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Poster Session 1

Hall E


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DNA: Domain Generalization with Diversified Neural Averaging

Xu Chu · Yujie Jin · Wenwu Zhu · Yasha Wang · Xin Wang · Shanghang Zhang · Hong Mei

The inaccessibility of the target domain data causes domain generalization (DG) methods prone to forget target discriminative features, and challenges the pervasive theme in existing literature in pursuing a single classifier with an ideal joint risk. In contrast, this paper investigates model misspecification and attempts to bridge DG with classifier ensemble theoretically and methodologically. By introducing a pruned Jensen-Shannon (PJS) loss, we show that the target square-root risk w.r.t. the PJS loss of the $\rho$-ensemble (the averaged classifier weighted by a quasi-posterior $\rho$) is bounded by the averaged source square-root risk of the Gibbs classifiers. We derive a tighter bound by enforcing a positive principled diversity measure of the classifiers. We give a PAC-Bayes upper bound on the target square-root risk of the $\rho$-ensemble. Methodologically, we propose a diversified neural averaging (DNA) method for DG, which optimizes the proposed PAC-Bayes bound approximately. The DNA method samples Gibbs classifiers transversely and longitudinally by simultaneously considering the dropout variational family and optimization trajectory. The $\rho$-ensemble is approximated by averaging the longitudinal weights in a single run with dropout shut down, ensuring a fast ensemble with low computational overhead. Empirically, the proposed DNA method achieves the state-of-the-art classification performance on standard DG benchmark datasets.

Unified Fourier-based Kernel and Nonlinearity Design for Equivariant Networks on Homogeneous Spaces

Yinshuang Xu · Jiahui Lei · Edgar Dobriban · Kostas Daniilidis

We introduce a unified framework for group equivariant networks on homogeneous spaces derived from a Fourier perspective. We consider tensor-valued feature fields, before and after a convolutional layer. We present a unified derivation of kernels via the Fourier domain by leveraging the sparsity of Fourier coefficients of the lifted feature fields. The sparsity emerges when the stabilizer subgroup of the homogeneous space is a compact Lie group. We further introduce a nonlinear activation, via an elementwise nonlinearity on the regular representation after lifting and projecting back to the field through an equivariant convolution. We show that other methods treating features as the Fourier coefficients in the stabilizer subgroup are special cases of our activation. Experiments on $SO(3)$ and $SE(3)$ show state-of-the-art performance in spherical vector field regression, point cloud classification, and molecular completion.

DynaMixer: A Vision MLP Architecture with Dynamic Mixing

Ziyu Wang · Wenhao Jiang · Yiming Zhu · Li Yuan · Yibing Song · Wei Liu

Recently, MLP-like vision models have achieved promising performances on mainstream visual recognition tasks. In contrast with vision transformers and CNNs, the success of MLP-like models shows that simple information fusion operations among tokens and channels can yield a good representation power for deep recognition models. However, existing MLP-like models fuse tokens through static fusion operations, lacking adaptability to the contents of the tokens to be mixed. Thus, customary information fusion procedures are not effective enough. To this end, this paper presents an efficient MLP-like network architecture, dubbed DynaMixer, resorting to dynamic information fusion. Critically, we propose a procedure, on which the DynaMixer model relies, to dynamically generate mixing matrices by leveraging the contents of all the tokens to be mixed. To reduce the time complexity and improve the robustness, a dimensionality reduction technique and a multi-segment fusion mechanism are adopted. Our proposed DynaMixer model (97M parameters) achieves 84.3\% top-1 accuracy on the ImageNet-1K dataset without extra training data, performing favorably against the state-of-the-art vision MLP models. When the number of parameters is reduced to 26M, it still achieves 82.7\% top-1 accuracy, surpassing the existing MLP-like models with a similar capacity. The code is available at \url{}.

Channel Importance Matters in Few-Shot Image Classification

Xu Luo · Jing Xu · ZENGLIN Xu

Few-Shot Learning (FSL) requires vision models to quickly adapt to brand-new classification tasks with a shift in task distribution. Understanding the difficulties posed by this task distribution shift is central to FSL. In this paper, we show that a simple channel-wise feature transformation may be the key to unraveling this secret from a channel perspective. When facing novel few-shot tasks in the test-time datasets, this transformation can greatly improve the generalization ability of learned image representations, while being agnostic to the choice of datasets and training algorithms. Through an in-depth analysis of this transformation, we find that the difficulty of representation transfer in FSL stems from the severe channel bias problem of image representations: channels may have different importance in different tasks, while convolutional neural networks are likely to be insensitive, or respond incorrectly to such a shift. This points out a core problem of the generalization ability of modern vision systems which needs further attention in the future.

Fishr: Invariant Gradient Variances for Out-of-Distribution Generalization

Alexandre Rame · Corentin Dancette · Matthieu Cord

Learning robust models that generalize well under changes in the data distribution is critical for real-world applications. To this end, there has been a growing surge of interest to learn simultaneously from multiple training domains - while enforcing different types of invariance across those domains. Yet, all existing approaches fail to show systematic benefits under controlled evaluation protocols. In this paper, we introduce a new regularization - named Fishr - that enforces domain invariance in the space of the gradients of the loss: specifically, the domain-level variances of gradients are matched across training domains. Our approach is based on the close relations between the gradient covariance, the Fisher Information and the Hessian of the loss: in particular, we show that Fishr eventually aligns the domain-level loss landscapes locally around the final weights. Extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of Fishr for out-of-distribution generalization. Notably, Fishr improves the state of the art on the DomainBed benchmark and performs consistently better than Empirical Risk Minimization. Our code is available at

Pure Noise to the Rescue of Insufficient Data: Improving Imbalanced Classification by Training on Random Noise Images

Shiran Zada · Itay Benou · Michal Irani

Despite remarkable progress on visual recognition tasks, deep neural-nets still struggle to generalize well when training data is scarce or highly imbalanced, rendering them extremely vulnerable to real-world examples. In this paper, we present a surprisingly simple yet highly effective method to mitigate this limitation: using pure noise images as additional training data. Unlike the common use of additive noise or adversarial noise for data augmentation, we propose an entirely different perspective by directly training on pure random noise images. We present a new Distribution-Aware Routing Batch Normalization layer (DAR-BN), which enables training on pure noise images in addition to natural images within the same network. This encourages generalization and suppresses overfitting. Our proposed method significantly improves imbalanced classification performance, obtaining state-of-the-art results on a large variety of long-tailed image classification datasets (CIFAR-10-LT, CIFAR-100-LT, ImageNet-LT, Places-LT, and CelebA-5). Furthermore, our method is extremely simple and easy to use as a general new augmentation tool (on top of existing augmentations), and can be incorporated in any training scheme. It does not require any specialized data generation or training procedures, thus keeping training fast and efficient.

Certified Robustness Against Natural Language Attacks by Causal Intervention

Haiteng Zhao · Chang Ma · Xinshuai Dong · Anh Tuan Luu · Zhi-Hong Deng · Hanwang Zhang

Deep learning models have achieved great success in many fields, yet they are vulnerable to adversarial examples. This paper follows a causal perspective to look into the adversarial vulnerability and proposes Causal Intervention by Semantic Smoothing (CISS), a novel framework towards robustness against natural language attacks. Instead of merely fitting observational data, CISS learns causal effects p(y|do(x)) by smoothing in the latent semantic space to make robust predictions, which scales to deep architectures and avoids tedious construction of noise customized for specific attacks. CISS is provably robust against word substitution attacks, as well as empirically robust even when perturbations are strengthened by unknown attack algorithms. For example, on YELP, CISS surpasses the runner-up by 6.8% in terms of certified robustness against word substitutions, and achieves 80.7% empirical robustness when syntactic attacks are integrated.

A$^3$T: Alignment-Aware Acoustic and Text Pretraining for Speech Synthesis and Editing

He Bai · Renjie Zheng · Junkun Chen · Mingbo Ma · Xintong Li · Liang Huang

Recently, speech representation learning has improved many speech-related tasks such as speech recognition, speech classification, and speech-to-text translation. However, all the above tasks are in the direction of speech understanding, but for the inverse direction, speech synthesis, the potential of representation learning is yet to be realized, due to the challenging nature of generating high-quality speech. To address this problem, we propose our framework, Alignment-Aware Acoustic-Text Pretraining (A$^3$T), which reconstructs masked acoustic signals with text input and acoustic-text alignment during training. In this way, the pretrained model can generate high quality reconstructed spectrogram, which can be applied to the speech editing and unseen speaker TTS directly. Experiments show A$^3$T outperforms SOTA models on speech editing, and improves multi-speaker speech synthesis without the external speaker verification model.

On the Learning of Non-Autoregressive Transformers

Fei Huang · Tianhua Tao · Hao Zhou · Lei Li · Minlie Huang

Non-autoregressive Transformer (NAT) is a family of text generation models, which aims to reduce the decoding latency by predicting the whole sentences in parallel. However, such latency reduction sacrifices the ability to capture left-to-right dependencies, thereby making NAT learning very challenging. In this paper, we present theoretical and empirical analyses to reveal the challenges of NAT learning and propose a unified perspective to understand existing successes. First, we show that simply training NAT by maximizing the likelihood can lead to an approximation of marginal distributions but drops all dependencies between tokens, where the dropped information can be measured by the dataset's conditional total correlation. Second, we formalize many previous objectives in a unified framework and show that their success can be concluded as maximizing the likelihood on a proxy distribution, leading to a reduced information loss. Empirical studies show that our perspective can explain the phenomena in NAT learning and guide the design of new training methods.

Latent Diffusion Energy-Based Model for Interpretable Text Modelling

Peiyu Yu · Sirui Xie · Xiaojian Ma · Baoxiong Jia · Bo Pang · Ruiqi Gao · Yixin Zhu · Song-Chun Zhu · Ying Nian Wu

Latent space Energy-Based Models (EBMs), also known as energy-based priors, have drawn growing interests in generative modeling. Fueled by its flexibility in the formulation and strong modeling power of the latent space, recent works built upon it have made interesting attempts aiming at the interpretability of text modeling. However, latent space EBMs also inherit some flaws from EBMs in data space; the degenerate MCMC sampling quality in practice can lead to poor generation quality and instability in training, especially on data with complex latent structures. Inspired by the recent efforts that leverage diffusion recovery likelihood learning as a cure for the sampling issue, we introduce a novel symbiosis between the diffusion models and latent space EBMs in a variational learning framework, coined as the latent diffusion energy-based model. We develop a geometric clustering-based regularization jointly with the information bottleneck to further improve the quality of the learned latent space. Experiments on several challenging tasks demonstrate the superior performance of our model on interpretable text modeling over strong counterparts.

UNIREX: A Unified Learning Framework for Language Model Rationale Extraction

Aaron Chan · Maziar Sanjabi · Lambert Mathias · Liang Tan · Shaoliang Nie · Xiaochang Peng · Xiang Ren · Hamed Firooz

An extractive rationale explains a language model's (LM's) prediction on a given task instance by highlighting the text inputs that most influenced the prediction. Ideally, rationale extraction should be faithful (reflective of LM's actual behavior) and plausible (convincing to humans), without compromising the LM's (i.e., task model's) task performance. Although attribution algorithms and select-predict pipelines are commonly used in rationale extraction, they both rely on certain heuristics that hinder them from satisfying all three desiderata. In light of this, we propose UNIREX, a flexible learning framework which generalizes rationale extractor optimization as follows: (1) specify architecture for a learned rationale extractor; (2) select explainability objectives (\ie faithfulness and plausibility criteria); and (3) jointly train the task model and rationale extractor on the task using selected objectives. UNIREX enables replacing prior works' heuristic design choices with a generic learned rationale extractor in (1) and optimizing it for all three desiderata in (2)-(3). To facilitate comparison between methods w.r.t. multiple desiderata, we introduce the Normalized Relative Gain (NRG) metric. On five English text classification datasets, our best UNIREX configuration outperforms baselines by an average of 32.9% NRG.Plus, UNIREX rationale extractors' faithfulness can even generalize to unseen datasets and tasks.

Black-Box Tuning for Language-Model-as-a-Service

Tianxiang Sun · Yunfan Shao · Hong Qian · Xuanjing Huang · Xipeng Qiu

Extremely large pre-trained language models (PTMs) such as GPT-3 are usually released as a service. It allows users to design task-specific prompts to query the PTMs through some black-box APIs. In such a scenario, which we call Language-Model-as-a-Service (LMaaS), the gradients of PTMs are usually unavailable. Can we optimize the task prompts by only accessing the model inference APIs? This paper proposes the black-box tuning framework to optimize the continuous prompt prepended to the input text via derivative-free optimization. Instead of optimizing in the original high-dimensional prompt space, which is intractable for traditional derivative-free optimization, we perform optimization in a randomly generated subspace due to the low intrinsic dimensionality of large PTMs. The experimental results show that the black-box tuning with RoBERTa on a few labeled samples not only significantly outperforms manual prompt and GPT-3's in-context learning, but also surpasses the gradient-based counterparts, i.e., prompt tuning and full model tuning.

Outstanding Paper
Understanding Dataset Difficulty with $\mathcal{V}$-Usable Information

Kawin Ethayarajh · Yejin Choi · Swabha Swayamdipta

Estimating the difficulty of a dataset typically involves comparing state-of-the-art models to humans; the bigger the performance gap, the harder the dataset is said to be. However, this comparison provides little understanding of how difficult each instance in a given distribution is, or what attributes make the dataset difficult for a given model. To address these questions, we frame dataset difficulty---w.r.t. a model $\mathcal{V}$---as the lack of $\mathcal{V}$-usable information (Xu et al., 2019), where a lower value indicates a more difficult dataset for $\mathcal{V}$. We further introduce pointwise $\mathcal{V}$-information (PVI) for measuring the difficulty of individual instances w.r.t. a given distribution. While standard evaluation metrics typically only compare different models for the same dataset, $\mathcal{V}$-usable information and PVI also permit the converse: for a given model $\mathcal{V}$, we can compare different datasets, as well as different instances/slices of the same dataset. Furthermore, our framework allows for the interpretability of different input attributes via transformations of the input, which we use to discover annotation artefacts in widely-used NLP benchmarks.

Co-training Improves Prompt-based Learning for Large Language Models

Hunter Lang · Monica Agrawal · Yoon Kim · David Sontag

We demonstrate that co-training (Blum & Mitchell, 1998) can improve the performance of prompt-based learning by using unlabeled data. While prompting has emerged as a promising paradigm for few-shot and zero-shot learning, it is often brittle and requires much larger models compared to the standard supervised setup. We find that co-training makes it possible to improve the original prompt model and at the same time learn a smaller, downstream task-specific model. In the case where we only have partial access to a prompt model (e.g., output probabilities from GPT-3 (Brown et al., 2020)) we learn a calibration model over the prompt outputs. When we have full access to the prompt model's gradients but full finetuning remains prohibitively expensive (e.g., T0 (Sanh et al., 2021)), we learn a set of soft prompt continuous vectors to iteratively update the prompt model. We find that models trained in this manner can significantly improve performance on challenging datasets where there is currently a large gap between prompt-based learning and fully-supervised models.

Directed Acyclic Transformer for Non-Autoregressive Machine Translation

Fei Huang · Hao Zhou · Yang Liu · Hang Li · Minlie Huang

Non-autoregressive Transformers (NATs) significantly reduce the decoding latency by generating all tokens in parallel. However, such independent predictions prevent NATs from capturing the dependencies between the tokens for generating multiple possible translations. In this paper, we propose Directed Acyclic Transfomer (DA-Transformer), which represents the hidden states in a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG), where each path of the DAG corresponds to a specific translation. The whole DAG simultaneously captures multiple translations and facilitates fast predictions in a non-autoregressive fashion. Experiments on the raw training data of WMT benchmark show that DA-Transformer substantially outperforms previous NATs by about 3 BLEU on average, which is the first NAT model that achieves competitive results with autoregressive Transformers without relying on knowledge distillation.

StreamingQA: A Benchmark for Adaptation to New Knowledge over Time in Question Answering Models

Adam Liska · Tomas Kocisky · Elena Gribovskaya · Tayfun Terzi · Eren Sezener · Devang Agrawal · Cyprien de Masson d'Autume · Tim Scholtes · Manzil Zaheer · Susannah Young · Ellen Gilsenan-McMahon · Sophia Austin · Phil Blunsom · Angeliki Lazaridou

Knowledge and language understanding of models evaluated through question answering (QA) has been usually studied on static snapshots of knowledge, like Wikipedia. However, our world is dynamic, evolves over time, and our models' knowledge becomes outdated. To study how semi-parametric QA models and their underlying parametric language models (LMs) adapt to evolving knowledge, we construct a new large-scale dataset, StreamingQA, with human written and generated questions asked on a given date, to be answered from 14 years of time-stamped news articles. We evaluate our models quarterly as they read new articles not seen in pre-training. We show that parametric models can be updated without full retraining, while avoiding catastrophic forgetting. For semi-parametric models, adding new articles into the search space allows for rapid adaptation, however, models with an outdated underlying LM under-perform those with a retrained LM. For questions about higher-frequency named entities, parametric updates are particularly beneficial. In our dynamic world, the StreamingQA dataset enables a more realistic evaluation of QA models, and our experiments highlight several promising directions for future research.

Unsupervised Detection of Contextualized Embedding Bias with Application to Ideology

Valentin Hofmann · Janet Pierrehumbert · Hinrich Schütze

We propose a fully unsupervised method to detect bias in contextualized embeddings. The method leverages the assortative information latently encoded by social networks and combines orthogonality regularization, structured sparsity learning, and graph neural networks to find the embedding subspace capturing this information. As a concrete example, we focus on the phenomenon of ideological bias: we introduce the concept of an ideological subspace, show how it can be found by applying our method to online discussion forums, and present techniques to probe it. Our experiments suggest that the ideological subspace encodes abstract evaluative semantics and reflects changes in the political left-right spectrum during the presidency of Donald Trump.

Generative Cooperative Networks for Natural Language Generation

Sylvain Lamprier · Thomas Scialom · Antoine Chaffin · Vincent Claveau · Ewa Kijak · Jacopo Staiano · Benjamin Piwowarski

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have known a tremendous success for many continuous generation tasks, especially in the field of image generation. However, for discrete outputs such as language, optimizing GANs remains an open problem with many instabilities, as no gradient can be properly back-propagated from the discriminator output to the generator parameters. An alternative is to learn the generator network via reinforcement learning, using the discriminator signal as a reward, but such a technique suffers from moving rewards and vanishing gradient problems. Finally, it often falls short compared to direct maximum-likelihood approaches. In this paper, we introduce Generative Cooperative Networks, in which the discriminator architecture is cooperatively used along with the generation policy to output samples of realistic texts for the task at hand. We give theoretical guarantees of convergence for our approach, and study various efficient decoding schemes to empirically achieve state-of-the-art results in two main NLG tasks.

What Language Model Architecture and Pretraining Objective Works Best for Zero-Shot Generalization?

Thomas Wang · Adam Roberts · Daniel Hesslow · Teven Le Scao · Hyung Won Chung · Iz Beltagy · Julien Launay · Colin Raffel

Large pretrained Transformer language models have been shown to exhibit zero-shot generalization, i.e. they can perform a wide variety of tasks that they were not explicitly trained on. However, the architectures and pretraining objectives used across state-of-the-art models differ significantly, and there has been limited systematic comparison of these factors. In this work, we present a large-scale evaluation of modeling choices and their impact on zero-shot generalization. In particular, we focus on text-to-text models and experiment with three model architectures (causal/non-causal decoder-only and encoder-decoder), trained with two different pretraining objectives (autoregressive and masked language modeling), and evaluated with and without multitask prompted finetuning. We train models with over 5 billion parameters for more than 168 billion tokens, thereby increasing the likelihood that our conclusions will transfer to even larger scales. Our experiments show that causal decoder-only models trained on an autoregressive language modeling objective exhibit the strongest zero-shot generalization after purely self-supervised pretraining. However, models with non-causal visibility on their input trained with a masked language modeling objective followed by multitask finetuning perform the best among our experiments. We therefore consider the adaptation of pretrained models across architectures and objectives. Code and checkpoints are available at workshop/architecture-objective.

Branchformer: Parallel MLP-Attention Architectures to Capture Local and Global Context for Speech Recognition and Understanding

Yifan Peng · Siddharth Dalmia · Ian Lane · Shinji Watanabe

Conformer has proven to be effective in many speech processing tasks. It combines the benefits of extracting local dependencies using convolutions and global dependencies using self-attention. Inspired by this, we propose a more flexible, interpretable and customizable encoder alternative, Branchformer, with parallel branches for modeling various ranged dependencies in end-to-end speech processing. In each encoder layer, one branch employs self-attention or its variant to capture long-range dependencies, while the other branch utilizes an MLP module with convolutional gating (cgMLP) to extract local relationships. We conduct experiments on several speech recognition and spoken language understanding benchmarks. Results show that our model outperforms both Transformer and cgMLP. It also matches with or outperforms state-of-the-art results achieved by Conformer. Furthermore, we show various strategies to reduce computation thanks to the two-branch architecture, including the ability to have variable inference complexity in a single trained model. The weights learned for merging branches indicate how local and global dependencies are utilized in different layers, which benefits model designing.

Robust Group Synchronization via Quadratic Programming

Yunpeng Shi · Cole Wyeth · Gilad Lerman

We propose a novel quadratic programming formulation for estimating the corruption levels in group synchronization, and use these estimates to solve this problem. Our objective function exploits the cycle consistency of the group and we thus refer to our method as detection and estimation of structural consistency (DESC). This general framework can be extended to other algebraic and geometric structures. Our formulation has the following advantages: it can tolerate corruption as high as the information-theoretic bound, it does not require a good initialization for the estimates of group elements, it has a simple interpretation, and under some mild conditions the global minimum of our objective function exactly recovers the corruption levels. We demonstrate the competitive accuracy of our approach on both synthetic and real data experiments of rotation averaging.

UAST: Uncertainty-Aware Siamese Tracking

Dawei Zhang · Yanwei Fu · Zhonglong Zheng

Visual object tracking is basically formulated as target classification and bounding box estimation. Recent anchor-free Siamese trackers rely on predicting the distances to four sides for efficient regression but fail to estimate accurate bounding box in complex scenes. We argue that these approaches lack a clear probabilistic explanation, so it is desirable to model the uncertainty and ambiguity representation of target estimation. To address this issue, this paper presents an Uncertainty-Aware Siamese Tracker (UAST) by developing a novel distribution-based regression formulation with localization uncertainty. We exploit regression vectors to directly represent the discretized probability distribution for four offsets of boxes, which is general, flexible and informative. Based on the resulting distributed representation, our method is able to provide a probabilistic value of uncertainty. Furthermore, considering the high correlation between the uncertainty and regression accuracy, we propose to learn a joint representation head of classification and localization quality for reliable tracking, which also avoids the inconsistency of classification and quality estimation between training and inference. Extensive experiments on several challenging tracking benchmarks demonstrate the effectiveness of UAST and its superiority over other Siamese trackers.

You Only Cut Once: Boosting Data Augmentation with a Single Cut

Junlin Han · Pengfei Fang · Weihao Li · Jie Hong · Mohammad Ali Armin · Ian Reid · Lars Petersson · HONGDONG LI

We present You Only Cut Once (YOCO) for performing data augmentations. YOCO cuts one image into two pieces and performs data augmentations individually within each piece. Applying YOCO improves the diversity of the augmentation per sample and encourages neural networks to recognize objects from partial information. YOCO enjoys the properties of parameter-free, easy usage, and boosting almost all augmentations for free. Thorough experiments are conducted to evaluate its effectiveness. We first demonstrate that YOCO can be seamlessly applied to varying data augmentations, neural network architectures, and brings performance gains on CIFAR and ImageNet classification tasks, sometimes surpassing conventional image-level augmentation by large margins. Moreover, we show YOCO benefits contrastive pre-training toward a more powerful representation that can be better transferred to multiple downstream tasks. Finally, we study a number of variants of YOCO and empirically analyze the performance for respective settings.

Generative Modeling for Multi-task Visual Learning

Zhipeng Bao · Martial Hebert · Yu-Xiong Wang

Generative modeling has recently shown great promise in computer vision, but it has mostly focused on synthesizing visually realistic images. In this paper, motivated by multi-task learning of shareable feature representations, we consider a novel problem of learning a shared generative model that is useful across various visual perception tasks. Correspondingly, we propose a general multi-task oriented generative modeling (MGM) framework, by coupling a discriminative multi-task network with a generative network. While it is challenging to synthesize both RGB images and pixel-level annotations in multi-task scenarios, our framework enables us to use synthesized images paired with only weak annotations (i.e., image-level scene labels) to facilitate multiple visual tasks. Experimental evaluation on challenging multi-task benchmarks, including NYUv2 and Taskonomy, demonstrates that our MGM framework improves the performance of all the tasks by large margins, consistently outperforming state-of-the-art multi-task approaches in different sample-size regimes.

HyperTransformer: Model Generation for Supervised and Semi-Supervised Few-Shot Learning

Andrey Zhmoginov · Mark Sandler · Maksym Vladymyrov

In this work we propose a HyperTransformer, a Transformer-based model for supervised and semi-supervised few-shot learning that generates weights of a convolutional neural network (CNN) directly from support samples. Since the dependence of a small generated CNN model on a specific task is encoded by a high-capacity Transformer model, we effectively decouple the complexity of the large task space from the complexity of individual tasks. Our method is particularly effective for small target CNN architectures where learning a fixed universal task-independent embedding is not optimal and better performance is attained when the information about the task can modulate all model parameters. For larger models we discover that generating the last layer alone allows us to produce competitive or better results than those obtained with state-of-the-art methods while being end-to-end differentiable.

