investigate the trajectories of gradients and weights in BNNs during the training process. We show the regularization effect of second-order momentum in Adam is crucial to revitalize the weights that are dead due to the activation saturation in BNNs. We find that Adam, through its adaptive learning rate strategy, is better equipped to handle the rugged loss surface of BNNs and reaches a better optimum with higher generalization ability. Furthermore, we inspect the intriguing role of the real-valued weights in binary networks, and reveal the effect of weight decay on the stability and sluggishness of BNN optimization. Through extensive experiments and analysis, we derive a simple training scheme, building on existing Adam-based optimization, which achieves 70.5% top-1 accuracy on the ImageNet dataset using the same architecture as the state-of-the-art ReActNet while achieving 1.1% higher accuracy. Code and models are available at https://github.com/liuzechun/AdamBNN.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Near Optimal Reward-Free Reinforcement Learning

Zhang Zihan · Simon Du · Xiangyang Ji

We study the reward-free reinforcement learning framework, which is particularly suitable for batch reinforcement learning and scenarios where one needs policies for multiple reward functions. This framework has two phases: in the exploration phase, the agent collects trajectories by interacting with the environment without using any reward signal; in the planning phase, the agent needs to return a near-optimal policy for arbitrary reward functions. %This framework is suitable for batch RL setting and the setting where there are multiple reward functions of interes We give a new efficient algorithm, \textbf{S}taged \textbf{S}ampling + \textbf{T}runcated \textbf{P}lanning (\algoname), which interacts with the environment at most $O\left( \frac{S^2A}{\epsilon^2}\poly\log\left(\frac{SAH}{\epsilon}\right) \right)$ episodes in the exploration phase, and guarantees to output a near-optimal policy for arbitrary reward functions in the planning phase, where $S$ is the size of state space, $A$ is the size of action space, $H$ is the planning horizon, and $\epsilon$ is the target accuracy relative to the total reward. Notably, our sample complexity scales only \emph{logarithmically} with $H$, in contrast to all existing results which scale \emph{polynomially} with $H$. Furthermore, this bound matches the minimax lower bound $\Omega\left(\frac{S^2A}{\epsilon^2}\right)$ up to logarithmic factors. Our results rely on three new techniques : 1) A new sufficient condition for the dataset to plan for an $\epsilon$-suboptimal policy % for any totally bounded reward function ; 2) A new way to plan efficiently under the proposed condition using soft-truncated planning; 3) Constructing extended MDP to maximize the truncated accumulative rewards efficiently.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Quantifying and Reducing Bias in Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Structured Anomalies

Uthsav Chitra · Kimberly Ding · Jasper C.H. Lee · Benjamin Raphael

Anomaly estimation, or the problem of finding a subset of a dataset that differs from the rest of the dataset, is a classic problem in machine learning and data mining. In both theoretical work and in applications, the anomaly is assumed to have a specific structure defined by membership in an anomaly family. For example, in temporal data the anomaly family may be time intervals, while in network data the anomaly family may be connected subgraphs. The most prominent approach for anomaly estimation is to compute the Maximum Likelihood Estimator (MLE) of the anomaly; however, it was recently observed that for normally distributed data, the MLE is a biased estimator for some anomaly families. In this work, we demonstrate that in the normal means setting, the bias of the MLE depends on the size of the anomaly family. We prove that if the number of sets in the anomaly family that contain the anomaly is sub-exponential, then the MLE is asymptotically unbiased. We also provide empirical evidence that the converse is true: if the number of such sets is exponential, then the MLE is asymptotically biased. Our analysis unifies a number of earlier results on the bias of the MLE for specific anomaly families. Next, we derive a new anomaly estimator using a mixture model, and we prove that our anomaly estimator is asymptotically unbiased regardless of the size of the anomaly family. We illustrate the advantages of our estimator versus the MLE on disease outbreak data and highway traffic data.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Dynamic Game Theoretic Neural Optimizer

Guan-Horng Liu · Tianrong Chen · Evangelos Theodorou

The connection between training deep neural networks (DNNs) and optimal control theory (OCT) has attracted considerable attention as a principled tool of algorithmic design. Despite few attempts being made, they have been limited to architectures where the layer propagation resembles a Markovian dynamical system. This casts doubts on their flexibility to modern networks that heavily rely on non-Markovian dependencies between layers (e.g. skip connections in residual networks). In this work, we propose a novel dynamic game perspective by viewing each layer as a player in a dynamic game characterized by the DNN itself. Through this lens, different classes of optimizers can be seen as matching different types of Nash equilibria, depending on the implicit information structure of each (p)layer. The resulting method, called Dynamic Game Theoretic Neural Optimizer (DGNOpt), not only generalizes OCT-inspired optimizers to richer network class; it also motivates a new training principle by solving a multi-player cooperative game. DGNOpt shows convergence improvements over existing methods on image classification datasets with residual and inception networks. Our work marries strengths from both OCT and game theory, paving ways to new algorithmic opportunities from robust optimal control and bandit-based optimization.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Group-Sparse Matrix Factorization for Transfer Learning of Word Embeddings

Kan Xu · Xuanyi Zhao · Hamsa Bastani · Osbert Bastani

Sparse regression has recently been applied to enable transfer learning from very limited data. We study an extension of this approach to unsupervised learning---in particular, learning word embeddings from unstructured text corpora using low-rank matrix factorization. Intuitively, when transferring word embeddings to a new domain, we expect that the embeddings change for only a small number of words---e.g., the ones with novel meanings in that domain. We propose a novel group-sparse penalty that exploits this sparsity to perform transfer learning when there is very little text data available in the target domain---e.g., a single article of text. We prove generalization bounds for our algorithm. Furthermore, we empirically evaluate its effectiveness, both in terms of prediction accuracy in downstream tasks as well as in terms of interpretability of the results.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
An exact solver for the Weston-Watkins SVM subproblem

Yutong Wang · Clay Scott

Recent empirical evidence suggests that the Weston-Watkins support vector machine is among the best performing multiclass extensions of the binary SVM. Current state-of-the-art solvers repeatedly solve a particular subproblem approximately using an iterative strategy. In this work, we propose an algorithm that solves the subproblem exactly using a novel reparametrization of the Weston-Watkins dual problem. For linear WW-SVMs, our solver shows significant speed-up over the state-of-the-art solver when the number of classes is large. Our exact subproblem solver also allows us to prove linear convergence of the overall solver.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
SUNRISE: A Simple Unified Framework for Ensemble Learning in Deep Reinforcement Learning

Kimin Lee · Michael Laskin · Aravind Srinivas · Pieter Abbeel

Off-policy deep reinforcement learning (RL) has been successful in a range of challenging domains. However, standard off-policy RL algorithms can suffer from several issues, such as instability in Q-learning and balancing exploration and exploitation. To mitigate these issues, we present SUNRISE, a simple unified ensemble method, which is compatible with various off-policy RL algorithms. SUNRISE integrates two key ingredients: (a) ensemble-based weighted Bellman backups, which re-weight target Q-values based on uncertainty estimates from a Q-ensemble, and (b) an inference method that selects actions using the highest upper-confidence bounds for efficient exploration. By enforcing the diversity between agents using Bootstrap with random initialization, we show that these different ideas are largely orthogonal and can be fruitfully integrated, together further improving the performance of existing off-policy RL algorithms, such as Soft Actor-Critic and Rainbow DQN, for both continuous and discrete control tasks on both low-dimensional and high-dimensional environments.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Improved Confidence Bounds for the Linear Logistic Model and Applications to Bandits

Kwang-Sung Jun · Lalit Jain · Blake Mason · Houssam Nassif

We propose improved fixed-design confidence bounds for the linear logistic model. Our bounds significantly improve upon the state-of-the-art bound by Li et al. (2017) via recent developments of the self-concordant analysis of the logistic loss (Faury et al., 2020). Specifically, our confidence bound avoids a direct dependence on $1/\kappa$, where $\kappa$ is the minimal variance over all arms' reward distributions. In general, $1/\kappa$ scales exponentially with the norm of the unknown linear parameter $\theta^*$. Instead of relying on this worst case quantity, our confidence bound for the reward of any given arm depends directly on the variance of that arm's reward distribution. We present two applications of our novel bounds to pure exploration and regret minimization logistic bandits improving upon state-of-the-art performance guarantees. For pure exploration we also provide a lower bound highlighting a dependence on $1/\kappa$ for a family of instances.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Kernel Stein Discrepancy Descent

Anna Korba · Pierre-Cyril Aubin-Frankowski · Szymon Majewski · Pierre Ablin

Among dissimilarities between probability distributions, the Kernel Stein Discrepancy (KSD) has received much interest recently. We investigate the properties of its Wasserstein gradient flow to approximate a target probability distribution $\pi$ on $\mathbb{R}^d$, known up to a normalization constant. This leads to a straightforwardly implementable, deterministic score-based method to sample from $\pi$, named KSD Descent, which uses a set of particles to approximate $\pi$. Remarkably, owing to a tractable loss function, KSD Descent can leverage robust parameter-free optimization schemes such as L-BFGS; this contrasts with other popular particle-based schemes such as the Stein Variational Gradient Descent algorithm. We study the convergence properties of KSD Descent and demonstrate its practical relevance. However, we also highlight failure cases by showing that the algorithm can get stuck in spurious local minima.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
AGENT: A Benchmark for Core Psychological Reasoning

Tianmin Shu · Abhishek Bhandwaldar · Chuang Gan · Kevin Smith · Shari Liu · Dan Gutfreund · Elizabeth Spelke · Josh Tenenbaum · Tomer Ullman

For machine agents to successfully interact with humans in real-world settings, they will need to develop an understanding of human mental life. Intuitive psychology, the ability to reason about hidden mental variables that drive observable actions, comes naturally to people: even pre-verbal infants can tell agents from objects, expecting agents to act efficiently to achieve goals given constraints. Despite recent interest in machine agents that reason about other agents, it is not clear if such agents learn or hold the core psychology principles that drive human reasoning. Inspired by cognitive development studies on intuitive psychology, we present a benchmark consisting of a large dataset of procedurally generated 3D animations, AGENT (Action, Goal, Efficiency, coNstraint, uTility), structured around four scenarios (goal preferences, action efficiency, unobserved constraints, and cost-reward trade-offs) that probe key concepts of core intuitive psychology. We validate AGENT with human-ratings, propose an evaluation protocol emphasizing generalization, and compare two strong baselines built on Bayesian inverse planning and a Theory of Mind neural network. Our results suggest that to pass the designed tests of core intuitive psychology at human levels, a model must acquire or have built-in representations of how agents plan, combining utility computations and core knowledge of objects and physics.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Active Feature Acquisition with Generative Surrogate Models

Yang Li · Junier Oliva

Many real-world situations allow for the acquisition of additional relevant information when making an assessment with limited or uncertain data. However, traditional ML approaches either require all features to be acquired beforehand or regard part of them as missing data that cannot be acquired. In this work, we consider models that perform active feature acquisition (AFA) and query the environment for unobserved features to improve the prediction assessments at evaluation time. Our work reformulates the Markov decision process (MDP) that underlies the AFA problem as a generative modeling task and optimizes a policy via a novel model-based approach. We propose learning a generative surrogate model (GSM) that captures the dependencies among input features to assess potential information gain from acquisitions. The GSM is leveraged to provide intermediate rewards and auxiliary information to aid the agent navigate a complicated high-dimensional action space and sparse rewards. Furthermore, we extend AFA in a task we coin active instance recognition (AIR) for the unsupervised case where the target variables are the unobserved features themselves and the goal is to collect information for a particular instance in a cost-efficient way. Empirical results demonstrate that our approach achieves considerably better performance than previous state of the art methods on both supervised and unsupervised tasks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Generalised Lipschitz Regularisation Equals Distributional Robustness

Zac Cranko · Zhan Shi · Xinhua Zhang · Richard Nock · Simon Kornblith

The problem of adversarial examples has highlighted the need for a theory of regularisation that is general enough to apply to exotic function classes, such as universal approximators. In response, we have been able to significantly sharpen existing results regarding the relationship between distributional robustness and regularisation, when defined with a transportation cost uncertainty set. The theory allows us to characterise the conditions under which the distributional robustness equals a Lipschitz-regularised model, and to tightly quantify, for the first time, the slackness under very mild assumptions. As a theoretical application we show a new result explicating the connection between adversarial learning and distributional robustness. We then give new results for how to achieve Lipschitz regularisation of kernel classifiers, which are demonstrated experimentally.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Approximating a Distribution Using Weight Queries

Nadav Barak · Sivan Sabato

We consider a novel challenge: approximating a distribution without the ability to randomly sample from that distribution. We study how such an approximation can be obtained using weight queries. Given some data set of examples, a weight query presents one of the examples to an oracle, which returns the probability, according to the target distribution, of observing examples similar to the presented example. This oracle can represent, for instance, counting queries to a database of the target population, or an interface to a search engine which returns the number of results that match a given search.

We propose an interactive algorithm that iteratively selects data set examples and performs corresponding weight queries. The algorithm finds a reweighting of the data set that approximates the weights according to the target distribution, using a limited number of weight queries. We derive an approximation bound on the total variation distance between the reweighting found by the algorithm and the best achievable reweighting. Our algorithm takes inspiration from the UCB approach common in multi-armed bandits problems, and combines it with a new discrepancy estimator and a greedy iterative procedure. In addition to our theoretical guarantees, we demonstrate in experiments the advantages of the proposed algorithm over several baselines. A python implementation of the proposed algorithm and of all the experiments can be found at https://github.com/Nadav-Barak/AWP.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning from History for Byzantine Robust Optimization

Sai Praneeth Reddy Karimireddy · Lie He · Martin Jaggi

Byzantine robustness has received significant attention recently given its importance for distributed and federated learning. In spite of this, we identify severe flaws in existing algorithms even when the data across the participants is identically distributed. First, we show realistic examples where current state of the art robust aggregation rules fail to converge even in the absence of any Byzantine attackers. Secondly, we prove that even if the aggregation rules may succeed in limiting the influence of the attackers in a single round, the attackers can couple their attacks across time eventually leading to divergence. To address these issues, we present two surprisingly simple strategies: a new robust iterative clipping procedure, and incorporating worker momentum to overcome time-coupled attacks. This is the first provably robust method for the standard stochastic optimization setting.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
A Regret Minimization Approach to Iterative Learning Control

Naman Agarwal · Elad Hazan · Anirudha Majumdar · Karan Singh

We consider the setting of iterative learning control, or model-based policy learning in the presence of uncertain, time-varying dynamics. In this setting, we propose a new performance metric, planning regret, which replaces the standard stochastic uncertainty assumptions with worst case regret. Based on recent advances in non-stochastic control, we design a new iterative algorithm for minimizing planning regret that is more robust to model mismatch and uncertainty. We provide theoretical and empirical evidence that the proposed algorithm outperforms existing methods on several benchmarks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Distribution-Free Calibration Guarantees for Histogram Binning without Sample Splitting

Chirag Gupta · Aaditya Ramdas

We prove calibration guarantees for the popular histogram binning (also called uniform-mass binning) method of Zadrozny and Elkan (2001). Histogram binning has displayed strong practical performance, but theoretical guarantees have only been shown for sample split versions that avoid 'double dipping' the data. We demonstrate that the statistical cost of sample splitting is practically significant on a credit default dataset. We then prove calibration guarantees for the original method that double dips the data, using a certain Markov property of order statistics. Based on our results, we make practical recommendations for choosing the number of bins in histogram binning. In our illustrative simulations, we propose a new tool for assessing calibration---validity plots---which provide more information than an ECE estimate.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Instance-Optimal Compressed Sensing via Posterior Sampling

Ajil Jalal · Sushrut Karmalkar · Alexandros Dimakis · Eric Price

We characterize the measurement complexity of compressed sensing of signals drawn from a known prior distribution, even when the support of the prior is the entire space (rather than, say, sparse vectors). We show for Gaussian measurements and \emph{any} prior distribution on the signal, that the posterior sampling estimator achieves near-optimal recovery guarantees. Moreover, this result is robust to model mismatch, as long as the distribution estimate (e.g., from an invertible generative model) is close to the true distribution in Wasserstein distance. We implement the posterior sampling estimator for deep generative priors using Langevin dynamics, and empirically find that it produces accurate estimates with more diversity than MAP.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Robust Reinforcement Learning using Least Squares Policy Iteration with Provable Performance Guarantees

Kishan Panaganti · Dileep Kalathil

This paper addresses the problem of model-free reinforcement learning for Robust Markov Decision Process (RMDP) with large state spaces. The goal of the RMDPs framework is to find a policy that is robust against the parameter uncertainties due to the mismatch between the simulator model and real-world settings. We first propose the Robust Least Squares Policy Evaluation algorithm, which is a multi-step online model-free learning algorithm for policy evaluation. We prove the convergence of this algorithm using stochastic approximation techniques. We then propose Robust Least Squares Policy Iteration (RLSPI) algorithm for learning the optimal robust policy. We also give a general weighted Euclidean norm bound on the error (closeness to optimality) of the resulting policy. Finally, we demonstrate the performance of our RLSPI algorithm on some benchmark problems from OpenAI Gym.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Continuous Coordination As a Realistic Scenario for Lifelong Learning

Hadi Nekoei · Akilesh Badrinaaraayanan · Aaron Courville · Sarath Chandar

Current deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms are still highly task-specific and lack the ability to generalize to new environments. Lifelong learning (LLL), however, aims at solving multiple tasks sequentially by efficiently transferring and using knowledge between tasks. Despite a surge of interest in lifelong RL in recent years, the lack of a realistic testbed makes robust evaluation of LLL algorithms difficult. Multi-agent RL (MARL), on the other hand, can be seen as a natural scenario for lifelong RL due to its inherent non-stationarity, since the agents’ policies change over time. In this work, we introduce a multi-agent lifelong learning testbed that supports both zero-shot and few-shot settings. Our setup is based on Hanabi — a partially-observable, fully cooperative multi-agent game that has been shown to be challenging for zero-shot coordination. Its large strategy space makes it a desirable environment for lifelong RL tasks. We evaluate several recent MARL methods, and benchmark state-of-the-art LLL algorithms in limited memory and computation regimes to shed light on their strengths and weaknesses. This continual learning paradigm also provides us with a pragmatic way of going beyond centralized training which is the most commonly used training protocol in MARL. We empirically show that the agents trained in our setup are able to coordinate well with unseen agents, without any additional assumptions made by previous works. The code and all pre-trained models are available at https://github.com/chandar-lab/Lifelong-Hanabi.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Sawtooth Factorial Topic Embeddings Guided Gamma Belief Network

Zhibin Duan · Dongsheng Wang · Bo Chen · CHAOJIE WANG · Wenchao Chen · yewen li · Jie Ren · Mingyuan Zhou

Hierarchical topic models such as the gamma belief network (GBN) have delivered promising results in mining multi-layer document representations and discovering interpretable topic taxonomies. However, they often assume in the prior that the topics at each layer are independently drawn from the Dirichlet distribution, ignoring the dependencies between the topics both at the same layer and across different layers. To relax this assumption, we propose sawtooth factorial topic embedding guided GBN, a deep generative model of documents that captures the dependencies and semantic similarities between the topics in the embedding space. Specifically, both the words and topics are represented as embedding vectors of the same dimension. The topic matrix at a layer is factorized into the product of a factor loading matrix and a topic embedding matrix, the transpose of which is set as the factor loading matrix of the layer above. Repeating this particular type of factorization, which shares components between adjacent layers, leads to a structure referred to as sawtooth factorization. An auto-encoding variational inference network is constructed to optimize the model parameter via stochastic gradient descent. Experiments on big corpora show that our models outperform other neural topic models on extracting deeper interpretable topics and deriving better document representations.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Batch Value-function Approximation with Only Realizability

Tengyang Xie · Nan Jiang

We make progress in a long-standing problem of batch reinforcement learning (RL): learning Q* from an exploratory and polynomial-sized dataset, using a realizable and otherwise arbitrary function class. In fact, all existing algorithms demand function-approximation assumptions stronger than realizability, and the mounting negative evidence has led to a conjecture that sample-efficient learning is impossible in this setting (Chen & Jiang, 2019). Our algorithm, BVFT, breaks the hardness conjecture (albeit under a stronger notion of exploratory data) via a tournament procedure that reduces the learning problem to pairwise comparison, and solves the latter with the help of a state-action-space partition constructed from the compared functions. We also discuss how BVFT can be applied to model selection among other extensions and open problems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Revealing the Structure of Deep Neural Networks via Convex Duality

Tolga Ergen · Mert Pilanci

We study regularized deep neural networks (DNNs) and introduce a convex analytic framework to characterize the structure of the hidden layers. We show that a set of optimal hidden layer weights for a norm regularized DNN training problem can be explicitly found as the extreme points of a convex set. For the special case of deep linear networks, we prove that each optimal weight matrix aligns with the previous layers via duality. More importantly, we apply the same characterization to deep ReLU networks with whitened data and prove the same weight alignment holds. As a corollary, we also prove that norm regularized deep ReLU networks yield spline interpolation for one-dimensional datasets which was previously known only for two-layer networks. Furthermore, we provide closed-form solutions for the optimal layer weights when data is rank-one or whitened. The same analysis also applies to architectures with batch normalization even for arbitrary data. Therefore, we obtain a complete explanation for a recent empirical observation termed Neural Collapse where class means collapse to the vertices of a simplex equiangular tight frame.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Combining Pessimism with Optimism for Robust and Efficient Model-Based Deep Reinforcement Learning

