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Theory: Game Theory and Optimization

Ballroom 3 & 4

Moderator: Xinyue Shen

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Thu 21 July 10:30 - 10:50 PDT

UnderGrad: A Universal Black-Box Optimization Method with Almost Dimension-Free Convergence Rate Guarantees

Kimon Antonakopoulos · Dong Quan Vu · Volkan Cevher · Kfir Levy · Panayotis Mertikopoulos

Universal methods achieve optimal convergence rate guarantees in convex optimization without any prior knowledge of the problem's regularity parameters or the attributes of the gradient oracle employed by the method. In this regard, existing state-of-the-art algorithms achieve an $O(1/T^2)$ convergence rate in Lipschitz smooth problems with a perfect gradient oracle, and an $O(1/sqrt{T})$ convergence speed when the underlying problem is non-smooth and/or the gradient oracle is stochastic. On the downside, these methods do not take into account the dependence of these guarantees on the problem's dimensionality, and this can have a catastrophic impact on a method's convergence, in both theory and practice. Our paper aims to bridge this gap by providing a scalable universal method - dubbed UnDERGrad - which enjoys an almost dimension-free oracle complexity in problems with a favorable geometry (like the simplex, $\ell_1$-ball or trace-constraints), while retaining the order-optimal dependence on T described above. These "best of both worlds" guarantees are achieved via a primal-dual update scheme inspired by the dual exploration method for variational inequalities.

Thu 21 July 10:50 - 10:55 PDT

Safe Learning in Tree-Form Sequential Decision Making: Handling Hard and Soft Constraints

Martino Bernasconi · Federico Cacciamani · Matteo Castiglioni · Alberto Marchesi · Nicola Gatti · Francesco Trovò

We study decision making problems in which an agent sequentially interacts with a stochastic environment defined by means of a tree structure. The agent repeatedly faces the environment over time, and, after each round, it perceives a utility and a cost, which are both stochastic. The goal of the agent is to learn an optimal strategy in an online fashion, while, at the same time, keeping costs below a given safety threshold. Our model naturally fits many real-world scenarios, such as, e.g., opponent exploitation in games and web link selection. We study the hard-threshold problem of achieving sublinear regret while guaranteeing that the threshold constraint is satisfied at every iteration with high probability. First, we show that, in general, any algorithm with such a guarantee incurs in a linear regret. This motivates the introduction of a relaxed problem, namely the soft-threshold problem, in which we only require that the cumulative violation of the threshold constraint grows sublinearly, and, thus, we can provide an algorithm with sublinear regret. Next, we show how, in the hard-threshold problem, a sublinear regret algorithm can be designed under the additional assumption that there exists a known strategy strictly satisfying the threshold constraint. We also show that our regret bounds are tight. Finally, we cast the opponent exploitation problem to our model, and we experimentally evaluate our algorithms on a standard testbed of games.

Thu 21 July 10:55 - 11:00 PDT

A Marriage between Adversarial Team Games and 2-player Games: Enabling Abstractions, No-regret Learning, and Subgame Solving

Luca Carminati · Federico Cacciamani · Marco Ciccone · Nicola Gatti

\emph{Ex ante} correlation is becoming the mainstream approach for \emph{sequential adversarial team games}, where a team of players faces another team in a zero-sum game. It is known that team members' asymmetric information makes both equilibrium computation \textsf{APX}-hard and team's strategies not directly representable on the game tree. This latter issue prevents the adoption of successful tools for huge 2-player zero-sum games such as, \emph{e.g.}, abstractions, no-regret learning, and subgame solving. This work shows that we can recover from this weakness by bridging the gap between sequential adversarial team games and 2-player games. In particular, we propose a new, suitable game representation that we call \emph{team-public-information}, in which a team is represented as a single coordinator who only knows information common to the whole team and prescribes to each member an action for any possible private state. The resulting representation is highly \emph{explainable}, being a 2-player tree in which the team's strategies are behavioral with a direct interpretation and more expressive than the original extensive form when designing abstractions. Furthermore, we prove payoff equivalence of our representation, and we provide techniques that, starting directly from the extensive form, generate dramatically more compact representations without information loss. Finally, we experimentally evaluate our techniques when applied to a standard testbed, comparing their performance with the current state of the art.

Thu 21 July 11:00 - 11:05 PDT

Exact Learning of Preference Structure: Single-peaked Preferences and Beyond

Sonja Kraiczy · Edith Elkind

We consider the setting where the members of a society (voters) have preferences over candidates, and the candidates can be ordered on an axis so that the voters' preferences are single-peaked on this axis. We ask whether this axis can be identified by sampling the voters' preferences. For several natural distributions, we obtain tight bounds on the number of samples required and show that, surprisingly, the bounds are independent of the number of candidates. We extend our results to the case where voters' preferences are sampled from two different axes over the same candidate set (one of which may be known). We also consider two alternative models of learning: (1) sampling pairwise comparisons rather than entire votes, and (2) learning from equivalence queries.