Parametric Visual Program Induction with Function Modularization

Xuguang Duan · Xin Wang · Ziwei Zhang · Wenwu Zhu

Generating programs to describe visual observations has gained much research attention recently. However, most of the existing approaches are based on non-parametric primitive functions, making them unable to handle complex visual scenes involving many attributes and details. In this paper, we propose the concept of parametric visual program induction. Learning to generate parametric programs for visual scenes is challenging due to the huge number of function variants and the complex function correlations. To solve these challenges, we propose the method of function modularization, capable of dealing with numerous function variants and complex correlations. Specifically, we model each parametric function as a multi-head self-contained neural module to cover different function variants. Moreover, to eliminate the complex correlations between functions, we propose the hierarchical heterogeneous Monto-Carlo tree search (H2MCTS) algorithm which can provide high-quality uncorrelated supervision during training, and serve as an efficient searching technique during testing. We demonstrate the superiority of the proposed method on three visual program induction datasets involving parametric primitive functions. Experimental results show that our proposed model is able to significantly outperform the state-of-the-art baseline methods in terms of generating accurate programs.

Deep Neural Network Fusion via Graph Matching with Applications to Model Ensemble and Federated Learning

Chang Liu · Chenfei Lou · Runzhong Wang · Alan Yuhan Xi · Li Shen · Junchi Yan

Model fusion without accessing training data in machine learning has attracted increasing interest due to the practical resource-saving and data privacy issues. During the training process, the neural weights of each model can be randomly permuted, and we have to align the channels of each layer before fusing them. Regrading the channels as nodes and weights as edges, aligning the channels to maximize weight similarity is a challenging NP-hard assignment problem. Due to its quadratic assignment nature, we formulate the model fusion problem as a graph matching task, considering the second-order similarity of model weights instead of previous work merely formulating model fusion as a linear assignment problem. For the rising problem scale and multi-model consistency issues, we propose an efficient graduated assignment-based model fusion method, dubbed GAMF, which iteratively updates the matchings in a consistency-maintaining manner. We apply GAMF to tackle the compact model ensemble task and federated learning task on MNIST, CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and Tiny-Imagenet. The performance shows the efficacy of our GAMF compared to state-of-the-art baselines.

VLMixer: Unpaired Vision-Language Pre-training via Cross-Modal CutMix

Teng Wang · Wenhao Jiang · Zhichao Lu · Feng Zheng · Ran Cheng · chengguo yin · Ping Luo

Existing vision-language pre-training (VLP) methods primarily rely on paired image-text datasets, which are either annotated by enormous human labors or crawled from the internet followed by elaborate data cleaning techniques. To reduce the dependency on well-aligned image-text pairs, it is promising to directly leverage the large-scale text-only and image-only corpora. This paper proposes a data augmentation method, namely cross-modal CutMix (CMC), for implicit cross-modal alignment learning in unpaired VLP. Specifically, CMC transforms natural sentences in the textual view into a multi-modal view, where visually-grounded words in a sentence are randomly replaced by diverse image patches with similar semantics. There are several appealing proprieties of the proposed CMC. First, it enhances the data diversity while keeping the semantic meaning intact for tackling problems where the aligned data are scarce; Second, by attaching cross-modal noise on uni-modal data, it guides models to learn token-level interactions across modalities for better denoising. Furthermore, we present a new unpaired VLP method, dubbed as VLMixer, that integrates CMC with contrastive learning to pull together the uni-modal and multi-modal views for better instance-level alignments among different modalities. Extensive experiments on five downstream tasks show that VLMixer could surpass previous state-of-the-art unpaired VLP methods.

Neural Implicit Dictionary Learning via Mixture-of-Expert Training

Peihao Wang · Zhiwen Fan · Tianlong Chen · Zhangyang “Atlas” Wang

Representing visual signals by coordinate-based deep fully-connected networks has been shown advantageous in fitting complex details and solving inverse problems than discrete grid-based representation. However, acquiring such a continuous Implicit Neural Representation (INR) requires tedious per-scene training on tons of signal measurements, which limits its practicality. In this paper, we present a generic INR framework that achieves both data and training efficiency by learning a Neural Implicit Dictionary (NID) from a data collection and representing INR as a functional combination of wavelets sampled from the dictionary. Our NID assembles a group of coordinate-based subnetworks which are tuned to span the desired function space. After training, one can instantly and robustly acquire an unseen scene representation by solving the coding coefficients. To parallelly optimize a large group of networks, we borrow the idea from Mixture-of-Expert (MoE) to design and train our network with a sparse gating mechanism. Our experiments show that, NID can improve reconstruction of 2D images or 3D scenes by 2 orders of magnitude faster with up to 98% less input data. We further demonstrate various applications of NID in image inpainting and occlusion removal, which are considered to be challenging with vanilla INR. Our codes are available in

Time Is MattEr: Temporal Self-supervision for Video Transformers

Sukmin Yun · Jaehyung Kim · Dongyoon Han · Hwanjun Song · Jung-Woo Ha · Jinwoo Shin

Understanding temporal dynamics of video is an essential aspect of learning better video representations. Recently, transformer-based architectural designs have been extensively explored for video tasks due to their capability to capture long-term dependency of input sequences. However, we found that these Video Transformers are still biased to learn spatial dynamics rather than temporal ones, and debiasing the spurious correlation is critical for their performance. Based on the observations, we design simple yet effective self-supervised tasks for video models to learn temporal dynamics better. Specifically, for debiasing the spatial bias, our method learns the temporal order of video frames as extra self-supervision and enforces the randomly shuffled frames to have low-confidence outputs. Also, our method learns the temporal flow direction of video tokens among consecutive frames for enhancing the correlation toward temporal dynamics. Under various video action recognition tasks, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our method and its compatibility with state-of-the-art Video Transformers.

Benchmarking and Analyzing Point Cloud Classification under Corruptions

Jiawei Ren · Liang Pan · Ziwei Liu

3D perception, especially point cloud classification, has achieved substantial progress. However, in real-world deployment, point cloud corruptions are inevitable due to the scene complexity, sensor inaccuracy, and processing imprecision. In this work, we aim to rigorously benchmark and analyze point cloud classification under corruptions. To conduct a systematic investigation, we first provide a taxonomy of common 3D corruptions and identify the atomic corruptions. Then, we perform a comprehensive evaluation on a wide range of representative point cloud models to understand their robustness and generalizability. Our benchmark results show that although point cloud classification performance improves over time, the state-of-the-art methods are on the verge of being less robust. Based on the obtained observations, we propose several effective techniques to enhance point cloud classifier robustness. We hope our comprehensive benchmark, in-depth analysis, and proposed techniques could spark future research in robust 3D perception.

Understanding The Robustness in Vision Transformers

Zhou Daquan · Zhiding Yu · Enze Xie · Chaowei Xiao · Animashree Anandkumar · Jiashi Feng · Jose M. Alvarez

Recent studies show that Vision Transformers (ViTs) exhibit strong robustness against various corruptions. Although this property is partly attributed to the self-attention mechanism, there is still a lack of an explanatory framework towards a more systematic understanding. In this paper, we examine the role of self-attention in learning robust representations. Our study is motivated by the intriguing properties of self-attention in visual grouping which indicate that self-attention could promote improved mid-level representation and robustness. We thus propose a family of fully attentional networks (FANs) that incorporate self-attention in both token mixing and channel processing. We validate the design comprehensively on various hierarchical backbones. Our model with a DeiT architecture achieves a state-of-the-art 47.6% mCE on ImageNet-C with 29M parameters. We also demonstrate significantly improved robustness in two downstream tasks: semantic segmentation and object detection

Bayesian Nonparametric Learning for Point Processes with Spatial Homogeneity: A Spatial Analysis of NBA Shot Locations

Fan Yin · Jieying Jiao · Jun Yan · Guanyu Hu

Basketball shot location data provide valuable summary information regardingplayers to coaches, sports analysts, fans, statisticians, as well as playersthemselves. Represented by spatial points, such data are naturally analyzed with spatial point process models. We present a novel nonparametric Bayesianmethod for learning the underlying intensity surface built upon acombination of Dirichlet process and Markov random field. Our method has theadvantage of effectively encouraging local spatial homogeneity when estimating a globally heterogeneous intensity surface. Posterior inferences are performedwith an efficient Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithm. Simulation studiesshow that the inferences are accurate and the method is superior comparedto a wide range of competing methods. Application to the shot location data of $20$ representative NBA players in the 2017-2018 regular season offers interestinginsights about the shooting patterns of these players. A comparison against thecompeting method shows that the proposed method can effectively incorporatespatial contiguity into the estimation of intensity surfaces.

On the Effects of Artificial Data Modification

Antonia Marcu · Adam Prugel-Bennett

Data distortion is commonly applied in vision models during both training (e.g methods like MixUp and CutMix) and evaluation (e.g. shape-texture bias and robustness). This data modification can introduce artificial information. It is often assumed that the resulting artefacts are detrimental to training, whilst being negligible when analysing models. We investigate these assumptions and conclude that in some cases they are unfounded and lead to incorrect results. Specifically, we show current shape bias identification methods and occlusion robustness measures are biased and propose a fairer alternative for the latter. Subsequently, through a series of experiments we seek to correct and strengthen the community's perception of how augmenting affects learning of vision models. Based on our empirical results we argue that the impact of the artefacts must be understood and exploited rather than eliminated.

Deep Squared Euclidean Approximation to the Levenshtein Distance for DNA Storage

Alan J.X. Guo · Cong Liang · Qing-Hu Hou

Storing information in DNA molecules is of great interest because of its advantages in longevity, high storage density, and low maintenance cost. A key step in the DNA storage pipeline is to efficiently cluster the retrieved DNA sequences according to their similarities. Levenshtein distance is the most suitable metric on the similarity between two DNA sequences, but it is inferior in terms of computational complexity and less compatible with mature clustering algorithms. In this work, we propose a novel deep squared Euclidean embedding for DNA sequences using Siamese neural network, squared Euclidean embedding, and chi-squared regression. The Levenshtein distance is approximated by the squared Euclidean distance between the embedding vectors, which is fast calculated and clustering algorithm friendly. The proposed approach is analyzed theoretically and experimentally. The results show that the proposed embedding is efficient and robust.

How Faithful is your Synthetic Data? Sample-level Metrics for Evaluating and Auditing Generative Models

Ahmed Alaa · Boris van Breugel · Evgeny S. Saveliev · Mihaela van der Schaar

Devising domain- and model-agnostic evaluation metrics for generative models is an important and as yet unresolved problem. Most existing metrics, which were tailored solely to the image synthesis setup, exhibit a limited capacity for diagnosing the different modes of failure of generative models across broader application domains. In this paper, we introduce a 3-dimensional evaluation metric, (α-Precision, β-Recall, Authenticity), that characterizes the fidelity, diversity and generalization performance of any generative model in a domain-agnostic fashion. Our metric unifies statistical divergence measures with precision-recall analysis, enabling sample- and distribution-level diagnoses of model fidelity and diversity. We introduce generalization as an additional, independent dimension (to the fidelity-diversity trade-off) that quantifies the extent to which a model copies training data—a crucial performance indicator when modeling sensitive data with requirements on privacy. The three metric components correspond to (interpretable) probabilistic quantities, and are estimated via sample-level binary classification. The sample-level nature of our metric inspires a novel use case which we call model auditing, wherein we judge the quality of individual samples generated by a (black-box) model, discarding low-quality samples and hence improving the overall model performance in a post-hoc manner.

Error-driven Input Modulation: Solving the Credit Assignment Problem without a Backward Pass

Giorgia Dellaferrera · Gabriel Kreiman

Supervised learning in artificial neural networks typically relies on backpropagation, where the weights are updated based on the error-function gradients and sequentially propagated from the output layer to the input layer. Although this approach has proven effective in a wide domain of applications, it lacks biological plausibility in many regards, including the weight symmetry problem, the dependence of learning on non-local signals, the freezing of neural activity during error propagation, and the update locking problem. Alternative training schemes have been introduced, including sign symmetry, feedback alignment, and direct feedback alignment, but they invariably rely on a backward pass that hinders the possibility of solving all the issues simultaneously. Here, we propose to replace the backward pass with a second forward pass in which the input signal is modulated based on the error of the network. We show that this novel learning rule comprehensively addresses all the above-mentioned issues and can be applied to both fully connected and convolutional models. We test this learning rule on MNIST, CIFAR-10, and CIFAR-100. These results help incorporate biological principles into machine learning.

How to Train Your Wide Neural Network Without Backprop: An Input-Weight Alignment Perspective

Akhilan Boopathy · Ila R. Fiete

Recent works have examined theoretical and empirical properties of wide neural networks trained in the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) regime. Given that biological neural networks are much wider than their artificial counterparts, we consider NTK regime wide neural networks as a possible model of biological neural networks. Leveraging NTK theory, we show theoretically that gradient descent drives layerwise weight updates that are aligned with their input activity correlations weighted by error, and demonstrate empirically that the result also holds in finite-width wide networks. The alignment result allows us to formulate a family of biologically-motivated, backpropagation-free learning rules that are theoretically equivalent to backpropagation in infinite-width networks. We test these learning rules on benchmark problems in feedforward and recurrent neural networks and demonstrate, in wide networks, comparable performance to backpropagation. The proposed rules are particularly effective in low data regimes, which are common in biological learning settings.

Describing Differences between Text Distributions with Natural Language

Ruiqi Zhong · Charlie Snell · Dan Klein · Jacob Steinhardt

How do two \textit{distributions} of text differ?Humans are slow at answering this, since discovering patterns might require tediously reading through hundreds of samples.We propose to automatically summarize the differences by ``learning a natural language hypothesis":given two distributions $D_{0}$ and $D_{1}$, we search for a description that is more often true for $D_{1}$, e.g., ``\textit{is military-related.}"To tackle this problem, we fine-tune GPT-3 to propose descriptions with the prompt: ``[samples of $D_{0}$] + [samples of $D_{1}$] + \textit{the difference between them is \underline{\space\space\space\space}}".We then re-rank the descriptions by checking how often they hold on a larger set of samples with a learned verifier.On a benchmark of 54 real-world binary classification tasks, while GPT-3 Curie (13B) only generates a description similar to human annotation 7\% of the time, the performance reaches 61\% with fine-tuning and re-ranking, and our best system using GPT-3 Davinci (175B) reaches 76\%.We apply our system to describe distribution shifts, debug dataset shortcuts, summarize unknown tasks, and label text clusters, and present analyses based on automatically generated descriptions.

Distinguishing rule- and exemplar-based generalization in learning systems

Ishita Dasgupta · Erin Grant · Thomas Griffiths

Machine learning systems often do not share the same inductive biases as humans and, as a result, extrapolate or generalize in ways that are inconsistent with our expectations. The trade-off between exemplar- and rule-based generalization has been studied extensively in cognitive psychology; in this work, we present a protocol inspired by these experimental approaches to probe the inductive biases that control this trade-off in category-learning systems such as artificial neural networks. We isolate two such inductive biases: feature-level bias (differences in which features are more readily learned) and exemplar-vs-rule bias (differences in how these learned features are used for generalization of category labels). We find that standard neural network models are feature-biased and have a propensity towards exemplar-based extrapolation; we discuss the implications of these findings for machine-learning research on data augmentation, fairness, and systematic generalization.

Burst-Dependent Plasticity and Dendritic Amplification Support Target-Based Learning and Hierarchical Imitation Learning

Cristiano Capone · Cosimo Lupo · Paolo Muratore · Pier Stanislao Paolucci

The brain can learn to solve a wide range of tasks with high temporal and energetic efficiency.However, most biological models are composed of simple single-compartment neurons and cannot achieve the state-of-the-art performances of artificial intelligence.We propose a multi-compartment model of pyramidal neuron, in which bursts and dendritic input segregation give the possibility to plausibly support a biological target-based learning. In target-based learning, the internal solution of a problem (a spatio-temporal pattern of bursts in our case) is suggested to the network, bypassing the problems of error backpropagation and credit assignment.Finally, we show that this neuronal architecture naturally supports the orchestration of ``hierarchical imitation learning'', enabling the decomposition of challenging long-horizon decision-making tasks into simpler subtasks.

A Deep Learning Approach for the Segmentation of Electroencephalography Data in Eye Tracking Applications

Lukas Wolf · Ard Kastrati · Martyna Plomecka · Jieming Li · Dustin Klebe · Alexander Veicht · Roger Wattenhofer · Nicolas Langer

The collection of eye gaze information provides a window into many critical aspects of human cognition, health and behaviour. Additionally, many neuroscientific studies complement the behavioural information gained from eye tracking with the high temporal resolution and neurophysiological markers provided by electroencephalography (EEG). One of the essential eye-tracking software processing steps is the segmentation of the continuous data stream into events relevant to eye-tracking applications, such as saccades, fixations, and blinks. Here, we introduce DETRtime, a novel framework for time-series segmentation that creates ocular event detectors that do not require additionally recorded eye-tracking modality and rely solely on EEG data. Our end-to-end deep-learning-based framework brings recent advances in Computer Vision to the forefront of the times series segmentation of EEG data. DETRtime achieves state-of-the-art performance in ocular event detection across diverse eye-tracking experiment paradigms. In addition to that, we provide evidence that our model generalizes well in the task of EEG sleep stage segmentation.

Minimizing Control for Credit Assignment with Strong Feedback

Alexander Meulemans · Matilde Tristany Farinha · Maria Cervera · João Sacramento · Benjamin F. Grewe

The success of deep learning ignited interest in whether the brain learns hierarchical representations using gradient-based learning. However, current biologically plausible methods for gradient-based credit assignment in deep neural networks need infinitesimally small feedback signals, which is problematic in biologically realistic noisy environments and at odds with experimental evidence in neuroscience showing that top-down feedback can significantly influence neural activity. Building upon deep feedback control (DFC), a recently proposed credit assignment method, we combine strong feedback influences on neural activity with gradient-based learning and show that this naturally leads to a novel view on neural network optimization. Instead of gradually changing the network weights towards configurations with low output loss, weight updates gradually minimize the amount of feedback required from a controller that drives the network to the supervised output label. Moreover, we show that the use of strong feedback in DFC allows learning forward and feedback connections simultaneously, using learning rules fully local in space and time. We complement our theoretical results with experiments on standard computer-vision benchmarks, showing competitive performance to backpropagation as well as robustness to noise. Overall, our work presents a fundamentally novel view of learning as control minimization, while sidestepping biologically unrealistic assumptions.

Self-Supervised Models of Audio Effectively Explain Human Cortical Responses to Speech

Aditya Vaidya · Shailee Jain · Alexander Huth

Self-supervised language models are very effective at predicting high-level cortical responses during language comprehension. However, the best current models of lower-level auditory processing in the human brain rely on either hand-constructed acoustic filters or representations from supervised audio neural networks. In this work, we capitalize on the progress of self-supervised speech representation learning (SSL) to create new state-of-the-art models of the human auditory system. Compared against acoustic baselines, phonemic features, and supervised models, representations from the middle layers of self-supervised models (APC, wav2vec, wav2vec 2.0, and HuBERT) consistently yield the best prediction performance for fMRI recordings within the auditory cortex (AC). Brain areas involved in low-level auditory processing exhibit a preference for earlier SSL model layers, whereas higher-level semantic areas prefer later layers. We show that these trends are due to the models' ability to encode information at multiple linguistic levels (acoustic, phonetic, and lexical) along their representation depth. Overall, these results show that self-supervised models effectively capture the hierarchy of information relevant to different stages of speech processing in human cortex.

Towards Scaling Difference Target Propagation by Learning Backprop Targets

Maxence ERNOULT · Fabrice Normandin · Abhinav Moudgil · Sean Spinney · Eugene Belilovsky · Irina Rish · Blake Richards · Yoshua Bengio

The development of biologically-plausible learning algorithms is important for understanding learning in the brain, but most of them fail to scale-up to real-world tasks, limiting their potential as explanations for learning by real brains. As such, it is important to explore learning algorithms that come with strong theoretical guarantees and can match the performance of backpropagation (BP) on complex tasks. One such algorithm is Difference Target Propagation (DTP), a biologically-plausible learning algorithm whose close relation with Gauss-Newton (GN) optimization has been recently established. However, the conditions under which this connection rigorously holds preclude layer-wise training of the feedback pathway synaptic weights (which is more biologically plausible). Moreover, good alignment between DTP weight updates and loss gradients is only loosely guaranteed and under very specific conditions for the architecture being trained. In this paper, we propose a novel feedback weight training scheme that ensures both that DTP approximates BP and that layer-wise feedback weight training can be restored without sacrificing any theoretical guarantees. Our theory is corroborated by experimental results and we report the best performance ever achieved by DTP on CIFAR-10 and ImageNet 32x32.

Content Addressable Memory Without Catastrophic Forgetting by Heteroassociation with a Fixed Scaffold

Sugandha Sharma · Sarthak Chandra · Ila R. Fiete

Content-addressable memory (CAM) networks, so-called because stored items can be recalled by partial or corrupted versions of the items, exhibit near-perfect recall of a small number of information-dense patterns below capacity and a 'memory cliff' beyond, such that inserting a single additional pattern results in catastrophic loss of all stored patterns. We propose a novel CAM architecture, Memory Scaffold with Heteroassociation (MESH), that factorizes the problems of internal attractor dynamics and association with external content to generate a CAM continuum without a memory cliff: Small numbers of patterns are stored with complete information recovery matching standard CAMs, while inserting more patterns still results in partial recall of every pattern, with a graceful trade-off between pattern number and pattern richness. Motivated by the architecture of the Entorhinal-Hippocampal memory circuit in the brain, MESH is a tripartite architecture with pairwise interactions that uses a predetermined set of internally stabilized states together with heteroassociation between the internal states and arbitrary external patterns. We show analytically and experimentally that for any number of stored patterns, MESH nearly saturates the total information bound (given by the number of synapses) for CAM networks, outperforming all existing CAM models.

Detecting Adversarial Examples Is (Nearly) As Hard As Classifying Them

Florian Tramer

Making classifiers robust to adversarial examples is challenging. Thus, many works tackle the seemingly easier task of \emph{detecting} perturbed inputs.We show a barrier towards this goal. We prove a \emph{hardness reduction} between detection and classification of adversarial examples: given a robust detector for attacks at distance $\epsilon$ (in some metric), we show how to build a similarly robust (but inefficient) \emph{classifier} for attacks at distance $\epsilon/2$.Our reduction is \emph{computationally} inefficient, but preserves the \emph{data complexity} of the original detector. The reduction thus cannot be directly used to build practical classifiers.Instead, it is a useful sanity check to test whether empirical detection results imply something much stronger than the authors presumably anticipated (namely a highly robust and data-efficient \emph{classifier}).To illustrate, we revisit $14$ empirical detector defenses published over the past years. For $12/14$ defenses, we show that the claimed detection results imply an inefficient classifier with robustness far beyond the state-of-the-art--- thus casting some doubts on the results' validity.Finally, we show that our reduction applies in both directions: a robust classifier for attacks at distance $\epsilon/2$ implies an inefficient robust detector at distance $\epsilon$. Thus, we argue that robust classification and robust detection should be regarded as (near)-equivalent problems, if we disregard their \emph{computational} complexity.

ShiftAddNAS: Hardware-Inspired Search for More Accurate and Efficient Neural Networks

Haoran You · Baopu Li · Shi Huihong · Yonggan Fu · Yingyan Lin

Neural networks (NNs) with intensive multiplications (e.g., convolutions and transformers) are powerful yet power hungry, impeding their more extensive deployment into resource-constrained edge devices. As such, multiplication-free networks, which follow a common practice in energy-efficient hardware implementation to parameterize NNs with more efficient operators (e.g., bitwise shifts and additions), have gained growing attention. However, multiplication-free networks in general under-perform their vanilla counterparts in terms of the achieved accuracy. To this end, this work advocates hybrid NNs that consist of both powerful yet costly multiplications and efficient yet less powerful operators for marrying the best of both worlds, and proposes ShiftAddNAS, which can automatically search for more accurate and more efficient NNs. Our ShiftAddNAS highlights two enablers. Specifically, it integrates (1) the first hybrid search space that incorporates both multiplication-based and multiplication-free operators for facilitating the development of both accurate and efficient hybrid NNs; and (2) a novel weight sharing strategy that enables effective weight sharing among different operators that follow heterogeneous distributions (e.g., Gaussian for convolutions vs. Laplacian for add operators) and simultaneously leads to a largely reduced supernet size and much better searched networks. Extensive experiments and ablation studies on various models, datasets, and tasks consistently validate the effectiveness of ShiftAddNAS, e.g., achieving up to a +7.7% higher accuracy or a +4.9 better BLEU score as compared to state-of-the-art expert-designed and neural architecture searched NNs, while leading to up to 93% or 69% energy and latency savings, respectively. Codes and pretrained models are available at

Provably Adversarially Robust Nearest Prototype Classifiers

Václav Voráček · Matthias Hein

Nearest prototype classifiers (NPCs) assign to each input point the label of the nearest prototype with respect to a chosen distance metric. A direct advantage of NPCs is that the decisions are interpretable. Previous work could provide lower bounds on the minimal adversarial perturbation in the $\ell_p$-threat model when using the same $\ell_p$-distance for the NPCs. In this paper we provide a complete discussion on the complexity when using $\ell_p$-distances for decision and $\ell_q$-threat models for certification for $p,q \in \{1,2,\infty\}$. In particular we provide scalable algorithms for the \emph{exact} computation of the minimal adversarial perturbation when using $\ell_2$-distance and improved lower bounds in other cases. Using efficient improved lower bounds we train our \textbf{P}rovably adversarially robust \textbf{NPC} (PNPC), for MNIST which have better $\ell_2$-robustness guarantees than neural networks. Additionally, we show up to our knowledge the first certification results w.r.t. to the LPIPS perceptual metric which has been argued to be a more realistic threat model for image classification than $\ell_p$-balls. Our PNPC has on CIFAR10 higher certified robust accuracy than the empirical robust accuracy reported in \cite{laidlaw2021perceptual}. The code is available in our~\href{}{repository}.