Sebastian Curi · Ilija Bogunovic · Andreas Krause

In real-world tasks, reinforcement learning (RL) agents frequently encounter situations that are not present during training time. To ensure reliable performance, the RL agents need to exhibit robustness to such worst-case situations. The robust-RL framework addresses this challenge via a minimax optimization between an agent and an adversary. Previous robust RL algorithms are either sample inefficient, lack robustness guarantees, or do not scale to large problems. We propose the Robust Hallucinated Upper-Confidence RL (RH-UCRL) algorithm to provably solve this problem while attaining near-optimal sample complexity guarantees. RH-UCRL is a model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) algorithm that effectively distinguishes between epistemic and aleatoric uncertainty and efficiently explores both the agent and the adversary decision spaces during policy learning. We scale RH-UCRL to complex tasks via neural networks ensemble models as well as neural network policies. Experimentally we demonstrate that RH-UCRL outperforms other robust deep RL algorithms in a variety of adversarial environments.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Spectral Normalisation for Deep Reinforcement Learning: An Optimisation Perspective

Florin Gogianu · Tudor Berariu · Mihaela Rosca · Claudia Clopath · Lucian Busoniu · Razvan Pascanu

Most of the recent deep reinforcement learning advances take an RL-centric perspective and focus on refinements of the training objective. We diverge from this view and show we can recover the performance of these developments not by changing the objective, but by regularising the value-function estimator. Constraining the Lipschitz constant of a single layer using spectral normalisation is sufficient to elevate the performance of a Categorical-DQN agent to that of a more elaborated agent on the challenging Atari domain. We conduct ablation studies to disentangle the various effects normalisation has on the learning dynamics and show that is sufficient to modulate the parameter updates to recover most of the performance of spectral normalisation. These findings hint towards the need to also focus on the neural component and its learning dynamics to tackle the peculiarities of Deep Reinforcement Learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Risk Bounds and Rademacher Complexity in Batch Reinforcement Learning

Yaqi Duan · Chi Jin · Zhiyuan Li

This paper considers batch Reinforcement Learning (RL) with general value function approximation. Our study investigates the minimal assumptions to reliably estimate/minimize Bellman error, and characterizes the generalization performance by (local) Rademacher complexities of general function classes, which makes initial steps in bridging the gap between statistical learning theory and batch RL. Concretely, we view the Bellman error as a surrogate loss for the optimality gap, and prove the followings: (1) In double sampling regime, the excess risk of Empirical Risk Minimizer (ERM) is bounded by the Rademacher complexity of the function class. (2) In the single sampling regime, sample-efficient risk minimization is not possible without further assumptions, regardless of algorithms. However, with completeness assumptions, the excess risk of FQI and a minimax style algorithm can be again bounded by the Rademacher complexity of the corresponding function classes. (3) Fast statistical rates can be achieved by using tools of local Rademacher complexity. Our analysis covers a wide range of function classes, including finite classes, linear spaces, kernel spaces, sparse linear features, etc.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning Randomly Perturbed Structured Predictors for Direct Loss Minimization

Hedda Cohen Indelman · Tamir Hazan

Direct loss minimization is a popular approach for learning predictors over structured label spaces. This approach is computationally appealing as it replaces integration with optimization and allows to propagate gradients in a deep net using loss-perturbed prediction. Recently, this technique was extended to generative models, by introducing a randomized predictor that samples a structure from a randomly perturbed score function. In this work, we interpolate between these techniques by learning the variance of randomized structured predictors as well as their mean, in order to balance between the learned score function and the randomized noise. We demonstrate empirically the effectiveness of learning this balance in structured discrete spaces.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Efficient Deviation Types and Learning for Hindsight Rationality in Extensive-Form Games

Dustin Morrill · Ryan D'Orazio · Marc Lanctot · James Wright · Michael Bowling · Amy Greenwald

Hindsight rationality is an approach to playing general-sum games that prescribes no-regret learning dynamics for individual agents with respect to a set of deviations, and further describes jointly rational behavior among multiple agents with mediated equilibria. To develop hindsight rational learning in sequential decision-making settings, we formalize behavioral deviations as a general class of deviations that respect the structure of extensive-form games. Integrating the idea of time selection into counterfactual regret minimization (CFR), we introduce the extensive-form regret minimization (EFR) algorithm that achieves hindsight rationality for any given set of behavioral deviations with computation that scales closely with the complexity of the set. We identify behavioral deviation subsets, the partial sequence deviation types, that subsume previously studied types and lead to efficient EFR instances in games with moderate lengths. In addition, we present a thorough empirical analysis of EFR instantiated with different deviation types in benchmark games, where we find that stronger types typically induce better performance.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Conditional Distributional Treatment Effect with Kernel Conditional Mean Embeddings and U-Statistic Regression

Junhyung Park · Uri Shalit · Bernhard Schölkopf · Krikamol Muandet

We propose to analyse the conditional distributional treatment effect (CoDiTE), which, in contrast to the more common conditional average treatment effect (CATE), is designed to encode a treatment's distributional aspects beyond the mean. We first introduce a formal definition of the CoDiTE associated with a distance function between probability measures. Then we discuss the CoDiTE associated with the maximum mean discrepancy via kernel conditional mean embeddings, which, coupled with a hypothesis test, tells us whether there is any conditional distributional effect of the treatment. Finally, we investigate what kind of conditional distributional effect the treatment has, both in an exploratory manner via the conditional witness function, and in a quantitative manner via U-statistic regression, generalising the CATE to higher-order moments. Experiments on synthetic, semi-synthetic and real datasets demonstrate the merits of our approach.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
When All We Need is a Piece of the Pie: A Generic Framework for Optimizing Two-way Partial AUC

Zhiyong Yang · Qianqian Xu · Shilong Bao · Yuan He · Xiaochun Cao · Qingming Huang

The Area Under the ROC Curve (AUC) is a crucial metric for machine learning, which evaluates the average performance over all possible True Positive Rates (TPRs) and False Positive Rates (FPRs). Based on the knowledge that a skillful classifier should simultaneously embrace a high TPR and a low FPR, we turn to study a more general variant called Two-way Partial AUC (TPAUC), where only the region with $\mathsf{TPR} \ge \alpha, \mathsf{FPR} \le \beta$ is included in the area. Moreover, a recent work shows that the TPAUC is essentially inconsistent with the existing Partial AUC metrics where only the FPR range is restricted, opening a new problem to seek solutions to leverage high TPAUC. Motivated by this, we present the first trial in this paper to optimize this new metric. The critical challenge along this course lies in the difficulty of performing gradient-based optimization with end-to-end stochastic training, even with a proper choice of surrogate loss. To address this issue, we propose a generic framework to construct surrogate optimization problems, which supports efficient end-to-end training with deep-learning. Moreover, our theoretical analyses show that: 1) the objective function of the surrogate problems will achieve an upper bound of the original problem under mild conditions, and 2) optimizing the surrogate problems leads to good generalization performance in terms of TPAUC with a high probability. Finally, empirical studies over several benchmark datasets speak to the efficacy of our framework.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Grounding Language to Entities and Dynamics for Generalization in Reinforcement Learning

Austin W. Hanjie · Victor Zhong · Karthik Narasimhan

We investigate the use of natural language to drive the generalization of control policies and introduce the new multi-task environment Messenger with free-form text manuals describing the environment dynamics. Unlike previous work, Messenger does not assume prior knowledge connecting text and state observations — the control policy must simultaneously ground the game manual to entity symbols and dynamics in the environment. We develop a new model, EMMA (Entity Mapper with Multi-modal Attention) which uses an entity-conditioned attention module that allows for selective focus over relevant descriptions in the manual for each entity in the environment. EMMA is end-to-end differentiable and learns a latent grounding of entities and dynamics from text to observations using only environment rewards. EMMA achieves successful zero-shot generalization to unseen games with new dynamics, obtaining a 40% higher win rate compared to multiple baselines. However, win rate on the hardest stage of Messenger remains low (10%), demonstrating the need for additional work in this direction.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Ensemble Bootstrapping for Q-Learning

Oren Peer · Chen Tessler · Nadav Merlis · Ron Meir

Q-learning (QL), a common reinforcement learning algorithm, suffers from over-estimation bias due to the maximization term in the optimal Bellman operator. This bias may lead to sub-optimal behavior. Double-Q-learning tackles this issue by utilizing two estimators, yet results in an under-estimation bias. Similar to over-estimation in Q-learning, in certain scenarios, the under-estimation bias may degrade performance. In this work, we introduce a new bias-reduced algorithm called Ensemble Bootstrapped Q-Learning (EBQL), a natural extension of Double-Q-learning to ensembles. We analyze our method both theoretically and empirically. Theoretically, we prove that EBQL-like updates yield lower MSE when estimating the maximal mean of a set of independent random variables. Empirically, we show that there exist domains where both over and under-estimation result in sub-optimal performance. Finally, We demonstrate the superior performance of a deep RL variant of EBQL over other deep QL algorithms for a suite of ATARI games.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
APS: Active Pretraining with Successor Features

Hao Liu · Pieter Abbeel

We introduce a new unsupervised pretraining objective for reinforcement learning. During the unsupervised reward-free pretraining phase, the agent maximizes mutual information between tasks and states induced by the policy. Our key contribution is a novel lower bound of this intractable quantity. We show that by reinterpreting and combining variational successor features~\citep{Hansen2020Fast} with nonparametric entropy maximization~\citep{liu2021behavior}, the intractable mutual information can be efficiently optimized. The proposed method Active Pretraining with Successor Feature (APS) explores the environment via nonparametric entropy maximization, and the explored data can be efficiently leveraged to learn behavior by variational successor features. APS addresses the limitations of existing mutual information maximization based and entropy maximization based unsupervised RL, and combines the best of both worlds. When evaluated on the Atari 100k data-efficiency benchmark, our approach significantly outperforms previous methods combining unsupervised pretraining with task-specific finetuning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Distributed Nystr\"{o}m Kernel Learning with Communications

Rong Yin · Weiping Wang · Dan Meng

We study the statistical performance for distributed kernel ridge regression with Nystr\"{o}m (DKRR-NY) and with Nystr\"{o}m and iterative solvers (DKRR-NY-PCG) and successfully derive the optimal learning rates, which can improve the ranges of the number of local processors $p$ to the optimal in existing state-of-art bounds. More precisely, our theoretical analysis show that DKRR-NY and DKRR-NY-PCG achieve the same learning rates as the exact KRR requiring essentially $\mathcal{O}(|D|^{1.5})$ time and $\mathcal{O}(|D|)$ memory with relaxing the restriction on $p$ in expectation, where $|D|$ is the number of data, which exhibits the average effectiveness of multiple trials. Furthermore, for showing the generalization performance in a single trial, we deduce the learning rates for DKRR-NY and DKRR-NY-PCG in probability. Finally, we propose a novel algorithm DKRR-NY-CM based on DKRR-NY, which employs a communication strategy to further improve the learning performance, whose effectiveness of communications is validated in theoretical and experimental analysis.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Fairness and Bias in Online Selection

Jose Correa · Andres Cristi · Paul Duetting · Ashkan Norouzi-Fard

There is growing awareness and concern about fairness in machine learning and algorithm design. This is particularly true in online selection problems where decisions are often biased, for example, when assessing credit risks or hiring staff. We address the issues of fairness and bias in online selection by introducing multi-color versions of the classic secretary and prophet problem. Interestingly, existing algorithms for these problems are either very unfair or very inefficient, so we develop optimal fair algorithms for these new problems and provide tight bounds on their competitiveness. We validate our theoretical findings on real-world data.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
SMG: A Shuffling Gradient-Based Method with Momentum

Trang Tran · Lam Nguyen · Quoc Tran-Dinh

We combine two advanced ideas widely used in optimization for machine learning: \textit{shuffling} strategy and \textit{momentum} technique to develop a novel shuffling gradient-based method with momentum, coined \textbf{S}huffling \textbf{M}omentum \textbf{G}radient (SMG), for non-convex finite-sum optimization problems. While our method is inspired by momentum techniques, its update is fundamentally different from existing momentum-based methods. We establish state-of-the-art convergence rates of SMG for any shuffling strategy using either constant or diminishing learning rate under standard assumptions (i.e. \textit{$L$-smoothness} and \textit{bounded variance}). When the shuffling strategy is fixed, we develop another new algorithm that is similar to existing momentum methods, and prove the same convergence rates for this algorithm under the $L$-smoothness and bounded gradient assumptions. We demonstrate our algorithms via numerical simulations on standard datasets and compare them with existing shuffling methods. Our tests have shown encouraging performance of the new algorithms.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Factor-analytic inverse regression for high-dimension, small-sample dimensionality reduction

Aditi Jha · Michael J. Morais · Jonathan Pillow

Sufficient dimension reduction (SDR) methods are a family of supervised methods for dimensionality reduction that seek to reduce dimensionality while preserving information about a target variable of interest. However, existing SDR methods typically require more observations than the number of dimensions ($N > p$). To overcome this limitation, we propose Class-conditional Factor Analytic Dimensions (CFAD), a model-based dimensionality reduction method for high-dimensional, small-sample data. We show that CFAD substantially outperforms existing SDR methods in the small-sample regime, and can be extended to incorporate prior information such as smoothness in the projection axes. We demonstrate the effectiveness of CFAD with an application to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measurements during visual object recognition and working memory tasks, where it outperforms existing SDR and a variety of other dimensionality-reduction methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Two-way kernel matrix puncturing: towards resource-efficient PCA and spectral clustering

Romain COUILLET · Florent Chatelain · Nicolas Le Bihan

The article introduces an elementary cost and storage reduction method for spectral clustering and principal component analysis. The method consists in randomly ``puncturing'' both the data matrix $X\in\mathbb{C}^{p\times n}$ (or $\mathbb{R}^{p\times n}$) and its corresponding kernel (Gram) matrix $K$ through Bernoulli masks: $S\in\{0,1\}^{p\times n}$ for $X$ and $B\in\{0,1\}^{n\times n}$ for $K$. The resulting ``two-way punctured'' kernel is thus given by $K=\frac1p[(X\odot S)^\H (X\odot S)]\odot B$. We demonstrate that, for $X$ composed of independent columns drawn from a Gaussian mixture model, as $n,p\to\infty$ with $p/n\to c_0\in(0,\infty)$, the spectral behavior of $K$ -- its limiting eigenvalue distribution, as well as its isolated eigenvalues and eigenvectors -- is fully tractable and exhibits a series of counter-intuitive phenomena. We notably prove, and empirically confirm on various image databases, that it is possible to drastically puncture the data, thereby providing possibly huge computational and storage gains, for a virtually constant (clustering or PCA) performance. This preliminary study opens as such the path towards rethinking, from a large dimensional standpoint, computational and storage costs in elementary machine learning models.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Megaverse: Simulating Embodied Agents at One Million Experiences per Second

Aleksei Petrenko · Erik Wijmans · Brennan Shacklett · Vladlen Koltun

We present Megaverse, a new 3D simulation platform for reinforcement learning and embodied AI research. The efficient design of our engine enables physics-based simulation with high-dimensional egocentric observations at more than 1,000,000 actions per second on a single 8-GPU node. Megaverse is up to 70x faster than DeepMind Lab in fully-shaded 3D scenes with interactive objects. We achieve this high simulation performance by leveraging batched simulation, thereby taking full advantage of the massive parallelism of modern GPUs. We use Megaverse to build a new benchmark that consists of several single-agent and multi-agent tasks covering a variety of cognitive challenges. We evaluate model-free RL on this benchmark to provide baselines and facilitate future research.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Interpretable Stein Goodness-of-fit Tests on Riemannian Manifold

Wenkai Xu · Takeru Matsuda

In many applications, we encounter data on Riemannian manifolds such as torus and rotation groups. Standard statistical procedures for multivariate data are not applicable to such data. In this study, we develop goodness-of-fit testing and interpretable model criticism methods for general distributions on Riemannian manifolds, including those with an intractable normalization constant. The proposed methods are based on extensions of kernel Stein discrepancy, which are derived from Stein operators on Riemannian manifolds. We discuss the connections between the proposed tests with existing ones and provide a theoretical analysis of their asymptotic Bahadur efficiency. Simulation results and real data applications show the validity and usefulness of the proposed methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On Reinforcement Learning with Adversarial Corruption and Its Application to Block MDP

Tianhao Wu · Yunchang Yang · Simon Du · Liwei Wang

We study reinforcement learning (RL) in episodic tabular MDPs with adversarial corruptions, where some episodes can be adversarially corrupted. When the total number of corrupted episodes is known, we propose an algorithm, Corruption Robust Monotonic Value Propagation (\textsf{CR-MVP}), which achieves a regret bound of $\tilde{O}\left(\left(\sqrt{SAK}+S^2A+CSA)\right)\polylog(H)\right)$, where $S$ is the number of states, $A$ is the number of actions, $H$ is the planning horizon, $K$ is the number of episodes, and $C$ is the corruption level. We also provide a corresponding lower bound, which indicates that our upper bound is tight. Finally, as an application, we study RL with rich observations in the block MDP model. We provide the first algorithm that achieves a $\sqrt{K}$-type regret in this setting and is computationally efficient.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Deep Continuous Networks

Nergis Tomen · Silvia-Laura Pintea · Jan van Gemert

CNNs and computational models of biological vision share some fundamental principles, which opened new avenues of research. However, fruitful cross-field research is hampered by conventional CNN architectures being based on spatially and depthwise discrete representations, which cannot accommodate certain aspects of biological complexity such as continuously varying receptive field sizes and dynamics of neuronal responses. Here we propose deep continuous networks (DCNs), which combine spatially continuous filters, with the continuous depth framework of neural ODEs. This allows us to learn the spatial support of the filters during training, as well as model the continuous evolution of feature maps, linking DCNs closely to biological models. We show that DCNs are versatile and highly applicable to standard image classification and reconstruction problems, where they improve parameter and data efficiency, and allow for meta-parametrization. We illustrate the biological plausibility of the scale distributions learned by DCNs and explore their performance in a neuroscientifically inspired pattern completion task. Finally, we investigate an efficient implementation of DCNs by changing input contrast.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Best Model Identification: A Rested Bandit Formulation

Leonardo Cella · Massimiliano Pontil · Claudio Gentile

We introduce and analyze a best arm identification problem in the rested bandit setting, wherein arms are themselves learning algorithms whose expected losses decrease with the number of times the arm has been played. The shape of the expected loss functions is similar across arms, and is assumed to be available up to unknown parameters that have to be learned on the fly. We define a novel notion of regret for this problem, where we compare to the policy that always plays the arm having the smallest expected loss at the end of the game. We analyze an arm elimination algorithm whose regret vanishes as the time horizon increases. The actual rate of convergence depends in a detailed way on the postulated functional form of the expected losses. We complement our analysis with lower bounds, indicating strengths and limitations of the proposed solution.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Towards Rigorous Interpretations: a Formalisation of Feature Attribution

Darius Afchar · Vincent Guigue · Romain Hennequin

Feature attribution is often loosely presented as the process of selecting a subset of relevant features as a rationale of a prediction. Task-dependent by nature, precise definitions of "relevance" encountered in the literature are however not always consistent. This lack of clarity stems from the fact that we usually do not have access to any notion of ground-truth attribution and from a more general debate on what good interpretations are. In this paper we propose to formalise feature selection/attribution based on the concept of relaxed functional dependence. In particular, we extend our notions to the instance-wise setting and derive necessary properties for candidate selection solutions, while leaving room for task-dependence. By computing ground-truth attributions on synthetic datasets, we evaluate many state-of-the-art attribution methods and show that, even when optimised, some fail to verify the proposed properties and provide wrong solutions.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Intermediate Layer Optimization for Inverse Problems using Deep Generative Models

Giannis Daras · Joseph Dean · Ajil Jalal · Alexandros Dimakis

We propose Intermediate Layer Optimization (ILO), a novel optimization algorithm for solving inverse problems with deep generative models. Instead of optimizing only over the initial latent code, we progressively change the input layer obtaining successively more expressive generators. To explore the higher dimensional spaces, our method searches for latent codes that lie within a small l1 ball around the manifold induced by the previous layer. Our theoretical analysis shows that by keeping the radius of the ball relatively small, we can improve the established error bound for compressed sensing with deep generative models. We empirically show that our approach outperforms state-of-the-art methods introduced in StyleGAN2 and PULSE for a wide range of inverse problems including inpainting, denoising, super-resolution and compressed sensing.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
The Power of Log-Sum-Exp: Sequential Density Ratio Matrix Estimation for Speed-Accuracy Optimization