Thu 21 July 11:05 - 11:10 PDT

Selling Data To a Machine Learner: Pricing via Costly Signaling

Junjie Chen · Minming Li · Haifeng Xu

We consider a new problem of selling data to a machine learner who looks to purchase data to train his machine learning model. A key challenge in this setup is that neither the seller nor the machine learner knows the true quality of data. When designing a revenue-maximizing mechanism, a data seller faces the tradeoff between the cost and precision of data quality estimation. To address this challenge, we study a natural class of mechanisms that price data via costly signaling. Motivated by the assumption of i.i.d. data points as in classic machine learning models, we first consider selling homogeneous data and derive an optimal selling mechanism. We then turn to the sale of heterogeneous data, motivated by the sale of multiple data sets, and show that 1) on the negative side, it is NP-hard to approximate the optimal mechanism within a constant ratio e/(e+1) + o(1); while 2) on the positive side, there is a 1/k-approximate algorithm, where k is the number of the machine learner’s private types.

Thu 21 July 11:10 - 11:15 PDT

Hardness and Algorithms for Robust and Sparse Optimization

Eric Price · Sandeep Silwal · Samson Zhou

We explore algorithms and limitations for sparse optimization problems such as sparse linear regression and robust linear regression. The goal of the sparse linear regression problem is to identify a small number of key features, while the goal of the robust linear regression problem is to identify a small number of erroneous measurements. Specifically, the sparse linear regression problem seeks a $k$-sparse vector $x\in\mathbb{R}^d$ to minimize $\|Ax-b\|_2$, given an input matrix $A\in\mathbb{R}^{n\times d}$ and a target vector $b\in\mathbb{R}^n$, while the robust linear regression problem seeks a set $S$ that ignores at most $k$ rows and a vector $x$ to minimize $\|(Ax-b)_S\|_2$.We first show bicriteria, NP-hardness of approximation for robust regression building on the work of \cite{ODonnellWZ15} which implies a similar result for sparse regression. We further show fine-grained hardness of robust regression through a reduction from the minimum-weight $k$-clique conjecture. On the positive side, we give an algorithm for robust regression that achieves arbitrarily accurate additive error and uses runtime that closely matches the lower bound from the fine-grained hardness result, as well as an algorithm for sparse regression with similar runtime. Both our upper and lower bounds rely on a general reduction from robust linear regression to sparse regression that we introduce. Our algorithms, inspired by the 3SUM problem, use approximate nearest neighbor data structures and may be of independent interest for solving sparse optimization problems. For instance, we demonstrate that our techniques can also be used for the well-studied sparse PCA problem.

Thu 21 July 11:15 - 11:35 PDT

A Convergent and Dimension-Independent Min-Max Optimization Algorithm

Vijay Keswani · Oren Mangoubi · Sushant Sachdeva · Nisheeth K. Vishnoi

We study a variant of a recently introduced min-max optimization framework where the max-player is constrained to update its parameters in a greedy manner until it reaches a first-order stationary point. Our equilibrium definition for this framework depends on a proposal distribution which the min-player uses to choose directions in which to update its parameters. We show that, given a smooth and bounded nonconvex-nonconcave objective function, access to any proposal distribution for the min-player’s updates, and stochastic gradient oracle for the max-player, our algorithm converges to the aforementioned approximate local equilibrium in a number of iterations that does not depend on the dimension. The equilibrium point found by our algorithm depends on the proposal distribution, and when applying our algorithm to train GANs we choose the proposal distribution to be a distribution of stochastic gradients. We empirically evaluate our algorithm on challenging nonconvex-nonconcave test-functions and loss functions arising in GAN training. Our algorithm converges on these test functions and, when used to train GANs, trains stably on synthetic and real-world datasets and avoids mode collapse.

Thu 21 July 11:35 - 11:40 PDT

Stochastic Continuous Submodular Maximization: Boosting via Non-oblivious Function

Qixin Zhang · Zengde Deng · Zaiyi Chen · Haoyuan Hu · Yu Yang

In this paper, we revisit Stochastic Continuous Submodular Maximization in both offline and online settings, which can benefit wide applications in machine learning and operations research areas. We present a boosting framework covering gradient ascent and online gradient ascent. The fundamental ingredient of our methods is a novel non-oblivious function $F$ derived from a factor-revealing optimization problem, whose any stationary point provides a $(1-e^{-\gamma})$-approximation to the global maximum of the $\gamma$-weakly DR-submodular objective function $f\in C^{1,1}_L(\mathcal{X})$. Under the offline scenario, we propose a boosting gradient ascent method achieving $(1-e^{-\gamma}-\epsilon^{2})$-approximation after $O(1/\epsilon^2)$ iterations, which improves the $(\frac{\gamma^2}{1+\gamma^2})$ approximation ratio of the classical gradient ascent algorithm.In the online setting, for the first time we consider the adversarial delays for stochastic gradient feedback, under which we propose a boosting online gradient algorithm with the same non-oblivious function $F$. Meanwhile, we verify that this boosting online algorithm achieves a regret of $O(\sqrt{D})$ against a $(1-e^{-\gamma})$-approximation to the best feasible solution in hindsight, where $D$ is the sum of delays of gradient feedback. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first result to obtain $O(\sqrt{T})$ regret against a $(1-e^{-\gamma})$-approximation with $O(1)$ gradient inquiry at each time step, when no delay exists, i.e., $D=T$. Finally, numerical experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of our boosting methods.