Certifying Out-of-Domain Generalization for Blackbox Functions

Maurice Weber · Linyi Li · Boxin Wang · Zhikuan Zhao · Bo Li · Ce Zhang

Certifying the robustness of model performance under bounded data distribution drifts has recently attracted intensive interest under the umbrella of distributional robustness. However, existing techniques either make strong assumptions on the model class and loss functions that can be certified, such as smoothness expressed via Lipschitz continuity of gradients, or require to solve complex optimization problems. As a result, the wider application of these techniques is currently limited by its scalability and flexibility --- these techniques often do not scale to large-scale datasets with modern deep neural networks or cannot handle loss functions which may be non-smooth such as the 0-1 loss. In this paper, we focus on the problem of certifying distributional robustness for blackbox models and bounded loss functions, and propose a novel certification framework based on the Hellinger distance. Our certification technique scales to ImageNet-scale datasets, complex models, and a diverse set of loss functions. We then focus on one specific application enabled by such scalability and flexibility, i.e., certifying out-of-domain generalization for large neural networks and loss functions such as accuracy and AUC. We experimentally validate our certification method on a number of datasets, ranging from ImageNet, where we provide the first non-vacuous certified out-of-domain generalization, to smaller classification tasks where we are able to compare with the state-of-the-art and show that our method performs considerably better.

Intriguing Properties of Input-Dependent Randomized Smoothing

Peter Súkeník · Aleksei Kuvshinov · Stephan Günnemann

Randomized smoothing is currently considered the state-of-the-art method to obtain certifiably robust classifiers. Despite its remarkable performance, the method is associated with various serious problems such as ``certified accuracy waterfalls'', certification vs.\ accuracy trade-off, or even fairness issues. Input-dependent smoothing approaches have been proposed with intention of overcoming these flaws. However, we demonstrate that these methods lack formal guarantees and so the resulting certificates are not justified. We show that in general, the input-dependent smoothing suffers from the curse of dimensionality, forcing the variance function to have low semi-elasticity. On the other hand, we provide a theoretical and practical framework that enables the usage of input-dependent smoothing even in the presence of the curse of dimensionality, under strict restrictions. We present one concrete design of the smoothing variance function and test it on CIFAR10 and MNIST. Our design mitigates some of the problems of classical smoothing and is formally underlined, yet further improvement of the design is still necessary.

To Smooth or Not? When Label Smoothing Meets Noisy Labels

Jiaheng Wei · Hangyu Liu · Tongliang Liu · Gang Niu · Masashi Sugiyama · Yang Liu

Label smoothing (LS) is an arising learning paradigm that uses the positively weighted average of both the hard training labels and uniformly distributed soft labels. It was shown that LS serves as a regularizer for training data with hard labels and therefore improves the generalization of the model. Later it was reported LS even helps with improving robustness when learning with noisy labels. However, we observed that the advantage of LS vanishes when we operate in a high label noise regime. Intuitively speaking, this is due to the increased entropy of P(noisy label|X) when the noise rate is high, in which case, further applying LS tends to “over-smooth” the estimated posterior. We proceeded to discover that several learning-with-noisy-labels solutions in the literature instead relate more closely to negative/not label smoothing (NLS), which acts counter to LS and defines as using a negative weight to combine the hard and soft labels! We provide understandings for the properties of LS and NLS when learning with noisy labels. Among other established properties, we theoretically show NLS is considered more beneficial when the label noise rates are high. We provide extensive experimental results on multiple benchmarks to support our findings too. Code is publicly available at

Evaluating the Adversarial Robustness of Adaptive Test-time Defenses

Francesco Croce · Sven Gowal · Thomas Brunner · Evan Shelhamer · Matthias Hein · Taylan Cemgil

Adaptive defenses, which optimize at test time, promise to improve adversarial robustness. We categorize such adaptive test-time defenses, explain their potential benefits and drawbacks, and evaluate a representative variety of the latest adaptive defenses for image classification. Unfortunately, none significantly improve upon static defenses when subjected to our careful case study evaluation. Some even weaken the underlying static model while simultaneously increasing inference computation. While these results are disappointing, we still believe that adaptive test-time defenses are a promising avenue of research and, as such, we provide recommendations for their thorough evaluation. We extend the checklist of Carlini et al. (2019) by providing concrete steps specific to adaptive defenses.

On the Generalization Analysis of Adversarial Learning

Waleed Mustafa · Yunwen Lei · Marius Kloft

Many recent studies have highlighted the susceptibility of virtually all machine-learning models to adversarial attacks. Adversarial attacks are imperceptible changes to an input example of a given prediction model. Such changes are carefully designed to alter the otherwise correct prediction of the model. In this paper, we study the generalization properties of adversarial learning. In particular, we derive high-probability generalization bounds on the adversarial risk in terms of the empirical adversarial risk, the complexity of the function class and the adversarial noise set. Our bounds are generally applicable to many models, losses, and adversaries. We showcase its applicability by deriving adversarial generalization bounds for the multi-class classification setting and various prediction models (including linear models and Deep Neural Networks). We also derive optimistic adversarial generalization bounds for the case of smooth losses. These are the first fast-rate bounds valid for adversarial deep learning to the best of our knowledge.

Demystifying the Adversarial Robustness of Random Transformation Defenses

Chawin Sitawarin · Zachary Golan-Strieb · David Wagner

Neural networks’ lack of robustness against attacks raises concerns in security-sensitive settings such as autonomous vehicles. While many countermeasures may look promising, only a few withstand rigorous evaluation. Defenses using random transformations (RT) have shown impressive results, particularly BaRT (Raff et al., 2019) on ImageNet. However, this type of defense has not been rigorously evaluated, leaving its robustness properties poorly understood. Their stochastic properties make evaluation more challenging and render many proposed attacks on deterministic models inapplicable. First, we show that the BPDA attack (Athalye et al., 2018a) used in BaRT’s evaluation is ineffective and likely overestimates its robustness. We then attempt to construct the strongest possible RT defense through the informed selection of transformations and Bayesian optimization for tuning their parameters. Furthermore, we create the strongest possible attack to evaluate our RT defense. Our new attack vastly outperforms the baseline, reducing the accuracy by 83% compared to the 19% reduction by the commonly used EoT attack ($4.3\times$ improvement). Our result indicates that the RT defense on the Imagenette dataset (a ten-class subset of ImageNet) is not robust against adversarial examples. Extending the study further, we use our new attack to adversarially train RT defense (called AdvRT), resulting in a large robustness gain. Code is available at

Double Sampling Randomized Smoothing

Linyi Li · Jiawei Zhang · Tao Xie · Bo Li

Neural networks (NNs) are known to be vulnerable against adversarial perturbations, and thus there is a line of work aiming to provide robustness certification for NNs, such as randomized smoothing, which samples smoothing noises from a certain distribution to certify the robustness for a smoothed classifier. However, as previous work shows, the certified robust radius in randomized smoothing suffers from scaling to large datasets ("curse of dimensionality"). To overcome this hurdle, we propose a Double Sampling Randomized Smoothing (DSRS) framework, which exploits the sampled probability from an additional smoothing distribution to tighten the robustness certification of the previous smoothed classifier. Theoretically, under mild assumptions, we prove that DSRS can certify $\Theta(\sqrt d)$ robust radius under $\ell_2$ norm where $d$ is the input dimension, which implies that DSRS may be able to break the curse of dimensionality of randomized smoothing. We instantiate DSRS for a generalized family of Gaussian smoothing and propose an efficient and sound computing method based on customized dual optimization considering sampling error. Extensive experiments on MNIST, CIFAR-10, and ImageNet verify our theory and show that DSRS certifies larger robust radii than existing baselines consistently under different settings. Code is available at

TPC: Transformation-Specific Smoothing for Point Cloud Models

Wenda Chu · Linyi Li · Bo Li

Point cloud models with neural network architectures have achieved great success and been widely used in safety-critical applications, such as Lidar-based recognition systems in autonomous vehicles. However, such models are shown vulnerable against adversarial attacks which aim to apply stealthy semantic transformations such as rotation and tapering to mislead model predictions. In this paper, we propose a transformation-specific smoothing framework TPC, which provides tight and scalable robustness guarantees for point cloud models against semantic transformation attacks. We first categorize common 3D transformations into two categories: composable (e.g., rotation) and indirectly composable (e.g., tapering), and we present generic robustness certification strategies for both categories. We then specify unique certification protocols for a range of specific semantic transformations and derive strong robustness guarantees. Extensive experiments on several common 3D transformations show that TPC significantly outperforms the state of the art. For example, our framework boosts the certified accuracy against twisting transformation along z-axis (within ±20°) from 20.3% to 83.8%. Codes and models are available at

Structural Entropy Guided Graph Hierarchical Pooling

Junran Wu · Xueyuan Chen · Ke Xu · Shangzhe Li

Following the success of convolution on non-Euclidean space, the corresponding pooling approaches have also been validated on various tasks regarding graphs. However, because of the fixed compression ratio and stepwise pooling design, these hierarchical pooling methods still suffer from local structure damage and suboptimal problem. In this work, inspired by structural entropy, we propose a hierarchical pooling approach, SEP, to tackle the two issues. Specifically, without assigning the layer-specific compression ratio, a global optimization algorithm is designed to generate the cluster assignment matrices for pooling at once. Then, we present an illustration of the local structure damage from previous methods in reconstruction of ring and grid synthetic graphs. In addition to SEP, we further design two classification models, SEP-G and SEP-N for graph classification and node classification, respectively. The results show that SEP outperforms state-of-the-art graph pooling methods on graph classification benchmarks and obtains superior performance on node classifications.

Self-Supervised Representation Learning via Latent Graph Prediction

Yaochen Xie · Zhao Xu · Shuiwang Ji

Self-supervised learning (SSL) of graph neural networks is emerging as a promising way of leveraging unlabeled data. Currently, most methods are based on contrastive learning adapted from the image domain, which requires view generation and a sufficient number of negative samples. In contrast, existing predictive models do not require negative sampling, but lack theoretical guidance on the design of pretext training tasks. In this work, we propose the LaGraph, a theoretically grounded predictive SSL framework based on latent graph prediction. Learning objectives of LaGraph are derived as self-supervised upper bounds to objectives for predicting unobserved latent graphs. In addition to its improved performance, LaGraph provides explanations for recent successes of predictive models that include invariance-based objectives. We provide theoretical analysis comparing LaGraph to related methods in different domains. Our experimental results demonstrate the superiority of LaGraph in performance and the robustness to decreasing of training sample size on both graph-level and node-level tasks.

DSTAGNN: Dynamic Spatial-Temporal Aware Graph Neural Network for Traffic Flow Forecasting

Shiyong Lan · Yitong Ma · Weikang Huang · Wenwu Wang · Hongyu Yang · pyang li

As a typical problem in time series analysis, traffic flow prediction is one of the most important application fields of machine learning. However, achieving highly accurate traffic flow prediction is a challenging task, due to the presence of complex dynamic spatial-temporal dependencies within a road network. This paper proposes a novel Dynamic Spatial-Temporal Aware Graph Neural Network (DSTAGNN) to model the complex spatial-temporal interaction in road network. First, considering the fact that historical data carries intrinsic dynamic information about the spatial structure of road networks, we propose a new dynamic spatial-temporal aware graph based on a data-driven strategy to replace the pre-defined static graph usually used in traditional graph convolution. Second, we design a novel graph neural network architecture, which can not only represent dynamic spatial relevance among nodes with an improved multi-head attention mechanism, but also acquire the wide range of dynamic temporal dependency from multi-receptive field features via multi-scale gated convolution. Extensive experiments on real-world data sets demonstrate that our proposed method significantly outperforms the state-of-the-art methods.

Coarsening the Granularity: Towards Structurally Sparse Lottery Tickets

Tianlong Chen · Xuxi Chen · Xiaolong Ma · Yanzhi Wang · Zhangyang “Atlas” Wang

The lottery ticket hypothesis (LTH) has shown that dense models contain highly sparse subnetworks (i.e., winning tickets) that can be trained in isolation to match full accuracy. Despite many exciting efforts being made, there is one "commonsense" rarely challenged: a winning ticket is found by iterative magnitude pruning (IMP) and hence the resultant pruned subnetworks have only unstructured sparsity. That gap limits the appeal of winning tickets in practice, since the highly irregular sparse patterns are challenging to accelerate on hardware. Meanwhile, directly substituting structured pruning for unstructured pruning in IMP damages performance more severely and is usually unable to locate winning tickets. In this paper, we demonstrate the first positive result that a structurally sparse winning ticket can be effectively found in general. The core idea is to append "post-processing techniques" after each round of (unstructured) IMP, to enforce the formation of structural sparsity. Specifically, we first "re-fill" pruned elements back in some channels deemed to be important, and then "re-group" non-zero elements to create flexible group-wise structural patterns. Both our identified channel- and group-wise structural subnetworks win the lottery, with substantial inference speedups readily supported by existing hardware. Extensive experiments, conducted on diverse datasets across multiple network backbones, consistently validate our proposal, showing that the hardware acceleration roadblock of LTH is now removed. Specifically, the structural winning tickets obtain up to {64.93%, 64.84%, 60.23%} running time savings at {36%~80%, 74%, 58%} sparsity on {CIFAR, Tiny-ImageNet, ImageNet}, while maintaining comparable accuracy. Code is at

Omni-Granular Ego-Semantic Propagation for Self-Supervised Graph Representation Learning

Ling Yang · Shenda Hong

Unsupervised/self-supervised graph representation learning is critical for downstream node- and graph-level classification tasks. Global structure of graphs helps discriminating representations and existing methods mainly utilize the global structure by imposing additional supervisions. However, their global semantics are usually invariant for all nodes/graphs and they fail to explicitly embed the global semantics to enrich the representations. In this paper, we propose Omni-Granular Ego-Semantic Propagation for Self-Supervised Graph Representation Learning (OEPG). Specifically, we introduce instance-adaptive global-aware ego-semantic descriptors, leveraging the first- and second-order feature differences between each node/graph and hierarchical global clusters of the entire graph dataset. The descriptors can be explicitly integrated into local graph convolution as new neighbor nodes. Besides, we design an omni-granular normalization on the whole scales and hierarchies of the ego-semantic to assign attentional weight to each descriptor from an omni-granular perspective. Specialized pretext tasks and cross-iteration momentum update are further developed for local-global mutual adaptation. In downstream tasks, OEPG consistently achieves the best performance with a 2%~6% accuracy gain on multiple datasets cross scales and domains. Notably, OEPG also generalizes to quantity- and topology-imbalance scenarios.

Analyzing and Mitigating Interference in Neural Architecture Search

Jin Xu · Xu Tan · Kaitao Song · Renqian Luo · Yichong Leng · Tao Qin · Tie-Yan Liu · Jian Li

Weight sharing is a popular approach to reduce the training cost of neural architecture search (NAS) by reusing the weights of shared operators from previously trained child models. However, the rank correlation between the estimated accuracy and ground truth accuracy of those child models is low due to the interference among different child models caused by weight sharing. In this paper, we investigate the interference issue by sampling different child models and calculating the gradient similarity of shared operators, and observe that: 1) the interference on a shared operator between two child models is positively correlated with the number of different operators between them; 2) the interference is smaller when the inputs and outputs of the shared operator are more similar. Inspired by these two observations, we propose two approaches to mitigate the interference: 1) rather than randomly sampling child models for optimization, we propose a gradual modification scheme by modifying one operator between adjacent optimization steps to minimize the interference on the shared operators; 2) forcing the inputs and outputs of the operator across all child models to be similar to reduce the interference. Experiments on a BERT search space verify that mitigating interference via each of our proposed methods improves the rank correlation of super-pet and combining both methods can achieve better results. Our discovered architecture outperforms RoBERTa$_{\rm base}$ by 1.1 and 0.6 points and ELECTRA$_{\rm base}$ by 1.6 and 1.1 points on the dev and test set of GLUE benchmark. Extensive results on the BERT compression, reading comprehension and large-scale image classification tasks also demonstrate the effectiveness and generality of our proposed methods.

Reverse Engineering $\ell_p$ attacks: A block-sparse optimization approach with recovery guarantees

Darshan Thaker · Paris Giampouras · Rene Vidal

Deep neural network-based classifiers have been shown to be vulnerable to imperceptible perturbations to their input, such as $\ell_p$-bounded norm adversarial attacks. This has motivated the development of many defense methods, which are then broken by new attacks, and so on. This paper focuses on a different but related problem of reverse engineering adversarial attacks. Specifically, given an attacked signal, we study conditions under which one can determine the type of attack ($\ell_1$, $\ell_2$ or $\ell_\infty$) and recover the clean signal. We pose this problem as a block-sparse recovery problem, where both the signal and the attack are assumed to lie in a union of subspaces that includes one subspace per class and one subspace per attack type. We derive geometric conditions on the subspaces under which any attacked signal can be decomposed as the sum of a clean signal plus an attack. In addition, by determining the subspaces that contain the signal and the attack, we can also classify the signal and determine the attack type. Experiments on digit and face classification demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach.

Unified Scaling Laws for Routed Language Models

Aidan Clark · Diego de Las Casas · Aurelia Guy · Arthur Mensch · Michela Paganini · Jordan Hoffmann · Bogdan Damoc · Blake Hechtman · Trevor Cai · Sebastian Borgeaud · George van den Driessche · Eliza Rutherford · Tom Hennigan · Matthew Johnson · Albin Cassirer · Chris Jones · Elena Buchatskaya · David Budden · Laurent Sifre · Simon Osindero · Oriol Vinyals · Marc'Aurelio Ranzato · Jack Rae · Erich Elsen · Koray Kavukcuoglu · Karen Simonyan

The performance of a language model has been shown to be effectively modeled as a power-law in its parameter count. Here we study the scaling behaviors of Routing Networks: architectures that conditionally use only a subset of their parameters while processing an input. For these models, parameter count and computational requirement form two independent axes along which an increase leads to better performance. In this work we derive and justify scaling laws defined on these two variables which generalize those known for standard language models and describe the performance of a wide range of routing architectures trained via three different techniques. Afterwards we provide two applications of these laws: first deriving an Effective Parameter Count along which all models scale at the same rate, and then using the scaling coefficients to give a quantitative comparison of the three routing techniques considered. Our analysis derives from an extensive evaluation of Routing Networks across five orders of magnitude of size, including models with hundreds of experts and hundreds of billions of parameters.

DRAGONN: Distributed Randomized Approximate Gradients of Neural Networks

Zhuang Wang · Zhaozhuo Xu · Xinyu Wu · Anshumali Shrivastava · T. S. Eugene Ng

Data-parallel distributed training (DDT) has become the de-facto standard for accelerating the training of most deep learning tasks on massively parallel hardware. In the DDT paradigm, the communication overhead of gradient synchronization is the major efficiency bottleneck. A widely adopted approach to tackle this issue is gradient sparsification (GS). However, the current GS methods introduce significant new overhead in compressing the gradients, outweighing the communication overhead and becoming the new efficiency bottleneck. In this paper, we propose DRAGONN, a randomized hashing algorithm for GS in DDT. DRAGONN can significantly reduce the compression time by up to 70% compared to state-of-the-art GS approaches, and achieve up to 3.52x speedup in total training throughput.

A deep convolutional neural network that is invariant to time rescaling

Brandon G Jacques · Zoran Tiganj · Aakash Sarkar · Marc Howard · Per Sederberg

Human learners can readily understand speech, or a melody, when it is presented slower or faster than usual. This paper presents a deep CNN (SITHCon) that uses a logarithmically compressed temporal representation at each level. Because rescaling the time of the input results in a translation of $\log$ time, and because the output of the convolution is invariant to translations, this network can generalize to out-of-sample data that are temporal rescalings of a learned pattern. We compare the performance of SITHCon to a Temporal Convolution Network (TCN) on classification and regression problems with both univariate and multivariate time series. We find that SITHCon, unlike TCN, generalizes robustly over rescalings of about an order of magnitude. Moreover, we show that the network can generalize over exponentially large scales without retraining the weights simply by extending the range of the logarithmically-compressed temporal memory.

LyaNet: A Lyapunov Framework for Training Neural ODEs

Ivan Dario Jimenez Rodriguez · Aaron Ames · Yisong Yue

We propose a method for training ordinary differential equations by using a control-theoretic Lyapunov condition for stability. Our approach, called LyaNet, is based on a novel Lyapunov loss formulation that encourages the inference dynamics to converge quickly to the correct prediction. Theoretically, we show that minimizing Lyapunov loss guarantees exponential convergence to the correct solution and enables a novel robustness guarantee. We also provide practical algorithms, including one that avoids the cost of backpropagating through a solver or using the adjoint method. Relative to standard Neural ODE training, we empirically find that LyaNet can offer improved prediction performance, faster convergence of inference dynamics, and improved adversarial robustness. Our code is available at

Transfer and Marginalize: Explaining Away Label Noise with Privileged Information

Mark Collier · Rodolphe Jenatton · Efi Kokiopoulou · Jesse Berent

Supervised learning datasets often have privileged information, in the form of features which are available at training time but are not available at test time e.g. the ID of the annotator that provided the label. We argue that privileged information is useful for explaining away label noise, thereby reducing the harmful impact of noisy labels. We develop a simple and efficient method for supervised learning with neural networks: it transfers via weight sharing the knowledge learned with privileged information and approximately marginalizes over privileged information at test time. Our method, TRAM (TRansfer and Marginalize), has minimal training time overhead and has the same test-time cost as not using privileged information. TRAM performs strongly on CIFAR-10H, ImageNet and Civil Comments benchmarks.

On Collective Robustness of Bagging Against Data Poisoning

Ruoxin Chen · Zenan Li · Jie Li · Junchi Yan · Chentao Wu

Bootstrap aggregating (bagging) is an effective ensemble protocol, which is believed can enhance robustness by its majority voting mechanism. Recent works further prove the sample-wise robustness certificates for certain forms of bagging (e.g. partition aggregation). Beyond these particular forms, in this paper, we propose the first collective certification for general bagging to compute the tight robustness against the global poisoning attack. Specifically, we compute the maximum number of simultaneously changed predictions via solving a binary integer linear programming (BILP) problem. Then we analyze the robustness of vanilla bagging and give the upper bound of the tolerable poison budget. Based on this analysis, we propose hash bagging to improve the robustness of vanilla bagging almost for free. This is achieved by modifying the random subsampling in vanilla bagging to a hash-based deterministic subsampling, as a way of controlling the influence scope for each poisoning sample universally. Our extensive experiments show the notable advantage in terms of applicability and robustness. Our code is available at

Hindering Adversarial Attacks with Implicit Neural Representations

Andrei A Rusu · Dan Andrei Calian · Sven Gowal · Raia Hadsell

We introduce the Lossy Implicit Network Activation Coding (LINAC) defence, an input transformation which successfully hinders several common adversarial attacks on CIFAR-10 classifiers for perturbations up to 8/255 in Linf norm and 0.5 in L2 norm. Implicit neural representations are used to approximately encode pixel colour intensities in 2D images such that classifiers trained on transformed data appear to have robustness to small perturbations without adversarial training or large drops in performance. The seed of the random number generator used to initialise and train the implicit neural representation turns out to be necessary information for stronger generic attacks, suggesting its role as a private key. We devise a Parametric Bypass Approximation (PBA) attack strategy for key-based defences, which successfully invalidates an existing method in this category. Interestingly, our LINAC defence also hinders some transfer and adaptive attacks, including our novel PBA strategy. Our results emphasise the importance of a broad range of customised attacks despite apparent robustness according to standard evaluations.

From Noisy Prediction to True Label: Noisy Prediction Calibration via Generative Model

HeeSun Bae · Seungjae Shin · Byeonghu Na · JoonHo Jang · Kyungwoo Song · IL CHUL MOON

Noisy labels are inevitable yet problematic in machine learning society. It ruins the generalization of a classifier by making the classifier over-fitted to noisy labels. Existing methods on noisy label have focused on modifying the classifier during the training procedure. It has two potential problems. First, these methods are not applicable to a pre-trained classifier without further access to training. Second, it is not easy to train a classifier and regularize all negative effects from noisy labels, simultaneously. We suggest a new branch of method, Noisy Prediction Calibration (NPC) in learning with noisy labels. Through the introduction and estimation of a new type of transition matrix via generative model, NPC corrects the noisy prediction from the pre-trained classifier to the true label as a post-processing scheme. We prove that NPC theoretically aligns with the transition matrix based methods. Yet, NPC empirically provides more accurate pathway to estimate true label, even without involvement in classifier learning. Also, NPC is applicable to any classifier trained with noisy label methods, if training instances and its predictions are available. Our method, NPC, boosts the classification performances of all baseline models on both synthetic and real-world datasets. The implemented code is available at

Exploring and Exploiting Hubness Priors for High-Quality GAN Latent Sampling

Yuanbang Liang · Jing Wu · Yu-Kun Lai · Yipeng Qin

Despite the extensive studies on Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), how to reliably sample high-quality images from their latent spaces remains an under-explored topic. In this paper, we propose a novel GAN latent sampling method by exploring and exploiting the hubness priors of GAN latent distributions. Our key insight is that the high dimensionality of the GAN latent space will inevitably lead to the emergence of hub latents that usually have much larger sampling densities than other latents in the latent space. As a result, these hub latents are better trained and thus contribute more to the synthesis of high-quality images. Unlike the a posterior "cherry-picking", our method is highly efficient as it is an a priori method that identifies high-quality latents before the synthesis of images. Furthermore, we show that the well-known but purely empirical truncation trick is a naive approximation to the central clustering effect of hub latents, which not only uncovers the rationale of the truncation trick, but also indicates the superiority and fundamentality of our method. Extensive experimental results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method. Our code is available at:

ButterflyFlow: Building Invertible Layers with Butterfly Matrices

Chenlin Meng · Linqi Zhou · Kristy Choi · Tri Dao · Stefano Ermon

Normalizing flows model complex probability distributions using maps obtained by composing invertible layers. Special linear layers such as masked and 1×1 convolutions play a key role in existing architectures because they increase expressive power while having tractable Jacobians and inverses. We propose a new family of invertible linear layers based on butterfly layers, which are known to theoretically capture complex linear structures including permutations and periodicity, yet can be inverted efficiently. This representational power is a key advantage of our approach, as such structures are common in many real-world datasets. Based on our invertible butterfly layers, we construct a new class of normalizing flow mod- els called ButterflyFlow. Empirically, we demonstrate that ButterflyFlows not only achieve strong density estimation results on natural images such as MNIST, CIFAR-10, and ImageNet-32×32, but also obtain significantly better log-likelihoods on structured datasets such as galaxy images and MIMIC-III patient cohorts—all while being more efficient in terms of memory and computation than relevant baselines.