Taiki Miyagawa · Akinori Ebihara

We propose a model for multiclass classification of time series to make a prediction as early and as accurate as possible. The matrix sequential probability ratio test (MSPRT) is known to be asymptotically optimal for this setting, but contains a critical assumption that hinders broad real-world applications; the MSPRT requires the underlying probability density. To address this problem, we propose to solve density ratio matrix estimation (DRME), a novel type of density ratio estimation that consists of estimating matrices of multiple density ratios with constraints and thus is more challenging than the conventional density ratio estimation. We propose a log-sum-exp-type loss function (LSEL) for solving DRME and prove the following: (i) the LSEL provides the true density ratio matrix as the sample size of the training set increases (consistency); (ii) it assigns larger gradients to harder classes (hard class weighting effect); and (iii) it provides discriminative scores even on class-imbalanced datasets (guess-aversion). Our overall architecture for early classification, MSPRT-TANDEM, statistically significantly outperforms baseline models on four datasets including action recognition, especially in the early stage of sequential observations. Our code and datasets are publicly available.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Elastic Graph Neural Networks

Xiaorui Liu · Wei Jin · Yao Ma · Yaxin Li · Hua Liu · Yiqi Wang · Ming Yan · Jiliang Tang

While many existing graph neural networks (GNNs) have been proven to perform $\ell_2$-based graph smoothing that enforces smoothness globally, in this work we aim to further enhance the local smoothness adaptivity of GNNs via $\ell_1$-based graph smoothing. As a result, we introduce a family of GNNs (Elastic GNNs) based on $\ell_1$ and $\ell_2$-based graph smoothing. In particular, we propose a novel and general message passing scheme into GNNs. This message passing algorithm is not only friendly to back-propagation training but also achieves the desired smoothing properties with a theoretical convergence guarantee. Experiments on semi-supervised learning tasks demonstrate that the proposed Elastic GNNs obtain better adaptivity on benchmark datasets and are significantly robust to graph adversarial attacks. The implementation of Elastic GNNs is available at \url{https://github.com/lxiaorui/ElasticGNN}.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On Energy-Based Models with Overparametrized Shallow Neural Networks

Carles Domingo-Enrich · Alberto Bietti · Eric Vanden-Eijnden · Joan Bruna

Energy-based models (EBMs) are a simple yet powerful framework for generative modeling. They are based on a trainable energy function which defines an associated Gibbs measure, and they can be trained and sampled from via well-established statistical tools, such as MCMC. Neural networks may be used as energy function approximators, providing both a rich class of expressive models as well as a flexible device to incorporate data structure. In this work we focus on shallow neural networks. Building from the incipient theory of overparametrized neural networks, we show that models trained in the so-called 'active' regime provide a statistical advantage over their associated 'lazy' or kernel regime, leading to improved adaptivity to hidden low-dimensional structure in the data distribution, as already observed in supervised learning. Our study covers both the maximum likelihood and Stein Discrepancy estimators, and we validate our theoretical results with numerical experiments on synthetic data.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
TeachMyAgent: a Benchmark for Automatic Curriculum Learning in Deep RL

Clément Romac · Rémy Portelas · Katja Hofmann · Pierre-Yves Oudeyer

Training autonomous agents able to generalize to multiple tasks is a key target of Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL) research. In parallel to improving DRL algorithms themselves, Automatic Curriculum Learning (ACL) study how teacher algorithms can train DRL agents more efficiently by adapting task selection to their evolving abilities. While multiple standard benchmarks exist to compare DRL agents, there is currently no such thing for ACL algorithms. Thus, comparing existing approaches is difficult, as too many experimental parameters differ from paper to paper. In this work, we identify several key challenges faced by ACL algorithms. Based on these, we present TeachMyAgent (TA), a benchmark of current ACL algorithms leveraging procedural task generation. It includes 1) challenge-specific unit-tests using variants of a procedural Box2D bipedal walker environment, and 2) a new procedural Parkour environment combining most ACL challenges, making it ideal for global performance assessment. We then use TeachMyAgent to conduct a comparative study of representative existing approaches, showcasing the competitiveness of some ACL algorithms that do not use expert knowledge. We also show that the Parkour environment remains an open problem. We open-source our environments, all studied ACL algorithms (collected from open-source code or re-implemented), and DRL students in a Python package available at https://github.com/flowersteam/TeachMyAgent.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
The Hintons in your Neural Network: a Quantum Field Theory View of Deep Learning

Roberto Bondesan · Max Welling

In this work we develop a quantum field theory formalism for deep learning, where input signals are encoded in Gaussian states, a generalization of Gaussian processes which encode the agent's uncertainty about the input signal. We show how to represent linear and non-linear layers as unitary quantum gates, and interpret the fundamental excitations of the quantum model as particles, dubbed ``Hintons''. On top of opening a new perspective and techniques for studying neural networks, the quantum formulation is well suited for optical quantum computing, and provides quantum deformations of neural networks that can be run efficiently on those devices. Finally, we discuss a semi-classical limit of the quantum deformed models which is amenable to classical simulation.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Guarantees for Tuning the Step Size using a Learning-to-Learn Approach

Xiang Wang · Shuai Yuan · Chenwei Wu · Rong Ge

Choosing the right parameters for optimization algorithms is often the key to their success in practice. Solving this problem using a learning-to-learn approach---using meta-gradient descent on a meta-objective based on the trajectory that the optimizer generates---was recently shown to be effective. However, the meta-optimization problem is difficult. In particular, the meta-gradient can often explode/vanish, and the learned optimizer may not have good generalization performance if the meta-objective is not chosen carefully. In this paper we give meta-optimization guarantees for the learning-to-learn approach on a simple problem of tuning the step size for quadratic loss. Our results show that the na\"ive objective suffers from meta-gradient explosion/vanishing problem. Although there is a way to design the meta-objective so that the meta-gradient remains polynomially bounded, computing the meta-gradient directly using backpropagation leads to numerical issues. We also characterize when it is necessary to compute the meta-objective on a separate validation set to ensure the generalization performance of the learned optimizer. Finally, we verify our results empirically and show that a similar phenomenon appears even for more complicated learned optimizers parametrized by neural networks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Regret and Cumulative Constraint Violation Analysis for Online Convex Optimization with Long Term Constraints

Xinlei Yi · Xiuxian Li · Tao Yang · Lihua Xie · Tianyou Chai · Karl Johansson

This paper considers online convex optimization with long term constraints, where constraints can be violated in intermediate rounds, but need to be satisfied in the long run. The cumulative constraint violation is used as the metric to measure constraint violations, which excludes the situation that strictly feasible constraints can compensate the effects of violated constraints. A novel algorithm is first proposed and it achieves an $\mathcal{O}(T^{\max\{c,1-c\}})$ bound for static regret and an $\mathcal{O}(T^{(1-c)/2})$ bound for cumulative constraint violation, where $c\in(0,1)$ is a user-defined trade-off parameter, and thus has improved performance compared with existing results. Both static regret and cumulative constraint violation bounds are reduced to $\mathcal{O}(\log(T))$ when the loss functions are strongly convex, which also improves existing results. %In order to bound the regret with respect to any comparator sequence, In order to achieve the optimal regret with respect to any comparator sequence, another algorithm is then proposed and it achieves the optimal $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{T(1+P_T)})$ regret and an $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{T})$ cumulative constraint violation, where $P_T$ is the path-length of the comparator sequence. Finally, numerical simulations are provided to illustrate the effectiveness of the theoretical results.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Bilevel Optimization: Convergence Analysis and Enhanced Design

Kaiyi Ji · Junjie Yang · Yingbin LIANG

Bilevel optimization has arisen as a powerful tool for many machine learning problems such as meta-learning, hyperparameter optimization, and reinforcement learning. In this paper, we investigate the nonconvex-strongly-convex bilevel optimization problem. For deterministic bilevel optimization, we provide a comprehensive convergence rate analysis for two popular algorithms respectively based on approximate implicit differentiation (AID) and iterative differentiation (ITD). For the AID-based method, we orderwisely improve the previous convergence rate analysis due to a more practical parameter selection as well as a warm start strategy, and for the ITD-based method we establish the first theoretical convergence rate. Our analysis also provides a quantitative comparison between ITD and AID based approaches. For stochastic bilevel optimization, we propose a novel algorithm named stocBiO, which features a sample-efficient hypergradient estimator using efficient Jacobian- and Hessian-vector product computations. We provide the convergence rate guarantee for stocBiO, and show that stocBiO outperforms the best known computational complexities orderwisely with respect to the condition number $\kappa$ and the target accuracy $\epsilon$. We further validate our theoretical results and demonstrate the efficiency of bilevel optimization algorithms by the experiments on meta-learning and hyperparameter optimization.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Selecting Data Augmentation for Simulating Interventions

Maximilian Ilse · Jakub Tomczak · Patrick Forré

Machine learning models trained with purely observational data and the principle of empirical risk minimization (Vapnik 1992) can fail to generalize to unseen domains. In this paper, we focus on the case where the problem arises through spurious correlation between the observed domains and the actual task labels. We find that many domain generalization methods do not explicitly take this spurious correlation into account. Instead, especially in more application-oriented research areas like medical imaging or robotics, data augmentation techniques that are based on heuristics are used to learn domain invariant features. To bridge the gap between theory and practice, we develop a causal perspective on the problem of domain generalization. We argue that causal concepts can be used to explain the success of data augmentation by describing how they can weaken the spurious correlation between the observed domains and the task labels. We demonstrate that data augmentation can serve as a tool for simulating interventional data. We use these theoretical insights to derive a simple algorithm that is able to select data augmentation techniques that will lead to better domain generalization.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Reward Identification in Inverse Reinforcement Learning

Kuno Kim · Shivam Garg · Kirankumar Shiragur · Stefano Ermon

We study the problem of reward identifiability in the context of Inverse Reinforcement Learning (IRL). The reward identifiability question is critical to answer when reasoning about the effectiveness of using Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) as computational models of real world decision makers in order to understand complex decision making behavior and perform counterfactual reasoning. While identifiability has been acknowledged as a fundamental theoretical question in IRL, little is known about the types of MDPs for which rewards are identifiable, or even if there exist such MDPs. In this work, we formalize the reward identification problem in IRL and study how identifiability relates to properties of the MDP model. For deterministic MDP models with the MaxEntRL objective, we prove necessary and sufficient conditions for identifiability. Building on these results, we present efficient algorithms for testing whether or not an MDP model is identifiable.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Post-selection inference with HSIC-Lasso

Tobias Freidling · Benjamin Poignard · Héctor Climente-González · Makoto Yamada

Detecting influential features in non-linear and/or high-dimensional data is a challenging and increasingly important task in machine learning. Variable selection methods have thus been gaining much attention as well as post-selection inference. Indeed, the selected features can be significantly flawed when the selection procedure is not accounted for. We propose a selective inference procedure using the so-called model-free "HSIC-Lasso" based on the framework of truncated Gaussians combined with the polyhedral lemma. We then develop an algorithm, which allows for low computational costs and provides a selection of the regularisation parameter. The performance of our method is illustrated by both artificial and real-world data based experiments, which emphasise a tight control of the type-I error, even for small sample sizes.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Principled Exploration via Optimistic Bootstrapping and Backward Induction

Chenjia Bai · Lingxiao Wang · Lei Han · Jianye Hao · Animesh Garg · Peng Liu · Zhaoran Wang

One principled approach for provably efficient exploration is incorporating the upper confidence bound (UCB) into the value function as a bonus. However, UCB is specified to deal with linear and tabular settings and is incompatible with Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL). In this paper, we propose a principled exploration method for DRL through Optimistic Bootstrapping and Backward Induction (OB2I). OB2I constructs a general-purpose UCB-bonus through non-parametric bootstrap in DRL. The UCB-bonus estimates the epistemic uncertainty of state-action pairs for optimistic exploration. We build theoretical connections between the proposed UCB-bonus and the LSVI-UCB in linear setting. We propagate future uncertainty in a time-consistent manner through episodic backward update, which exploits the theoretical advantage and empirically improves the sample-efficiency. Our experiments in MNIST maze and Atari suit suggest that OB2I outperforms several state-of-the-art exploration approaches.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Zero-Shot Knowledge Distillation from a Decision-Based Black-Box Model

Zi Wang

Knowledge distillation (KD) is a successful approach for deep neural network acceleration, with which a compact network (student) is trained by mimicking the softmax output of a pre-trained high-capacity network (teacher). In tradition, KD usually relies on access to the training samples and the parameters of the white-box teacher to acquire the transferred knowledge. However, these prerequisites are not always realistic due to storage costs or privacy issues in real-world applications. Here we propose the concept of decision-based black-box (DB3) knowledge distillation, with which the student is trained by distilling the knowledge from a black-box teacher (parameters are not accessible) that only returns classes rather than softmax outputs. We start with the scenario when the training set is accessible. We represent a sample's robustness against other classes by computing its distances to the teacher's decision boundaries and use it to construct the soft label for each training sample. After that, the student can be trained via standard KD. We then extend this approach to a more challenging scenario in which even accessing the training data is not feasible. We propose to generate pseudo samples that are distinguished by the decision boundaries of the DB3 teacher to the largest extent and construct soft labels for these samples, which are used as the transfer set. We evaluate our approaches on various benchmark networks and datasets and experiment results demonstrate their effectiveness.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Incentivizing Compliance with Algorithmic Instruments

Dung Ngo · Logan Stapleton · Vasilis Syrgkanis · Steven Wu

Randomized experiments can be susceptible to selection bias due to potential non-compliance by the participants. While much of the existing work has studied compliance as a static behavior, we propose a game-theoretic model to study compliance as dynamic behavior that may change over time. In rounds, a social planner interacts with a sequence of heterogeneous agents who arrive with their unobserved private type that determines both their prior preferences across the actions (e.g., control and treatment) and their baseline rewards without taking any treatment. The planner provides each agent with a randomized recommendation that may alter their beliefs and their action selection. We develop a novel recommendation mechanism that views the planner's recommendation as a form of instrumental variable (IV) that only affects an agents' action selection, but not the observed rewards. We construct such IVs by carefully mapping the history --the interactions between the planner and the previous agents-- to a random recommendation. Even though the initial agents may be completely non-compliant, our mechanism can incentivize compliance over time, thereby enabling the estimation of the treatment effect of each treatment, and minimizing the cumulative regret of the planner whose goal is to identify the optimal treatment.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Provably Efficient Fictitious Play Policy Optimization for Zero-Sum Markov Games with Structured Transitions

Shuang Qiu · Xiaohan Wei · Jieping Ye · Zhaoran Wang · Zhuoran Yang

While single-agent policy optimization in a fixed environment has attracted a lot of research attention recently in the reinforcement learning community, much less is known theoretically when there are multiple agents playing in a potentially competitive environment. We take steps forward by proposing and analyzing new fictitious play policy optimization algorithms for two-player zero-sum Markov games with structured but unknown transitions. We consider two classes of transition structures: factored independent transition and single-controller transition. For both scenarios, we prove tight $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{T})$ regret bounds after $T$ steps in a two-agent competitive game scenario. The regret of each player is measured against a potentially adversarial opponent who can choose a single best policy in hindsight after observing the full policy sequence. Our algorithms feature a combination of Upper Confidence Bound (UCB)-type optimism and fictitious play under the scope of simultaneous policy optimization in a non-stationary environment. When both players adopt the proposed algorithms, their overall optimality gap is $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{T})$.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
A Lower Bound for the Sample Complexity of Inverse Reinforcement Learning

Abi Komanduru · Jean Honorio

Inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) is the task of finding a reward function that generates a desired optimal policy for a given Markov Decision Process (MDP). This paper develops an information-theoretic lower bound for the sample complexity of the finite state, finite action IRL problem. A geometric construction of $\beta$-strict separable IRL problems using spherical codes is considered. Properties of the ensemble size as well as the Kullback-Leibler divergence between the generated trajectories are derived. The resulting ensemble is then used along with Fano's inequality to derive a sample complexity lower bound of $O(n \log n)$, where $n$ is the number of states in the MDP.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Collaborative Bayesian Optimization with Fair Regret

Rachael Hwee Ling Sim · Yehong Zhang · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low · Patrick Jaillet

Bayesian optimization (BO) is a popular tool for optimizing complex and costly-to-evaluate black-box objective functions. To further reduce the number of function evaluations, any party performing BO may be interested to collaborate with others to optimize the same objective function concurrently. To do this, existing BO algorithms have considered optimizing a batch of input queries in parallel and provided theoretical bounds on their cumulative regret reflecting inefficiency. However, when the objective function values are correlated with real-world rewards (e.g., money), parties may be hesitant to collaborate if they risk incurring larger cumulative regret (i.e., smaller real-world reward) than others. This paper shows that fairness and efficiency are both necessary for the collaborative BO setting. Inspired by social welfare concepts from economics, we propose a new notion of regret capturing these properties and a collaborative BO algorithm whose convergence rate can be theoretically guaranteed by bounding the new regret, both of which share an adjustable parameter for trading off between fairness vs. efficiency. We empirically demonstrate the benefits (e.g., increased fairness) of our algorithm using synthetic and real-world datasets.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
State Relevance for Off-Policy Evaluation

Simon Shen · Yecheng Ma · Omer Gottesman · Finale Doshi-Velez

Importance sampling-based estimators for off-policy evaluation (OPE) are valued for their simplicity, unbiasedness, and reliance on relatively few assumptions. However, the variance of these estimators is often high, especially when trajectories are of different lengths. In this work, we introduce Omitting-States-Irrelevant-to-Return Importance Sampling (OSIRIS), an estimator which reduces variance by strategically omitting likelihood ratios associated with certain states. We formalize the conditions under which OSIRIS is unbiased and has lower variance than ordinary importance sampling, and we demonstrate these properties empirically.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Necessary and sufficient conditions for causal feature selection in time series with latent common causes

Atalanti Mastakouri · Bernhard Schölkopf · Dominik Janzing

We study the identification of direct and indirect causes on time series with latent variables, and provide a constrained-based causal feature selection method, which we prove that is both sound and complete under some graph constraints. Our theory and estimation algorithm require only two conditional independence tests for each observed candidate time series to determine whether or not it is a cause of an observed target time series. Furthermore, our selection of the conditioning set is such that it improves signal to noise ratio. We apply our method on real data, and on a wide range of simulated experiments, which yield very low false positive and relatively low false negative rates.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Nonparametric Hamiltonian Monte Carlo

Carol Mak · Fabian Zaiser · Luke Ong

Probabilistic programming uses programs to express generative models whose posterior probability is then computed by built-in inference engines. A challenging goal is to develop general purpose inference algorithms that work out-of-the-box for arbitrary programs in a universal probabilistic programming language (PPL). The densities defined by such programs, which may use stochastic branching and recursion, are (in general) nonparametric, in the sense that they correspond to models on an infinite-dimensional parameter space. However standard inference algorithms, such as the Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC) algorithm, target distributions with a fixed number of parameters. This paper introduces the Nonparametric Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (NP-HMC) algorithm which generalises HMC to nonparametric models. Inputs to NP-HMC are a new class of measurable functions called “tree representable”, which serve as a language-independent representation of the density functions of probabilistic programs in a universal PPL. We provide a correctness proof of NP-HMC, and empirically demonstrate significant performance improvements over existing approaches on several nonparametric examples.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Multi-group Agnostic PAC Learnability

Guy Rothblum · Gal Yona

An agnostic PAC learning algorithm finds a predictor that is competitive with the best predictor in a benchmark hypothesis class, where competitiveness is measured with respect to a given loss function. However, its predictions might be quite sub-optimal for structured subgroups of individuals, such as protected demographic groups. Motivated by such fairness concerns, we study ``multi-group agnostic PAC learnability'': fixing a measure of loss, a benchmark class $\H$ and a (potentially) rich collection of subgroups $\G$, the objective is to learn a single predictor such that the loss experienced by every group $g \in \G$ is not much larger than the best possible loss for this group within $\H$. Under natural conditions, we provide a characterization of the loss functions for which such a predictor is guaranteed to exist. For any such loss function we construct a learning algorithm whose sample complexity is logarithmic in the size of the collection $\G$. Our results unify and extend previous positive and negative results from the multi-group fairness literature, which applied for specific loss functions.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On-Off Center-Surround Receptive Fields for Accurate and Robust Image Classification

Zahra Babaiee · Ramin Hasani · Mathias Lechner · Daniela Rus · Radu Grosu

Robustness to variations in lighting conditions is a key objective for any deep vision system. To this end, our paper extends the receptive field of convolutional neural networks with two residual components, ubiquitous in the visual processing system of vertebrates: On-center and off-center pathways, with an excitatory center and inhibitory surround; OOCS for short. The On-center pathway is excited by the presence of a light stimulus in its center, but not in its surround, whereas the Off-center pathway is excited by the absence of a light stimulus in its center, but not in its surround. We design OOCS pathways via a difference of Gaussians, with their variance computed analytically from the size of the receptive fields. OOCS pathways complement each other in their response to light stimuli, ensuring this way a strong edge-detection capability, and as a result an accurate and robust inference under challenging lighting conditions. We provide extensive empirical evidence showing that networks supplied with OOCS pathways gain accuracy and illumination-robustness from the novel edge representation, compared to other baselines.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Exponentially Many Local Minima in Quantum Neural Networks