Thu 21 July 11:40 - 11:45 PDT

Accelerated Gradient Methods for Geodesically Convex Optimization: Tractable Algorithms and Convergence Analysis

Jungbin Kim · Insoon Yang

We propose computationally tractable accelerated first-order methods for Riemannian optimization, extending the Nesterov accelerated gradient (NAG) method. For both geodesically convex and geodesically strongly convex objective functions, our algorithms are shown to have the same iteration complexities as those for the NAG method on Euclidean spaces, under only standard assumptions. To the best of our knowledge, the proposed scheme is the first fully accelerated method for geodesically convex optimization problems. Our convergence analysis makes use of novel metric distortion lemmas as well as carefully designed potential functions. A connection with the continuous-time dynamics for modeling Riemannian acceleration in (Alimisis et al., 2020) is also identified by letting the stepsize tend to zero. We validate our theoretical results through numerical experiments.

Thu 21 July 11:45 - 11:50 PDT

The Complexity of k-Means Clustering when Little is Known

Robert Ganian · Thekla Hamm · Viktoriia Korchemna · Karolina Okrasa · Kirill Simonov

In the area of data analysis and arguably even in machine learning as a whole, few approaches have been as impactful as the classical k-means clustering. Here, we study the complexity of k-means clustering in settings where most of the data is not known or simply irrelevant. To obtain a more fine-grained understanding of the tractability of this clustering problem, we apply the parameterized complexity paradigm and obtain three new algorithms for k-means clustering of incomplete data: one for the clustering of bounded-domain (i.e., integer) data, and two incomparable algorithms that target real-valued data. Our approach is based on exploiting structural properties of a graphical encoding of the missing entries, and we show that tractability can be achieved using significantly less restrictive parameterizations than in the complementary case of few missing entries.

Thu 21 July 11:50 - 11:55 PDT

Iterative Hard Thresholding with Adaptive Regularization: Sparser Solutions Without Sacrificing Runtime

Kyriakos Axiotis ·

We propose a simple modification to the iterative hard thresholding (IHT) algorithm, which recovers asymptotically sparser solutions as a function of the condition number. When aiming to minimize a convex function f(x) with condition number $\kappa$ subject to x being an s-sparse vector, the standard IHT guarantee is a solution with relaxed sparsity $O(s\kappa^2)$, while our proposed algorithm, regularized IHT, returns a solution with sparsity $O(s\kappa)$. Our algorithm significantly improves over ARHT [Axiotis & Sviridenko, 2021] which also achieves $O(s\kappa)$, as it does not require re-optimization in each iteration (and so is much faster), is deterministic, and does not require knowledge of the optimal solution value f(x*) or the optimal sparsity level s. Our main technical tool is an adaptive regularization framework, in which the algorithm progressively learns the weights of an l_2 regularization term that will allow convergence to sparser solutions. We also apply this framework to low rank optimization, where we achieve a similar improvement of the best known condition number dependence from $\kappa^2$ to $\kappa$.

Thu 21 July 11:55 - 12:00 PDT

3PC: Three Point Compressors for Communication-Efficient Distributed Training and a Better Theory for Lazy Aggregation

Peter Richtarik · Igor Sokolov · Elnur Gasanov · Ilyas Fatkhullin · Zhize Li · Eduard Gorbunov

We propose and study a new class of gradient compressors for communication-efficient training---three point compressors (3PC)---as well as efficient distributed nonconvex optimization algorithms that can take advantage of them. Unlike most established approaches, which rely on a static compressor choice (e.g., TopK), our class allows the compressors to {\em evolve} throughout the training process, with the aim of improving the theoretical communication complexity and practical efficiency of the underlying methods. We show that our general approach can recover the recently proposed state-of-the-art error feedback mechanism EF21 (Richt\'{a}rik et al, 2021) and its theoretical properties as a special case, but also leads to a number of new efficient methods. Notably, our approach allows us to improve upon the state-of-the-art in the algorithmic and theoretical foundations of the {\em lazy aggregation} literature (Liu et al, 2017; Lan et al, 2017). As a by-product that may be of independent interest, we provide a new and fundamental link between the lazy aggregation and error feedback literature. A special feature of our work is that we do not require the compressors to be unbiased.