Controlling Conditional Language Models without Catastrophic Forgetting

Tomasz Korbak · Hady Elsahar · Germán Kruszewski · Marc Dymetman

Machine learning is shifting towards general-purpose pretrained generative models, trained in a self-supervised manner on large amounts of data, which can then be applied to solve a large number of tasks.However, due to their generic training methodology, these models often fail to meet some of the downstream requirements (e.g., hallucinations in abstractive summarization or style violations in code generation). This raises the important question of how to adapt pre-trained generative models to meet all requirements without destroying their general capabilities ("catastrophic forgetting"). Recent work has proposed to solve this problem by representing task-specific requirements through energy-based models (EBMs) and approximating these EBMs using distributional policy gradients (DPG). Despite its effectiveness, this approach is however limited to unconditional distributions. In this paper, we extend DPG to conditional tasks by proposing Conditional DPG (CDPG). We evaluate CDPG on four different control objectives across three tasks (translation, summarization and code generation) and two pretrained models (T5 and GPT-Neo). Our results show that fine-tuning using CDPG robustly moves these pretrained models closer towards meeting control objectives and --- in contrast with baseline approaches --- does not result in catastrophic forgetting.

GLIDE: Towards Photorealistic Image Generation and Editing with Text-Guided Diffusion Models

Alexander Nichol · Prafulla Dhariwal · Aditya Ramesh · Pranav Shyam · Pamela Mishkin · Bob McGrew · Ilya Sutskever · Mark Chen

Diffusion models have recently been shown to generate high-quality synthetic images, especially when paired with a guidance technique to trade off diversity for fidelity. We explore diffusion models for the problem of text-conditional image synthesis and compare two different guidance strategies: CLIP guidance and classifier-free guidance. We find that the latter is preferred by human evaluators for both photorealism and caption similarity, and often produces photorealistic samples. Samples from a 3.5~billion parameter text-conditional diffusion model using classifier-free guidance are favored by human evaluators to those from DALL-E, even when the latter uses expensive CLIP reranking. Additionally, we find that our models can be fine-tuned to perform image inpainting, enabling powerful text-driven image editing. We train a smaller model on a filtered dataset and release the code and weights at

Structure-preserving GANs

Jeremiah Birrell · Markos Katsoulakis · Luc Rey-Bellet · Wei Zhu

Generative adversarial networks (GANs), a class of distribution-learning methods based on a two-player game between a generator and a discriminator, can generally be formulated as a minmax problem based on the variational representation of a divergence between the unknown and the generated distributions. We introduce structure-preserving GANs as a data-efficient framework for learning distributions with additional structure such as group symmetry, by developing new variational representations for divergences. Our theory shows that we can reduce the discriminator space to its projection on the invariant discriminator space, using the conditional expectation with respect to the sigma-algebra associated to the underlying structure. In addition, we prove that the discriminator space reduction must be accompanied by a careful design of structured generators, as flawed designs may easily lead to a catastrophic “mode collapse” of the learned distribution. We contextualize our framework by building symmetry-preserving GANs for distributions with intrinsic group symmetry, and demonstrate that both players, namely the equivariant generator and invariant discriminator, play important but distinct roles in the learning process. Empirical experiments and ablation studies across a broad range of data sets, including real-world medical imaging, validate our theory, and show our proposed methods achieve significantly improved sample fidelity and diversity---almost an order of magnitude measured in Frechet Inception Distance---especially in the small data regime.

DeepSpeed-MoE: Advancing Mixture-of-Experts Inference and Training to Power Next-Generation AI Scale

Samyam Rajbhandari · Conglong Li · Zhewei Yao · Minjia Zhang · Reza Yazdani Aminabadi · Ammar Ahmad Awan · Jeff Rasley · Yuxiong He

As the training of giant dense models hits the boundary on the availability and capability of the hardware resources today, Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) models have become one of the most promising model architectures due to their significant training cost reduction compared to quality-equivalent dense models. Their training cost saving is demonstrated from encoder-decoder models (prior works) to a 5x saving for auto-aggressive language models (this work). However, due to the much larger model size and unique architecture, how to provide fast MoE model inference remains challenging and unsolved, limiting their practical usage. To tackle this, we present DeepSpeed-MoE, an end-to-end MoE training and inference solution, including novel MoE architecture designs and model compression techniques that reduce MoE model size by up to 3.7x, and a highly optimized inference system that provides 7.3x better latency and cost compared to existing MoE inference solutions. DeepSpeed-MoE offers an unprecedented scale and efficiency to serve massive MoE models with up to 4.5x faster and 9x cheaper inference compared to quality-equivalent dense models. We hope our innovations and systems help open a promising path to new directions in the large model landscape, a shift from dense to sparse MoE models, where training and deploying higher-quality models with fewer resources becomes more widely possible.

Estimating the Optimal Covariance with Imperfect Mean in Diffusion Probabilistic Models

Fan Bao · Chongxuan Li · Jiacheng Sun · Jun Zhu · Bo Zhang

Diffusion probabilistic models (DPMs) are a class of powerful deep generative models (DGMs). Despite their success, the iterative generation process over the full timesteps is much less efficient than other DGMs such as GANs. Thus, the generation performance on a subset of timesteps is crucial, which is greatly influenced by the covariance design in DPMs. In this work, we consider diagonal and full covariances to improve the expressive power of DPMs. We derive the optimal result for such covariances, and then correct it when the mean of DPMs is imperfect. Both the optimal and the corrected ones can be decomposed into terms of conditional expectations over functions of noise. Building upon it, we propose to estimate the optimal covariance and its correction given imperfect mean by learning these conditional expectations. Our method can be applied to DPMs with both discrete and continuous timesteps. We consider the diagonal covariance in our implementation for computational efficiency. For an efficient practical implementation, we adopt a parameter sharing scheme and a two-stage training process. Empirically, our method outperforms a wide variety of covariance design on likelihood results, and improves the sample quality especially on a small number of timesteps.

Equivariant Diffusion for Molecule Generation in 3D

Emiel Hoogeboom · Victor Garcia Satorras · Clément Vignac · Max Welling

This work introduces a diffusion model for molecule generation in 3D that is equivariant to Euclidean transformations. Our E(3) Equivariant Diffusion Model (EDM) learns to denoise a diffusion process with an equivariant network that jointly operates on both continuous (atom coordinates) and categorical features (atom types). In addition, we provide a probabilistic analysis which admits likelihood computation of molecules using our model. Experimentally, the proposed method significantly outperforms previous 3D molecular generative methods regarding the quality of generated samples and the efficiency at training time.

Forward Operator Estimation in Generative Models with Kernel Transfer Operators

Zhichun Huang · Rudrasis Chakraborty · Vikas Singh

Generative models which use explicit density modeling (e.g., variational autoencoders, flow-based generative models) involve finding a mapping from a known distribution, e.g. Gaussian, to the unknown input distribution. This often requires searching over a class of non-linear functions (e.g., representable by a deep neural network). While effective in practice, the associated runtime/memory costs can increase rapidly, usually as a function of the performance desired in an application. We propose a substantially cheaper (and simpler) forward operator estimation strategy based on adapting known results on kernel transfer operators. We show that our formulation enables highly efficient distribution approximation and sampling, and offers surprisingly good empirical performance that compares favorably with powerful baselines, but with significant runtime savings. We show that the algorithm also performs well in small sample size settings (in brain imaging).

Conditional GANs with Auxiliary Discriminative Classifier

Liang Hou · Qi Cao · Huawei Shen · Siyuan Pan · Xiaoshuang Li · Xueqi Cheng

Conditional generative models aim to learn the underlying joint distribution of data and labels to achieve conditional data generation. Among them, the auxiliary classifier generative adversarial network (AC-GAN) has been widely used, but suffers from the problem of low intra-class diversity of the generated samples. The fundamental reason pointed out in this paper is that the classifier of AC-GAN is generator-agnostic, which therefore cannot provide informative guidance for the generator to approach the joint distribution, resulting in a minimization of the conditional entropy that decreases the intra-class diversity. Motivated by this understanding, we propose a novel conditional GAN with an auxiliary discriminative classifier (ADC-GAN) to resolve the above problem. Specifically, the proposed auxiliary discriminative classifier becomes generator-aware by recognizing the class-labels of the real data and the generated data discriminatively. Our theoretical analysis reveals that the generator can faithfully learn the joint distribution even without the original discriminator, making the proposed ADC-GAN robust to the value of the coefficient hyperparameter and the selection of the GAN loss, and stable during training. Extensive experimental results on synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate the superiority of ADC-GAN in conditional generative modeling compared to state-of-the-art classifier-based and projection-based conditional GANs.

Improved StyleGAN-v2 based Inversion for Out-of-Distribution Images

Rakshith Subramanyam · Vivek Narayanaswamy · Mark Naufel · Andreas Spanias · Jayaraman J. Thiagarajan

Inverting an image onto the latent space of pre-trained generators, e.g., StyleGAN-v2, has emerged as a popular strategy to leverage strong image priors for ill-posed restoration. Several studies have showed that this approach is effective at inverting images similar to the data used for training. However, with out-of-distribution (OOD) data that the generator has not been exposed to, existing inversion techniques produce sub-optimal results. In this paper, we propose SPHInX (StyleGAN with Projection Heads for Inverting X), an approach for accurately embedding OOD images onto the StyleGAN latent space. SPHInX optimizes a style projection head using a novel training strategy that imposes a vicinal regularization in the StyleGAN latent space. To further enhance OOD inversion, SPHInX can additionally optimize a content projection head and noise variables in every layer. Our empirical studies on a suite of OOD data show that, in addition to producing higher quality reconstructions over the state-of-the-art inversion techniques, SPHInX is effective for ill-posed restoration tasks while offering semantic editing capabilities.

Matching Normalizing Flows and Probability Paths on Manifolds

Heli Ben-Hamu · samuel cohen · Joey Bose · Brandon Amos · Maximilian Nickel · Aditya Grover · Ricky T. Q. Chen · Yaron Lipman

Continuous Normalizing Flows (CNFs) are a class of generative models that transform a prior distribution to a model distribution by solving an ordinary differential equation (ODE). We propose to train CNFs on manifolds by minimizing probability path divergence (PPD), a novel family of divergences between the probability density path generated by the CNF and a target probability density path. PPD is formulated using a logarithmic mass conservation formula which is a linearfirst order partial differential equation relating the log target probabilities and the CNF’s defining vector field. PPD has several key benefits over existing methods: it sidesteps the need to solve an ODE per iteration, readily applies to manifold data, scales to high dimensions, and is compatible with a large family of target paths interpolating pure noise and data in finite time. Theoretically, PPD is shown to bound classical probability divergences. Empirically, we show that CNFs learned by minimizing PPD achieve state-of-the-art results in likelihoods and sample quality on existing low-dimensional manifold benchmarks, and is the first example of a generative model to scale to moderately high dimensional manifolds.

Marginal Distribution Adaptation for Discrete Sets via Module-Oriented Divergence Minimization

Hanjun Dai · Mengjiao Yang · Yuan Xue · Dale Schuurmans · Bo Dai

Distributions over discrete sets capture the essential statistics including the high-order correlation among elements. Such information provides powerful insight for decision making across various application domains, e.g., product assortment based on product distribution in shopping carts. While deep generative models trained on pre-collected data can capture existing distributions, such pre-trained models are usually not capable of aligning with a target domain in the presence of distribution shift due to reasons such as temporal shift or the change in the population mix. We develop a general framework to adapt a generative model subject to a (possibly counterfactual) target data distribution with both sampling and computation efficiency. Concretely, instead of re-training a full model from scratch, we reuse the learned modules to preserve the correlations between set elements, while only adjusting corresponding components to align with target marginal constraints. We instantiate the approach for three commonly used forms of discrete set distribution---latent variable, autoregressive, and energy based models---and provide efficient solutions for marginal-constrained optimization in either primal or dual forms. Experiments on both synthetic and real-world e-commerce and EHR datasets show that the proposed framework is able to practically align a generative model to match marginal constraints under distribution shift.

Learning to Incorporate Texture Saliency Adaptive Attention to Image Cartoonization

Xiang Gao · Yuqi Zhang · Yingjie Tian

Image cartoonization is recently dominated by generative adversarial networks (GANs) from the perspective of unsupervised image-to-image translation, in which an inherent challenge is to precisely capture and sufficiently transfer characteristic cartoon styles (e.g., clear edges, smooth color shading, vivid colors, etc.). Existing advanced models try to enhance cartoonization effect by learning to promote edges adversarially, introducing style transfer loss, or learning to align style from multiple representation space. This paper demonstrates that more distinct and vivid cartoonization effect could be easily achieved with only basic adversarial loss. Observing that cartoon style is more evident in cartoon-texture-salient local image regions, we build a region-level adversarial learning branch in parallel with the normal image-level one, which constrains adversarial learning on cartoon-texture-salient local patches for better perceiving and transferring cartoon texture features. To this end, a novel cartoon-texture-saliency-sampler (CTSS) module is proposed to adaptively sample cartoon-texture-salient patches from training data. We present that such texture saliency adaptive attention is of significant importance in facilitating and enhancing cartoon stylization, which is a key missing ingredient of related methods. The superiority of our model in promoting cartoonization effect, especially for high-resolution input images, are fully demonstrated with extensive experiments.

Region-Based Semantic Factorization in GANs

Jiapeng Zhu · Yujun Shen · Yinghao Xu · Deli Zhao · Qifeng Chen

Despite the rapid advancement of semantic discovery in the latent space of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), existing approaches either are limited to finding global attributes or rely on a number of segmentation masks to identify local attributes. In this work, we present a highly efficient algorithm to factorize the latent semantics learned by GANs concerning an arbitrary image region. Concretely, we revisit the task of local manipulation with pre-trained GANs and formulate region-based semantic discovery as a dual optimization problem. Through an appropriately defined generalized Rayleigh quotient, we manage to solve such a problem without any annotations or training. Experimental results on various state-of-the-art GAN models demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, as well as its superiority over prior arts regarding precise control, region robustness, speed of implementation, and simplicity of use.

Online Continual Learning through Mutual Information Maximization

Yiduo Guo · Bing Liu · Dongyan Zhao

This paper proposed a new online continual learning approach called OCMM based on \textit{mutual information} (MI) \textit{maximization}. It achieves two objectives that are critical in dealing with catastrophic forgetting (CF). {\color{black}(1) It reduces feature bias caused by cross entropy (CE) as CE learns only discriminative features for each task, but these features may not be discriminative for another task. To learn a new task well, the network parameters learned before have to be modified, which causes CF.} The new approach encourages the learning of each task to make use of the full features of the task training data. (2) It encourages preservation of the previously learned knowledge when training a new batch of incrementally arriving data. Empirical evaluation shows that OCMM substantially outperforms the latest online CL baselines. For example, for CIFAR10, OCMM improves the accuracy of the best baseline by 13.1\% from 64.1\% (baseline) to 77.2\% (OCMM).The code is publicly available at

Learning Iterative Reasoning through Energy Minimization

Yilun Du · Shuang Li · Josh Tenenbaum · Igor Mordatch

Deep learning has excelled on complex pattern recognition tasks such as image classification and object recognition. However, it struggles with tasks requiring nontrivial reasoning, such as algorithmic computation. Humans are able to solve such tasks through iterative reasoning -- spending more time to think about harder tasks. Most existing neural networks, however, exhibit a fixed computational budget controlled by the neural network architecture, preventing additional computational processing on harder tasks. In this work, we present a new framework for iterative reasoning with neural networks. We train a neural network to parameterize an energy landscape over all outputs, and implement each step of the iterative reasoning as an energy minimization step to find a minimal energy solution. By formulating reasoning as an energy minimization problem, for harder problems that lead to more complex energy landscapes, we may then adjust our underlying computational budget by running a more complex optimization procedure. We empirically illustrate that our iterative reasoning approach can solve more accurate and generalizable algorithmic reasoning tasks in both graph and continuous domains. Finally, we illustrate that our approach can recursively solve algorithmic problems requiring nested reasoning.

DepthShrinker: A New Compression Paradigm Towards Boosting Real-Hardware Efficiency of Compact Neural Networks

Yonggan Fu · Haichuan Yang · Jiayi Yuan · Meng Li · Cheng Wan · Raghuraman Krishnamoorthi · Vikas Chandra · Yingyan Lin

Efficient deep neural network (DNN) models equipped with compact operators (e.g., depthwise convolutions) have shown great potential in reducing DNNs' theoretical complexity (e.g., the total number of weights/operations) while maintaining a decent model accuracy. However, existing efficient DNNs are still limited in fulfilling their promise in boosting real-hardware efficiency, due to their commonly adopted compact operators' low hardware utilization. In this work, we open up a new compression paradigm for developing real-hardware efficient DNNs, leading to boosted hardware efficiency while maintaining model accuracy. Interestingly, we observe that while some DNN layers' activation functions help DNNs' training optimization and achievable accuracy, they can be properly removed after training without compromising the model accuracy. Inspired by this observation, we propose a framework dubbed DepthShrinker, which develops hardware-friendly compact networks via shrinking the basic building blocks of existing efficient DNNs that feature irregular computation patterns into dense ones with much improved hardware utilization and thus real-hardware efficiency. Excitingly, our DepthShrinker framework delivers hardware-friendly compact networks that outperform both state-of-the-art efficient DNNs and compression techniques, e.g., a 3.06% higher accuracy and 1.53x throughput on Tesla V100 over SOTA channel-wise pruning method MetaPruning. Our codes are available at:

PoF: Post-Training of Feature Extractor for Improving Generalization

Ikuro Sato · Yamada Ryota · Masayuki Tanaka · Nakamasa Inoue · Rei Kawakami

It has been intensively investigated that the local shape, especially flatness, of the loss landscape near a minimum plays an important role for generalization of deep models. We developed a training algorithm called PoF: Post-Training of Feature Extractor that updates the feature extractor part of an already-trained deep model to search a flatter minimum. The characteristics are two-fold: 1) Feature extractor is trained under parameter perturbations in the higher-layer parameter space, based on observations that suggest flattening higher-layer parameter space, and 2) the perturbation range is determined in a data-driven manner aiming to reduce a part of test loss caused by the positive loss curvature. We provide a theoretical analysis that shows the proposed algorithm implicitly reduces the target Hessian components as well as the loss. Experimental results show that PoF improved model performance against baseline methods on both CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 datasets for only 10-epoch post-training, and on SVHN dataset for 50-epoch post-training.

Improving Ensemble Distillation With Weight Averaging and Diversifying Perturbation

Giung Nam · Hyungi Lee · Byeongho Heo · Juho Lee

Ensembles of deep neural networks have demonstrated superior performance, but their heavy computational cost hinders applying them for resource-limited environments. It motivates distilling knowledge from the ensemble teacher into a smaller student network, and there are two important design choices for this ensemble distillation: 1) how to construct the student network, and 2) what data should be shown during training. In this paper, we propose a weight averaging technique where a student with multiple subnetworks is trained to absorb the functional diversity of ensemble teachers, but then those subnetworks are properly averaged for inference, giving a single student network with no additional inference cost. We also propose a perturbation strategy that seeks inputs from which the diversities of teachers can be better transferred to the student. Combining these two, our method significantly improves upon previous methods on various image classification tasks.

Set Based Stochastic Subsampling

Bruno Andreis · Seanie Lee · A. Tuan Nguyen · Juho Lee · Eunho Yang · Sung Ju Hwang

Deep models are designed to operate on huge volumes of high dimensional data such as images. In order to reduce the volume of data these models must process, we propose a set-based two-stage end-to-end neural subsampling model that is jointly optimized with an \textit{arbitrary} downstream task network (e.g. classifier). In the first stage, we efficiently subsample \textit{candidate elements} using conditionally independent Bernoulli random variables by capturing coarse grained global information using set encoding functions, followed by conditionally dependent autoregressive subsampling of the candidate elements using Categorical random variables by modeling pair-wise interactions using set attention networks in the second stage. We apply our method to feature and instance selection and show that it outperforms the relevant baselines under low subsampling rates on a variety of tasks including image classification, image reconstruction, function reconstruction and few-shot classification. Additionally, for nonparametric models such as Neural Processes that require to leverage the whole training data at inference time, we show that our method enhances the scalability of these models.

Outstanding Paper Runner Up
Monarch: Expressive Structured Matrices for Efficient and Accurate Training

Tri Dao · Beidi Chen · Nimit Sohoni · Arjun Desai · Michael Poli · Jessica Grogan · Alexander Liu · Aniruddh Rao · Atri Rudra · Christopher Re

Large neural networks excel in many domains, but they are expensive to train and fine-tune. A popular approach to reduce their compute or memory requirements is to replace dense weight matrices with structured ones (e.g., sparse, low-rank, Fourier transform). These methods have not seen widespread adoption (1) in end-to-end training due to unfavorable efficiency--quality tradeoffs, and (2) in dense-to-sparse fine-tuning due to lack of tractable algorithms to approximate a given dense weight matrix. To address these issues, we propose a class of matrices (Monarch) that is hardware-efficient (they are parameterized as products of two block-diagonal matrices for better hardware utilization) and expressive (they can represent many commonly used transforms). Surprisingly, the problem of approximating a dense weight matrix with a Monarch matrix, though nonconvex, has an analytical optimal solution. These properties of Monarch matrices unlock new ways to train and fine-tune sparse and dense models. We empirically validate that Monarch can achieve favorable accuracy-efficiency tradeoffs in several end-to-end sparse training applications: speeding up ViT and GPT-2 training on ImageNet classification and Wikitext-103 language modeling by 2x with comparable model quality, and reducing the error on PDE solving and MRI reconstruction tasks by 40%. In sparse-to-dense training, with a simple technique called "reverse sparsification," Monarch matrices serve as a useful intermediate representation to speed up GPT-2 pretraining on OpenWebText by 2x without quality drop. The same technique brings 23% faster BERT pretraining than even the very optimized implementation from Nvidia that set the MLPerf 1.1 record. In dense-to-sparse fine-tuning, as a proof-of-concept, our Monarch approximation algorithm speeds up BERT fine-tuning on GLUE by 1.7x with comparable accuracy.

Generalizing to New Physical Systems via Context-Informed Dynamics Model

Matthieu Kirchmeyer · Yuan Yin · Jérémie DONA · Nicolas Baskiotis · alain rakotomamonjy · Patrick Gallinari

Data-driven approaches to modeling physical systems fail to generalize to unseen systems that share the same general dynamics with the learning domain, but correspond to different physical contexts. We propose a new framework for this key problem, context-informed dynamics adaptation (CoDA), which takes into account the distributional shift across systems for fast and efficient adaptation to new dynamics. CoDA leverages multiple environments, each associated to a different dynamic, and learns to condition the dynamics model on contextual parameters, specific to each environment. The conditioning is performed via a hypernetwork, learned jointly with a context vector from observed data. The proposed formulation constrains the search hypothesis space for fast adaptation and better generalization across environments with few samples. We theoretically motivate our approach and show state-of-the-art generalization results on a set of nonlinear dynamics, representative of a variety of application domains. We also show, on these systems, that new system parameters can be inferred from context vectors with minimal supervision.

Self-conditioning Pre-Trained Language Models

Xavier Suau · Luca Zappella · Nicholas Apostoloff

In this paper we aim to investigate the mechanisms that guide text generation with pre-trained Transformer-based Language Models (TLMs). Grounded on the Product of Experts formulation by Hinton (1999), we describe a generative mechanism that exploits expert units which naturally exist in TLMs. Such units are responsible for detecting concepts in the input and conditioning text generation on such concepts. We describe how to identify expert units and how to activate them during inference in order to induce any desired concept in the generated output. We find that the activation of a surprisingly small amount of units is sufficient to steer text generation (as little as 3 units in a model with 345M parameters). While the objective of this work is to learn more about how TLMs work, we show that our method is effective for conditioning without fine-tuning or using extra parameters, even on fine-grained homograph concepts. Additionally, we show that our method can be used to correct gender bias present in the output of TLMs and achieves gender parity for all evaluated contexts. We compare our method with FUDGE and PPLM-BoW, and show that our approach is able to achieve gender parity at a lower perplexity and better Self-BLEU score. The proposed method is accessible to a wide audience thanks to its simplicity and minimal compute needs. The findings in this paper are a step forward in understanding the generative mechanisms of TLMs.

TAM: Topology-Aware Margin Loss for Class-Imbalanced Node Classification

Jaeyun Song · Joonhyung Park · Eunho Yang

Learning unbiased node representations under class-imbalanced graph data is challenging due to interactions between adjacent nodes. Existing studies have in common that they compensate the minor class nodes `as a group' according to their overall quantity (ignoring node connections in graph), which inevitably increase the false positive cases for major nodes. We hypothesize that the increase in these false positive cases is highly affected by the label distribution around each node and confirm it experimentally. In addition, in order to handle this issue, we propose Topology-Aware Margin (TAM) to reflect local topology on the learning objective. Our method compares the connectivity pattern of each node with the class-averaged counter-part and adaptively adjusts the margin accordingly based on that. Our method consistently exhibits superiority over the baselines on various node classification benchmark datasets with representative GNN architectures.