Xuchen You · Xiaodi Wu

Quantum Neural Networks (QNNs), or the so-called variational quantum circuits, are important quantum applications both because of their similar promises as classical neural networks and because of the feasibility of their implementation on near-term intermediate-size noisy quantum machines (NISQ). However, the training task of QNNs is challenging and much less understood. We conduct a quantitative investigation on the landscape of loss functions of QNNs and identify a class of simple yet extremely hard QNN instances for training. Specifically, we show for typical under-parameterized QNNs, there exists a dataset that induces a loss function with the number of spurious local minima depending exponentially on the number of parameters. Moreover, we show the optimality of our construction by providing an almost matching upper bound on such dependence. While local minima in classical neural networks are due to non-linear activations, in quantum neural networks local minima appear as a result of the quantum interference phenomenon. Finally, we empirically confirm that our constructions can indeed be hard instances in practice with typical gradient-based optimizers, which demonstrates the practical value of our findings.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Solving Challenging Dexterous Manipulation Tasks With Trajectory Optimisation and Reinforcement Learning

Henry Charlesworth · Giovanni Montana

Training agents to autonomously control anthropomorphic robotic hands has the potential to lead to systems capable of performing a multitude of complex manipulation tasks in unstructured and uncertain environments. In this work, we first introduce a suite of challenging simulated manipulation tasks where current reinforcement learning and trajectory optimisation techniques perform poorly. These include environments where two simulated hands have to pass or throw objects between each other, as well as an environment where the agent must learn to spin a long pen between its fingers. We then introduce a simple trajectory optimisation algorithm that performs significantly better than existing methods on these environments. Finally, on the most challenging ``PenSpin" task, we combine sub-optimal demonstrations generated through trajectory optimisation with off-policy reinforcement learning, obtaining performance that far exceeds either of these approaches individually. Videos of all of our results are available at: https://dexterous-manipulation.github.io

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Efficient Performance Bounds for Primal-Dual Reinforcement Learning from Demonstrations

Angeliki Kamoutsi · Goran Banjac · John Lygeros

We consider large-scale Markov decision processes with an unknown cost function and address the problem of learning a policy from a finite set of expert demonstrations. We assume that the learner is not allowed to interact with the expert and has no access to reinforcement signal of any kind. Existing inverse reinforcement learning methods come with strong theoretical guarantees, but are computationally expensive, while state-of-the-art policy optimization algorithms achieve significant empirical success, but are hampered by limited theoretical understanding. To bridge the gap between theory and practice, we introduce a novel bilinear saddle-point framework using Lagrangian duality. The proposed primal-dual viewpoint allows us to develop a model-free provably efficient algorithm through the lens of stochastic convex optimization. The method enjoys the advantages of simplicity of implementation, low memory requirements, and computational and sample complexities independent of the number of states. We further present an equivalent no-regret online-learning interpretation.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On Learnability via Gradient Method for Two-Layer ReLU Neural Networks in Teacher-Student Setting

Shunta Akiyama · Taiji Suzuki

Deep learning empirically achieves high performance in many applications, but its training dynamics has not been fully understood theoretically. In this paper, we explore theoretical analysis on training two-layer ReLU neural networks in a teacher-student regression model, in which a student network learns an unknown teacher network through its outputs. We show that with a specific regularization and sufficient over-parameterization, the student network can identify the parameters of the teacher network with high probability via gradient descent with a norm dependent stepsize even though the objective function is highly non-convex. The key theoretical tool is the measure representation of the neural networks and a novel application of a dual certificate argument for sparse estimation on a measure space. We analyze the global minima and global convergence property in the measure space.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Debiasing a First-order Heuristic for Approximate Bi-level Optimization

Valerii Likhosherstov · Xingyou Song · Krzysztof Choromanski · Jared Quincy Davis · Adrian Weller

Approximate bi-level optimization (ABLO) consists of (outer-level) optimization problems, involving numerical (inner-level) optimization loops. While ABLO has many applications across deep learning, it suffers from time and memory complexity proportional to the length $r$ of its inner optimization loop. To address this complexity, an earlier first-order method (FOM) was proposed as a heuristic which omits second derivative terms, yielding significant speed gains and requiring only constant memory. Despite FOM's popularity, there is a lack of theoretical understanding of its convergence properties. We contribute by theoretically characterizing FOM's gradient bias under mild assumptions. We further demonstrate a rich family of examples where FOM-based SGD does not converge to a stationary point of the ABLO objective. We address this concern by proposing an unbiased FOM (UFOM) enjoying constant memory complexity as a function of $r$. We characterize the introduced time-variance tradeoff, demonstrate convergence bounds, and find an optimal UFOM for a given ABLO problem. Finally, we propose an efficient adaptive UFOM scheme.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Tightening the Dependence on Horizon in the Sample Complexity of Q-Learning

Gen Li · Changxiao Cai · Yuxin Chen · Yuantao Gu · Yuting Wei · Yuejie Chi

Q-learning, which seeks to learn the optimal Q-function of a Markov decision process (MDP) in a model-free fashion, lies at the heart of reinforcement learning. Focusing on the synchronous setting (such that independent samples for all state-action pairs are queried via a generative model in each iteration), substantial progress has been made recently towards understanding the sample efficiency of Q-learning. To yield an entrywise $\varepsilon$-accurate estimate of the optimal Q-function, state-of-the-art theory requires at least an order of $\frac{|S||A|}{(1-\gamma)^5\varepsilon^{2}}$ samples in the infinite-horizon $\gamma$-discounted setting. In this work, we sharpen the sample complexity of synchronous Q-learning to the order of $\frac{|S||A|}{(1-\gamma)^4\varepsilon^2}$ (up to some logarithmic factor) for any $0<\varepsilon <1$, leading to an order-wise improvement in $\frac{1}{1-\gamma}$. Analogous results are derived for finite-horizon MDPs as well. Notably, our sample complexity analysis unveils the effectiveness of vanilla Q-learning, which matches that of speedy Q-learning without requiring extra computation and storage. Our result is obtained by identifying novel error decompositions and recursion relations, which might shed light on how to study other variants of Q-learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Align, then memorise: the dynamics of learning with feedback alignment

Maria Refinetti · Stéphane d'Ascoli · Ruben Ohana · Sebastian Goldt

Direct Feedback Alignment (DFA) is emerging as an efficient and biologically plausible alternative to backpropagation for training deep neural networks. Despite relying on random feedback weights for the backward pass, DFA successfully trains state-of-the-art models such as Transformers. On the other hand, it notoriously fails to train convolutional networks. An understanding of the inner workings of DFA to explain these diverging results remains elusive. Here, we propose a theory of feedback alignment algorithms. We first show that learning in shallow networks proceeds in two steps: an alignment phase, where the model adapts its weights to align the approximate gradient with the true gradient of the loss function, is followed by a memorisation phase, where the model focuses on fitting the data. This two-step process has a degeneracy breaking effect: out of all the low-loss solutions in the landscape, a net-work trained with DFA naturally converges to the solution which maximises gradient alignment. We also identify a key quantity underlying alignment in deep linear networks: the conditioning of the alignment matrices. The latter enables a detailed understanding of the impact of data structure on alignment, and suggests a simple explanation for the well-known failure of DFA to train convolutional neural networks. Numerical experiments on MNIST and CIFAR10 clearly demonstrate degeneracy breaking in deep non-linear networks and show that the align-then-memorize process occurs sequentially from the bottom layers of the network to the top.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Tight Bounds on the Smallest Eigenvalue of the Neural Tangent Kernel for Deep ReLU Networks

Quynh Nguyen · Marco Mondelli · Guido Montufar

A recent line of work has analyzed the theoretical properties of deep neural networks via the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK). In particular, the smallest eigenvalue of the NTK has been related to the memorization capacity, the global convergence of gradient descent algorithms and the generalization of deep nets. However, existing results either provide bounds in the two-layer setting or assume that the spectrum of the NTK matrices is bounded away from 0 for multi-layer networks. In this paper, we provide tight bounds on the smallest eigenvalue of NTK matrices for deep ReLU nets, both in the limiting case of infinite widths and for finite widths. In the finite-width setting, the network architectures we consider are fairly general: we require the existence of a wide layer with roughly order of $N$ neurons, $N$ being the number of data samples; and the scaling of the remaining layer widths is arbitrary (up to logarithmic factors). To obtain our results, we analyze various quantities of independent interest: we give lower bounds on the smallest singular value of hidden feature matrices, and upper bounds on the Lipschitz constant of input-output feature maps.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Regret Minimization in Stochastic Non-Convex Learning via a Proximal-Gradient Approach

Nadav Hallak · Panayotis Mertikopoulos · Volkan Cevher

This paper develops a methodology for regret minimization with stochastic first-order oracle feedback in online, constrained, non-smooth, non-convex problems. In this setting, the minimization of external regret is beyond reach for first-order methods, and there are no gradient-based algorithmic frameworks capable of providing a solution. On that account, we propose a conceptual approach that leverages non-convex optimality measures, leading to a suitable generalization of the learner's local regret. We focus on a local regret measure defined via a proximal-gradient mapping, that also encompasses the original notion proposed by Hazan et al. (2017). To achieve no local regret in this setting, we develop a proximal-gradient method based on stochastic first-order feedback, and a simpler method for when access to a perfect first-order oracle is possible. Both methods are order-optimal (in the min-max sense), and we also establish a bound on the number of proximal-gradient queries these methods require. As an important application of our results, we also obtain a link between online and offline non-convex stochastic optimization manifested as a new proximal-gradient scheme with complexity guarantees matching those obtained via variance reduction techniques.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Optimizing persistent homology based functions

Mathieu Carrière · Frederic Chazal · Marc Glisse · Yuichi Ike · Hariprasad Kannan · Yuhei Umeda

Solving optimization tasks based on functions and losses with a topological flavor is a very active and growing field of research in data science and Topological Data Analysis, with applications in non-convex optimization, statistics and machine learning. However, the approaches proposed in the literature are usually anchored to a specific application and/or topological construction, and do not come with theoretical guarantees. To address this issue, we study the differentiability of a general map associated with the most common topological construction, that is, the persistence map. Building on real analytic geometry arguments, we propose a general framework that allows us to define and compute gradients for persistence-based functions in a very simple way. We also provide a simple, explicit and sufficient condition for convergence of stochastic subgradient methods for such functions. This result encompasses all the constructions and applications of topological optimization in the literature. Finally, we provide associated code, that is easy to handle and to mix with other non-topological methods and constraints, as well as some experiments showcasing the versatility of our approach.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Data-driven Prediction of General Hamiltonian Dynamics via Learning Exactly-Symplectic Maps

Renyi Chen · Molei Tao

We consider the learning and prediction of nonlinear time series generated by a latent symplectic map. A special case is (not necessarily separable) Hamiltonian systems, whose solution flows give such symplectic maps. For this special case, both generic approaches based on learning the vector field of the latent ODE and specialized approaches based on learning the Hamiltonian that generates the vector field exist. Our method, however, is different as it does not rely on the vector field nor assume its existence; instead, it directly learns the symplectic evolution map in discrete time. Moreover, we do so by representing the symplectic map via a generating function, which we approximate by a neural network (hence the name GFNN). This way, our approximation of the evolution map is always \emph{exactly} symplectic. This additional geometric structure allows the local prediction error at each step to accumulate in a controlled fashion, and we will prove, under reasonable assumptions, that the global prediction error grows at most \emph{linearly} with long prediction time, which significantly improves an otherwise exponential growth. In addition, as a map-based and thus purely data-driven method, GFNN avoids two additional sources of inaccuracies common in vector-field based approaches, namely the error in approximating the vector field by finite difference of the data, and the error in numerical integration of the vector field for making predictions. Numerical experiments further demonstrate our claims.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
ProGraML: A Graph-based Program Representation for Data Flow Analysis and Compiler Optimizations

Chris Cummins · Zacharias Fisches · Tal Ben-Nun · Torsten Hoefler · Michael O'Boyle · Hugh Leather

Machine learning (ML) is increasingly seen as a viable approach for building compiler optimization heuristics, but many ML methods cannot replicate even the simplest of the data flow analyses that are critical to making good optimization decisions. We posit that if ML cannot do that, then it is insufficiently able to reason about programs. We formulate data flow analyses as supervised learning tasks and introduce a large open dataset of programs and their corresponding labels from several analyses. We use this dataset to benchmark ML methods and show that they struggle on these fundamental program reasoning tasks. We propose ProGraML - Program Graphs for Machine Learning - a language-independent, portable representation of program semantics. ProGraML overcomes the limitations of prior works and yields improved performance on downstream optimization tasks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Reserve Price Optimization for First Price Auctions in Display Advertising

Zhe Feng · Sébastien Lahaie · Jon Schneider · Jinchao Ye

The display advertising industry has recently transitioned from second- to first-price auctions as its primary mechanism for ad allocation and pricing. In light of this, publishers need to re-evaluate and optimize their auction parameters, notably reserve prices. In this paper, we propose a gradient-based algorithm to adaptively update and optimize reserve prices based on estimates of bidders' responsiveness to experimental shocks in reserves. Our key innovation is to draw on the inherent structure of the revenue objective in order to reduce the variance of gradient estimates and improve convergence rates in both theory and practice. We show that revenue in a first-price auction can be usefully decomposed into a \emph{demand} component and a \emph{bidding} component, and introduce techniques to reduce the variance of each component. We characterize the bias-variance trade-offs of these techniques and validate the performance of our proposed algorithm through experiments on synthetic data and real display ad auctions data from a major ad exchange.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
What does LIME really see in images?

Damien Garreau · Dina Mardaoui

The performance of modern algorithms on certain computer vision tasks such as object recognition is now close to that of humans. This success was achieved at the price of complicated architectures depending on millions of parameters and it has become quite challenging to understand how particular predictions are made. Interpretability methods propose to give us this understanding. In this paper, we study LIME, perhaps one of the most popular. On the theoretical side, we show that when the number of generated examples is large, LIME explanations are concentrated around a limit explanation for which we give an explicit expression. We further this study for elementary shape detectors and linear models. As a consequence of this analysis, we uncover a connection between LIME and integrated gradients, another explanation method. More precisely, the LIME explanations are similar to the sum of integrated gradients over the superpixels used in the preprocessing step of LIME.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
A Modular Analysis of Provable Acceleration via Polyak's Momentum: Training a Wide ReLU Network and a Deep Linear Network

Jun-Kun Wang · Chi-Heng Lin · Jacob Abernethy

Incorporating a so-called ``momentum'' dynamic in gradient descent methods is widely used in neural net training as it has been broadly observed that, at least empirically, it often leads to significantly faster convergence. At the same time, there are very few theoretical guarantees in the literature to explain this apparent acceleration effect. Even for the classical strongly convex quadratic problems, several existing results only show Polyak's momentum has an accelerated linear rate asymptotically. In this paper, we first revisit the quadratic problems and show a non-asymptotic accelerated linear rate of Polyak's momentum. Then, we provably show that Polyak's momentum achieves acceleration for training a one-layer wide ReLU network and a deep linear network, which are perhaps the two most popular canonical models for studying optimization and deep learning in the literature. Prior works (Du et al. 2019) and (Wu et al. 2019) showed that using vanilla gradient descent, and with an use of over-parameterization, the error decays as $(1- \Theta(\frac{1}{ \kappa'}))^t$ after $t$ iterations, where $\kappa'$ is the condition number of a Gram Matrix. Our result shows that with the appropriate choice of parameters Polyak's momentum has a rate of $(1-\Theta(\frac{1}{\sqrt{\kappa'}}))^t$. For the deep linear network, prior work (Hu et al. 2020) showed that vanilla gradient descent has a rate of $(1-\Theta(\frac{1}{\kappa}))^t$, where $\kappa$ is the condition number of a data matrix. Our result shows an acceleration rate $(1- \Theta(\frac{1}{\sqrt{\kappa}}))^t$ is achievable by Polyak's momentum. This work establishes that momentum does indeed speed up neural net training.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
PAC-Learning for Strategic Classification

Ravi Sundaram · Anil Vullikanti · Haifeng Xu · Fan Yao

The study of strategic or adversarial manipulation of testing data to fool a classifier has attracted much recent attention. Most previous works have focused on two extreme situations where any testing data point either is completely adversarial or always equally prefers the positive label. In this paper, we generalize both of these through a unified framework for strategic classification and introduce the notion of strategic VC-dimension (SVC) to capture the PAC-learnability in our general strategic setup. SVC provably generalizes the recent concept of adversarial VC-dimension (AVC) introduced by Cullina et al. (2018). We instantiate our framework for the fundamental strategic linear classification problem. We fully characterize: (1) the statistical learnability of linear classifiers by pinning down its SVC; (2) it's computational tractability by pinning down the complexity of the empirical risk minimization problem. Interestingly, the SVC of linear classifiers is always upper bounded by its standard VC-dimension. This characterization also strictly generalizes the AVC bound for linear classifiers in (Cullina et al., 2018).

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Variance Reduced Training with Stratified Sampling for Forecasting Models

Yucheng Lu · Youngsuk Park · Lifan Chen · Yuyang Wang · Christopher De Sa · Dean Foster

In large-scale time series forecasting, one often encounters the situation where the temporal patterns of time series, while drifting over time, differ from one another in the same dataset. In this paper, we provably show under such heterogeneity, training a forecasting model with commonly used stochastic optimizers (e.g. SGD) potentially suffers large variance on gradient estimation, and thus incurs long-time training. We show that this issue can be efficiently alleviated via stratification, which allows the optimizer to sample from pre-grouped time series strata. For better trading-off gradient variance and computation complexity, we further propose SCott (Stochastic Stratified Control Variate Gradient Descent), a variance reduced SGD-style optimizer that utilizes stratified sampling via control variate. In theory, we provide the convergence guarantee of SCott on smooth non-convex objectives. Empirically, we evaluate SCott and other baseline optimizers on both synthetic and real-world time series forecasting problems, and demonstrate SCott converges faster with respect to both iterations and wall clock time.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On Reward-Free RL with Kernel and Neural Function Approximations: Single-Agent MDP and Markov Game

Shuang Qiu · Jieping Ye · Zhaoran Wang · Zhuoran Yang

To achieve sample efficiency in reinforcement learning (RL), it necessitates to efficiently explore the underlying environment. Under the offline setting, addressing the exploration challenge lies in collecting an offline dataset with sufficient coverage. Motivated by such a challenge, we study the reward-free RL problem, where an agent aims to thoroughly explore the environment without any pre-specified reward function. Then, given any extrinsic reward, the agent computes the optimal policy via offline RL with data collected in the exploration stage. Moreover, we tackle this problem under the context of function approximation, leveraging powerful function approximators. Specifically, we propose to explore via an optimistic variant of the value-iteration algorithm incorporating kernel and neural function approximations, where we adopt the associated exploration bonus as the exploration reward. Moreover, we design exploration and planning algorithms for both single-agent MDPs and zero-sum Markov games and prove that our methods can achieve $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(1 /\varepsilon^2)$ sample complexity for generating a $\varepsilon$-suboptimal policy or $\varepsilon$-approximate Nash equilibrium when given an arbitrary extrinsic reward. To the best of our knowledge, we establish the first provably efficient reward-free RL algorithm with kernel and neural function approximators.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Unsupervised Skill Discovery with Bottleneck Option Learning

Jaekyeom Kim · Seohong Park · Gunhee Kim

Having the ability to acquire inherent skills from environments without any external rewards or supervision like humans is an important problem. We propose a novel unsupervised skill discovery method named Information Bottleneck Option Learning (IBOL). On top of the linearization of environments that promotes more various and distant state transitions, IBOL enables the discovery of diverse skills. It provides the abstraction of the skills learned with the information bottleneck framework for the options with improved stability and encouraged disentanglement. We empirically demonstrate that IBOL outperforms multiple state-of-the-art unsupervised skill discovery methods on the information-theoretic evaluations and downstream tasks in MuJoCo environments, including Ant, HalfCheetah, Hopper and D'Kitty. Our code is available at https://vision.snu.ac.kr/projects/ibol.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Evaluating Robustness of Predictive Uncertainty Estimation: Are Dirichlet-based Models Reliable?