Bitwidth Heterogeneous Federated Learning with Progressive Weight Dequantization

Jaehong Yoon · Geon Park · Wonyong Jeong · Sung Ju Hwang

In practical federated learning scenarios, the participating devices may have different bitwidths for computation and memory storage by design. However, despite the progress made in device-heterogeneous federated learning scenarios, the heterogeneity in the bitwidth specifications in the hardware has been mostly overlooked. We introduce a pragmatic FL scenario with bitwidth heterogeneity across the participating devices, dubbed as Bitwidth Heterogeneous Federated Learning (BHFL). BHFL brings in a new challenge, that the aggregation of model parameters with different bitwidths could result in severe performance degeneration, especially for high-bitwidth models. To tackle this problem, we propose ProWD framework, which has a trainable weight dequantizer at the central server that progressively reconstructs the low-bitwidth weights into higher bitwidth weights, and finally into full-precision weights. ProWD further selectively aggregates the model parameters to maximize the compatibility across bit-heterogeneous weights. We validate ProWD against relevant FL baselines on the benchmark datasets, using clients with varying bitwidths. Our ProWD largely outperforms the baseline FL algorithms as well as naive approaches (e.g. grouped averaging) under the proposed BHFL scenario.

Penalizing Gradient Norm for Efficiently Improving Generalization in Deep Learning

Yang Zhao · Hao Zhang · Xiuyuan Hu

How to train deep neural networks (DNNs) to generalize well is a central concern in deep learning, especially for severely overparameterized networks nowadays. In this paper, we propose an effective method to improve the model generalization by additionally penalizing the gradient norm of loss function during optimization. We demonstrate that confining the gradient norm of loss function could help lead the optimizers towards finding flat minima. We leverage the first-order approximation to efficiently implement the corresponding gradient to fit well in the gradient descent framework. In our experiments, we confirm that when using our methods, generalization performance of various models could be improved on different datasets. Also, we show that the recent sharpness-aware minimization method (Foretet al., 2021) is a special, but not the best, case of our method, where the best case of our method could give new state-of-art performance on these tasks. Code is available at

Knowledge Base Question Answering by Case-based Reasoning over Subgraphs

Rajarshi Das · Ameya Godbole · Ankita Rajaram Naik · Elliot Tower · Manzil Zaheer · Hannaneh Hajishirzi · Robin Jia · Andrew McCallum

Question answering (QA) over knowledge bases (KBs) is challenging because of the diverse, essentially unbounded, types of reasoning patterns needed.However, we hypothesize in a large KB, reasoning patterns required to answer a query type reoccur for various entities in their respective subgraph neighborhoods.Leveraging this structural similarity between local neighborhoods of different subgraphs, we introduce a semiparametric model (CBR-SUBG) with (i) a nonparametric component that for each query, dynamically retrieves other similar $k$-nearest neighbor (KNN) training queries along with query-specific subgraphs and (ii) a parametric component that is trained to identify the (latent) reasoning patterns from the subgraphs of KNN queries and then apply them to the subgraph of the target query. We also propose an adaptive subgraph collection strategy to select a query-specific compact subgraph, allowing us to scale to full Freebase KB containing billions of facts. We show that CBR-SUBG can answer queries requiring subgraph reasoning patterns and performs competitively with the best models on several KBQA benchmarks. Our subgraph collection strategy also produces more compact subgraphs (e.g. 55\% reduction in size for WebQSP while increasing answer recall by 4.85\%)\footnote{Code, model, and subgraphs are available at \url{}}.

When AUC meets DRO: Optimizing Partial AUC for Deep Learning with Non-Convex Convergence Guarantee

Dixian Zhu · Gang Li · Bokun Wang · Xiaodong Wu · Tianbao Yang

In this paper, we propose systematic and efficient gradient-based methods for both one-way and two-way partial AUC (pAUC) maximization that are applicable to deep learning. We propose new formulations of pAUC surrogate objectives by using the distributionally robust optimization (DRO) to define the loss for each individual positive data. We consider two formulations of DRO, one of which is based on conditional-value-at-risk (CVaR) that yields a non-smooth but exact estimator for pAUC, and another one is based on a KL divergence regularized DRO that yields an inexact but smooth (soft) estimator for pAUC. For both one-way and two-way pAUC maximization, we propose two algorithms and prove their convergence for optimizing their two formulations, respectively. Experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed algorithms for pAUC maximization for deep learning on various datasets.

pathGCN: Learning General Graph Spatial Operators from Paths

Moshe Eliasof · Eldad Haber · Eran Treister

Graph Convolutional Networks (GCNs), similarly to Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), are typically based on two main operations - spatial and point-wise convolutions.In the context of GCNs, differently from CNNs, a pre-determined spatial operator based on the graph Laplacian is often chosen, allowing only the point-wise operations to be learnt.However, learning a meaningful spatial operator is critical for developing more expressive GCNs for improved performance. In this paper we propose pathGCN, a novel approach to learn the spatial operator from random paths on the graph. We analyze the convergence of our method and its difference from existing GCNs. Furthermore, we discuss several options of combining our learnt spatial operator with point-wise convolutions. Our extensive experiments on numerous datasets suggest that by properly learning both the spatial and point-wise convolutions, phenomena like over-smoothing can be inherently avoided, and new state-of-the-art performance is achieved.

Graph-Coupled Oscillator Networks

T. Konstantin Rusch · Ben Chamberlain · James Rowbottom · Siddhartha Mishra · Michael Bronstein

We propose Graph-Coupled Oscillator Networks (GraphCON), a novel framework for deep learning on graphs. It is based on discretizations of a second-order system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs), which model a network of nonlinear controlled and damped oscillators, coupled via the adjacency structure of the underlying graph. The flexibility of our framework permits any basic GNN layer (e.g. convolutional or attentional) as the coupling function, from which a multi-layer deep neural network is built up via the dynamics of the proposed ODEs. We relate the oversmoothing problem, commonly encountered in GNNs, to the stability of steady states of the underlying ODE and show that zero-Dirichlet energy steady states are not stable for our proposed ODEs. This demonstrates that the proposed framework mitigates the oversmoothing problem. Moreover, we prove that GraphCON mitigates the exploding and vanishing gradients problem to facilitate training of deep multi-layer GNNs. Finally, we show that our approach offers competitive performance with respect to the state-of-the-art on a variety of graph-based learning tasks.

HousE: Knowledge Graph Embedding with Householder Parameterization

Rui Li · Jianan Zhao · Chaozhuo Li · Di He · Yiqi Wang · Yuming Liu · Hao Sun · Senzhang Wang · Weiwei Deng · Yanming Shen · Xing Xie · Qi Zhang

The effectiveness of knowledge graph embedding (KGE) largely depends on the ability to model intrinsic relation patterns and mapping properties. However, existing approaches can only capture some of them with insufficient modeling capacity. In this work, we propose a more powerful KGE framework named HousE, which involves a novel parameterization based on two kinds of Householder transformations: (1) Householder rotations to achieve superior capacity of modeling relation patterns; (2) Householder projections to handle sophisticated relation mapping properties. Theoretically, HousE is capable of modeling crucial relation patterns and mapping properties simultaneously. Besides, HousE is a generalization of existing rotation-based models while extending the rotations to high-dimensional spaces. Empirically, HousE achieves new state-of-the-art performance on five benchmark datasets. Our code is available at

Interpretable and Generalizable Graph Learning via Stochastic Attention Mechanism

Siqi Miao · Mia Liu · Pan Li

Interpretable graph learning is in need as many scientific applications depend on learning models to collect insights from graph-structured data. Previous works mostly focused on using post-hoc approaches to interpret pre-trained models (graph neural networks in particular). They argue against inherently interpretable models because the good interpretability of these models is often at the cost of their prediction accuracy. However, those post-hoc methods often fail to provide stable interpretation and may extract features that are spuriously correlated with the task. In this work, we address these issues by proposing Graph Stochastic Attention (GSAT). Derived from the information bottleneck principle, GSAT injects stochasticity to the attention weights to block the information from task-irrelevant graph components while learning stochasticity-reduced attention to select task-relevant subgraphs for interpretation. The selected subgraphs provably do not contain patterns that are spuriously correlated with the task under some assumptions. Extensive experiments on eight datasets show that GSAT outperforms the state-of-the-art methods by up to 20% in interpretation AUC and 5% in prediction accuracy. Our code is available at

ProGCL: Rethinking Hard Negative Mining in Graph Contrastive Learning

Jun Xia · Lirong Wu · Wang Ge · Jintao Chen · Stan Z. Li

Contrastive Learning (CL) has emerged as a dominant technique for unsupervised representation learning which embeds augmented versions of the anchor close to each other (positive samples) and pushes the embeddings of other samples (negatives) apart. As revealed in recent studies, CL can benefit from hard negatives (negatives that are most similar to the anchor). However, we observe limited benefits when we adopt existing hard negative mining techniques of other domains in Graph Contrastive Learning (GCL). We perform both experimental and theoretical analysis on this phenomenon and find it can be attributed to the message passing of Graph Neural Networks (GNNs). Unlike CL in other domains, most hard negatives are potentially false negatives (negatives that share the same class with the anchor) if they are selected merely according to the similarities between anchor and themselves, which will undesirably push away the samples of the same class. To remedy this deficiency, we propose an effective method, dubbed \textbf{ProGCL}, to estimate the probability of a negative being true one, which constitutes a more suitable measure for negatives' hardness together with similarity. Additionally, we devise two schemes (i.e., \textbf{ProGCL-weight} and \textbf{ProGCL-mix}) to boost the performance of GCL. Extensive experiments demonstrate that ProGCL brings notable and consistent improvements over base GCL methods and yields multiple state-of-the-art results on several unsupervised benchmarks or even exceeds the performance of supervised ones. Also, ProGCL is readily pluggable into various negatives-based GCL methods for performance improvement. We release the code at \textcolor{magenta}\url{}.

G$^2$CN: Graph Gaussian Convolution Networks with Concentrated Graph Filters

Mingjie Li · Xiaojun Guo · Yifei Wang · Yisen Wang · Zhouchen Lin

Recently, linear GCNs have shown competitive performance against non-linear ones with less computation cost, and the key lies in their propagation layers. Spectral analysis has been widely adopted in designing and analyzing existing graph propagations. Nevertheless, we notice that existing spectral analysis fails to explain why existing graph propagations with the same global tendency, such as low-pass or high-pass, still yield very different results. Motivated by this situation, we develop a new framework for spectral analysis in this paper called concentration analysis. In particular, we propose three attributes: concentration centre, maximum response, and bandwidth for our analysis. Through a dissection of the limitations of existing graph propagations via the above analysis, we propose a new kind of propagation layer, Graph Gaussian Convolution Networks (G^2CN), in which the three properties are decoupled and the whole structure becomes more flexible and applicable to different kinds of graphs. Extensive experiments show that we can obtain state-of-the-art performance on heterophily and homophily datasets with our proposed G^2CN.

SpeqNets: Sparsity-aware permutation-equivariant graph networks

Christopher Morris · Gaurav Rattan · Sandra Kiefer · Siamak Ravanbakhsh

While message-passing graph neural networks have clear limitations in approximating permutation-equivariant functions over graphs or general relational data, more expressive, higher-order graph neural networks do not scale to large graphs. They either operate on $k$-order tensors or consider all $k$-node subgraphs, implying an exponential dependence on $k$ in memory requirements, and do not adapt to the sparsity of the graph. By introducing new heuristics for the graph isomorphism problem, we devise a class of universal, permutation-equivariant graph networks, which, unlike previous architectures, offer a fine-grained control between expressivity and scalability and adapt to the sparsity of the graph. These architectures lead to vastly reduced computation times compared to standard higher-order graph networks in the supervised node- and graph-level classification and regression regime while significantly improving standard graph neural network and graph kernel architectures in terms of predictive performance.

data2vec: A General Framework for Self-supervised Learning in Speech, Vision and Language

Alexei Baevski · Wei-Ning Hsu · Qiantong Xu · Arun Babu · Jiatao Gu · Michael Auli

While the general idea of self-supervised learning is identical across modalities, the actual algorithms and objectives differ widely because they were developed with a single modality in mind. To get us closer to general self-supervised learning, we present data2vec, a framework that uses the same learning method for either speech, NLP or computer vision. The core idea is to predict latent representations of the full input data based on a masked view of the input in a self-distillation setup using a standard Transformer architecture. Instead of predicting modality-specific targets such as words, visual tokens or units of human speech which are local in nature, data2vec predicts contextualized latent representations that contain information from the entire input. Experiments on the major benchmarks of speech recognition, image classification, and natural language understanding demonstrate a new state of the art or competitive performance to predominant approaches.

Position Prediction as an Effective Pretraining Strategy

Shuangfei Zhai · Navdeep Jaitly · Jason Ramapuram · Dan Busbridge · Tatiana Likhomanenko · Joseph Cheng · Walter Talbott · Chen Huang · Hanlin Goh · Joshua M Susskind

Transformers \cite{transformer} have gained increasing popularity in a wide range of applications, including Natural Language Processing (NLP), Computer Vision and Speech Recognition, because of their powerful representational capacity. However, harnessing this representational capacity effectively requires a large amount of data, strong regularization, or both, to mitigate overfitting. Recently, the power of the Transformer has been unlocked by self-supervised pretraining strategies based on masked autoencoderswhich rely on reconstructing masked inputs, directly, or contrastively from unmasked content. This pretraining strategy which has been used in BERT models in NLP \cite{bert}, Wav2Vec models in Speech \cite{wv2v2} and, recently, in MAE models in Vision \cite{beit, mae}, forces the model to learn about relationships between the content in different parts of the input using autoencoding related objectives. In this paper, we propose a novel, but surprisingly simple alternative to content reconstruction~-- that of predicting locations from content, without providing positional information for it. Doing so requires the Transformer to understand the positional relationships between different parts of the input, from their content alone. This amounts to an efficient implementation where the pretext task is a classification problem among all possible positions for each input token. We experiment on both Vision and Speech benchmarks, where our approach brings improvements over strong supervised training baselines and is comparable to modern unsupervised/self-supervised pretraining methods. Our method also enables Transformers trained without position embeddings to outperform ones trained with full position information.

Orchestra: Unsupervised Federated Learning via Globally Consistent Clustering

Ekdeep Singh Lubana · Chi Ian Tang · Fahim Kawsar · Robert Dick · Akhil Mathur

Federated learning is generally used in tasks where labels are readily available (e.g., next word prediction). Relaxing this constraint requires design of unsupervised learning techniques that can support desirable properties for federated training: robustness to statistical/systems heterogeneity, scalability with number of participants, and communication efficiency. Prior work on this topic has focused on directly extending centralized self-supervised learning techniques, which are not designed to have the properties listed above. To address this situation, we propose Orchestra, a novel unsupervised federated learning technique that exploits the federation's hierarchy to orchestrate a distributed clustering task and enforce a globally consistent partitioning of clients' data into discriminable clusters. We show the algorithmic pipeline in Orchestra guarantees good generalization performance under a linear probe, allowing it to outperform alternative techniques in a broad range of conditions, including variation in heterogeneity, number of clients, participation ratio, and local epochs.

Deep and Flexible Graph Neural Architecture Search

Wentao Zhang · Zheyu Lin · Yu Shen · Yang Li · Zhi Yang · Bin Cui

Graph neural networks (GNNs) have been intensively applied to various graph-based applications. Despite their success, designing good GNN architectures is non-trivial, which heavily relies on lots of human efforts and domain knowledge. Although several attempts have been made in graph neural architecture search, they suffer from the following limitations: 1) fixed pipeline pattern of propagation (P) and (T) transformation operations; 2) restricted pipeline depth of GNN architectures. This paper proposes DFG-NAS, a novel method that searches for deep and flexible GNN architectures. Unlike most existing methods that focus on micro-architecture, DFG-NAS highlights another level of design: the search for macro-architectures of how atomic P and T are integrated and organized into a GNN. Concretely, DFG-NAS proposes a novel-designed search space for the P-T permutations and combinations based on the message-passing dis-aggregation, and defines various mutation strategies and employs the evolutionary algorithm to conduct an efficient and effective search. Empirical studies on four benchmark datasets demonstrate that DFG-NAS could find more powerful architectures than state-of-the-art manual designs and meanwhile are more efficient than the current graph neural architecture search approaches.

GNNRank: Learning Global Rankings from Pairwise Comparisons via Directed Graph Neural Networks

Yixuan He · Quan Gan · David Wipf · Gesine Reinert · Junchi Yan · Mihai Cucuringu

Recovering global rankings from pairwise comparisons has wide applications from time synchronization to sports team ranking. Pairwise comparisons corresponding to matches in a competition can be construed as edges in a directed graph (digraph), whose nodes represent e.g. competitors with an unknown rank. In this paper, we introduce neural networks into the ranking recovery problem by proposing the so-called GNNRank, a trainable GNN-based framework with digraph embedding. Moreover, new objectives are devised to encode ranking upsets/violations. The framework involves a ranking score estimation approach, and adds an inductive bias by unfolding the Fiedler vector computation of the graph constructed from a learnable similarity matrix. Experimental results on extensive data sets show that our methods attain competitive and often superior performance against baselines, as well as showing promising transfer ability. Codes and preprocessed data are at: \url{}.

Large-Scale Graph Neural Architecture Search

Chaoyu Guan · Xin Wang · Hong Chen · Ziwei Zhang · Wenwu Zhu

Graph Neural Architecture Search (GNAS) has become a powerful method in automatically discovering suitable Graph Neural Network (GNN) architectures for different tasks. However, existing approaches fail to handle large-scale graphs because current performance estimation strategies in GNAS are computationally expensive for large-scale graphs and suffer from consistency collapse issues. To tackle these problems, we propose the Graph ArchitectUre Search at Scale (GAUSS) methodthat can handle large-scale graphs by designing an efficient light-weight supernet and the joint architecture-graph sampling.In particular, a graph sampling-based single-path one-shot supernet is proposed to reduce the computation burden.To address the consistency collapse issues, we further explicitly consider the joint architecture-graph sampling through a novel architecture peer learning mechanism on the sampled sub-graphs and an architecture importance sampling algorithm.Our proposed framework is able to smooth the highly non-convex optimization objective and stabilize the architecture sampling process.We provide theoretical analyses on GAUSS and empirically evaluate it on five datasets whose vertex sizes range from 10^4 to 10^8. The experimental results demonstrate substantial improvements of GAUSS over other GNAS baselines on all datasets.To the best of our knowledge, the proposed GAUSS method is the first graph neural architecture search framework that can handle graphs with billions of edges within 1 GPU day.

Optimization-Induced Graph Implicit Nonlinear Diffusion

Qi Chen · Yifei Wang · Yisen Wang · Jiansheng Yang · Zhouchen Lin

Due to the over-smoothing issue, most existing graph neural networks can only capture limited dependencies with their inherently finite aggregation layers. To overcome this limitation, we propose a new kind of graph convolution, called Graph Implicit Nonlinear Diffusion (GIND), which implicitly has access to infinite hops of neighbors while adaptively aggregating features with nonlinear diffusion to prevent over-smoothing. Notably, we show that the learned representation can be formalized as the minimizer of an explicit convex optimization objective. With this property, we can theoretically characterize the equilibrium of our GIND from an optimization perspective. More interestingly, we can induce new structural variants by modifying the corresponding optimization objective. To be specific, we can embed prior properties to the equilibrium, as well as introducing skip connections to promote training stability. Extensive experiments show that GIND is good at capturing long-range dependencies, and performs well on both homophilic and heterophilic graphs with nonlinear diffusion. Moreover, we show that the optimization-induced variants of our models can boost the performance and improve training stability and efficiency as well. As a result, our GIND obtains significant improvements on both node-level and graph-level tasks.

Prototype Based Classification from Hierarchy to Fairness

Mycal Tucker · Julie Shah

Artificial neural nets can represent and classify many types of high-dimensional data but are often tailored to particular applications -- e.g., for fair'' orhierarchical'' classification. Once an architecture has been selected, it is often difficult for humans to adjust models for a new task; for example, a hierarchical classifier cannot be easily transformed into a fair classifier that shields a protected field. Our contribution in this work is a new neural network architecture, the concept subspace network (CSN), which generalizes existing specialized classifiers to produce a unified model capable of learning a spectrum of multi-concept relationships. We demonstrate that CSNs reproduce state-of-the-art results in fair classification when enforcing concept independence, may be transformed into hierarchical classifiers, or may even reconcile fairness and hierarchy within a single classifier. The CSN is inspired by and matches the performance of existing prototype-based classifiers that promote interpretability.

Neural-Symbolic Models for Logical Queries on Knowledge Graphs

Zhaocheng Zhu · Mikhail Galkin · Zuobai Zhang · Jian Tang

Answering complex first-order logic (FOL) queries on knowledge graphs is a fundamental task for multi-hop reasoning. Traditional symbolic methods traverse a complete knowledge graph to extract the answers, which provides good interpretation for each step. Recent neural methods learn geometric embeddings for complex queries. These methods can generalize to incomplete knowledge graphs, but their reasoning process is hard to interpret. In this paper, we propose Graph Neural Network Query Executor (GNN-QE), a neural-symbolic model that enjoys the advantages of both worlds. GNN-QE decomposes a complex FOL query into relation projections and logical operations over fuzzy sets, which provides interpretability for intermediate variables. To reason about the missing links, GNN-QE adapts a graph neural network from knowledge graph completion to execute the relation projections, and models the logical operations with product fuzzy logic. Experiments on 3 datasets show that GNN-QE significantly improves over previous state-of-the-art models in answering FOL queries. Meanwhile, GNN-QE can predict the number of answers without explicit supervision, and provide visualizations for intermediate variables.

Deep Probability Estimation

Sheng Liu · Aakash Kaku · Weicheng Zhu · Matan Leibovich · Sreyas Mohan · Boyang Yu · Haoxiang Huang · Laure Zanna · Narges Razavian · Jonathan Niles-Weed · Carlos Fernandez-Granda

Reliable probability estimation is of crucial importance in many real-world applications where there is inherent (aleatoric) uncertainty. Probability-estimation models are trained on observed outcomes (e.g. whether it has rained or not, or whether a patient has died or not), because the ground-truth probabilities of the events of interest are typically unknown. The problem is therefore analogous to binary classification, with the difference that the objective is to estimate probabilities rather than predicting the specific outcome. This work investigates probability estimation from high-dimensional data using deep neural networks. There exist several methods to improve the probabilities generated by these models but they mostly focus on model (epistemic) uncertainty. For problems with inherent uncertainty, it is challenging to evaluate performance without access to ground-truth probabilities. To address this, we build a synthetic dataset to study and compare different computable metrics. We evaluate existing methods on the synthetic data as well as on three real-world probability estimation tasks, all of which involve inherent uncertainty: precipitation forecasting from radar images, predicting cancer patient survival from histopathology images, and predicting car crashes from dashcam videos. We also give a theoretical analysis of a model for high-dimensional probability estimation which reproduces several of the phenomena evinced in our experiments. Finally, we propose a new method for probability estimation using neural networks, which modifies the training process to promote output probabilities that are consistent with empirical probabilities computed from the data. The method outperforms existing approaches on most metrics on the simulated as well as real-world data.

Uncertainty Modeling in Generative Compressed Sensing

Yilang Zhang · Mengchu Xu · Xiaojun Mao · Jian Wang

Compressed sensing (CS) aims to recover a high-dimensional signal with structural priors from its low-dimensional linear measurements. Inspired by the huge success of deep neural networks in modeling the priors of natural signals, generative neural networks have been recently used to replace the hand-crafted structural priors in CS. However, the reconstruction capability of the generative model is fundamentally limited by the range of its generator, typically a small subset of the signal space of interest. To break this bottleneck and thus reconstruct those out-of-range signals, this paper presents a novel method called CS-BGM that can effectively expands the range of generator. Specifically, CS-BGM introduces uncertainties to the latent variable and parameters of the generator, while adopting the variational inference (VI) and maximum a posteriori (MAP) to infer them. Theoretical analysis demonstrates that expanding the range of generators is necessary for reducing the reconstruction error in generative CS. Extensive experiments show a consistent improvement of CS-BGM over the baselines.

Going Deeper into Permutation-Sensitive Graph Neural Networks

Zhongyu Huang · Yingheng Wang · Chaozhuo Li · Huiguang He

The invariance to permutations of the adjacency matrix, i.e., graph isomorphism, is an overarching requirement for Graph Neural Networks (GNNs). Conventionally, this prerequisite can be satisfied by the invariant operations over node permutations when aggregating messages. However, such an invariant manner may ignore the relationships among neighboring nodes, thereby hindering the expressivity of GNNs. In this work, we devise an efficient permutation-sensitive aggregation mechanism via permutation groups, capturing pairwise correlations between neighboring nodes. We prove that our approach is strictly more powerful than the 2-dimensional Weisfeiler-Lehman (2-WL) graph isomorphism test and not less powerful than the 3-WL test. Moreover, we prove that our approach achieves the linear sampling complexity. Comprehensive experiments on multiple synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate the superiority of our model.

Learning from Counterfactual Links for Link Prediction

Tong Zhao · Gang Liu · Daheng Wang · Wenhao Yu · Meng Jiang

Learning to predict missing links is important for many graph-based applications. Existing methods were designed to learn the association between observed graph structure and existence of link between a pair of nodes. However, the causal relationship between the two variables was largely ignored for learning to predict links on a graph. In this work, we visit this factor by asking a counterfactual question: "would the link still exist if the graph structure became different from observation?" Its answer, counterfactual links, will be able to augment the graph data for representation learning. To create these links, we employ causal models that consider the information (i.e., learned representations) of node pairs as context, global graph structural properties as treatment, and link existence as outcome. We propose a novel data augmentation-based link prediction method that creates counterfactual links and learns representations from both the observed and counterfactual links. Experiments on benchmark data show that our graph learning method achieves state-of-the-art performance on the task of link prediction.

Training Discrete Deep Generative Models via Gapped Straight-Through Estimator

Ting-Han Fan · Ta-Chung Chi · Alexander Rudnicky · Peter Ramadge

While deep generative models have succeeded in image processing, natural language processing, and reinforcement learning, training that involves discrete random variables remains challenging due to the high variance of its gradient estimation process. Monte Carlo is a common solution used in most variance reduction approaches. However, this involves time-consuming resampling and multiple function evaluations. We propose a Gapped Straight-Through (GST) estimator to reduce the variance without incurring resampling overhead. This estimator is inspired by the essential properties of Straight-Through Gumbel-Softmax. We determine these properties and show via an ablation study that they are essential. Experiments demonstrate that the proposed GST estimator enjoys better performance compared to strong baselines on two discrete deep generative modeling tasks, MNIST-VAE and ListOps.

Correct-N-Contrast: a Contrastive Approach for Improving Robustness to Spurious Correlations

Michael Zhang · Nimit Sohoni · Hongyang Zhang · Chelsea Finn · Christopher Re

Spurious correlations pose a major challenge for robust machine learning. Models trained with empirical risk minimization (ERM) may learn to rely on correlations between class labels and spurious attributes, leading to poor performance on data groups without these correlations. This is challenging to address when the spurious attribute labels are unavailable. To improve worst-group performance on spuriously correlated data without training attribute labels, we propose Correct-N-Contrast (CNC), a contrastive approach to directly learn representations robust to spurious correlations. As ERM models can be good spurious attribute predictors, CNC works by (1) using a trained ERM model’s outputs to identify samples with the same class but dissimilar spurious features, and (2) training a robust model with contrastive learning to learn similar representations for these samples. To support CNC, we introduce new connections between worst-group error and a representation alignment loss that CNC aims to minimize. We empirically observe that worst-group error closely tracks with alignment loss, and prove that the alignment loss over a class helps upper-bound the class's worst-group vs. average error gap. On popular benchmarks, CNC reduces alignment loss drastically, and achieves state-of-the-art worst-group accuracy by 3.6% average absolute lift. CNC is also competitive with oracle methods that require group labels.

Principal Component Flows

Edmond Cunningham · Adam Cobb · Susmit Jha

Normalizing flows map an independent set of latent variables to their samples using a bijective transformation. Despite the exact correspondence between samples and latent variables, their high level relationship is not well understood. In this paper we characterize the geometric structure of flows using principal manifolds and understand the relationship between latent variables and samples using contours. We introduce a novel class of normalizing flows, called principal component flows (PCF), whose contours are its principal manifolds, and a variant for injective flows (iPCF) that is more efficient to train than regular injective flows. PCFs can be constructed using any flow architecture, are trained with a regularized maximum likelihood objective and can perform density estimation on all of their principal manifolds. In our experiments we show that PCFs and iPCFs are able to learn the principal manifolds over a variety of datasets. Additionally, we show that PCFs can perform density estimation on data that lie on a manifold with variable dimensionality, which is not possible with existing normalizing flows.

Bit Prioritization in Variational Autoencoders via Progressive Coding

Rui Shu · Stefano Ermon

The hierarchical variational autoencoder (HVAE) is a popular generative model used for many representation learning tasks. However, its application to image synthesis often yields models with poor sample quality. In this work, we treat image synthesis itself as a hierarchical representation learning problem and regularize an HVAE toward representations that improve the model's image synthesis performance. We do so by leveraging the progressive coding hypothesis, which claims hierarchical latent variable models that are good at progressive lossy compression will generate high-quality samples. To test this hypothesis, we first show empirically that conventionally-trained HVAEs are not good progressive coders. We then propose a simple method that constrains the hierarchical representations to prioritize the encoding of information beneficial for lossy compression, and show that this modification leads to improved sample quality. Our work lends further support to the progressive coding hypothesis and demonstrates that this hypothesis should be exploited when designing variational autoencoders.

Generative Flow Networks for Discrete Probabilistic Modeling

Dinghuai Zhang · Nikolay Malkin · Zhen Liu · Alexandra Volokhova · Aaron Courville · Yoshua Bengio

We present energy-based generative flow networks (EB-GFN), a novel probabilistic modeling algorithm for high-dimensional discrete data. Building upon the theory of generative flow networks (GFlowNets), we model the generation process by a stochastic data construction policy and thus amortize expensive MCMC exploration into a fixed number of actions sampled from a GFlowNet. We show how GFlowNets can approximately perform large-block Gibbs sampling to mix between modes. We propose a framework to jointly train a GFlowNet with an energy function, so that the GFlowNet learns to sample from the energy distribution, while the energy learns with an approximate MLE objective with negative samples from the GFlowNet. We demonstrate EB-GFN's effectiveness on various probabilistic modeling tasks. Code is publicly available at

Diffusion bridges vector quantized variational autoencoders

Max Cohen · Guillaume QUISPE · Sylvain Le Corff · Charles Ollion · Eric Moulines

Vector Quantized-Variational AutoEncoders (VQ-VAE) are generative models based on discrete latent representations of the data, where inputs are mapped to a finite set of learned embeddings.To generate new samples, an autoregressive prior distribution over the discrete states must be trained separately. This prior is generally very complex and leads to slow generation. In this work, we propose a new model to train the prior and the encoder/decoder networks simultaneously. We build a diffusion bridge between a continuous coded vector and a non-informative prior distribution. The latent discrete states are then given as random functions of these continuous vectors. We show that our model is competitive with the autoregressive prior on the mini-Imagenet and CIFAR dataset and is efficient in both optimization and sampling. Our framework also extends the standard VQ-VAE and enables end-to-end training.

Mitigating Modality Collapse in Multimodal VAEs via Impartial Optimization

Adrián Javaloy · Maryam Meghdadi · Isabel Valera

A number of variational autoencoders (VAEs) have recently emerged with the aim of modeling multimodal data, e.g., to jointly model images and their corresponding captions. Still, multimodal VAEs tend to focus solely on a subset of the modalities, e.g., by fitting the image while neglecting the caption. We refer to this limitation as modality collapse. In this work, we argue that this effect is a consequence of conflicting gradients during multimodal VAE training. We show how to detect the sub-graphs in the computational graphs where gradients conflict (impartiality blocks), as well as how to leverage existing gradient-conflict solutions from multitask learning to mitigate modality collapse. That is, to ensure impartial optimization across modalities. We apply our training framework to several multimodal VAE models, losses and datasets from the literature, and empirically show that our framework significantly improves the reconstruction performance, conditional generation, and coherence of the latent space across modalities.

Soft Truncation: A Universal Training Technique of Score-based Diffusion Model for High Precision Score Estimation

Dongjun Kim · Seungjae Shin · Kyungwoo Song · Wanmo Kang · IL CHUL MOON

Recent advances in diffusion models bring state-of-the-art performance on image generation tasks. However, empirical results from previous research in diffusion models imply an inverse correlation between density estimation and sample generation performances. This paper investigates with sufficient empirical evidence that such inverse correlation happens because density estimation is significantly contributed by small diffusion time, whereas sample generation mainly depends on large diffusion time. However, training a score network well across the entire diffusion time is demanding because the loss scale is significantly imbalanced at each diffusion time. For successful training, therefore, we introduce Soft Truncation, a universally applicable training technique for diffusion models, that softens the fixed and static truncation hyperparameter into a random variable. In experiments, Soft Truncation achieves state-of-the-art performance on CIFAR-10, CelebA, CelebA-HQ $256\times 256$, and STL-10 datasets.

Fast and Reliable Evaluation of Adversarial Robustness with Minimum-Margin Attack

Ruize Gao · Jiongxiao Wang · Kaiwen Zhou · Feng Liu · Binghui Xie · Gang Niu · Bo Han · James Cheng

The AutoAttack (AA) has been the most reliable method to evaluate adversarial robustness when considerable computational resources are available. However, the high computational cost (e.g., 100 times more than that of the project gradient descent attack) makes AA infeasible for practitioners with limited computational resources, and also hinders applications of AA in the adversarial training (AT). In this paper, we propose a novel method, minimum-margin (MM) attack, to fast and reliably evaluate adversarial robustness. Compared with AA, our method achieves comparable performance but only costs 3% of the computational time in extensive experiments. The reliability of our method lies in that we evaluate the quality of adversarial examples using the margin between two targets that can precisely identify the most adversarial example. The computational efficiency of our method lies in an effective Sequential TArget Ranking Selection (STARS) method, ensuring that the cost of the MM attack is independent of the number of classes. The MM attack opens a new way for evaluating adversarial robustness and provides a feasible and reliable way to generate high-quality adversarial examples in AT.

Modeling Irregular Time Series with Continuous Recurrent Units

Mona Schirmer · Mazin Eltayeb · Stefan Lessmann · Maja Rudolph

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are a popular choice for modeling sequential data. Modern RNN architectures assume constant time-intervals between observations. However, in many datasets (e.g. medical records) observation times are irregular and can carry important information. To address this challenge, we propose continuous recurrent units (CRUs) – a neural architecture that can naturally handle irregular intervals between observations. The CRU assumes a hidden state, which evolves according to a linear stochastic differential equation and is integrated into an encoder-decoder framework. The recursive computations of the CRU can be derived using the continuous-discrete Kalman filter and are in closed form. The resulting recurrent architecture has temporal continuity between hidden states and a gating mechanism that can optimally integrate noisy observations. We derive an efficient parameterization scheme for the CRU that leads to a fast implementation f-CRU. We empirically study the CRU on a number of challenging datasets and find that it can interpolate irregular time series better than methods based on neural ordinary differential equations.

TACTiS: Transformer-Attentional Copulas for Time Series

Alexandre Drouin · Étienne Marcotte · Nicolas Chapados

The estimation of time-varying quantities is a fundamental component of decision making in fields such as healthcare and finance. However, the practical utility of such estimates is limited by how accurately they quantify predictive uncertainty. In this work, we address the problem of estimating the joint predictive distribution of high-dimensional multivariate time series. We propose a versatile method, based on the transformer architecture, that estimates joint distributions using an attention-based decoder that provably learns to mimic the properties of non-parametric copulas. The resulting model has several desirable properties: it can scale to hundreds of time series, supports both forecasting and interpolation, can handle unaligned and non-uniformly sampled data, and can seamlessly adapt to missing data during training. We demonstrate these properties empirically and show that our model produces state-of-the-art predictions on multiple real-world datasets.

CerDEQ: Certifiable Deep Equilibrium Model

Mingjie Li · Yisen Wang · Zhouchen Lin

Recently, certifiable robust training methods via bound propagation have been proposed for training neural networks with certifiable robustness guarantees. However, no neural architectures with regular convolution and linear layers perform better in the certifiable training than the plain CNNs, since the output bounds for the deep explicit models increase quickly as their depth increases. And such a phenomenon significantly hinders certifiable training. Meanwhile, the Deep Equilibrium Model~(DEQ) is more representative and robust due to their equivalent infinite depth and controllable global Lipschitz. But no work has been proposed to explore whether DEQ can show advantages in certified training. In this work, we aim to tackle the problem of DEQ's certified training. To obtain the output bound based on the bound propagation scheme in the implicit model, we first involve the adjoint DEQ for bound approximation. Furthermore, we also use the weight orthogonalization method and other tricks specified for DEQ to stabilize the certifiable training. With our approach, we can obtain the certifiable DEQ called CerDEQ. Our CerDEQ can achieve state-of-the-art performance compared with models using regular convolution and linear layers on $\ell_\infty$ tasks with $\epsilon=8/255$: $64.72\%$ certified error for CIFAR-$10$ and $94.45\%$ certified error for Tiny ImageNet.

Approximately Equivariant Networks for Imperfectly Symmetric Dynamics

Rui Wang · Robin Walters · Rose Yu

Incorporating symmetry as an inductive bias into neural network architecture has led to improvements in generalization, data efficiency, and physical consistency in dynamics modeling. Methods such as CNNs or equivariant neural networks use weight tying to enforce symmetries such as shift invariance or rotational equivariance. However, despite the fact that physical laws obey many symmetries, real-world dynamical data rarely conforms to strict mathematical symmetry either due to noisy or incomplete data or to symmetry breaking features in the underlying dynamical system. We explore approximately equivariant networks which are biased towards preserving symmetry but are not strictly constrained to do so. By relaxing equivariance constraints, we find that our models can outperform both baselines with no symmetry bias and baselines with overly strict symmetry in both simulated turbulence domains and real-world multi-stream jet flow.

IDYNO: Learning Nonparametric DAGs from Interventional Dynamic Data

Tian Gao · DEBARUN BHATTACHARJYA · Elliot Nelson · Miao Liu · Yue Yu

Causal discovery in the form of a directed acyclic graph (DAG) for time series data has been widely studied in various domains. The resulting DAG typically represents a dynamic Bayesian network (DBN), capturing both the instantaneous and time-delayed relationships among variables of interest. We propose a new algorithm, IDYNO, to learn the DAG structure from potentially nonlinear times series data by using a continuous optimization framework that includes a recent formulation for continuous acyclicity constraint. The proposed algorithm is designed to handle both observational and interventional time series data. We demonstrate the promising performance of our method on synthetic benchmark datasets against state-of-the-art baselines. In addition, we show that the proposed method can more accurately learn the underlying structure of a sequential decision model, such as a Markov decision process, with a fixed policy in typical continuous control tasks.

GSmooth: Certified Robustness against Semantic Transformations via Generalized Randomized Smoothing

Zhongkai Hao · Chengyang Ying · Yinpeng Dong · Hang Su · Jian Song · Jun Zhu

Certified defenses such as randomized smoothing have shown promise towards building reliable machine learning systems against $\ell_p$ norm bounded attacks. However, existing methods are insufficient or unable to provably defend against semantic transformations, especially those without closed-form expressions (such as defocus blur and pixelate), which are more common in practice and often unrestricted. To fill up this gap, we propose generalized randomized smoothing (GSmooth), a unified theoretical framework for certifying robustness against general semantic transformations via a novel dimension augmentation strategy. Under the GSmooth framework, we present a scalable algorithm that uses a surrogate image-to-image network to approximate the complex transformation. The surrogate model provides a powerful tool for studying the properties of semantic transformations and certifying robustness. Experimental results on several datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach for robustness certification against multiple kinds of semantic transformations and corruptions, which is not achievable by the alternative baselines.

Neural Laplace: Learning diverse classes of differential equations in the Laplace domain

Samuel Holt · Zhaozhi Qian · Mihaela van der Schaar

Neural Ordinary Differential Equations model dynamical systems with ODEs learned by neural networks.However, ODEs are fundamentally inadequate to model systems with long-range dependencies or discontinuities, which are common in engineering and biological systems. Broader classes of differential equations (DE) have been proposed as remedies, including delay differential equations and integro-differential equations.Furthermore, Neural ODE suffers from numerical instability when modelling stiff ODEs and ODEs with piecewise forcing functions.In this work, we propose Neural Laplace, a unifying framework for learning diverse classes of DEs including all the aforementioned ones.Instead of modelling the dynamics in the time domain, we model it in the Laplace domain, where the history-dependencies and discontinuities in time can be represented as summations of complex exponentials. To make learning more efficient, we use the geometrical stereographic map of a Riemann sphere to induce more smoothness in the Laplace domain.In the experiments, Neural Laplace shows superior performance in modelling and extrapolating the trajectories of diverse classes of DEs, including the ones with complex history dependency and abrupt changes.

Improving Language Models by Retrieving from Trillions of Tokens

Sebastian Borgeaud · Arthur Mensch · Jordan Hoffmann · Trevor Cai · Eliza Rutherford · Katie Millican · George van den Driessche · Jean-Baptiste Lespiau · Bogdan Damoc · Aidan Clark · Diego de Las Casas · Aurelia Guy · Jacob Menick · Roman Ring · Tom Hennigan · Saffron Huang · Loren Maggiore · Chris Jones · Albin Cassirer · Andy Brock · Michela Paganini · Geoffrey Irving · Oriol Vinyals · Simon Osindero · Karen Simonyan · Jack Rae · Erich Elsen · Laurent Sifre

We enhance auto-regressive language models by conditioning on document chunks retrieved from a large corpus, based on local similarity with preceding tokens. With a 2 trillion token database, our Retrieval-Enhanced Transformer (RETRO) obtains comparable performance to GPT-3 and Jurassic-1 on the Pile, despite using 25× fewer parameters. After fine-tuning, RETRO performance translates to downstream knowledge-intensive tasks such as question answering. RETRO combines a frozen Bert retriever, a differentiable encoder and a chunked cross-attention mechanism to predict tokens based on an order of magnitude more data than what is typically consumed during training. We typically train RETRO from scratch, yet can also rapidly RETROfit pre-trained transformers with retrieval and still achieve good performance. Our work opens up new avenues for improving language models through explicit memory at unprecedented scale.

Closed-Form Diffeomorphic Transformations for Time Series Alignment

Iñigo Martinez · Elisabeth Viles · Igor G. Olaizola

Time series alignment methods call for highly expressive, differentiable and invertible warping functions which preserve temporal topology, i.e diffeomorphisms. Diffeomorphic warping functions can be generated from the integration of velocity fields governed by an ordinary differential equation (ODE). Gradient-based optimization frameworks containing diffeomorphic transformations require to calculate derivatives to the differential equation's solution with respect to the model parameters, i.e. sensitivity analysis. Unfortunately, deep learning frameworks typically lack automatic-differentiation-compatible sensitivity analysis methods; and implicit functions, such as the solution of ODE, require particular care. Current solutions appeal to adjoint sensitivity methods, ad-hoc numerical solvers or ResNet's Eulerian discretization. In this work, we present a closed-form expression for the ODE solution and its gradient under continuous piecewise-affine (CPA) velocity functions. We present a highly optimized implementation of the results on CPU and GPU. Furthermore, we conduct extensive experiments on several datasets to validate the generalization ability of our model to unseen data for time-series joint alignment. Results show significant improvements both in terms of efficiency and accuracy.

Removing Batch Normalization Boosts Adversarial Training

Haotao Wang · Aston Zhang · Shuai Zheng · Xingjian Shi · Mu Li · Zhangyang “Atlas” Wang

Adversarial training (AT) defends deep neural networks against adversarial attacks. One challenge that limits its practical application is the performance degradation on clean samples. A major bottleneck identified by previous works is the widely used batch normalization (BN), which struggles to model the different statistics of clean and adversarial training samples in AT. Although the dominant approach is to extend BN to capture this mixture of distribution, we propose to completely eliminate this bottleneck by removing all BN layers in AT. Our normalizer-free robust training (NoFrost) method extends recent advances in normalizer-free networks to AT for its unexplored advantage on handling the mixture distribution challenge. We show that NoFrost achieves adversarial robustness with only a minor sacrifice on clean sample accuracy. On ImageNet with ResNet50, NoFrost achieves $74.06\%$ clean accuracy, which drops merely $2.00\%$ from standard training. In contrast, BN-based AT obtains $59.28\%$ clean accuracy, suffering a significant $16.78\%$ drop from standard training. In addition, NoFrost achieves a $23.56\%$ adversarial robustness against PGD attack, which improves the $13.57\%$ robustness in BN-based AT. We observe better model smoothness and larger decision margins from NoFrost, which make the models less sensitive to input perturbations and thus more robust. Moreover, when incorporating more data augmentations into NoFrost, it achieves comprehensive robustness against multiple distribution shifts. Code and pre-trained models are public at

Forget-free Continual Learning with Winning Subnetworks

Haeyong Kang · Rusty Mina · Sultan Rizky Hikmawan Madjid · Jaehong Yoon · Mark Hasegawa-Johnson · Sung Ju Hwang · Chang Yoo

Inspired by Lottery Ticket Hypothesis that competitive subnetworks exist within a dense network, we propose a continual learning method referred to as Winning SubNetworks (WSN), which sequentially learns and selects an optimal subnetwork for each task. Specifically, WSN jointly learns the model weights and task-adaptive binary masks pertaining to subnetworks associated with each task whilst attempting to select a small set of weights to be activated (winning ticket) by reusing weights of the prior subnetworks. The proposed method is inherently immune to catastrophic forgetting as each selected subnetwork model does not infringe upon other subnetworks. Binary masks spawned per winning ticket are encoded into one N-bit binary digit mask, then compressed using Huffman coding for a sub-linear increase in network capacity with respect to the number of tasks.

FEDformer: Frequency Enhanced Decomposed Transformer for Long-term Series Forecasting

Tian Zhou · Ziqing MA · Qingsong Wen · Xue Wang · Liang Sun · rong jin

Long-term time series forecasting is challenging since prediction accuracy tends to decrease dramatically with the increasing horizon. Although Transformer-based methods have significantly improved state-of-the-art results for long-term forecasting, they are not only computationally expensive but more importantly, are unable to capture the global view of time series (e.g. overall trend). To address these problems, we propose to combine Transformer with the seasonal-trend decomposition method, in which the decomposition method captures the global profile of time series while Transformers capture more detailed structures. To further enhance the performance of Transformer for long-term prediction, we exploit the fact that most time series tend to have a sparse representation in a well-known basis such as Fourier transform, and develop a frequency enhanced Transformer. Besides being more effective, the proposed method, termed as Frequency Enhanced Decomposed Transformer (FEDformer), is more efficient than standard Transformer with a linear complexity to the sequence length. Our empirical studies with six benchmark datasets show that compared with state-of-the-art methods, Fedformer can reduce prediction error by 14.8% and 22.6% for multivariate and univariate time series, respectively. Code is publicly available at

Adversarial Robustness against Multiple and Single $l_p$-Threat Models via Quick Fine-Tuning of Robust Classifiers

Francesco Croce · Matthias Hein

A major drawback of adversarially robust models, in particular for large scale datasets like ImageNet, is the extremely long training time compared to standard models. Moreover, models should be robust not only to one $l_p$-threat model but ideally to all of them. In this paper we propose Extreme norm Adversarial Training (E-AT) for multiple-norm robustness which is based on geometric properties of $l_p$-balls. E-AT costs up to three times less than other adversarial training methods for multiple-norm robustness. Using E-AT we show that for ImageNet a single epoch and for CIFAR-10 three epochs are sufficient to turn any $l_p$-robust model into a multiple-norm robust model. In this way we get the first multiple-norm robust model for ImageNet and boost the state-of-the-art for multiple-norm robustness to more than $51\%$ on CIFAR-10. Finally, we study the general transfer via fine-tuning of adversarial robustness between different individual $l_p$-threat models and improve the previous SOTA $l_1$-robustness on both CIFAR-10 and ImageNet. Extensive experiments show that our scheme works across datasets and architectures including vision transformers.

On the Practicality of Deterministic Epistemic Uncertainty

Janis Postels · Mattia Segù · Tao Sun · Luca Daniel Sieber · Luc Van Gool · Fisher Yu · Federico Tombari

A set of novel approaches for estimating epistemic uncertainty in deep neural networks with a single forward pass has recently emerged as a valid alternative to Bayesian Neural Networks. On the premise of informative representations, these deterministic uncertainty methods (DUMs) achieve strong performance on detecting out-of-distribution (OOD) data while adding negligible computational costs at inference time. However, it remains unclear whether DUMs are well calibrated and can seamlessly scale to real-world applications - both prerequisites for their practical deployment. To this end, we first provide a taxonomy of DUMs, and evaluate their calibration under continuous distributional shifts. Then, we extend them to semantic segmentation. We find that, while DUMs scale to realistic vision tasks and perform well on OOD detection, the practicality of current methods is undermined by poor calibration under distributional shifts.

Combining Diverse Feature Priors

Saachi Jain · Dimitris Tsipras · Aleksander Madry

To improve model generalization, model designers often restrict the features that their models use, either implicitly or explicitly. In this work, we explore the design space of leveraging such feature priors by viewing them as distinct perspectives on the data. Specifically, we find that models trained with diverse sets of explicit feature priors have less overlapping failure modes, and can thus be combined more effectively. Moreover, we demonstrate that jointly training such models on additional (unlabeled) data allows them to correct each other's mistakes, which, in turn, leads to better generalization and resilience to spurious correlations.

Multi-Task Learning as a Bargaining Game

Aviv Navon · Aviv Shamsian · Idan Achituve · Haggai Maron · Kenji Kawaguchi · Gal Chechik · Ethan Fetaya

In Multi-task learning (MTL), a joint model is trained to simultaneously make predictions for several tasks. Joint training reduces computation costs and improves data efficiency; however, since the gradients of these different tasks may conflict, training a joint model for MTL often yields lower performance than its corresponding single-task counterparts. A common method for alleviating this issue is to combine per-task gradients into a joint update direction using a particular heuristic. In this paper, we propose viewing the gradients combination step as a bargaining game, where tasks negotiate to reach an agreement on a joint direction of parameter update. Under certain assumptions, the bargaining problem has a unique solution, known as the \emph{Nash Bargaining Solution}, which we propose to use as a principled approach to multi-task learning. We describe a new MTL optimization procedure, Nash-MTL, and derive theoretical guarantees for its convergence. Empirically, we show that Nash-MTL achieves state-of-the-art results on multiple MTL benchmarks in various domains.

Frustratingly Easy Transferability Estimation

Long-Kai Huang · Junzhou Huang · Yu Rong · Qiang Yang · Ying WEI

Transferability estimation has been an essential tool in selecting a pre-trained model and the layers in it for transfer learning, to transfer, so as to maximize the performance on a target task and prevent negative transfer. Existing estimation algorithms either require intensive training on target tasks or have difficulties in evaluating the transferability between layers. To this end, we propose a simple, efficient, and effective transferability measure named TransRate. Through a single pass over examples of a target task, TransRate measures the transferability as the mutual information between features of target examples extracted by a pre-trained model and their labels. We overcome the challenge of efficient mutual information estimation by resorting to coding rate that serves as an effective alternative to entropy. From the perspective of feature representation, the resulting TransRate evaluates both completeness (whether features contain sufficient information of a target task) and compactness (whether features of each class are compact enough for good generalization) of pre-trained features. Theoretically, we have analyzed the close connection of TransRate to the performance after transfer learning. Despite its extraordinary simplicity in 10 lines of codes, TransRate performs remarkably well in extensive evaluations on 35 pre-trained models and 16 downstream tasks.