Anna-Kathrin Kopetzki · Bertrand Charpentier · Daniel Zügner · Sandhya Giri · Stephan Günnemann

Dirichlet-based uncertainty (DBU) models are a recent and promising class of uncertainty-aware models. DBU models predict the parameters of a Dirichlet distribution to provide fast, high-quality uncertainty estimates alongside with class predictions. In this work, we present the first large-scale, in-depth study of the robustness of DBU models under adversarial attacks. Our results suggest that uncertainty estimates of DBU models are not robust w.r.t. three important tasks: (1) indicating correctly and wrongly classified samples; (2) detecting adversarial examples; and (3) distinguishing between in-distribution (ID) and out-of-distribution (OOD) data. Additionally, we explore the first approaches to make DBU mod- els more robust. While adversarial training has a minor effect, our median smoothing based ap- proach significantly increases robustness of DBU models.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Representational aspects of depth and conditioning in normalizing flows

Frederic Koehler · Viraj Mehta · Andrej Risteski

Normalizing flows are among the most popular paradigms in generative modeling, especially for images, primarily because we can efficiently evaluate the likelihood of a data point. This is desirable both for evaluating the fit of a model, and for ease of training, as maximizing the likelihood can be done by gradient descent. However, training normalizing flows comes with difficulties as well: models which produce good samples typically need to be extremely deep -- which comes with accompanying vanishing/exploding gradient problems. A very related problem is that they are often poorly \emph{conditioned}: since they are parametrized as invertible maps from $\mathbb{R}^d \to \mathbb{R}^d$, and typical training data like images intuitively is lower-dimensional, the learned maps often have Jacobians that are close to being singular. In our paper, we tackle representational aspects around depth and conditioning of normalizing flows: both for general invertible architectures, and for a particular common architecture, affine couplings. We prove that $\Theta(1)$ affine coupling layers suffice to exactly represent a permutation or $1 \times 1$ convolution, as used in GLOW, showing that representationally the choice of partition is not a bottleneck for depth. We also show that shallow affine coupling networks are universal approximators in Wasserstein distance if ill-conditioning is allowed, and experimentally investigate related phenomena involving padding. Finally, we show a depth lower bound for general flow architectures with few neurons per layer and bounded Lipschitz constant.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Global Convergence of Policy Gradient for Linear-Quadratic Mean-Field Control/Game in Continuous Time

Weichen Wang · Jiequn Han · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang

Recent years have witnessed the success of multi-agent reinforcement learning, which has motivated new research directions for mean-field control (MFC) and mean-field game (MFG), as the multi-agent system can be well approximated by a mean-field problem when the number of agents grows to be very large. In this paper, we study the policy gradient (PG) method for the linear-quadratic mean-field control and game, where we assume each agent has identical linear state transitions and quadratic cost functions. While most recent works on policy gradient for MFC and MFG are based on discrete-time models, we focus on a continuous-time model where some of our analyzing techniques could be valuable to the interested readers. For both the MFC and the MFG, we provide PG update and show that it converges to the optimal solution at a linear rate, which is verified by a synthetic simulation. For the MFG, we also provide sufficient conditions for the existence and uniqueness of the Nash equilibrium.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Descending through a Crowded Valley - Benchmarking Deep Learning Optimizers

Robin M Schmidt · Frank Schneider · Philipp Hennig

Choosing the optimizer is considered to be among the most crucial design decisions in deep learning, and it is not an easy one. The growing literature now lists hundreds of optimization methods. In the absence of clear theoretical guidance and conclusive empirical evidence, the decision is often made based on anecdotes. In this work, we aim to replace these anecdotes, if not with a conclusive ranking, then at least with evidence-backed heuristics. To do so, we perform an extensive, standardized benchmark of fifteen particularly popular deep learning optimizers while giving a concise overview of the wide range of possible choices. Analyzing more than 50,000 individual runs, we contribute the following three points: (i) Optimizer performance varies greatly across tasks. (ii) We observe that evaluating multiple optimizers with default parameters works approximately as well as tuning the hyperparameters of a single, fixed optimizer. (iii) While we cannot discern an optimization method clearly dominating across all tested tasks, we identify a significantly reduced subset of specific optimizers and parameter choices that generally lead to competitive results in our experiments: Adam remains a strong contender, with newer methods failing to significantly and consistently outperform it. Our open-sourced results are available as challenging and well-tuned baselines for more meaningful evaluations of novel optimization methods without requiring any further computational efforts.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Training Data Subset Selection for Regression with Controlled Generalization Error

Durga S · Rishabh Lyer · Ganesh Ramakrishnan · Abir De

Data subset selection from a large number of training instances has been a successful approach toward efficient and cost-effective machine learning. However, models trained on a smaller subset may show poor generalization ability. In this paper, our goal is to design an algorithm for selecting a subset of the training data, so that the model can be trained quickly, without significantly sacrificing on accuracy. More specifically, we focus on data subset selection for $L_2$ regularized regression problems and provide a novel problem formulation which seeks to minimize the training loss with respect to both the trainable parameters and the subset of training data, subject to error bounds on the validation set. We tackle this problem using several technical innovations. First, we represent this problem with simplified constraints using the dual of the original training problem and show that the objective of this new representation is a monotone and $\alpha$-submodular function, for a wide variety of modeling choices. Such properties lead us to develop SELCON, an efficient majorization-minimization algorithm for data subset selection, that admits an approximation guarantee even when the training provides an imperfect estimate of the trained model. Finally, our experiments on several datasets show that SELCON trades off accuracy and efficiency more effectively than the current state-of-the-art.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On the Implicit Bias of Initialization Shape: Beyond Infinitesimal Mirror Descent

Shahar Azulay · Edward Moroshko · Mor Shpigel Nacson · Blake Woodworth · Nati Srebro · Amir Globerson · Daniel Soudry

Recent work has highlighted the role of initialization scale in determining the structure of the solutions that gradient methods converge to. In particular, it was shown that large initialization leads to the neural tangent kernel regime solution, whereas small initialization leads to so called ``rich regimes''. However, the initialization structure is richer than the overall scale alone and involves relative magnitudes of different weights and layers in the network. Here we show that these relative scales, which we refer to as initialization shape, play an important role in determining the learned model. We develop a novel technique for deriving the inductive bias of gradient-flow and use it to obtain closed-form implicit regularizers for multiple cases of interest.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
The Limits of Min-Max Optimization Algorithms: Convergence to Spurious Non-Critical Sets

Ya-Ping Hsieh · Panayotis Mertikopoulos · Volkan Cevher

Compared to minimization, the min-max optimization in machine learning applications is considerably more convoluted because of the existence of cycles and similar phenomena. Such oscillatory behaviors are well-understood in the convex-concave regime, and many algorithms are known to overcome them. In this paper, we go beyond this basic setting and characterize the convergence properties of many popular methods in solving non-convex/non-concave problems. In particular, we show that a wide class of state-of-the-art schemes and heuristics may converge with arbitrarily high probability to attractors that are in no way min-max optimal or even stationary. Our work thus points out a potential pitfall among many existing theoretical frameworks, and we corroborate our theoretical claims by explicitly showcasing spurious attractors in simple two-dimensional problems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Online Policy Gradient for Model Free Learning of Linear Quadratic Regulators with √T Regret

Asaf Cassel · Tomer Koren

We consider the task of learning to control a linear dynamical system under fixed quadratic costs, known as the Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) problem. While model-free approaches are often favorable in practice, thus far only model-based methods, which rely on costly system identification, have been shown to achieve regret that scales with the optimal dependence on the time horizon T. We present the first model-free algorithm that achieves similar regret guarantees. Our method relies on an efficient policy gradient scheme, and a novel and tighter analysis of the cost of exploration in policy space in this setting.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Near-Optimal Confidence Sequences for Bounded Random Variables

Arun Kuchibhotla · Qinqing Zheng

Many inference problems, such as sequential decision problems like A/B testing, adaptive sampling schemes like bandit selection, are often online in nature. The fundamental problem for online inference is to provide a sequence of confidence intervals that are valid uniformly over the growing-into-infinity sample sizes. To address this question, we provide a near-optimal confidence sequence for bounded random variables by utilizing Bentkus' concentration results. We show that it improves on the existing approaches that use the Cram{\'e}r-Chernoff technique such as the Hoeffding, Bernstein, and Bennett inequalities. The resulting confidence sequence is confirmed to be favorable in synthetic coverage problems, adaptive stopping algorithms, and multi-armed bandit problems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
No-regret Algorithms for Capturing Events in Poisson Point Processes

Mojmir Mutny · Andreas Krause

Inhomogeneous Poisson point processes are widely used  models of event occurrences. We address \emph{adaptive sensing of Poisson Point processes}, namely, maximizing the number of captured events subject to sensing costs. We encode prior assumptions on the rate function by modeling it as a member of a known \emph{reproducing kernel Hilbert space} (RKHS). By partitioning the domain into separate small regions, and using heteroscedastic linear regression, we propose a tractable estimator of Poisson process rates for two feedback models: \emph{count-record}, where exact locations of events are observed, and \emph{histogram} feedback, where only counts of events are observed. We derive provably accurate anytime confidence estimates for our estimators for sequentially acquired Poisson count data. Using these, we formulate algorithms based on optimism that provably incur sublinear count-regret. We demonstrate the practicality of the method on problems from crime modeling, revenue maximization as well as environmental monitoring.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Meta-learning Hyperparameter Performance Prediction with Neural Processes

Ying WEI · Peilin Zhao · Junzhou Huang

The surrogate that predicts the performance of hyperparameters has been a key component for sequential model-based hyperparameter optimization. In practical applications, a trial of a hyper-parameter configuration may be so costly that a surrogate is expected to return an optimal configuration with as few trials as possible. Observing that human experts draw on their expertise in a machine learning model by trying configurations that once performed well on other datasets, we are inspired to build a trial-efficient surrogate by transferring the meta-knowledge learned from historical trials on other datasets. We propose an end-to-end surrogate named as Transfer NeuralProcesses (TNP) that learns a comprehensive set of meta-knowledge, including the parameters of historical surrogates, historical trials, and initial configurations for other datasets. Experiments on extensive OpenML datasets and three computer vision datasets demonstrate that the proposed algorithm achieves state-of-the-art performance in at least one order of magnitude less trials.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Fast Algorithms for Stackelberg Prediction Game with Least Squares Loss

jiali wang · He Chen · Rujun Jiang · Xudong Li · Zihao Li

The Stackelberg prediction game (SPG) has been extensively used to model the interactions between the learner and data provider in the training process of various machine learning algorithms. Particularly, SPGs played prominent roles in cybersecurity applications, such as intrusion detection, banking fraud detection, spam filtering, and malware detection. Often formulated as NP-hard bi-level optimization problems, it is generally computationally intractable to find global solutions to SPGs. As an interesting progress in this area, a special class of SPGs with the least squares loss (SPG-LS) have recently been shown polynomially solvable by a bisection method. However, in each iteration of this method, a semidefinite program (SDP) needs to be solved. The resulted high computational costs prevent its applications for large-scale problems. In contrast, we propose a novel approach that reformulates a SPG-LS as a single SDP of a similar form and the same dimension as those solved in the bisection method. Our SDP reformulation is, evidenced by our numerical experiments, orders of magnitude faster than the existing bisection method. We further show that the obtained SDP can be reduced to a second order cone program (SOCP). This allows us to provide real-time response to large-scale SPG-LS problems. Numerical results on both synthetic and real world datasets indicate that the proposed SOCP method is up to 20,000+ times faster than the state of the art.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Provable Robustness of Adversarial Training for Learning Halfspaces with Noise

Difan Zou · Spencer Frei · Quanquan Gu

We analyze the properties of adversarial training for learning adversarially robust halfspaces in the presence of agnostic label noise. Denoting $\mathsf{OPT}_{p,r}$ as the best classification error achieved by a halfspace that is robust to perturbations of $\ell^{p}$ balls of radius $r$, we show that adversarial training on the standard binary cross-entropy loss yields adversarially robust halfspaces up to classification error $\tilde O(\sqrt{\mathsf{OPT}_{2,r}})$ for $p=2$, and $\tilde O(d^{1/4} \sqrt{\mathsf{OPT}_{\infty, r}})$ when $p=\infty$. Our results hold for distributions satisfying anti-concentration properties enjoyed by log-concave isotropic distributions among others. We additionally show that if one instead uses a non-convex sigmoidal loss, adversarial training yields halfspaces with an improved robust classification error of $O(\mathsf{OPT}_{2,r})$ for $p=2$, and $O(d^{1/4} \mathsf{OPT}_{\infty, r})$ when $p=\infty$. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work showing that adversarial training provably yields robust classifiers in the presence of noise.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning Stochastic Behaviour from Aggregate Data

Shaojun Ma · Shu Liu · Hongyuan Zha · Haomin Zhou

Learning nonlinear dynamics from aggregate data is a challenging problem because the full trajectory of each individual is not available, namely, the individual observed at one time may not be observed at the next time point, or the identity of individual is unavailable. This is in sharp contrast to learning dynamics with full trajectory data, on which the majority of existing methods are based. We propose a novel method using the weak form of Fokker Planck Equation (FPE) --- a partial differential equation --- to describe the density evolution of data in a sampled form, which is then combined with Wasserstein generative adversarial network (WGAN) in the training process. In such a sample-based framework we are able to learn the nonlinear dynamics from aggregate data without explicitly solving the partial differential equation (PDE) FPE. We demonstrate our approach in the context of a series of synthetic and real-world data sets.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Functional Space Analysis of Local GAN Convergence

Valentin Khrulkov · Artem Babenko · Ivan Oseledets

Recent work demonstrated the benefits of studying continuous-time dynamics governing the GAN training. However, this dynamics is analyzed in the model parameter space, which results in finite-dimensional dynamical systems. We propose a novel perspective where we study the local dynamics of adversarial training in the general functional space and show how it can be represented as a system of partial differential equations. Thus, the convergence properties can be inferred from the eigenvalues of the resulting differential operator. We show that these eigenvalues can be efficiently estimated from the target dataset before training. Our perspective reveals several insights on the practical tricks commonly used to stabilize GANs, such as gradient penalty, data augmentation, and advanced integration schemes. As an immediate practical benefit, we demonstrate how one can a priori select an optimal data augmentation strategy for a particular generation task.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
SimAM: A Simple, Parameter-Free Attention Module for Convolutional Neural Networks

Lingxiao YANG · Ru-Yuan Zhang · Lida LI · Xiaohua Xie

In this paper, we propose a conceptually simple but very effective attention module for Convolutional Neural Networks (ConvNets). In contrast to existing channel-wise and spatial-wise attention modules, our module instead infers 3-D attention weights for the feature map in a layer without adding parameters to the original networks. Specifically, we base on some well-known neuroscience theories and propose to optimize an energy function to find the importance of each neuron. We further derive a fast closed-form solution for the energy function, and show that the solution can be implemented in less than ten lines of code. Another advantage of the module is that most of the operators are selected based on the solution to the defined energy function, avoiding too many efforts for structure tuning. Quantitative evaluations on various visual tasks demonstrate that the proposed module is flexible and effective to improve the representation ability of many ConvNets. Our code is available at Pytorch-SimAM.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Proximal Causal Learning with Kernels: Two-Stage Estimation and Moment Restriction

Afsaneh Mastouri · Yuchen Zhu · Limor Gultchin · Anna Korba · Ricardo Silva · Matt J. Kusner · Arthur Gretton · Krikamol Muandet

We address the problem of causal effect estima-tion in the presence of unobserved confounding,but where proxies for the latent confounder(s) areobserved. We propose two kernel-based meth-ods for nonlinear causal effect estimation in thissetting: (a) a two-stage regression approach, and(b) a maximum moment restriction approach. Wefocus on the proximal causal learning setting, butour methods can be used to solve a wider classof inverse problems characterised by a Fredholmintegral equation. In particular, we provide a uni-fying view of two-stage and moment restrictionapproaches for solving this problem in a nonlin-ear setting. We provide consistency guaranteesfor each algorithm, and demonstrate that these ap-proaches achieve competitive results on syntheticdata and data simulating a real-world task. In par-ticular, our approach outperforms earlier methodsthat are not suited to leveraging proxy variables.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
On the Proof of Global Convergence of Gradient Descent for Deep ReLU Networks with Linear Widths

Quynh Nguyen

We give a simple proof for the global convergence of gradient descent in training deep ReLU networks with the standard square loss, and show some of its improvements over the state-of-the-art. In particular, while prior works require all the hidden layers to be wide with width at least $\Omega(N^8)$ ($N$ being the number of training samples), we require a single wide layer of linear, quadratic or cubic width depending on the type of initialization. Unlike many recent proofs based on the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK), our proof need not track the evolution of the entire NTK matrix, or more generally, any quantities related to the changes of activation patterns during training. Instead, we only need to track the evolution of the output at the last hidden layer, which can be done much more easily thanks to the Lipschitz property of ReLU. Some highlights of our setting: (i) all the layers are trained with standard gradient descent, (ii) the network has standard parameterization as opposed to the NTK one, and (iii) the network has a single wide layer as opposed to having all wide hidden layers as in most of NTK-related results.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Instabilities of Offline RL with Pre-Trained Neural Representation

Ruosong Wang · Yifan Wu · Ruslan Salakhutdinov · Sham Kakade

In offline reinforcement learning (RL), we seek to utilize offline data to evaluate (or learn) policies in scenarios where the data are collected from a distribution that substantially differs from that of the target policy to be evaluated. Recent theoretical advances have shown that such sample-efficient offline RL is indeed possible provided certain strong representational conditions hold, else there are lower bounds exhibiting exponential error amplification (in the problem horizon) unless the data collection distribution has only a mild distribution shift relative to the target policy. This work studies these issues from an empirical perspective to gauge how stable offline RL methods are. In particular, our methodology explores these ideas when using features from pre-trained neural networks, in the hope that these representations are powerful enough to permit sample efficient offline RL. Through extensive experiments on a range of tasks, we see that substantial error amplification does occur even when using such pre-trained representations (trained on the same task itself); we find offline RL is stable only under extremely mild distribution shift. The implications of these results, both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective, are that successful offline RL (where we seek to go beyond the low distribution shift regime) requires substantially stronger conditions beyond those which suffice for successful supervised learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
A Nullspace Property for Subspace-Preserving Recovery

Mustafa D Kaba · Chong You · Daniel Robinson · Enrique Mallada · Rene Vidal

Much of the theory for classical sparse recovery is based on conditions on the dictionary that are both necessary and sufficient (e.g., nullspace property) or only sufficient (e.g., incoherence and restricted isometry). In contrast, much of the theory for subspace-preserving recovery, the theoretical underpinnings for sparse subspace classification and clustering methods, is based on conditions on the subspaces and the data that are only sufficient (e.g., subspace incoherence and data inner-radius). This paper derives a necessary and sufficient condition for subspace-preserving recovery that is inspired by the classical nullspace property.Based on this novel condition, called here the subspace nullspace property, we derive equivalent characterizations that either admit a clear geometric interpretation that relates data distribution and subspace separation to the recovery success, or can be verified using a finite set of extreme points of a properly defined set. We further exploit these characterizations to derive new sufficient conditions, based on inner-radius and outer-radius measures and dual bounds, that generalize existing conditions and preserve the geometric interpretations. These results fill an important gap in the subspace-preserving recovery literature.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Understanding Instance-Level Label Noise: Disparate Impacts and Treatments

Yang Liu

This paper aims to provide understandings for the effect of an over-parameterized model, e.g. a deep neural network, memorizing instance-dependent noisy labels. We first quantify the harms caused by memorizing noisy instances, and show the disparate impacts of noisy labels for sample instances with different representation frequencies. We then analyze how several popular solutions for learning with noisy labels mitigate this harm at the instance level. Our analysis reveals that existing approaches lead to disparate treatments when handling noisy instances. While higher-frequency instances often enjoy a high probability of an improvement by applying these solutions, lower-frequency instances do not. Our analysis reveals new understandings for when these approaches work, and provides theoretical justifications for previously reported empirical observations. This observation requires us to rethink the distribution of label noise across instances and calls for different treatments for instances in different regimes.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Kernel-Based Reinforcement Learning: A Finite-Time Analysis

Omar Darwiche Domingues · Pierre Menard · Matteo Pirotta · Emilie Kaufmann · Michal Valko

We consider the exploration-exploitation dilemma in finite-horizon reinforcement learning problems whose state-action space is endowed with a metric. We introduce Kernel-UCBVI, a model-based optimistic algorithm that leverages the smoothness of the MDP and a non-parametric kernel estimator of the rewards and transitions to efficiently balance exploration and exploitation. For problems with $K$ episodes and horizon $H$, we provide a regret bound of $\widetilde{O}\left( H^3 K^{\frac{2d}{2d+1}}\right)$, where $d$ is the covering dimension of the joint state-action space. This is the first regret bound for kernel-based RL using smoothing kernels, which requires very weak assumptions on the MDP and applies to a wide range of tasks. We empirically validate our approach in continuous MDPs with sparse rewards.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
One for One, or All for All: Equilibria and Optimality of Collaboration in Federated Learning

Avrim Blum · Nika Haghtalab · Richard Lanas Phillips · Han Shao

In recent years, federated learning has been embraced as an approach for bringing about collaboration across large populations of learning agents. However, little is known about how collaboration protocols should take agents' incentives into account when allocating individual resources for communal learning in order to maintain such collaborations. Inspired by game theoretic notions, this paper introduces a framework for incentive-aware learning and data sharing in federated learning. Our stable and envy-free equilibria capture notions of collaboration in the presence of agents interested in meeting their learning objectives while keeping their own sample collection burden low. For example, in an envy-free equilibrium, no agent would wish to swap their sampling burden with any other agent and in a stable equilibrium, no agent would wish to unilaterally reduce their sampling burden.