Transformer Neural Processes: Uncertainty-Aware Meta Learning Via Sequence Modeling

Tung Nguyen · Aditya Grover

Neural Processes (NPs) are a popular class of approaches for meta-learning. Similar to Gaussian Processes (GPs), NPs define distributions over functions and can estimate uncertainty in their predictions. However, unlike GPs, NPs and their variants suffer from underfitting and often have intractable likelihoods, which limit their applications in sequential decision making. We propose Transformer Neural Processes (TNPs), a new member of the NP family that casts uncertainty-aware meta learning as a sequence modeling problem. We learn TNPs via an autoregressive likelihood-based objective and instantiate it with a novel transformer-based architecture that respects the inductive biases inherent to the problem structure, such as invariance to the observed data points and equivariance to the unobserved points. We further design knobs within the TNP architecture to tradeoff the increase in expressivity of the decoding distribution with extra computation. Empirically, we show that TNPs achieve state-of-the-art performance on various benchmark problems, outperforming all previous NP variants on meta regression, image completion, contextual multi-armed bandits, and Bayesian optimization.

A Difference Standardization Method for Mutual Transfer Learning

Haoqing Xu · Meng Wang · Beilun Wang

In many real-world applications, mutual transfer learning is the paradigm that each data domain can potentially be a source or target domain. This is quite different from transfer learning tasks where the source and target are known a priori. However, previous studies about mutual transfer learning either suffer from high computational complexity or oversimplified hypothesis. To overcome these challenges, in this paper, we propose the \underline{Diff}erence \underline{S}tandardization method ({\bf DiffS}) for mutual transfer learning. Specifically, we put forward a novel distance metric between domains, the standardized domain difference, to obtain fast structure recovery and accurate parameter estimation simultaneously. We validate the method’s performance using both synthetic and real-world data. Compared to previous methods, DiffS demonstrates a speed-up of approximately 3000 times that of similar methods and achieves the same accurate learnability structure estimation.

Improving Task-free Continual Learning by Distributionally Robust Memory Evolution

Zhenyi Wang · Li Shen · Le Fang · Qiuling Suo · Tiehang Duan · Mingchen Gao

Task-free continual learning (CL) aims to learn a non-stationary data stream without explicit task definitions and not forget previous knowledge. The widely adopted memory replay approach could gradually become less effective for long data streams, as the model may memorize the stored examples and overfit the memory buffer. Second, existing methods overlook the high uncertainty in the memory data distribution since there is a big gap between the memory data distribution and the distribution of all the previous data examples. To address these problems, for the first time, we propose a principled memory evolution framework to dynamically evolve the memory data distribution by making the memory buffer gradually harder to be memorized with distributionally robust optimization (DRO). We then derive a family of methods to evolve the memory buffer data in the continuous probability measure space with Wasserstein gradient flow (WGF). The proposed DRO is w.r.t the worst-case evolved memory data distribution, thus guarantees the model performance and learns significantly more robust features than existing memory-replay-based methods. Extensive experiments on existing benchmarks demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed methods for alleviating forgetting. As a by-product of the proposed framework, our method is more robust to adversarial examples than existing task-free CL methods.

A Multi-objective / Multi-task Learning Framework Induced by Pareto Stationarity

Michinari Momma · Chaosheng Dong · Jia Liu

Multi-objective optimization (MOO) and multi-task learning (MTL) have gained much popularity with prevalent use cases such as production model development of regression / classification / ranking models with MOO, and training deep learning models with MTL. Despite the long history of research in MOO, its application to machine learning requires development of solution strategy, and algorithms have recently been developed to solve specific problems such as discovery of any Pareto optimal (PO) solution, and that with a particular form of preference. In this paper, we develop a novel and generic framework to discover a PO solution with multiple forms of preferences. It allows us to formulate a generic MOO / MTL problem to express a preference, which is solved to achieve both alignment with the preference and PO, at the same time. Specifically, we apply the framework to solve the weighted Chebyshev problem and an extension of that. The former is known as a method to discover the Pareto front, the latter helps to find a model that outperforms an existing model with only one run. Experimental results demonstrate not only the method achieves competitive performance with existing methods, but also it allows us to achieve the performance from different forms of preferences.

Sparse Invariant Risk Minimization

Xiao Zhou · Yong LIN · Weizhong Zhang · Tong Zhang

Invariant Risk Minimization (IRM) is an emerging invariant feature extracting technique to help generalization with distributional shift. However, we find that there exists a basic and intractable contradiction between the model trainability and generalization ability in IRM. On one hand, recent studies on deep learning theory indicate the importance of large-sized or even overparameterized neural networks to make the model easy to train. On the other hand, unlike empirical risk minimization that can be benefited from overparameterization, our empirical and theoretical analyses show that the generalization ability of IRM is much easier to be demolished by overfitting caused by overparameterization. In this paper, we propose a simple yet effective paradigm named Sparse Invariant Risk Minimization (SparseIRM) to address this contradiction. Our key idea is to employ a global sparsity constraint as a defense to prevent spurious features from leaking in during the whole IRM process. Compared with sparisfy-after-training prototype by prior work which can discard invariant features, the global sparsity constraint limits the budget for feature selection and enforces SparseIRM to select the invariant features. We illustrate the benefit of SparseIRM through a theoretical analysis on a simple linear case. Empirically we demonstrate the power of SparseIRM through various datasets and models and surpass state-of-the-art methods with a gap up to 29\%.

Head2Toe: Utilizing Intermediate Representations for Better Transfer Learning

Utku Evci · Vincent Dumoulin · Hugo Larochelle · Michael Mozer

Transfer-learning methods aim to improve performance in a data-scarce target domain using a model pretrained on a data-rich source domain. A cost-efficient strategy, linear probing, involves freezing the source model and training a new classification head for the target domain. This strategy is outperformed by a more costly but state-of-the-art method -- fine-tuning all parameters of the source model to the target domain -- possibly because fine-tuning allows the model to leverage useful information from intermediate layers which is otherwise discarded by the later previously trained layers. We explore the hypothesis that these intermediate layers might be directly exploited. We propose a method, Head-to-Toe probing (Head2Toe), that selects features from all layers of the source model to train a classification head for the target-domain. In evaluations on the Visual Task Adaptation Benchmark-1k, Head2Toe matches performance obtained with fine-tuning on average while reducing training and storage cost hundred folds or more, but critically, for out-of-distribution transfer, Head2Toe outperforms fine-tuning. Code used in our experiments can be found in supplementary materials.

A Closer Look at Smoothness in Domain Adversarial Training

Harsh Rangwani · Sumukh K Aithal · Mayank Mishra · Arihant Jain · Venkatesh Babu Radhakrishnan

Domain adversarial training has been ubiquitous for achieving invariant representations and is used widely for various domain adaptation tasks. In recent times, methods converging to smooth optima have shown improved generalization for supervised learning tasks like classification. In this work, we analyze the effect of smoothness enhancing formulations on domain adversarial training, the objective of which is a combination of task loss (eg. classification, regression etc.) and adversarial terms. We find that converging to a smooth minima with respect to (w.r.t.) task loss stabilizes the adversarial training leading to better performance on target domain. In contrast to task loss, our analysis shows that converging to smooth minima w.r.t. adversarial loss leads to sub-optimal generalization on the target domain. Based on the analysis, we introduce the Smooth Domain Adversarial Training (SDAT) procedure, which effectively enhances the performance of existing domain adversarial methods for both classification and object detection tasks. Our analysis also provides insight into the extensive usage of SGD over Adam in the community for domain adversarial training.

Balancing Discriminability and Transferability for Source-Free Domain Adaptation

Jogendra Nath Kundu · Akshay Kulkarni · Suvaansh Bhambri · Deepesh Mehta · Shreyas Kulkarni · Varun Jampani · Venkatesh Babu Radhakrishnan

Conventional domain adaptation (DA) techniques aim to improve domain transferability by learning domain-invariant representations; while concurrently preserving the task-discriminability knowledge gathered from the labeled source data. However, the requirement of simultaneous access to labeled source and unlabeled target renders them unsuitable for the challenging source-free DA setting. The trivial solution of realizing an effective original to generic domain mapping improves transferability but degrades task discriminability. Upon analyzing the hurdles from both theoretical and empirical standpoints, we derive novel insights to show that a mixup between original and corresponding translated generic samples enhances the discriminability-transferability trade-off while duly respecting the privacy-oriented source-free setting. A simple but effective realization of the proposed insights on top of the existing source-free DA approaches yields state-of-the-art performance with faster convergence. Beyond single-source, we also outperform multi-source prior-arts across both classification and semantic segmentation benchmarks.

Model Agnostic Sample Reweighting for Out-of-Distribution Learning

Xiao Zhou · Yong LIN · Renjie Pi · Weizhong Zhang · Renzhe Xu · Peng Cui · Tong Zhang

Distributionally robust optimization (DRO) and invariant risk minimization (IRM) are two popular methods proposed to improve out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization performance of machine learning models. While effective for small models, it has been observed that these methods can be vulnerable to overfitting with large overparameterized models. This work proposes a principled method, Model Agnostic samPLe rEweighting (MAPLE), to effectively address OOD problem, especially in overparameterized scenarios. Our key idea is to find an effective reweighting of the training samples so that the standard empirical risk minimization training of a large model on the weighted training data leads to superior OOD generalization performance. The overfitting issue is addressed by considering a bilevel formulation to search for the sample reweighting, in which the generalization complexity depends on the search space of sample weights instead of the model size. We present theoretical analysis in linear case to prove the insensitivity of MAPLE to model size, and empirically verify its superiority in surpassing state-of-the-art methods by a large margin.

Zero-shot AutoML with Pretrained Models

Ekrem Öztürk · Fabio Ferreira · Hadi S Jomaa · Lars Schmidt-Thieme · Josif Grabocka · Frank Hutter

Given a new dataset D and a low compute budget, how should we choose a pre-trained model to fine-tune to D, and set the fine-tuning hyperparameters without risking overfitting, particularly if D is small? Here, we extend automated machine learning (AutoML) to best make these choices. Our domain-independent meta-learning approach learns a zero-shot surrogate model which, at test time, allows to select the right deep learning (DL) pipeline (including the pre-trained model and fine-tuning hyperparameters) for a new dataset D given only trivial meta-features describing D such as image resolution or the number of classes. To train this zero-shot model, we collect performance data for many DL pipelines on a large collection of datasets and meta-train on this data to minimize a pairwise ranking objective. We evaluate our approach under the strict time limit of the vision track of the ChaLearn AutoDL challenge benchmark, clearly outperforming all challenge contenders.

Efficient Variance Reduction for Meta-learning

Hansi Yang · James Kwok

Meta-learning tries to learn meta-knowledge from a large number of tasks. However, the stochastic meta-gradient can have large variance due to data sampling (from each task) and task sampling (from the whole task distribution), leading to slow convergence. In this paper, we propose a novel approach that integrates variance reduction with first-order meta-learning algorithms such as Reptile. It retains the bilevel formulation which better captures the structure of meta-learning, but does not require storing the vast number of task-specific parameters in general bilevel variance reduction methods. Theoretical results show that it has fast convergence rate due to variance reduction. Experiments on benchmark few-shot classification data sets demonstrate its effectiveness over state-of-the-art meta-learning algorithms with and without variance reduction.

Generalizing to Evolving Domains with Latent Structure-Aware Sequential Autoencoder

Tiexin QIN · Shiqi Wang · Haoliang Li

Domain generalization aims to improve the generalization capability of machine learning systems to out-of-distribution (OOD) data. Existing domain generalization techniques embark upon stationary and discrete environments to tackle the generalization issue caused by OOD data. However, many real-world tasks in non-stationary environments (e.g., self-driven car system, sensor measures) involve more complex and continuously evolving domain drift, which raises new challenges for the problem of domain generalization. In this paper, we formulate the aforementioned setting as the problem of evolving domain generalization. Specifically, we propose to introduce a probabilistic framework called Latent Structure-aware Sequential Autoencoder (LSSAE) to tackle the problem of evolving domain generalization via exploring the underlying continuous structure in the latent space of deep neural networks, where we aim to identify two major factors namely covariate shift and concept shift accounting for distribution shift in non-stationary environments. Experimental results on both synthetic and real-world datasets show that LSSAE can lead to superior performances based on the evolving domain generalization setting.

Partial disentanglement for domain adaptation

Lingjing Kong · Shaoan Xie · Weiran Yao · Yujia Zheng · Guangyi Chen · Petar Stojanov · Victor Akinwande · Kun Zhang

Unsupervised domain adaptation is critical to many real-world applications where label information is unavailable in the target domain. In general, without further assumptions, the joint distribution of the features and the label is not identifiable in the target domain. To address this issue, we rely on a property of minimal changes of causal mechanisms across domains to minimize unnecessary influences of domain shift. To encode this property, we first formulate the data generating process using a latent variable model with two partitioned latent subspaces: invariant components whose distributions stay the same across domains, and sparse changing components that vary across domains. We further constrain the domain shift to have a restrictive influence on the changing components. Under mild conditions, we show that the latent variables are partially identifiable, from which it follows that the joint distribution of data and labels in the target domain is also identifiable. Given the theoretical insights, we propose a practical domain adaptation framework, called iMSDA. Extensive experimental results reveal that iMSDA outperforms state-of-the-art domain adaptation algorithms on benchmark datasets, demonstrating the effectiveness of our framework.

An iterative clustering algorithm for the Contextual Stochastic Block Model with optimality guarantees

Guillaume Braun · Hemant Tyagi · Christophe Biernacki

Real-world networks often come with side information that can help to improve the performance of network analysis tasks such as clustering. Despite a large number of empirical and theoretical studies conducted on network clustering methods during the past decade, the added value of side information and the methods used to incorporate it optimally in clustering algorithms are relatively less understood. We propose a new iterative algorithm to cluster networks with side information for nodes (in the form of covariates) and show that our algorithm is optimal under the Contextual Symmetric Stochastic Block Model.Our algorithm can be applied to general Contextual Stochastic Block Models and avoids hyperparameter tuning in contrast to previously proposed methods. We confirm our theoretical results on synthetic data experiments where our algorithm significantly outperforms other methods, and show that it can also be applied to signed graphs. Finally we demonstrate the practical interest of our method on real data.

Smoothed Adaptive Weighting for Imbalanced Semi-Supervised Learning: Improve Reliability Against Unknown Distribution Data

Zhengfeng Lai · Chao Wang · Henrry Gunawan · Senching Cheung · Chen-Nee Chuah

Despite recent promising results on semi-supervised learning (SSL), data imbalance, particularly in the unlabeled dataset, could significantly impact the training performance of a SSL algorithm if there is a mismatch between the expected and actual class distributions. The efforts on how to construct a robust SSL framework that can effectively learn from datasets with unknown distributions remain limited. We first investigate the feasibility of adding weights to the consistency loss and then we verify the necessity of smoothed weighting schemes. Based on this study, we propose a self-adaptive algorithm, named Smoothed Adaptive Weighting (SAW). SAW is designed to enhance the robustness of SSL by estimating the learning difficulty of each class and synthesizing the weights in the consistency loss based on such estimation. We show that SAW can complement recent consistency-based SSL algorithms and improve their reliability on various datasets including three standard datasets and one gigapixel medical imaging application without making any assumptions about the distribution of the unlabeled set.

Class-Imbalanced Semi-Supervised Learning with Adaptive Thresholding

Lan-Zhe Guo · Yu-Feng Li

Semi-supervised learning (SSL) has proven to be successful in overcoming labeling difficulties by leveraging unlabeled data. Previous SSL algorithms typically assume a balanced class distribution. However, real-world datasets are usually class-imbalanced, causing the performance of existing SSL algorithms to be seriously decreased. One essential reason is that pseudo-labels for unlabeled data are selected based on a fixed confidence threshold, resulting in low performance on minority classes. In this paper, we develop a simple yet effective framework, which only involves adaptive thresholding for different classes in SSL algorithms, and achieves remarkable performance improvement on more than twenty imbalance ratios. Specifically, we explicitly optimize the number of pseudo-labels for each class in the SSL objective, so as to simultaneously obtain adaptive thresholds and minimize empirical risk. Moreover, the determination of the adaptive threshold can be efficiently obtained by a closed-form solution. Extensive experimental results demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed algorithms.

Accelerating Bayesian Optimization for Biological Sequence Design with Denoising Autoencoders

Samuel Stanton · Wesley Maddox · Nate Gruver · Phillip Maffettone · Emily Delaney · Peyton Greenside · Andrew Wilson

Bayesian optimization (BayesOpt) is a gold standard for query-efficient continuous optimization. However, its adoption for drug design has been hindered by the discrete, high-dimensional nature of the decision variables. We develop a new approach (LaMBO) which jointly trains a denoising autoencoder with a discriminative multi-task Gaussian process head, allowing gradient-based optimization of multi-objective acquisition functions in the latent space of the autoencoder. These acquisition functions allow LaMBO to balance the explore-exploit tradeoff over multiple design rounds, and to balance objective tradeoffs by optimizing sequences at many different points on the Pareto frontier. We evaluate LaMBO on two small-molecule design tasks, and introduce new tasks optimizing in silico and in vitro properties of large-molecule fluorescent proteins. In our experiments LaMBO outperforms genetic optimizers and does not require a large pretraining corpus, demonstrating that BayesOpt is practical and effective for biological sequence design.

Meta-Learning Hypothesis Spaces for Sequential Decision-making

Parnian Kassraie · Jonas Rothfuss · Andreas Krause

Obtaining reliable, adaptive confidence sets for prediction functions (hypotheses) is a central challenge in sequential decision-making tasks, such as bandits and model-based reinforcement learning. These confidence sets typically rely on prior assumptions on the hypothesis space, e.g., the known kernel of a Reproducing Kernel Hilbert Space (RKHS). Hand-designing such kernels is error prone, and misspecification may lead to poor or unsafe performance. In this work, we propose to meta-learn a kernel from offline data (Meta-KeL). For the case where the unknown kernel is a combination of known base kernels, we develop an estimator based on structured sparsity. Under mild conditions, we guarantee that our estimated RKHS yields valid confidence sets that, with increasing amounts of offline data, become as tight as those given the true unknown kernel. We demonstrate our approach on the kernelized bandits problem (a.k.a. Bayesian optimization), where we establish regret bounds competitive with those given the true kernel. We also empirically evaluate the effectiveness of our approach on a Bayesian optimization task.

A Tighter Analysis of Spectral Clustering, and Beyond

Peter Macgregor · He Sun

This work studies the classical spectral clustering algorithm which embeds the vertices of some graph G=(VG, EG) into R^k using k eigenvectors of some matrix of G, and applies k-means to partition V_G into k clusters. Our first result is a tighter analysis on the performance of spectral clustering, and explains why it works under some much weaker condition than the ones studied in the literature. For the second result, we show that, by applying fewer than k eigenvectors to construct the embedding, spectral clustering is able to produce better output for many practical instances; this result is the first of its kind in spectral clustering. Besides its conceptual and theoretical significance, the practical impact of our work is demonstrated by the empirical analysis on both synthetic and real-world data sets, in which spectral clustering produces comparable or better results with fewer than k eigenvectors.

Online Active Regression

Cheng Chen · Yi Li · Yiming Sun

Active regression considers a linear regression problem where the learner receives a large number of data points but can only observe a small number of labels. Since online algorithms can deal with incremental training data and take advantage of low computational cost, we consider an online extension of the active regression problem: the learner receives data points one by one and immediately decides whether it should collect the corresponding labels. The goal is to efficiently maintain the regression of received data points with a small budget of label queries. We propose novel algorithms for this problem under $\ell_p$ loss where $p\in[1,2]$. To achieve a $(1+\epsilon)$-approximate solution, our proposed algorithms only requires $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(d/poly(\epsilon))$ queries of labels. The numerical results verify our theoretical results and show that our methods have comparable performance with offline active regression algorithms.

On Finite-Sample Identifiability of Contrastive Learning-Based Nonlinear Independent Component Analysis

Qi Lyu · Xiao Fu

Nonlinear independent component analysis (nICA) aims at recovering statistically independent latent components that are mixed by unknown nonlinear functions. Central to nICA is the identifiability of the latent components, which had been elusive until very recently. Specifically, Hyv\"arinen et al. have shown that the nonlinearly mixed latent components are identifiable (up to often inconsequential ambiguities) under a generalized contrastive learning (GCL) formulation, given that the latent components are independent conditioned on a certain auxiliary variable. The GCL-based identifiability of nICA is elegant, and establishes interesting connections between nICA and popular unsupervised/self-supervised learning paradigms in representation learning, causal learning, and factor disentanglement. However, existing identifiability analyses of nICA all build upon an unlimited sample assumption and the use of ideal universal function learners---which creates a non-negligible gap between theory and practice. Closing the gap is a nontrivial challenge, as there is a lack of established ``textbook'' routine for finite sample analysis of such unsupervised problems. This work puts forth a finite-sample identifiability analysis of GCL-based nICA. Our analytical framework judiciously combines the properties of the GCL loss function, statistical generalization analysis, and numerical differentiation. Our framework also takes the learning function's approximation error into consideration, and reveals an intuitive trade-off between the complexity and expressiveness of the employed function learner. Numerical experiments are used to validate the theorems.

Revisiting Contrastive Learning through the Lens of Neighborhood Component Analysis: an Integrated Framework

Ching-Yun (Irene) Ko · Jeet Mohapatra · Sijia Liu · Pin-Yu Chen · Luca Daniel · Lily Weng

As a seminal tool in self-supervised representation learning, contrastive learning has gained unprecedented attention in recent years. In essence, contrastive learning aims to leverage pairs of positive and negative samples for representation learning, which relates to exploiting neighborhood information in a feature space. By investigating the connection between contrastive learning and neighborhood component analysis (NCA), we provide a novel stochastic nearest neighbor viewpoint of contrastive learning and subsequently propose a series of contrastive losses that outperform the existing ones. Under our proposed framework, we show a new methodology to design integrated contrastive losses that could simultaneously achieve good accuracy and robustness on downstream tasks. With the integrated framework, we achieve up to 6\% improvement on the standard accuracy and 17\% improvement on the robust accuracy.

Open-Sampling: Exploring Out-of-Distribution data for Re-balancing Long-tailed datasets

Hongxin Wei · Lue Tao · RENCHUNZI XIE · LEI FENG · Bo An

Deep neural networks usually perform poorly when the training dataset suffers from extreme class imbalance. Recent studies found that directly training with out-of-distribution data (i.e., open-set samples) in a semi-supervised manner would harm the generalization performance. In this work, we theoretically show that out-of-distribution data can still be leveraged to augment the minority classes from a Bayesian perspective. Based on this motivation, we propose a novel method called Open-sampling, which utilizes open-set noisy labels to re-balance the class priors of the training dataset. For each open-set instance, the label is sampled from our pre-defined distribution that is complementary to the distribution of original class priors. We empirically show that Open-sampling not only re-balances the class priors but also encourages the neural network to learn separable representations. Extensive experiments demonstrate that our proposed method significantly outperforms existing data re-balancing methods and can boost the performance of existing state-of-the-art methods.

Confidence Score for Source-Free Unsupervised Domain Adaptation

Jonghyun Lee · Dahuin Jung · Junho Yim · Sungroh Yoon

Source-free unsupervised domain adaptation (SFUDA) aims to obtain high performance in the unlabeled target domain using the pre-trained source model, not the source data.Existing SFUDA methods assign the same importance to all target samples, which is vulnerable to incorrect pseudo-labels.To differentiate between sample importance, in this study, we propose a novel sample-wise confidence score, the Joint Model-Data Structure (JMDS) score for SFUDA.Unlike existing confidence scores that use only one of the source or target domain knowledge, the JMDS score uses both knowledge.We then propose a Confidence score Weighting Adaptation using the JMDS (CoWA-JMDS) framework for SFUDA.CoWA-JMDS consists of the JMDS scores as sample weights and weight Mixup that is our proposed variant of Mixup.Weight Mixup promotes the model make more use of the target domain knowledge.The experimental results show that the JMDS score outperforms the existing confidence scores.Moreover, CoWA-JMDS achieves state-of-the-art performance on various SFUDA scenarios: closed, open, and partial-set scenarios.

Gradient Based Clustering

Aleksandar Armacki · Dragana Bajovic · Dusan Jakovetic · Soummya Kar

We propose a general approach for distance based clustering, using the gradient of the cost function that measures clustering quality with respect to cluster assignments and cluster center positions. The approach is an iterative two step procedure (alternating between cluster assignment and cluster center updates) and is applicable to a wide range of functions, satisfying some mild assumptions. The main advantage of the proposed approach is a simple and computationally cheap update rule. Unlike previous methods that specialize to a specific formulation of the clustering problem, our approach is applicable to a wide range of costs, including non-Bregman clustering methods based on the Huber loss. We analyze the convergence of the proposed algorithm, and show that it converges to the set of appropriately defined fixed points, under arbitrary center initialization. In the special case of Bregman cost functions, the algorithm converges to the set of centroidal Voronoi partitions, which is consistent with prior works. Numerical experiments on real data demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method.

Global Optimization of K-Center Clustering

Mingfei Shi · Kaixun Hua · Jiayang Ren · Yankai Cao

$k$-center problem is a well-known clustering method and can be formulated as a mixed-integer nonlinear programming problem. This work provides a practical global optimization algorithm for this task based on a reduced-space spatial branch and bound scheme. This algorithm can guarantee convergence to the global optimum by only branching on the centers of clusters, which is independent of the dataset’s cardinality. In addition, a set of feasibility-based bounds tightening techniques are proposed to narrow down the domain of centers and significantly accelerate the convergence. To demonstrate the capacity of this algorithm, we present computational results on 32 datasets. Notably, for the dataset with 14 million samples and 3 features, the serial implementation of the algorithm can converge to an optimality gap of 0.1\% within 2 hours. Compared with a heuristic method, the global optimum obtained by our algorithm can reduce the objective function on average by 30.4\%.