In addition to formalizing this framework, our contributions include characterizing the structural properties of such equilibria, proving when they exist, and showing how they can be computed. Furthermore, we compare the sample complexity of incentive-aware collaboration with that of optimal collaboration when one ignores agents' incentives.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Active Deep Probabilistic Subsampling

Hans van Gorp · Iris Huijben · Bastiaan Veeling · Nicola Pezzotti · Ruud J. G. van Sloun

Subsampling a signal of interest can reduce costly data transfer, battery drain, radiation exposure and acquisition time in a wide range of problems. The recently proposed Deep Probabilistic Subsampling (DPS) method effectively integrates subsampling in an end-to-end deep learning model, but learns a static pattern for all datapoints. We generalize DPS to a sequential method that actively picks the next sample based on the information acquired so far; dubbed Active-DPS (A-DPS). We validate that A-DPS improves over DPS for MNIST classification at high subsampling rates. Moreover, we demonstrate strong performance in active acquisition Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) reconstruction, outperforming DPS and other deep learning methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Toward Understanding the Feature Learning Process of Self-supervised Contrastive Learning

Zixin Wen · Yuanzhi Li

We formally study how contrastive learning learns the feature representations for neural networks by investigating its feature learning process. We consider the case where our data are comprised of two types of features: the sparse features which we want to learn from, and the dense features we want to get rid of. Theoretically, we prove that contrastive learning using ReLU networks provably learns the desired features if proper augmentations are adopted. We present an underlying principle called feature decoupling to explain the effects of augmentations, where we theoretically characterize how augmentations can reduce the correlations of dense features between positive samples while keeping the correlations of sparse features intact, thereby forcing the neural networks to learn from the self-supervision of sparse features. Empirically, we verified that the feature decoupling principle matches the underlying mechanism of contrastive learning in practice.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Revenue-Incentive Tradeoffs in Dynamic Reserve Pricing

Yuan Deng · Sébastien Lahaie · Vahab Mirrokni · Song Zuo

Online advertisements are primarily sold via repeated auctions with reserve prices. In this paper, we study how to set reserves to boost revenue based on the historical bids of strategic buyers, while controlling the impact of such a policy on the incentive compatibility of the repeated auctions. Adopting an incentive compatibility metric which quantifies the incentives to shade bids, we propose a novel class of reserve pricing policies and provide analytical tradeoffs between their revenue performance and bid-shading incentives. The policies are inspired by the exponential mechanism from the literature on differential privacy, but our study uncovers mechanisms with significantly better revenue-incentive tradeoffs than the exponential mechanism in practice. We further empirically evaluate the tradeoffs on synthetic data as well as real ad auction data from a major ad exchange to verify and support our theoretical findings.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Improving Molecular Graph Neural Network Explainability with Orthonormalization and Induced Sparsity

Ryan Henderson · Djork-Arné Clevert · Floriane Montanari

Rationalizing which parts of a molecule drive the predictions of a molecular graph convolutional neural network (GCNN) can be difficult. To help, we propose two simple regularization techniques to apply during the training of GCNNs: Batch Representation Orthonormalization (BRO) and Gini regularization. BRO, inspired by molecular orbital theory, encourages graph convolution operations to generate orthonormal node embeddings. Gini regularization is applied to the weights of the output layer and constrains the number of dimensions the model can use to make predictions. We show that Gini and BRO regularization can improve the accuracy of state-of-the-art GCNN attribution methods on artificial benchmark datasets. In a real-world setting, we demonstrate that medicinal chemists significantly prefer explanations extracted from regularized models. While we only study these regularizers in the context of GCNNs, both can be applied to other types of neural networks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Stochastic Multi-Armed Bandits with Unrestricted Delay Distributions

Tal Lancewicki · Shahar Segal · Tomer Koren · Yishay Mansour

We study the stochastic Multi-Armed Bandit~(MAB) problem with random delays in the feedback received by the algorithm. We consider two settings: the {\it reward dependent} delay setting, where realized delays may depend on the stochastic rewards, and the {\it reward-independent} delay setting. Our main contribution is algorithms that achieve near-optimal regret in each of the settings, with an additional additive dependence on the quantiles of the delay distribution. Our results do not make any assumptions on the delay distributions: in particular, we do not assume they come from any parametric family of distributions and allow for unbounded support and expectation; we further allow for the case of infinite delays where the algorithm might occasionally not observe any feedback.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
High-dimensional Experimental Design and Kernel Bandits

Romain Camilleri · Kevin Jamieson · Julian Katz-Samuels

In recent years methods from optimal linear experimental design have been leveraged to obtain state of the art results for linear bandits. A design returned from an objective such as G-optimal design is actually a probability distribution over a pool of potential measurement vectors. Consequently, one nuisance of the approach is the task of converting this continuous probability distribution into a discrete assignment of N measurements. While sophisticated rounding techniques have been proposed, in d dimensions they require N to be at least d, d log(log(d)), or d^2 based on the sub-optimality of the solution. In this paper we are interested in settings where N may be much less than d, such as in experimental design in an RKHS where d may be effectively infinite.
In this work, we propose a rounding procedure that frees N of any dependence on the dimension d, while achieving nearly the same performance guarantees of existing rounding procedures. We evaluate the procedure against a baseline that projects the problem to a lower dimensional space and performs rounding there, which requires N to just be at least a notion of the effective dimension. We also leverage our new approach in a new algorithm for kernelized bandits to obtain state of the art results for regret minimization and pure exploration. An advantage of our approach over existing UCB-like approaches is that our kernel bandit algorithms are provably robust to model misspecification.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Relative Deviation Margin Bounds

Corinna Cortes · Mehryar Mohri · Ananda Theertha Suresh

We present a series of new and more favorable margin-based learning guarantees that depend on the empirical margin loss of a predictor. e give two types of learning bounds, in terms of either the Rademacher complexity or the empirical $\ell_\infty$-covering number of the hypothesis set used, both distribution-dependent and valid for general families. Furthermore, using our relative deviation margin bounds, we derive distribution-dependent generalization bounds for unbounded loss functions under the assumption of a finite moment. We also briefly highlight several applications of these bounds and discuss their connection with existing results.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Deciding What to Learn: A Rate-Distortion Approach

Dilip Arumugam · Benjamin Van Roy

Agents that learn to select optimal actions represent a prominent focus of the sequential decision-making literature. In the face of a complex environment or constraints on time and resources, however, aiming to synthesize such an optimal policy can become infeasible. These scenarios give rise to an important trade-off between the information an agent must acquire to learn and the sub-optimality of the resulting policy. While an agent designer has a preference for how this trade-off is resolved, existing approaches further require that the designer translate these preferences into a fixed learning target for the agent. In this work, leveraging rate-distortion theory, we automate this process such that the designer need only express their preferences via a single hyperparameter and the agent is endowed with the ability to compute its own learning targets that best achieve the desired trade-off. We establish a general bound on expected discounted regret for an agent that decides what to learn in this manner along with computational experiments that illustrate the expressiveness of designer preferences and even show improvements over Thompson sampling in identifying an optimal policy.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
The Lipschitz Constant of Self-Attention

Hyunjik Kim · George Papamakarios · Andriy Mnih

Lipschitz constants of neural networks have been explored in various contexts in deep learning, such as provable adversarial robustness, estimating Wasserstein distance, stabilising training of GANs, and formulating invertible neural networks. Such works have focused on bounding the Lipschitz constant of fully connected or convolutional networks, composed of linear maps and pointwise non-linearities. In this paper, we investigate the Lipschitz constant of self-attention, a non-linear neural network module widely used in sequence modelling. We prove that the standard dot-product self-attention is not Lipschitz for unbounded input domain, and propose an alternative L2 self-attention that is Lipschitz. We derive an upper bound on the Lipschitz constant of L2 self-attention and provide empirical evidence for its asymptotic tightness. To demonstrate the practical relevance of our theoretical work, we formulate invertible self-attention and use it in a Transformer-based architecture for a character-level language modelling task.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Model-based Reinforcement Learning for Continuous Control with Posterior Sampling

Ying Fan · Yifei Ming

Balancing exploration and exploitation is crucial in reinforcement learning (RL). In this paper, we study model-based posterior sampling for reinforcement learning (PSRL) in continuous state-action spaces theoretically and empirically. First, we show the first regret bound of PSRL in continuous spaces which is polynomial in the episode length to the best of our knowledge. With the assumption that reward and transition functions can be modeled by Bayesian linear regression, we develop a regret bound of $\tilde{O}(H^{3/2}d\sqrt{T})$, where $H$ is the episode length, $d$ is the dimension of the state-action space, and $T$ indicates the total time steps. This result matches the best-known regret bound of non-PSRL methods in linear MDPs. Our bound can be extended to nonlinear cases as well with feature embedding: using linear kernels on the feature representation $\phi$, the regret bound becomes $\tilde{O}(H^{3/2}d_{\phi}\sqrt{T})$, where $d_\phi$ is the dimension of the representation space. Moreover, we present MPC-PSRL, a model-based posterior sampling algorithm with model predictive control for action selection. To capture the uncertainty in models, we use Bayesian linear regression on the penultimate layer (the feature representation layer $\phi$) of neural networks. Empirical results show that our algorithm achieves the state-of-the-art sample efficiency in benchmark continuous control tasks compared to prior model-based algorithms, and matches the asymptotic performance of model-free algorithms.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Narrow Margins: Classification, Margins and Fat Tails

Francois Buet-Golfouse

It is well-known that, for separable data, the regularised two-class logistic regression or support vector machine re-normalised estimate converges to the maximal margin classifier as the regularisation hyper-parameter $\lambda$ goes to 0. The fact that different loss functions may lead to the same solution is of theoretical and practical relevance as margin maximisation allows more straightforward considerations in terms of generalisation and geometric interpretation. We investigate the case where this convergence property is not guaranteed to hold and show that it can be fully characterised by the distribution of error terms in the latent variable interpretation of linear classifiers. In particular, if errors follow a regularly varying distribution, then the regularised and re-normalised estimate does not converge to the maximal margin classifier. This shows that classification with fat tails has a qualitatively different behaviour, which should be taken into account when considering real-life data.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Improving Lossless Compression Rates via Monte Carlo Bits-Back Coding

Yangjun Ruan · Karen Ullrich · Daniel Severo · James Townsend · Ashish Khisti · Arnaud Doucet · Alireza Makhzani · Chris Maddison

Latent variable models have been successfully applied in lossless compression with the bits-back coding algorithm. However, bits-back suffers from an increase in the bitrate equal to the KL divergence between the approximate posterior and the true posterior. In this paper, we show how to remove this gap asymptotically by deriving bits-back coding algorithms from tighter variational bounds. The key idea is to exploit extended space representations of Monte Carlo estimators of the marginal likelihood. Naively applied, our schemes would require more initial bits than the standard bits-back coder, but we show how to drastically reduce this additional cost with couplings in the latent space. When parallel architectures can be exploited, our coders can achieve better rates than bits-back with little additional cost. We demonstrate improved lossless compression rates in a variety of settings, especially in out-of-distribution or sequential data compression.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Disentangling Sampling and Labeling Bias for Learning in Large-output Spaces

Ankit Singh Rawat · Aditya Menon · Wittawat Jitkrittum · Sadeep Jayasumana · Felix Xinnan Yu · Sashank Jakkam Reddi · Sanjiv Kumar

Negative sampling schemes enable efficient training given a large number of classes, by offering a means to approximate a computationally expensive loss function that takes all labels into account. In this paper, we present a new connection between these schemes and loss modification techniques for countering label imbalance. We show that different negative sampling schemes implicitly trade-off performance on dominant versus rare labels. Further, we provide a unified means to explicitly tackle both sampling bias, arising from working with a subset of all labels, and labeling bias, which is inherent to the data due to label imbalance. We empirically verify our findings on long-tail classification and retrieval benchmarks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
ChaCha for Online AutoML

Qingyun Wu · Chi Wang · John Langford · Paul Mineiro · Marco Rossi

We propose the ChaCha (Champion-Challengers) algorithm for making an online choice of hyperparameters in online learning settings. ChaCha handles the process of determining a champion and scheduling a set of `live' challengers over time based on sample complexity bounds. It is guaranteed to have sublinear regret after the optimal configuration is added into consideration by an application-dependent oracle based on the champions. Empirically, we show that ChaCha provides good performance across a wide array of datasets when optimizing over featurization and hyperparameter decisions.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Online A-Optimal Design and Active Linear Regression

Xavier Fontaine · Pierre Perrault · Michal Valko · Vianney Perchet

We consider in this paper the problem of optimal experiment design where a decision maker can choose which points to sample to obtain an estimate $\hat{\beta}$ of the hidden parameter $\beta^{\star}$ of an underlying linear model. The key challenge of this work lies in the heteroscedasticity assumption that we make, meaning that each covariate has a different and unknown variance. The goal of the decision maker is then to figure out on the fly the optimal way to allocate the total budget of $T$ samples between covariates, as sampling several times a specific one will reduce the variance of the estimated model around it (but at the cost of a possible higher variance elsewhere). By trying to minimize the $\ell^2$-loss $\mathbb{E} [\lVert\hat{\beta}-\beta^{\star}\rVert^2]$ the decision maker is actually minimizing the trace of the covariance matrix of the problem, which corresponds then to online A-optimal design. Combining techniques from bandit and convex optimization we propose a new active sampling algorithm and we compare it with existing ones. We provide theoretical guarantees of this algorithm in different settings, including a $\mathcal{O}(T^{-2})$ regret bound in the case where the covariates form a basis of the feature space, generalizing and improving existing results. Numerical experiments validate our theoretical findings.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Spectral vertex sparsifiers and pair-wise spanners over distributed graphs

Chunjiang Zhu · Qinqing Liu · Jinbo Bi

Graph sparsification is a powerful tool to approximate an arbitrary graph and has been used in machine learning over graphs. As real-world networks are becoming very large and naturally distributed, distributed graph sparsification has drawn considerable attention. In this work, we design communication-efficient distributed algorithms for constructing spectral vertex sparsifiers, which closely preserve effective resistance distances on a subset of vertices of interest in the original graphs, under the well-established message passing communication model. We prove that the communication cost approximates the lower bound with only a small gap. We further provide algorithms for constructing pair-wise spanners which approximate the shortest distances between each pair of vertices in a target set, instead of all pairs, and incur communication costs that are much smaller than those of existing algorithms in the message passing model. Experiments are performed to validate the communication efficiency of the proposed algorithms under the guarantee that the constructed sparsifiers have a good approximation quality.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
XOR-CD: Linearly Convergent Constrained Structure Generation

Fan Ding · Jianzhu Ma · Jinbo Xu · Yexiang Xue

We propose XOR-Contrastive Divergence learning (XOR-CD), a provable approach for constrained structure generation, which remains difficult for state-of-the-art neural network and constraint reasoning approaches. XOR-CD harnesses XOR-Sampling to generate samples from the model distribution in CD learning and is guaranteed to generate valid structures. In addition, XOR-CD has a linear convergence rate towards the global maximum of the likelihood function within a vanishing constant in learning exponential family models. Constraint satisfaction enabled by XOR-CD also boosts its learning performance. Our real-world experiments on data-driven experimental design, dispatching route generation, and sequence-based protein homology detection demonstrate the superior performance of XOR-CD compared to baseline approaches in generating valid structures as well as capturing the inductive bias in the training set.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Finite-Sample Analysis of Off-Policy Natural Actor-Critic Algorithm

sajad khodadadian · Zaiwei Chen · Siva Maguluri

In this paper, we provide finite-sample convergence guarantees for an off-policy variant of the natural actor-critic (NAC) algorithm based on Importance Sampling. In particular, we show that the algorithm converges to a global optimal policy with a sample complexity of $\mathcal{O}(\epsilon^{-3}\log^2(1/\epsilon))$ under an appropriate choice of stepsizes. In order to overcome the issue of large variance due to Importance Sampling, we propose the $Q$-trace algorithm for the critic, which is inspired by the V-trace algorithm (Espeholt et al., 2018). This enables us to explicitly control the bias and variance, and characterize the trade-off between them. As an advantage of off-policy sampling, a major feature of our result is that we do not need any additional assumptions, beyond the ergodicity of the Markov chain induced by the behavior policy.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Value Iteration in Continuous Actions, States and Time

Michael Lutter · Shie Mannor · Jan Peters · Dieter Fox · Animesh Garg

Classical value iteration approaches are not applicable to environments with continuous states and actions. For such environments the states and actions must be discretized, which leads to an exponential increase in computational complexity. In this paper, we propose continuous fitted value iteration (cFVI). This algorithm enables dynamic programming for continuous states and actions with a known dynamics model. Exploiting the continuous time formulation, the optimal policy can be derived for non-linear control-affine dynamics. This closed-form solution enables the efficient extension of value iteration to continuous environments. We show in non-linear control experiments that the dynamic programming solution obtains the same quantitative performance as deep reinforcement learning methods in simulation but excels when transferred to the physical system.The policy obtained by cFVI is more robust to changes in the dynamics despite using only a deterministic model and without explicitly incorporating robustness in the optimization

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Characterizing the Gap Between Actor-Critic and Policy Gradient

Junfeng Wen · Saurabh Kumar · Ramki Gummadi · Dale Schuurmans

Actor-critic (AC) methods are ubiquitous in reinforcement learning. Although it is understood that AC methods are closely related to policy gradient (PG), their precise connection has not been fully characterized previously. In this paper, we explain the gap between AC and PG methods by identifying the exact adjustment to the AC objective/gradient that recovers the true policy gradient of the cumulative reward objective (PG). Furthermore, by viewing the AC method as a two-player Stackelberg game between the actor and critic, we show that the Stackelberg policy gradient can be recovered as a special case of our more general analysis. Based on these results, we develop practical algorithms, Residual Actor-Critic and Stackelberg Actor-Critic, for estimating the correction between AC and PG and use these to modify the standard AC algorithm. Experiments on popular tabular and continuous environments show the proposed corrections can improve both the sample efficiency and final performance of existing AC methods.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Approximate Group Fairness for Clustering

Bo Li · Lijun Li · Ankang Sun · Chenhao Wang · Yingfan Wang

We incorporate group fairness into the algorithmic centroid clustering problem, where $k$ centers are to be located to serve $n$ agents distributed in a metric space. We refine the notion of proportional fairness proposed in [Chen et al., ICML 2019] as {\em core fairness}. A $k$-clustering is in the core if no coalition containing at least $n/k$ agents can strictly decrease their total distance by deviating to a new center together. Our solution concept is motivated by the situation where agents are able to coordinate and utilities are transferable. A string of existence, hardness and approximability results is provided. Particularly, we propose two dimensions to relax core requirements: one is on the degree of distance improvement, and the other is on the size of deviating coalition. For both relaxations and their combination, we study the extent to which relaxed core fairness can be satisfied in metric spaces including line, tree and general metric space, and design approximation algorithms accordingly. We also conduct experiments on synthetic and real-world data to examine the performance of our algorithms.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning in Nonzero-Sum Stochastic Games with Potentials

David Mguni · Yutong Wu · Yali Du · Yaodong Yang · Ziyi Wang · Minne Li · Ying Wen · Joel Jennings · Jun Wang

Multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) has become effective in tackling discrete cooperative game scenarios. However, MARL has yet to penetrate settings beyond those modelled by team and zero-sum games, confining it to a small subset of multi-agent systems. In this paper, we introduce a new generation of MARL learners that can handle \textit{nonzero-sum} payoff structures and continuous settings. In particular, we study the MARL problem in a class of games known as stochastic potential games (SPGs) with continuous state-action spaces. Unlike cooperative games, in which all agents share a common reward, SPGs are capable of modelling real-world scenarios where agents seek to fulfil their individual goals. We prove theoretically our learning method, $\ourmethod$, enables independent agents to learn Nash equilibrium strategies in \textit{polynomial time}. We demonstrate our framework tackles previously unsolvable tasks such as \textit{Coordination Navigation} and \textit{large selfish routing games} and that it outperforms the state of the art MARL baselines such as MADDPG and COMIX in such scenarios.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Towards the Unification and Robustness of Perturbation and Gradient Based Explanations

Sushant Agarwal · Shahin Jabbari · Chirag Agarwal · Sohini Upadhyay · Steven Wu · Hima Lakkaraju

As machine learning black boxes are increasingly being deployed in critical domains such as healthcare and criminal justice, there has been a growing emphasis on developing techniques for explaining these black boxes in a post hoc manner. In this work, we analyze two popular post hoc interpretation techniques: SmoothGrad which is a gradient based method, and a variant of LIME which is a perturbation based method. More specifically, we derive explicit closed form expressions for the explanations output by these two methods and show that they both converge to the same explanation in expectation, i.e., when the number of perturbed samples used by these methods is large. We then leverage this connection to establish other desirable properties, such as robustness, for these techniques. We also derive finite sample complexity bounds for the number of perturbations required for these methods to converge to their expected explanation. Finally, we empirically validate our theory using extensive experimentation on both synthetic and real-world datasets.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Estimation and Quantization of Expected Persistence Diagrams

Vincent Divol · Theo Lacombe

Persistence diagrams (PDs) are the most common descriptors used to encode the topology of structured data appearing in challenging learning tasks;~think e.g.~of graphs, time series or point clouds sampled close to a manifold. Given random objects and the corresponding distribution of PDs, one may want to build a statistical summary---such as a mean---of these random PDs, which is however not a trivial task as the natural geometry of the space of PDs is not linear. In this article, we study two such summaries, the Expected Persistence Diagram (EPD), and its quantization. The EPD is a measure supported on $\mathbb{R}^2$, which may be approximated by its empirical counterpart. We prove that this estimator is optimal from a minimax standpoint on a large class of models with a parametric rate of convergence. The empirical EPD is simple and efficient to compute, but possibly has a very large support, hindering its use in practice. To overcome this issue, we propose an algorithm to compute a quantization of the empirical EPD, a measure with small support which is shown to approximate with near-optimal rates a quantization of the theoretical EPD.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Large-Scale Multi-Agent Deep FBSDEs

Tianrong Chen · Ziyi Wang · Ioannis Exarchos · Evangelos Theodorou

In this paper we present a scalable deep learning framework for finding Markovian Nash Equilibria in multi-agent stochastic games using fictitious play. The motivation is inspired by theoretical analysis of Forward Backward Stochastic Differential Equations and their implementation in a deep learning setting, which is the source of our algorithm's sample efficiency improvement. By taking advantage of the permutation-invariant property of agents in symmetric games, the scalability and performance is further enhanced significantly. We showcase superior performance of our framework over the state-of-the-art deep fictitious play algorithm on an inter-bank lending/borrowing problem in terms of multiple metrics. More importantly, our approach scales up to 3000 agents in simulation, a scale which, to the best of our knowledge, represents a new state-of-the-art. We also demonstrate the applicability of our framework in robotics on a belief space autonomous racing problem.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Bayesian Optimistic Optimisation with Exponentially Decaying Regret

Hung Tran-The · Sunil Gupta · Santu Rana · Svetha Venkatesh

Bayesian optimisation (BO) is a well known algorithm for finding the global optimum of expensive, black-box functions. The current practical BO algorithms have regret bounds ranging from $\mathcal{O}(\frac{logN}{\sqrt{N}})$ to $\mathcal O(e^{-\sqrt{N}})$, where $N$ is the number of evaluations. This paper explores the possibility of improving the regret bound in the noise-free setting by intertwining concepts from BO and optimistic optimisation methods which are based on partitioning the search space. We propose the BOO algorithm, a first practical approach which can achieve an exponential regret bound with order $\mathcal O(N^{-\sqrt{N}})$ under the assumption that the objective function is sampled from a Gaussian process with a Mat\'ern kernel with smoothness parameter $\nu > 4 +\frac{D}{2}$, where $D$ is the number of dimensions. We perform experiments on optimisation of various synthetic functions and machine learning hyperparameter tuning tasks and show that our algorithm outperforms baselines.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning Queueing Policies for Organ Transplantation Allocation using Interpretable Counterfactual Survival Analysis

Jeroen Berrevoets · Ahmed Alaa · Zhaozhi Qian · James Jordon · alexander gimson · Mihaela van der Schaar

Organ transplantation is often the last resort for treating end-stage illnesses, but managing transplant wait-lists is challenging because of organ scarcity and the complexity of assessing donor-recipient compatibility. In this paper, we develop a data-driven model for (real-time) organ allocation using observational data for transplant outcomes. Our model integrates a queuing-theoretic framework with unsupervised learning to cluster the organs into ``organ types'', and then construct priority queues (associated with each organ type) wherein incoming patients are assigned. To reason about organ allocations, the model uses synthetic controls to infer a patient's survival outcomes under counterfactual allocations to the different organ types– the model is trained end-to-end to optimise the trade-off between patient waiting time and expected survival time. The usage of synthetic controls enable patient-level interpretations of allocation decisions that can be presented and understood by clinicians. We test our model on multiple data sets, and show that it outperforms other organ-allocation policies in terms of added life-years, and death count. Furthermore, we introduce a novel organ-allocation simulator to accurately test new policies.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
How to Learn when Data Reacts to Your Model: Performative Gradient Descent

Zachary Izzo · Lexing Ying · James Zou

Performative distribution shift captures the setting where the choice of which ML model is deployed changes the data distribution. For example, a bank which uses the number of open credit lines to determine a customer's risk of default on a loan may induce customers to open more credit lines in order to improve their chances of being approved. Because of the interactions between the model and data distribution, finding the optimal model parameters is challenging. Works in this area have focused on finding stable points, which can be far from optimal. Here we introduce \emph{performative gradient descent} (PerfGD), an algorithm for computing performatively optimal points. Under regularity assumptions on the performative loss, PerfGD is the first algorithm which provably converges to an optimal point. PerfGD explicitly captures how changes in the model affects the data distribution and is simple to use. We support our findings with theory and experiments.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Parametric Graph for Unimodal Ranking Bandit

Camille-Sovanneary GAUTHIER · Romaric Gaudel · Elisa Fromont · Boammani Aser Lompo

We tackle the online ranking problem of assigning $L$ items to $K$ positions on a web page in order to maximize the number of user clicks. We propose an original algorithm, easy to implement and with strong theoretical guarantees to tackle this problem in the Position-Based Model (PBM) setting, well suited for applications where items are displayed on a grid. Besides learning to rank, our algorithm, GRAB (for parametric Graph for unimodal RAnking Bandit), also learns the parameter of a compact graph over permutations of $K$ items among $L$. The logarithmic regret bound of this algorithm is a direct consequence of the unimodality property of the bandit setting with respect to the learned graph. Experiments against state-of-the-art learning algorithms which also tackle the PBM setting, show that our method is more efficient while giving regret performance on par with the best known algorithms on simulated and real life datasets.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 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 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Classifying high-dimensional Gaussian mixtures: Where kernel methods fail and neural networks succeed

Maria Refinetti · Sebastian Goldt · FLORENT KRZAKALA · Lenka Zdeborova

A recent series of theoretical works showed that the dynamics of neural networks with a certain initialisation are well-captured by kernel methods. Concurrent empirical work demonstrated that kernel methods can come close to the performance of neural networks on some image classification tasks. These results raise the question of whether neural networks only learn successfully if kernels also learn successfully, despite being the more expressive function class. Here, we show that two-layer neural networks with only a few neurons achieve near-optimal performance on high-dimensional Gaussian mixture classification while lazy training approaches such as random features and kernel methods do not. Our analysis is based on the derivation of a set of ordinary differential equations that exactly track the dynamics of the network and thus allow to extract the asymptotic performance of the network as a function of regularisation or signal-to-noise ratio. We also show how over-parametrising the neural network leads to faster convergence, but does not improve its final performance.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
SiameseXML: Siamese Networks meet Extreme Classifiers with 100M Labels

Kunal Dahiya · Ananye Agarwal · Deepak Saini · Gururaj K · Jian Jiao · Amit Singh · Sumeet Agarwal · Purushottam Kar · Manik Varma

Deep extreme multi-label learning (XML) requires training deep architectures that can tag a data point with its most relevant subset of labels from an extremely large label set. XML applications such as ad and product recommendation involve labels rarely seen during training but which nevertheless hold the key to recommendations that delight users. Effective utilization of label metadata and high quality predictions for rare labels at the scale of millions of labels are thus key challenges in contemporary XML research. To address these, this paper develops the SiameseXML framework based on a novel probabilistic model that naturally motivates a modular approach melding Siamese architectures with high-capacity extreme classifiers, and a training pipeline that effortlessly scales to tasks with 100 million labels. SiameseXML offers predictions 2--13% more accurate than leading XML methods on public benchmark datasets, as well as in live A/B tests on the Bing search engine, it offers significant gains in click-through-rates, coverage, revenue and other online metrics over state-of-the-art techniques currently in production. Code for SiameseXML is available at https://github.com/Extreme-classification/siamesexml

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Modelling Behavioural Diversity for Learning in Open-Ended Games

Nicolas Perez-Nieves · Yaodong Yang · Oliver Slumbers · David Mguni · Ying Wen · Jun Wang

Promoting behavioural diversity is critical for solving games with non-transitive dynamics where strategic cycles exist, and there is no consistent winner (e.g., Rock-Paper-Scissors). Yet, there is a lack of rigorous treatment for defining diversity and constructing diversity-aware learning dynamics. In this work, we offer a geometric interpretation of behavioural diversity in games and introduce a novel diversity metric based on \emph{determinantal point processes} (DPP). By incorporating the diversity metric into best-response dynamics, we develop \emph{diverse fictitious play} and \emph{diverse policy-space response oracle} for solving normal-form games and open-ended games. We prove the uniqueness of the diverse best response and the convergence of our algorithms on two-player games. Importantly, we show that maximising the DPP-based diversity metric guarantees to enlarge the \emph{gamescape} -- convex polytopes spanned by agents' mixtures of strategies. To validate our diversity-aware solvers, we test on tens of games that show strong non-transitivity. Results suggest that our methods achieve at least the same, and in most games, lower exploitability than PSRO solvers by finding effective and diverse strategies.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Accelerating Safe Reinforcement Learning with Constraint-mismatched Baseline Policies

Jimmy (Tsung-Yen) Yang · Justinian Rosca · Karthik Narasimhan · Peter Ramadge

We consider the problem of reinforcement learning when provided with (1) a baseline control policy and (2) a set of constraints that the learner must satisfy. The baseline policy can arise from demonstration data or a teacher agent and may provide useful cues for learning, but it might also be sub-optimal for the task at hand, and is not guaranteed to satisfy the specified constraints, which might encode safety, fairness or other application-specific requirements. In order to safely learn from baseline policies, we propose an iterative policy optimization algorithm that alternates between maximizing expected return on the task, minimizing distance to the baseline policy, and projecting the policy onto the constraint-satisfying set. We analyze our algorithm theoretically and provide a finite-time convergence guarantee. In our experiments on five different control tasks, our algorithm consistently outperforms several state-of-the-art baselines, achieving 10 times fewer constraint violations and 40% higher reward on average.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Homomorphic Sensing: Sparsity and Noise

Liangzu Peng · Boshi Wang · Manolis Tsakiris

\emph{Unlabeled sensing} is a recent problem encompassing many data science and engineering applications and typically formulated as solving linear equations whose right-hand side vector has undergone an unknown permutation. It was generalized to the \emph{homomorphic sensing} problem by replacing the unknown permutation with an unknown linear map from a given finite set of linear maps. In this paper we present tighter and simpler conditions for the homomorphic sensing problem to admit a unique solution. We show that this solution is locally stable under noise, while under a sparsity assumption it remains unique under less demanding conditions. Sparsity in the context of unlabeled sensing leads to the problem of \textit{unlabeled compressed sensing}, and a consequence of our general theory is the existence under mild conditions of a unique sparsest solution. On the algorithmic level, we solve unlabeled compressed sensing by an iterative algorithm validated by synthetic data experiments. Finally, under the unifying homomorphic sensing framework we connect unlabeled sensing to other important practical problems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Model-Free and Model-Based Policy Evaluation when Causality is Uncertain

David Bruns-Smith

When decision-makers can directly intervene, policy evaluation algorithms give valid causal estimates. In off-policy evaluation (OPE), there may exist unobserved variables that both impact the dynamics and are used by the unknown behavior policy. These ``confounders'' will introduce spurious correlations and naive estimates for a new policy will be biased. We develop worst-case bounds to assess sensitivity to these unobserved confounders in finite horizons when confounders are drawn iid each period. We demonstrate that a model-based approach with robust MDPs gives sharper lower bounds by exploiting domain knowledge about the dynamics. Finally, we show that when unobserved confounders are persistent over time, OPE is far more difficult and existing techniques produce extremely conservative bounds.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Dichotomous Optimistic Search to Quantify Human Perception

Julien Audiffren

In this paper we address a variant of the continuous multi-armed bandits problem, called the threshold estimation problem, which is at the heart of many psychometric experiments. Here, the objective is to estimate the sensitivity threshold for an unknown psychometric function Psi, which is assumed to be non decreasing and continuous. Our algorithm, Dichotomous Optimistic Search (DOS), efficiently solves this task by taking inspiration from hierarchical multi-armed bandits and Black-box optimization. Compared to previous approaches, DOS is model free and only makes minimal assumption on Psi smoothness, while having strong theoretical guarantees that compares favorably to recent methods from both Psychophysics and Global Optimization. We also empirically evaluate DOS and show that it significantly outperforms these methods, both in experiments that mimics the conduct of a psychometric experiment, and in tests with large pulls budgets that illustrate the faster convergence rate.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning from Biased Data: A Semi-Parametric Approach

Patrice Bertail · Stephan Clémençon · Yannick Guyonvarch · Nathan NOIRY

We consider risk minimization problems where the (source) distribution $P_S$ of the training observations $Z_1, \ldots, Z_n$ differs from the (target) distribution $P_T$ involved in the risk that one seeks to minimize. Under the natural assumption that $P_S$ dominates $P_T$, \textit{i.e.} $P_T< \! \!

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
An Algorithm for Stochastic and Adversarial Bandits with Switching Costs

Chloé Rouyer · Yevgeny Seldin · Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi

We propose an algorithm for stochastic and adversarial multiarmed bandits with switching costs, where the algorithm pays a price $\lambda$ every time it switches the arm being played. Our algorithm is based on adaptation of the Tsallis-INF algorithm of Zimmert and Seldin (2021) and requires no prior knowledge of the regime or time horizon. In the oblivious adversarial setting it achieves the minimax optimal regret bound of $ O( (\lambda K)^{1/3}T^{2/3} + \sqrt{KT})$, where $T$ is the time horizon and $K$ is the number of arms. In the stochastically constrained adversarial regime, which includes the stochastic regime as a special case, it achieves a regret bound of $O((\lambda K)^{2/3} T^{1/3} + \ln T)\sum_{i \neq i^*} \Delta_i^{-1})$, where $\Delta_i$ are suboptimality gaps and $i^*$ is the unique optimal arm. In the special case of $\lambda = 0$ (no switching costs), both bounds are minimax optimal within constants. We also explore variants of the problem, where switching cost is allowed to change over time. We provide experimental evaluation showing competitiveness of our algorithm with the relevant baselines in the stochastic, stochastically constrained adversarial, and adversarial regimes with fixed switching cost.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Measuring Robustness in Deep Learning Based Compressive Sensing

Mohammad Zalbagi Darestani · Akshay Chaudhari · Reinhard Heckel

Deep neural networks give state-of-the-art accuracy for reconstructing images from few and noisy measurements, a problem arising for example in accelerated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, recent works have raised concerns that deep-learning-based image reconstruction methods are sensitive to perturbations and are less robust than traditional methods: Neural networks (i) may be sensitive to small, yet adversarially-selected perturbations, (ii) may perform poorly under distribution shifts, and (iii) may fail to recover small but important features in an image. In order to understand the sensitivity to such perturbations, in this work, we measure the robustness of different approaches for image reconstruction including trained and un-trained neural networks as well as traditional sparsity-based methods. We find, contrary to prior works, that both trained and un-trained methods are vulnerable to adversarial perturbations. Moreover, both trained and un-trained methods tuned for a particular dataset suffer very similarly from distribution shifts. Finally, we demonstrate that an image reconstruction method that achieves higher reconstruction quality, also performs better in terms of accurately recovering fine details. Our results indicate that the state-of-the-art deep-learning-based image reconstruction methods provide improved performance than traditional methods without compromising robustness.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Adversarial Combinatorial Bandits with General Non-linear Reward Functions

Yanjun Han · Yining Wang · Xi Chen

In this paper we study the adversarial combinatorial bandit with a known non-linear reward function, extending existing work on adversarial linear combinatorial bandit. {The adversarial combinatorial bandit with general non-linear reward is an important open problem in bandit literature, and it is still unclear whether there is a significant gap from the case of linear reward, stochastic bandit, or semi-bandit feedback.} We show that, with $N$ arms and subsets of $K$ arms being chosen at each of $T$ time periods, the minimax optimal regret is $\widetilde\Theta_{d}(\sqrt{N^d T})$ if the reward function is a $d$-degree polynomial with $d< K$, and $\Theta_K(\sqrt{N^K T})$ if the reward function is not a low-degree polynomial. {Both bounds are significantly different from the bound $O(\sqrt{\mathrm{poly}(N,K)T})$ for the linear case, which suggests that there is a fundamental gap between the linear and non-linear reward structures.} Our result also finds applications to adversarial assortment optimization problem in online recommendation. We show that in the worst-case of adversarial assortment problem, the optimal algorithm must treat each individual $\binom{N}{K}$ assortment as independent.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Follow-the-Regularized-Leader Routes to Chaos in Routing Games

Jakub Bielawski · Thiparat Chotibut · Fryderyk Falniowski · Grzegorz Kosiorowski · Michał Misiurewicz · Georgios Piliouras

We study the emergence of chaotic behavior of Follow-the-Regularized Leader (FoReL) dynamics in games. We focus on the effects of increasing the population size or the scale of costs in congestion games, and generalize recent results on unstable, chaotic behaviors in the Multiplicative Weights Update dynamics to a much larger class of FoReL dynamics. We establish that, even in simple linear non-atomic congestion games with two parallel links and \emph{any} fixed learning rate, unless the game is fully symmetric, increasing the population size or the scale of costs causes learning dynamics to becomes unstable and eventually chaotic, in the sense of Li-Yorke and positive topological entropy. Furthermore, we prove the existence of novel non-standard phenomena such as the coexistence of stable Nash equilibria and chaos in the same game. We also observe the simultaneous creation of a chaotic attractor as another chaotic attractor gets destroyed. Lastly, although FoReL dynamics can be strange and non-equilibrating, we prove that the time average still converges to an \emph{exact} equilibrium for any choice of learning rate and any scale of costs.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Faster Kernel Matrix Algebra via Density Estimation

Arturs Backurs · Piotr Indyk · Cameron Musco · Tal Wagner

We study fast algorithms for computing basic properties of an n x n positive semidefinite kernel matrix K corresponding to n points x1,...,xn in R^d. In particular, we consider the estimating the sum of kernel matrix entries, along with its top eigenvalue and eigenvector. These are some of the most basic problems defined over kernel matrices.

We show that the sum of matrix entries can be estimated up to a multiplicative factor of 1+\epsilon in time sublinear in n and linear in d for many popular kernel functions, including the Gaussian, exponential, and rational quadratic kernels. For these kernels, we also show that the top eigenvalue (and a witnessing approximate eigenvector) can be approximated to a multiplicative factor of 1+\epsilon in time sub-quadratic in n and linear in d.

Our algorithms represent significant advances in the best known runtimes for these problems. They leverage the positive definiteness of the kernel matrix, along with a recent line of work on efficient kernel density estimation.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning from Noisy Labels with No Change to the Training Process

Mingyuan Zhang · Jane Lee · Shivani Agarwal

There has been much interest in recent years in developing learning algorithms that can learn accurate classifiers from data with noisy labels. A widely-studied noise model is that of \emph{class-conditional noise} (CCN), wherein a label $y$ is flipped to a label $\tilde{y}$ with some associated noise probability that depends on both $y$ and $\tilde{y}$. In the multiclass setting, all previously proposed algorithms under the CCN model involve changing the training process, by introducing a `noise-correction' to the surrogate loss to be minimized over the noisy training examples. In this paper, we show that this is really unnecessary: one can simply perform class probability estimation (CPE) on the noisy examples, e.g.\ using a standard (multiclass) logistic regression algorithm, and then apply noise-correction only in the final prediction step. This means that the training algorithm itself does not need any change, and one can simply use standard off-the-shelf implementations with no modification to the code for training. Our approach can handle general multiclass loss matrices, including the usual 0-1 loss but also other losses such as those used for ordinal regression problems. We also provide a quantitative regret transfer bound, which bounds the target regret on the true distribution in terms of the CPE regret on the noisy distribution; in doing so, we extend the notion of strong properness introduced for binary losses by Agarwal (2014) to the multiclass case. Our bound suggests that the sample complexity of learning under CCN increases as the noise matrix approaches singularity. We also provide fixes and potential improvements for noise estimation methods that involve computing anchor points. Our experiments confirm our theoretical findings.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Off-Belief Learning

Hengyuan Hu · Adam Lerer · Brandon Cui · Luis Pineda · Noam Brown · Jakob Foerster

The standard problem setting in Dec-POMDPs is self-play, where the goal is to find a set of policies that play optimally together. Policies learned through self-play may adopt arbitrary conventions and implicitly rely on multi-step reasoning based on fragile assumptions about other agents' actions and thus fail when paired with humans or independently trained agents at test time. To address this, we present off-belief learning (OBL). At each timestep OBL agents follow a policy $\pi_1$ that is optimized assuming past actions were taken by a given, fixed policy ($\pi_0$), but assuming that future actions will be taken by $\pi_1$. When $\pi_0$ is uniform random, OBL converges to an optimal policy that does not rely on inferences based on other agents' behavior (an optimal grounded policy). OBL can be iterated in a hierarchy, where the optimal policy from one level becomes the input to the next, thereby introducing multi-level cognitive reasoning in a controlled manner. Unlike existing approaches, which may converge to any equilibrium policy, OBL converges to a unique policy, making it suitable for zero-shot coordination (ZSC). OBL can be scaled to high-dimensional settings with a fictitious transition mechanism and shows strong performance in both a toy-setting and the benchmark human-AI & ZSC problem Hanabi.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Opening the Blackbox: Accelerating Neural Differential Equations by Regularizing Internal Solver Heuristics

Avik Pal · Yingbo Ma · Viral Shah · Christopher Rackauckas

Democratization of machine learning requires architectures that automatically adapt to new problems. Neural Differential Equations (NDEs) have emerged as a popular modeling framework by removing the need for ML practitioners to choose the number of layers in a recurrent model. While we can control the computational cost by choosing the number of layers in standard architectures, in NDEs the number of neural network evaluations for a forward pass can depend on the number of steps of the adaptive ODE solver. But, can we force the NDE to learn the version with the least steps while not increasing the training cost? Current strategies to overcome slow prediction require high order automatic differentiation, leading to significantly higher training time. We describe a novel regularization method that uses the internal cost heuristics of adaptive differential equation solvers combined with discrete adjoint sensitivities to guide the training process towards learning NDEs that are easier to solve. This approach opens up the blackbox numerical analysis behind the differential equation solver's algorithm and directly uses its local error estimates and stiffness heuristics as cheap and accurate cost estimates. We incorporate our method without any change in the underlying NDE framework and show that our method extends beyond Ordinary Differential Equations to accommodate Neural Stochastic Differential Equations. We demonstrate how our approach can halve the prediction time and, unlike other methods which can increase the training time by an order of magnitude, we demonstrate similar reduction in training times. Together this showcases how the knowledge embedded within state-of-the-art equation solvers can be used to enhance machine learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
How could Neural Networks understand Programs?

Dinglan Peng · Shuxin Zheng · Yatao Li · Guolin Ke · Di He · Tie-Yan Liu

Semantic understanding of programs is a fundamental problem for programming language processing (PLP). Recent works that learn representations of code based on pre-training techniques in NLP have pushed the frontiers in this direction. However, the semantics of PL and NL have essential differences. These being ignored, we believe it is difficult to build a model to better understand programs, by either directly applying off-the-shelf NLP pre-training techniques to the source code, or adding features to the model by the heuristic. In fact, the semantics of a program can be rigorously defined by formal semantics in PL theory. For example, the operational semantics, describes the meaning of a valid program as updating the environment (i.e., the memory address-value function) through fundamental operations, such as memory I/O and conditional branching. Inspired by this, we propose a novel program semantics learning paradigm, that the model should learn from information composed of (1) the representations which align well with the fundamental operations in operational semantics, and (2) the information of environment transition, which is indispensable for program understanding. To validate our proposal, we present a hierarchical Transformer-based pre-training model called OSCAR to better facilitate the understanding of programs. OSCAR learns from intermediate representation (IR) and an encoded representation derived from static analysis, which are used for representing the fundamental operations and approximating the environment transitions respectively. OSCAR empirically shows the outstanding capability of program semantics understanding on many practical software engineering tasks. Code and models are released at: \url{https://github.com/pdlan/OSCAR}.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning from Nested Data with Ornstein Auto-Encoders

Youngwon Choi · Sungdong Lee · Joong-Ho (Johann) Won

Many of real-world data, e.g., the VGGFace2 dataset, which is a collection of multiple portraits of individuals, come with nested structures due to grouped observation. The Ornstein auto-encoder (OAE) is an emerging framework for representation learning from nested data, based on an optimal transport distance between random processes. An attractive feature of OAE is its ability to generate new variations nested within an observational unit, whether or not the unit is known to the model. A previously proposed algorithm for OAE, termed the random-intercept OAE (RIOAE), showed an impressive performance in learning nested representations, yet lacks theoretical justification. In this work, we show that RIOAE minimizes a loose upper bound of the employed optimal transport distance. After identifying several issues with RIOAE, we present the product-space OAE (PSOAE) that minimizes a tighter upper bound of the distance and achieves orthogonality in the representation space. PSOAE alleviates the instability of RIOAE and provides more flexible representation of nested data. We demonstrate the high performance of PSOAE in the three key tasks of generative models: exemplar generation, style transfer, and new concept generation.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Inferring serial correlation with dynamic backgrounds

Song Wei · Yao Xie · Dobromir Rahnev

Sequential data with serial correlation and an unknown, unstructured, and dynamic background is ubiquitous in neuroscience, psychology, and econometrics. Inferring serial correlation for such data is a fundamental challenge in statistics. We propose a Total Variation (TV) constrained least square estimator coupled with hypothesis tests to infer the serial correlation in the presence of unknown and unstructured dynamic background. The TV constraint on the dynamic background encourages a piecewise constant structure, which can approximate a wide range of dynamic backgrounds. The tuning parameter is selected via the Ljung-Box test to control the bias-variance trade-off. We establish a non-asymptotic upper bound for the estimation error through variational inequalities. We also derive a lower error bound via Fano's method and show the proposed method is near-optimal. Numerical simulation and a real study in psychology demonstrate the excellent performance of our proposed method compared with the state-of-the-art.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Uncertainty Principles of Encoding GANs

Ruili Feng · Zhouchen Lin · jiapeng zhu · Deli Zhao · Jingren Zhou · Zheng-Jun Zha

The compelling synthesis results of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) demonstrate rich semantic knowledge in their latent codes. To obtain this knowledge for downstream applications, encoding GANs has been proposed to learn encoders, such that real world data can be encoded to latent codes, which can be fed to generators to reconstruct those data. However, despite the theoretical guarantees of precise reconstruction in previous works, current algorithms generally reconstruct inputs with non-negligible deviations from inputs. In this paper we study this predicament of encoding GANs, which is indispensable research for the GAN community. We prove three uncertainty principles of encoding GANs in practice: a) the perfect' encoder and generator cannot be continuous at the same time, which implies that current framework of encoding GANs is ill-posed and needs rethinking; b) neural networks cannot approximate the underlying encoder and generator precisely at the same time, which explains why we cannot getperfect' encoders and generators as promised in previous theories; c) neural networks cannot be stable and accurate at the same time, which demonstrates the difficulty of training and trade-off between fidelity and disentanglement encountered in previous works. Our work may eliminate gaps between previous theories and empirical results, promote the understanding of GANs, and guide network designs for follow-up works.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Composing Normalizing Flows for Inverse Problems

Jay Whang · Erik Lindgren · Alexandros Dimakis

Given an inverse problem with a normalizing flow prior, we wish to estimate the distribution of the underlying signal conditioned on the observations. We approach this problem as a task of conditional inference on the pre-trained unconditional flow model. We first establish that this is computationally hard for a large class of flow models. Motivated by this, we propose a framework for approximate inference that estimates the target conditional as a composition of two flow models. This formulation leads to a stable variational inference training procedure that avoids adversarial training. Our method is evaluated on a variety of inverse problems and is shown to produce high-quality samples with uncertainty quantification. We further demonstrate that our approach can be amortized for zero-shot inference.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Connecting Optimal Ex-Ante Collusion in Teams to Extensive-Form Correlation: Faster Algorithms and Positive Complexity Results

Gabriele Farina · Andrea Celli · Nicola Gatti · Tuomas Sandholm

We focus on the problem of finding an optimal strategy for a team of players that faces an opponent in an imperfect-information zero-sum extensive-form game. Team members are not allowed to communicate during play but can coordinate before the game. In this setting, it is known that the best the team can do is sample a profile of potentially randomized strategies (one per player) from a joint (a.k.a. correlated) probability distribution at the beginning of the game. In this paper, we first provide new modeling results about computing such an optimal distribution by drawing a connection to a different literature on extensive-form correlation. Second, we provide an algorithm that allows one for capping the number of profiles employed in the solution. This begets an anytime algorithm by increasing the cap. We find that often a handful of well-chosen such profiles suffices to reach optimal utility for the team. This enables team members to reach coordination through a simple and understandable plan. Finally, inspired by this observation and leveraging theoretical concepts that we introduce, we develop an efficient column-generation algorithm for finding an optimal distribution for the team. We evaluate it on a suite of common benchmark games. It is three orders of magnitude faster than the prior state of the art on games that the latter can solve and it can also solve several games that were previously unsolvable.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Exact Gap between Generalization Error and Uniform Convergence in Random Feature Models

Zitong Yang · Yu Bai · Song Mei

Recent work showed that there could be a large gap between the classical uniform convergence bound and the actual test error of zero-training-error predictors (interpolators) such as deep neural networks. To better understand this gap, we study the uniform convergence in the nonlinear random feature model and perform a precise theoretical analysis on how uniform convergence depends on the sample size and the number of parameters. We derive and prove analytical expressions for three quantities in this model: 1) classical uniform convergence over norm balls, 2) uniform convergence over interpolators in the norm ball (recently proposed by~\citet{zhou2021uniform}), and 3) the risk of minimum norm interpolator. We show that, in the setting where the classical uniform convergence bound is vacuous (diverges to $\infty$), uniform convergence over the interpolators still gives a non-trivial bound of the test error of interpolating solutions. We also showcase a different setting where classical uniform convergence bound is non-vacuous, but uniform convergence over interpolators can give an improved sample complexity guarantee. Our result provides a first exact comparison between the test errors and uniform convergence bounds for interpolators beyond simple linear models.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Cross-domain Imitation from Observations

Dripta S. Raychaudhuri · Sujoy Paul · Jeroen Vanbaar · Amit Roy-Chowdhury

Imitation learning seeks to circumvent the difficulty in designing proper reward functions for training agents by utilizing expert behavior. With environments modeled as Markov Decision Processes (MDP), most of the existing imitation algorithms are contingent on the availability of expert demonstrations in the same MDP as the one in which a new imitation policy is to be learned. In this paper, we study the problem of how to imitate tasks when discrepancies exist between the expert and agent MDP. These discrepancies across domains could include differing dynamics, viewpoint, or morphology; we present a novel framework to learn correspondences across such domains. Importantly, in contrast to prior works, we use unpaired and unaligned trajectories containing only states in the expert domain, to learn this correspondence. We utilize a cycle-consistency constraint on both the state space and a domain agnostic latent space to do this. In addition, we enforce consistency on the temporal position of states via a normalized position estimator function, to align the trajectories across the two domains. Once this correspondence is found, we can directly transfer the demonstrations on one domain to the other and use it for imitation. Experiments across a wide variety of challenging domains demonstrate the efficacy of our approach.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Bootstrapping Fitted Q-Evaluation for Off-Policy Inference

Botao Hao · Xiang Ji · Yaqi Duan · Hao Lu · Csaba Szepesvari · Mengdi Wang

Bootstrapping provides a flexible and effective approach for assessing the quality of batch reinforcement learning, yet its theoretical properties are poorly understood. In this paper, we study the use of bootstrapping in off-policy evaluation (OPE), and in particular, we focus on the fitted Q-evaluation (FQE) that is known to be minimax-optimal in the tabular and linear-model cases. We propose a bootstrapping FQE method for inferring the distribution of the policy evaluation error and show that this method is asymptotically efficient and distributionally consistent for off-policy statistical inference. To overcome the computation limit of bootstrapping, we further adapt a subsampling procedure that improves the runtime by an order of magnitude. We numerically evaluate the bootrapping method in classical RL environments for confidence interval estimation, estimating the variance of off-policy evaluator, and estimating the correlation between multiple off-policy evaluators.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Adversarial Option-Aware Hierarchical Imitation Learning

Mingxuan Jing · Wenbing Huang · Fuchun Sun · Xiaojian Ma · Tao Kong · Chuang Gan · Lei Li

It has been a challenge to learning skills for an agent from long-horizon unannotated demonstrations. Existing approaches like Hierarchical Imitation Learning(HIL) are prone to compounding errors or suboptimal solutions. In this paper, we propose Option-GAIL, a novel method to learn skills at long horizon. The key idea of Option-GAIL is modeling the task hierarchy by options and train the policy via generative adversarial optimization. In particular, we propose an Expectation-Maximization(EM)-style algorithm: an E-step that samples the options of expert conditioned on the current learned policy, and an M-step that updates the low- and high-level policies of agent simultaneously to minimize the newly proposed option-occupancy measurement between the expert and the agent. We theoretically prove the convergence of the proposed algorithm. Experiments show that Option-GAIL outperforms other counterparts consistently across a variety of tasks.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Continuous-time Model-based Reinforcement Learning

Cagatay Yildiz · Markus Heinonen · Harri Lähdesmäki

Model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) approaches rely on discrete-time state transition models whereas physical systems and the vast majority of control tasks operate in continuous-time. To avoid time-discretization approximation of the underlying process, we propose a continuous-time MBRL framework based on a novel actor-critic method. Our approach also infers the unknown state evolution differentials with Bayesian neural ordinary differential equations (ODE) to account for epistemic uncertainty. We implement and test our method on a new ODE-RL suite that explicitly solves continuous-time control systems. Our experiments illustrate that the model is robust against irregular and noisy data, and can solve classic control problems in a sample-efficient manner.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Guided Exploration with Proximal Policy Optimization using a Single Demonstration

Gabriele Libardi · Gianni De Fabritiis · Sebastian Dittert

Solving sparse reward tasks through exploration is one of the major challenges in deep reinforcement learning, especially in three-dimensional, partially-observable environments. Critically, the algorithm proposed in this article is capable of using a single human demonstration to solve hard-exploration problems. We train an agent on a combination of demonstrations and own experience to solve problems with variable initial conditions and we integrate it with proximal policy optimization (PPO). The agent is also able to increase its performance and to tackle harder problems by replaying its own past trajectories prioritizing them based on the obtained reward and the maximum value of the trajectory. We finally compare variations of this algorithm to different imitation learning algorithms on a set of hard-exploration tasks in the Animal-AI Olympics environment. To the best of our knowledge, learning a task in a three-dimensional environment with comparable difficulty has never been considered before using only one human demonstration.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Online Optimization in Games via Control Theory: Connecting Regret, Passivity and Poincaré Recurrence

Yun Kuen Cheung · Georgios Piliouras

We present a novel control-theoretic understanding of online optimization and learning in games, via the notion of passivity. Passivity is a fundamental concept in control theory, which abstracts energy conservation and dissipation in physical systems. It has become a standard tool in analysis of general feedback systems, to which game dynamics belong. Our starting point is to show that all continuous-time Follow-the-Regularized-Leader (FTRL) dynamics, which include the well-known Replicator Dynamic, are lossless, i.e. it is passive with no energy dissipation. Interestingly, we prove that passivity implies bounded regret, connecting two fundamental primitives of control theory and online optimization.

The observation of energy conservation in FTRL inspires us to present a family of lossless learning dynamics, each of which has an underlying energy function with a simple gradient structure. This family is closed under convex combination; as an immediate corollary, any convex combination of FTRL dynamics is lossless and thus has bounded regret. This allows us to extend the framework of Fox & Shamma [Games 2013] to prove not just global asymptotic stability results for game dynamics, but Poincaré recurrence results as well. Intuitively, when a lossless game (e.g. graphical constant-sum game) is coupled with lossless learning dynamic, their interconnection is also lossless, which results in a pendulum-like energy-preserving recurrent behavior, generalizing Piliouras & Shamma [SODA 2014] and Mertikopoulos et al. [SODA 2018].

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Scaling Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning with Selective Parameter Sharing

Filippos Christianos · Georgios Papoudakis · Muhammad Arrasy Rahman · Stefano V. Albrecht

Sharing parameters in multi-agent deep reinforcement learning has played an essential role in allowing algorithms to scale to a large number of agents. Parameter sharing between agents significantly decreases the number of trainable parameters, shortening training times to tractable levels, and has been linked to more efficient learning. However, having all agents share the same parameters can also have a detrimental effect on learning. We demonstrate the impact of parameter sharing methods on training speed and converged returns, establishing that when applied indiscriminately, their effectiveness is highly dependent on the environment. We propose a novel method to automatically identify agents which may benefit from sharing parameters by partitioning them based on their abilities and goals. Our approach combines the increased sample efficiency of parameter sharing with the representational capacity of multiple independent networks to reduce training time and increase final returns.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Multiplying Matrices Without Multiplying

Davis Blalock · John Guttag

Multiplying matrices is among the most fundamental and most computationally demanding operations in machine learning and scientific computing. Consequently, the task of efficiently approximating matrix products has received significant attention.

We introduce a learning-based algorithm for this task that greatly outperforms existing methods. Experiments using hundreds of matrices from diverse domains show that it often runs 10x faster than alternatives at a given level of error, as well as 100x faster than exact matrix multiplication. In the common case that one matrix is known ahead of time, our method also has the interesting property that it requires zero multiply-adds.

These results suggest that a mixture of hashing, averaging, and byte shuffling—the core operations of our method—could be a more promising building block for machine learning than the sparsified, factorized, and/or scalar quantized matrix products that have recently been the focus of substantial research and hardware investment.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Inferring Latent Dynamics Underlying Neural Population Activity via Neural Differential Equations

Timothy Kim · Thomas Luo · Jonathan Pillow · Carlos Brody

An important problem in systems neuroscience is to identify the latent dynamics underlying neural population activity. Here we address this problem by introducing a low-dimensional nonlinear model for latent neural population dynamics using neural ordinary differential equations (neural ODEs), with noisy sensory inputs and Poisson spike train outputs. We refer to this as the Poisson Latent Neural Differential Equations (PLNDE) model. We apply the PLNDE framework to a variety of synthetic datasets, and show that it accurately infers the phase portraits and fixed points of nonlinear systems augmented to produce spike train data, including the FitzHugh-Nagumo oscillator, a 3-dimensional nonlinear spiral, and a nonlinear sensory decision-making model with attractor dynamics. Our model significantly outperforms existing methods at inferring single-trial neural firing rates and the corresponding latent trajectories that generated them, especially in the regime where the spike counts and number of trials are low. We then apply our model to multi-region neural population recordings from medial frontal cortex of rats performing an auditory decision-making task. Our model provides a general, interpretable framework for investigating the neural mechanisms of decision-making and other cognitive computations through the lens of dynamical systems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Theory of Spectral Method for Union of Subspaces-Based Random Geometry Graph

Gen Li · Yuantao Gu

Spectral method is a commonly used scheme to cluster data points lying close to Union of Subspaces, a task known as Subspace Clustering. The typical usage is to construct a Random Geometry Graph first and then apply spectral method to the graph to obtain clustering result. The latter step has been coined the name Spectral Clustering. As far as we know, in spite of the significance of both steps in spectral-method-based Subspace Clustering, all existing theoretical results focus on the first step of constructing the graph, but ignore the final step to correct false connections through spectral clustering. This paper establishes a theory to show the power of this method for the first time, in which we demonstrate the mechanism of spectral clustering by analyzing a simplified algorithm under the widely used semi-random model. Based on this theory, we prove the efficiency of Subspace Clustering in fairly broad conditions. The insights and analysis techniques developed in this paper might also have implications for other random graph problems.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Kernel Continual Learning

Mohammad Mahdi Derakhshani · Xiantong Zhen · Ling Shao · Cees Snoek

This paper introduces kernel continual learning, a simple but effective variant of continual learning that leverages the non-parametric nature of kernel methods to tackle catastrophic forgetting. We deploy an episodic memory unit that stores a subset of samples for each task to learn task-specific classifiers based on kernel ridge regression. This does not require memory replay and systematically avoids task interference in the classifiers. We further introduce variational random features to learn a data-driven kernel for each task. To do so, we formulate kernel continual learning as a variational inference problem, where a random Fourier basis is incorporated as the latent variable. The variational posterior distribution over the random Fourier basis is inferred from the coreset of each task. In this way, we are able to generate more informative kernels specific to each task, and, more importantly, the coreset size can be reduced to achieve more compact memory, resulting in more efficient continual learning based on episodic memory. Extensive evaluation on four benchmarks demonstrates the effectiveness and promise of kernels for continual learning.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Data-efficient Hindsight Off-policy Option Learning

Markus Wulfmeier · Dushyant Rao · Roland Hafner · Thomas Lampe · Abbas Abdolmaleki · Tim Hertweck · Michael Neunert · Dhruva Tirumala Bukkapatnam · Noah Siegel · Nicolas Heess · Martin Riedmiller

We introduce Hindsight Off-policy Options (HO2), a data-efficient option learning algorithm. Given any trajectory, HO2 infers likely option choices and backpropagates through the dynamic programming inference procedure to robustly train all policy components off-policy and end-to-end. The approach outperforms existing option learning methods on common benchmarks. To better understand the option framework and disentangle benefits from both temporal and action abstraction, we evaluate ablations with flat policies and mixture policies with comparable optimization. The results highlight the importance of both types of abstraction as well as off-policy training and trust-region constraints, particularly in challenging, simulated 3D robot manipulation tasks from raw pixel inputs. Finally, we intuitively adapt the inference step to investigate the effect of increased temporal abstraction on training with pre-trained options and from scratch.

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Wed 21 July 9:00 - 11:00 PDT
Learning to Price Against a Moving Target

Renato Leme · Balasubramanian Sivan · Yifeng Teng · Pratik Worah

In the Learning to Price setting, a seller posts prices over time with the goal of maximizing revenue while learning the buyer's valuation. This problem is very well understood when values are stationary (fixed or iid). Here we study the problem where the buyer's value is a moving target, i.e., they change over time either by a stochastic process or adversarially with bounded variation. In either case, we provide matching upper and lower bounds on the optimal revenue loss. Since the target is moving, any information learned soon becomes out-dated, which forces the algorithms to keep switching between exploring and exploiting phases.

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