Latent Outlier Exposure for Anomaly Detection with Contaminated Data

Chen Qiu · Aodong Li · Marius Kloft · Maja Rudolph · Stephan Mandt

Anomaly detection aims at identifying data points that show systematic deviations from the majority of data in an unlabeled dataset. A common assumption is that clean training data (free of anomalies) is available, which is often violated in practice. We propose a strategy for training an anomaly detector in the presence of unlabeled anomalies that is compatible with a broad class of models. The idea is to jointly infer binary labels to each datum (normal vs. anomalous) while updating the model parameters. Inspired by outlier exposure (Hendrycks et al., 2018) that considers synthetically created, labeled anomalies, we thereby use a combination of two losses that share parameters: one for the normal and one for the anomalous data. We then iteratively proceed with block coordinate updates on the parameters and the most likely (latent) labels. Our experiments with several backbone models on three image datasets, 30 tabular data sets, and a video anomaly detection benchmark showed consistent and significant improvements over the baselines.

Coordinated Double Machine Learning

Nitai Fingerhut · Matteo Sesia · Yaniv Romano

Double machine learning is a statistical method for leveraging complex black-box models to construct approximately unbiased treatment effect estimates given observational data with high-dimensional covariates, under the assumption of a partially linear model. The idea is to first fit on a subset of the samples two non-linear predictive models, one for the continuous outcome of interest and one for the observed treatment, and then to estimate a linear coefficient for the treatment using the remaining samples through a simple orthogonalized regression. While this methodology is flexible and can accommodate arbitrary predictive models, typically trained independently of one another, this paper argues that a carefully coordinated learning algorithm for deep neural networks may reduce the estimation bias. The improved empirical performance of the proposed method is demonstrated through numerical experiments on both simulated and real data.

Exploiting Independent Instruments: Identification and Distribution Generalization

Sorawit Saengkyongam · Leonard Henckel · Niklas Pfister · Jonas Peters

Instrumental variable models allow us to identify a causal function between covariates $X$ and a response $Y$, even in the presence of unobserved confounding. Most of the existing estimators assume that the error term in the response $Y$ and the hidden confounders are uncorrelated with the instruments $Z$. This is often motivated by a graphical separation, an argument that also justifies independence. Positing an independence restriction, however, leads to strictly stronger identifiability results. We connect to the existing literature in econometrics and provide a practical method called HSIC-X for exploiting independence that can be combined with any gradient-based learning procedure. We see that even in identifiable settings, taking into account higher moments may yield better finite sample results. Furthermore, we exploit the independence for distribution generalization. We prove that the proposed estimator is invariant to distributional shifts on the instruments and worst-case optimal whenever these shifts are sufficiently strong. These results hold even in the under-identified case where the instruments are not sufficiently rich to identify the causal function.

Partial Counterfactual Identification from Observational and Experimental Data

Junzhe Zhang · Jin Tian · Elias Bareinboim

This paper investigates the problem of bounding counterfactual queries from an arbitrary collection of observational and experimental distributions and qualitative knowledge about the underlying data-generating model represented in the form of a causal diagram. We show that all counterfactual distributions in an arbitrary structural causal model (SCM) with discrete observed domains could be generated by a canonical family of SCMs with the same causal diagram where unobserved (exogenous) variables are also discrete, taking values in finite domains. Utilizing the canonical SCMs, we translate the problem of bounding counterfactuals into that of polynomial programming whose solution provides optimal bounds for the counterfactual query. Solving such polynomial programs is in general computationally expensive. We then develop effective Monte Carlo algorithms to approximate optimal bounds from a combination of observational and experimental data. Our algorithms are validated extensively on synthetic and real-world datasets.

On Measuring Causal Contributions via do-interventions

Yonghan Jung · Shiva Kasiviswanathan · Jin Tian · Dominik Janzing · Patrick Bloebaum · Elias Bareinboim

Causal contributions measure the strengths of different causes to a target quantity. Understanding causal contributions is important in empirical sciences and data-driven disciplines since it allows to answer practical queries like ``what are the contributions of each cause to the effect?'' In this paper, we develop a principled method for quantifying causal contributions. First, we provide desiderata of properties axioms that causal contribution measures should satisfy and propose the do-Shapley values (inspired by do-interventions [Pearl, 2000]) as a unique method satisfying these properties. Next, we develop a criterion under which the do-Shapley values can be efficiently inferred from non-experimental data. Finally, we provide do-Shapley estimators exhibiting consistency, computational feasibility, and statistical robustness. Simulation results corroborate with the theory.

The Role of Deconfounding in Meta-learning

Yinjie Jiang · Zhengyu Chen · Kun Kuang · Luotian Yuan · Xinhai Ye · Zhihua Wang · Fei Wu · Ying WEI

Meta-learning has emerged as a potent paradigm for quick learning of few-shot tasks, by leveraging the meta-knowledge learned from meta-training tasks. Well-generalized meta-knowledge that facilitates fast adaptation in each task is preferred; however, recent evidence suggests the undesirable memorization effect where the meta-knowledge simply memorizing all meta-training tasks discourages task-specific adaptation and poorly generalizes. There have been several solutions to mitigating the effect, including both regularizer-based and augmentation-based methods, while a systematic understanding of these methods in a single framework is still lacking. In this paper, we offer a novel causal perspective of meta-learning. Through the lens of causality, we conclude the universal label space as a confounder to be the causing factor of memorization and frame the two lines of prevailing methods as different deconfounder approaches. Remarkably, derived from the causal inference principle of front-door adjustment, we propose two frustratingly easy but effective deconfounder algorithms, i.e., sampling multiple versions of the meta-knowledge via Dropout and grouping the meta-knowledge into multiple bins. The proposed causal perspective not only brings in the two deconfounder algorithms that surpass previous works in four benchmark datasets towards combating memorization, but also opens a promising direction for meta-learning.

CITRIS: Causal Identifiability from Temporal Intervened Sequences

Phillip Lippe · Sara Magliacane · Sindy Löwe · Yuki Asano · Taco Cohen · Stratis Gavves

Understanding the latent causal factors of a dynamical system from visual observations is considered a crucial step towards agents reasoning in complex environments. In this paper, we propose CITRIS, a variational autoencoder framework that learns causal representations from temporal sequences of images in which underlying causal factors have possibly been intervened upon. In contrast to the recent literature, CITRIS exploits temporality and observing intervention targets to identify scalar and multidimensional causal factors, such as 3D rotation angles. Furthermore, by introducing a normalizing flow, CITRIS can be easily extended to leverage and disentangle representations obtained by already pretrained autoencoders. Extending previous results on scalar causal factors, we prove identifiability in a more general setting, in which only some components of a causal factor are affected by interventions. In experiments on 3D rendered image sequences, CITRIS outperforms previous methods on recovering the underlying causal variables. Moreover, using pretrained autoencoders, CITRIS can even generalize to unseen instantiations of causal factors, opening future research areas in sim-to-real generalization for causal representation learning.

Online Balanced Experimental Design

David Arbour · Drew Dimmery · Tung Mai · Anup Rao

We consider the experimental design problem in an online environment, an important practical task for reducing the variance of estimates in randomized experiments which allows for greater precision, and in turn, improved decision making. In this work, we present algorithms that build on recent advances in online discrepancy minimization which accommodate both arbitrary treatment probabilities and multiple treatments. The proposed algorithms are computational efficient, minimize covariate imbalance, and include randomization which enables robustness to misspecification. We provide worst case bounds on the expected mean squared error of the causal estimate and show that the proposed estimator is no worse than an implicit ridge regression, which are within a logarithmic factor of the best known results for offline experimental design. We conclude with a detailed simulation study showing favorable results relative to complete randomization as well as to offline methods for experimental design with time complexities exceeding our algorithm, which has a linear dependence on the number of observations, by polynomial factors.

Outstanding Paper Runner Up
Minimum Cost Intervention Design for Causal Effect Identification

Sina Akbari · Jalal Etesami · Negar Kiyavash

Pearl’s do calculus is a complete axiomatic approach to learn the identifiable causal effects from observational data. When such an effect is not identifiable, it is necessary to perform a collection of often costly interventions in the system to learn the causal effect. In this work, we consider the problem of designing the collection of interventions with the minimum cost to identify the desired effect. First, we prove that this prob-em is NP-complete, and subsequently propose an algorithm that can either find the optimal solution or a logarithmic-factor approximation of it. This is done by establishing a connection between our problem and the minimum hitting set problem. Additionally, we propose several polynomial time heuristic algorithms to tackle the computational complexity of the problem. Although these algorithms could potentially stumble on sub-optimal solutions, our simulations show that they achieve small regrets on random graphs.

Causal structure-based root cause analysis of outliers

Kailash Budhathoki · Lenon Minorics · Patrick Bloebaum · Dominik Janzing

Current techniques for explaining outliers cannot tell what caused the outliers. We present a formal method to identify "root causes" of outliers, amongst variables. The method requires a causal graph of the variables along with the functional causal model. It quantifies the contribution of each variable to the target outlier score, which explains to what extent each variable is a "root cause" of the target outlier. We study the empirical performance of the method through simulations and present a real-world case study identifying "root causes" of extreme river flows.

Instrumental Variable Regression with Confounder Balancing

Anpeng Wu · Kun Kuang · Bo Li · Fei Wu

This paper considers the challenge of estimating treatment effects from observational data in the presence of unmeasured confounders. A popular way to address this challenge is to utilize an instrumental variable (IV) for two-stage regression, i.e., 2SLS and variants, but limited to the linear setting. Recently, many nonlinear IV regression variants were proposed to overcome it by regressing the treatment with IVs and observed confounders in stage 1, leading to the imbalance of the observed confounders in stage 2. In this paper, we propose a Confounder Balanced IV Regression (CB-IV) algorithm to jointly remove the bias from the unmeasured confounders and balance the observed confounders. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work to combine confounder balancing in IV regression for treatment effect estimation. Theoretically, we re-define and solve the inverse problems for the response-outcome function. Experiments show that our algorithm outperforms the existing approaches.

Causal Transformer for Estimating Counterfactual Outcomes

Valentyn Melnychuk · Dennis Frauen · Stefan Feuerriegel

Estimating counterfactual outcomes over time from observational data is relevant for many applications (e.g., personalized medicine). Yet, state-of-the-art methods build upon simple long short-term memory (LSTM) networks, thus rendering inferences for complex, long-range dependencies challenging. In this paper, we develop a novel Causal Transformer for estimating counterfactual outcomes over time. Our model is specifically designed to capture complex, long-range dependencies among time-varying confounders. For this, we combine three transformer subnetworks with separate inputs for time-varying covariates, previous treatments, and previous outcomes into a joint network with in-between cross-attentions. We further develop a custom, end-to-end training procedure for our Causal Transformer. Specifically, we propose a novel counterfactual domain confusion loss to address confounding bias: it aims to learn adversarial balanced representations, so that they are predictive of the next outcome but non-predictive of the current treatment assignment. We evaluate our Causal Transformer based on synthetic and real-world datasets, where it achieves superior performance over current baselines. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work proposing transformer-based architecture for estimating counterfactual outcomes from longitudinal data.

Causal Inference Through the Structural Causal Marginal Problem

Luigi Gresele · Julius von Kügelgen · Jonas Kübler · Elke Kirschbaum · Bernhard Schölkopf · Dominik Janzing

We introduce an approach to counterfactual inference based on merging information from multiple datasets. We consider a causal reformulation of the statistical marginal problem: given a collection of marginal structural causal models (SCMs) over distinct but overlapping sets of variables, determine the set of joint SCMs that are counterfactually consistent with the marginal ones. We formalise this approach for categorical SCMs using the response function formulation and show that it reduces the space of allowed marginal and joint SCMs. Our work thus highlights a new mode of falsifiability through additional variables, in contrast to the statistical one via additional data.

Functional Generalized Empirical Likelihood Estimation for Conditional Moment Restrictions

Heiner Kremer · Jia-Jie Zhu · Krikamol Muandet · Bernhard Schölkopf

Important problems in causal inference, economics, and, more generally, robust machine learning can be expressed as conditional moment restrictions, but estimation becomes challenging as it requires solving a continuum of unconditional moment restrictions. Previous works addressed this problem by extending the generalized method of moments (GMM) to continuum moment restrictions. In contrast, generalized empirical likelihood (GEL) provides a more general framework and has been shown to enjoy favorable small-sample properties compared to GMM-based estimators. To benefit from recent developments in machine learning, we provide a functional reformulation of GEL in which arbitrary models can be leveraged. Motivated by a dual formulation of the resulting infinite dimensional optimization problem, we devise a practical method and explore its asymptotic properties. Finally, we provide kernel- and neural network-based implementations of the estimator, which achieve state-of-the-art empirical performance on two conditional moment restriction problems.

Matching Learned Causal Effects of Neural Networks with Domain Priors

Sai Srinivas Kancheti · Gowtham Reddy Abbavaram · Vineeth N Balasubramanian · Amit Sharma

A trained neural network can be interpreted as a structural causal model (SCM) that provides the effect of changing input variables on the model's output. However, if training data contains both causal and correlational relationships, a model that optimizes prediction accuracy may not necessarily learn the true causal relationships between input and output variables. On the other hand, expert users often have prior knowledge of the causal relationship between certain input variables and output from domain knowledge. Therefore, we propose a regularization method that aligns the learned causal effects of a neural network with domain priors, including both direct and total causal effects. We show that this approach can generalize to different kinds of domain priors, including monotonicity of causal effect of an input variable on output or zero causal effect of a variable on output for purposes of fairness. Our experiments on twelve benchmark datasets show its utility in regularizing a neural network model to maintain desired causal effects, without compromising on accuracy. Importantly, we also show that a model thus trained is robust and gets improved accuracy on noisy inputs.

Inferring Cause and Effect in the Presence of Heteroscedastic Noise

Sascha Xu · Osman Ali Mian · Alexander Marx · Jilles Vreeken

We study the problem of identifying cause and effect over two univariate continuous variables $X$ and $Y$ from a sample of their joint distribution. Our focus lies on the setting when the variance of the noise may be dependent on the cause. We propose to partition the domain of the cause into multiple segments where the noise indeed is dependent. To this end, we minimize a scale-invariant, penalized regression score, finding the optimal partitioning using dynamic programming. We show under which conditions this allows us to identify the causal direction for the linear setting with heteroscedastic noise, for the non-linear setting with homoscedastic noise, as well as empirically confirm that these results generalize to the non-linear and heteroscedastic case. Altogether, the ability to model heteroscedasticity translates into an improved performance in telling cause from effect on a wide range of synthetic and real-world datasets.

Exact Optimal Accelerated Complexity for Fixed-Point Iterations

Jisun Park · Ernest Ryu

Despite the broad use of fixed-point iterations throughout applied mathematics, the optimal convergence rate of general fixed-point problems with nonexpansive nonlinear operators has not been established. This work presents an acceleration mechanism for fixed-point iterations with nonexpansive operators, contractive operators, and nonexpansive operators satisfying a H\"older-type growth condition. We then provide matching complexity lower bounds to establish the exact optimality of the acceleration mechanisms in the nonexpansive and contractive setups. Finally, we provide experiments with CT imaging, optimal transport, and decentralized optimization to demonstrate the practical effectiveness of the acceleration mechanism.

Fast Convex Optimization for Two-Layer ReLU Networks: Equivalent Model Classes and Cone Decompositions

Aaron Mishkin · Arda Sahiner · Mert Pilanci

We develop fast algorithms and robust software for convex optimization of two-layer neural networks with ReLU activation functions. Our work leverages a convex re-formulation of the standard weight-decay penalized training problem as a set of group-l1-regularized data-local models, where locality is enforced by polyhedral cone constraints. In the special case of zero-regularization, we show that this problem is exactly equivalent to unconstrained optimization of a convex "gated ReLU" network. For problems with non-zero regularization, we show that convex gated ReLU models obtain data-dependent approximation bounds for the ReLU training problem. To optimize the convex re-formulations, we develop an accelerated proximal gradient method and a practical augmented Lagrangian solver. We show that these approaches are faster than standard training heuristics for the non-convex problem, such as SGD, and outperform commercial interior-point solvers. Experimentally, we verify our theoretical results, explore the group-l1 regularization path, and scale convex optimization for neural networks to image classification on MNIST and CIFAR-10.

NysADMM: faster composite convex optimization via low-rank approximation

Shipu Zhao · Zachary Frangella · Madeleine Udell

This paper develops a scalable new algorithm, called NysADMM, to minimize a smooth convex loss function with a convex regularizer. NysADMM accelerates the inexact Alternating Direction Method of Multipliers (ADMM) by constructing a preconditioner for the ADMM subproblem from a randomized low-rank Nystrӧm approximation. NysADMM comes with strong theoretical guarantees: it solves the ADMM subproblem in a constant number of iterations when the rank of the Nystrӧm approximation is the effective dimension of the subproblem regularized Gram matrix. In practice, ranks much smaller than the effective dimension can succeed, so NysADMM uses an adaptive strategy to choose the rank that enjoys analogous guarantees. Numerical experiments on real-world datasets demonstrate that NysADMM can solve important applications, such as the lasso, logistic regression, and support vector machines, in half the time (or less) required by standard solvers. The breadth of problems on which NysADMM beats standard solvers is a surprise: it suggests that ADMM is a dominant paradigm for numerical optimization across a wide range of statistical learning problems that are usually solved with bespoke methods.

FedNew: A Communication-Efficient and Privacy-Preserving Newton-Type Method for Federated Learning

Anis Elgabli · Chaouki Ben Issaid · Amrit Singh Bedi · Ketan Rajawat · Mehdi Bennis · Vaneet Aggarwal

Newton-type methods are popular in federated learning due to their fast convergence. Still, they suffer from two main issues, namely: low communication efficiency and low privacy due to the requirement of sending Hessian information from clients to parameter server (PS). In this work, we introduced a novel framework called FedNew in which there is no need to transmit Hessian information from clients to PS, hence resolving the bottleneck to improve communication efficiency. In addition, FedNew hides the gradient information and results in a privacy-preserving approach compared to the existing state-of-the-art. The core novel idea in FedNew is to introduce a two level framework, and alternate between updating the inverse Hessian-gradient product using only one alternating direction method of multipliers (ADMM) step and then performing the global model update using Newton’s method. Though only one ADMM pass is used to approximate the inverse Hessian-gradient product at each iteration, we develop a novel theoretical approach to show the converging behavior of FedNew for convex problems. Additionally, a significant reduction in communication overhead is achieved by utilizing stochastic quantization. Numerical results using real datasets show the superiority of FedNew compared to existing methods in terms of communication costs.

Unraveling Attention via Convex Duality: Analysis and Interpretations of Vision Transformers

Arda Sahiner · Tolga Ergen · Batu M Ozturkler · John Pauly · Morteza Mardani · Mert Pilanci

Vision transformers using self-attention or its proposed alternatives have demonstrated promising results in many image related tasks. However, the underpinning inductive bias of attention is not well understood. To address this issue, this paper analyzes attention through the lens of convex duality. For the non-linear dot-product self-attention, and alternative mechanisms such as MLP-mixer and Fourier Neural Operator (FNO), we derive equivalent finite-dimensional convex problems that are interpretable and solvable to global optimality. The convex programs lead to block nuclear-norm regularization that promotes low rank in the latent feature and token dimensions. In particular, we show how self-attention networks implicitly clusters the tokens, based on their latent similarity. We conduct experiments for transferring a pre-trained transformer backbone for CIFAR-100 classification by fine-tuning a variety of convex attention heads. The results indicate the merits of the bias induced by attention compared with the existing MLP or linear heads.

Pairwise Conditional Gradients without Swap Steps and Sparser Kernel Herding

Kazuma Tsuji · Ken'ichiro Tanaka · Sebastian Pokutta

The Pairwise Conditional Gradients (PCG) algorithm is a powerful extension of the Frank-Wolfe algorithm leading to particularly sparse solutions, which makes PCG very appealing for problems such as sparse signal recovery, sparse regression, and kernel herding. Unfortunately, PCG exhibits so-called swap steps that might not provide sufficient primal progress. The number of these bad steps is bounded by a function in the dimension and as such known guarantees do not generalize to the infinite-dimensional case, which would be needed for kernel herding. We propose a new variant of PCG, the so-called Blended Pairwise Conditional Gradients (BPCG). This new algorithm does not exhibit any swap steps, is very easy to implement, and does not require any internal gradient alignment procedures. The convergence rate of BPCG is basically that of PCG if no drop steps would occur and as such is no worse than PCG but improves and provides new rates in many cases. Moreover, we observe in the numerical experiments that BPCG’s solutions are much sparser than those of PCG. We apply BPCG to the kernel herding setting, where we derive nice quadrature rules and provide numerical results demonstrating the performance of our method.

Continuous-Time Analysis of Accelerated Gradient Methods via Conservation Laws in Dilated Coordinate Systems

Jaewook Suh · Gyumin Roh · Ernest Ryu

We analyze continuous-time models of accelerated gradient methods through deriving conservation laws in dilated coordinate systems. Namely, instead of analyzing the dynamics of $X(t)$, we analyze the dynamics of $W(t)=t^\alpha(X(t)-X_c)$ for some $\alpha$ and $X_c$ and derive a conserved quantity, analogous to physical energy, in this dilated coordinate system. Through this methodology, we recover many known continuous-time analyses in a streamlined manner and obtain novel continuous-time analyses for OGM-G, an acceleration mechanism for efficiently reducing gradient magnitude that is distinct from that of Nesterov. Finally, we show that a semi-second-order symplectic Euler discretization in the dilated coordinate system leads to an $\mathcal{O}(1/k^2)$ rate on the standard setup of smooth convex minimization, without any further assumptions such as infinite differentiability.

Only tails matter: Average-Case Universality and Robustness in the Convex Regime

LEONARDO CUNHA · Gauthier Gidel · Fabian Pedregosa · Damien Scieur · Courtney Paquette

The recently developed average-case analysis of optimization methods allows a more fine-grained and representative convergence analysis than usual worst-case results. In exchange, this analysis requires a more precise hypothesis over the data generating process, namely assuming knowledge of the expected spectral distribution (ESD) of the random matrix associated with the problem. This work shows that the concentration of eigenvalues near the edges of the ESD determines a problem's asymptotic average complexity. This a priori information on this concentration is a more grounded assumption than complete knowledge of the ESD. This approximate concentration is effectively a middle ground between the coarseness of the worst-case scenario convergence and the restrictive previous average-case analysis. We also introduce the Generalized Chebyshev method, asymptotically optimal under a hypothesis on this concentration and globally optimal when the ESD follows a Beta distribution. We compare its performance to classical optimization algorithms, such as gradient descent or Nesterov's scheme, and we show that, in the average-case context, Nesterov's method is universally nearly optimal asymptotically.

Batch Greenkhorn Algorithm for Entropic-Regularized Multimarginal Optimal Transport: Linear Rate of Convergence and Iteration Complexity

Vladimir Kostic · Saverio Salzo · Massimiliano Pontil

In this work we propose a batch multimarginal version of the Greenkhornalgorithm for the entropic-regularized optimal transport problem. This framework is general enough to cover, as particular cases, existing Sinkhorn and Greenkhorn algorithms for the bi-marginal setting, and greedy MultiSinkhorn for the general multimarginal case. We provide a comprehensive convergence analysis based on the properties of the iterative Bregman projections method with greedy control.Linear rate of convergence as well as explicit bounds on the iteration complexity are obtained. When specialized to the above mentioned algorithms, our results give new convergence rates or provide key improvements over the state-of-the-art rates. We present numerical experiments showing that the flexibility of the batch can be exploited to improve performance of Sinkhorn algorithm both in bi-marginal and multimarginal settings.

Approximate Frank-Wolfe Algorithms over Graph-structured Support Sets

Baojian Zhou · Yifan Sun

In this paper, we consider approximate Frank-Wolfe (FW) algorithms to solve convex optimization problems over graph-structured support sets where the linear minimization oracle (LMO) cannot be efficiently obtained in general. We first demonstrate that two popular approximation assumptions (additive and multiplicative gap errors) are not applicable in that no cheap gap-approximate LMO oracle exists. Thus, approximate dual maximization oracles (DMO) are proposed, which approximate the inner product rather than the gap. We prove that the standard FW method using a $\delta$-approximate DMO converges as $O((1-\delta) \sqrt{s}/\delta)$ in the worst case, and as $O(L/(\delta^2 t))$ over a $\delta$-relaxation of the constraint set. Furthermore, when the solution is on the boundary, a variant of FW converges as $O(1/t^2)$ under the quadratic growth assumption. Our empirical results suggest that even these improved bounds are pessimistic, showing fast convergence in recovering real-world images with graph-structured sparsity.

Neural Fisher Discriminant Analysis: Optimal Neural Network Embeddings in Polynomial Time

Burak Bartan · Mert Pilanci

Fisher's Linear Discriminant Analysis (FLDA) is a statistical analysis method that linearly embeds data points to a lower dimensional space to maximize a discrimination criterion such that the variance between classes is maximized while the variance within classes is minimized. We introduce a natural extension of FLDA that employs neural networks, called Neural Fisher Discriminant Analysis (NFDA). This method finds the optimal two-layer neural network that embeds data points to optimize the same discrimination criterion. We use tools from convex optimization to transform the optimal neural network embedding problem into a convex problem. The resulting problem is easy to interpret and solve to global optimality. We evaluate the method's performance on synthetic and real datasets.

Active Sampling for Min-Max Fairness

Jacob Abernethy · Pranjal Awasthi · Matthäus Kleindessner · Jamie Morgenstern · Chris Russell · Jie Zhang

We propose simple active sampling and reweighting strategies for optimizing min-max fairness that can be applied to any classification or regression model learned via loss minimization. The key intuition behind our approach is to use at each timestep a datapoint from the group that is worst off under the current model for updating the model. The ease of implementation and the generality of our robust formulation make it an attractive option for improving model performance on disadvantaged groups. For convex learning problems, such as linear or logistic regression, we provide a fine-grained analysis, proving the rate of convergence to a min-max fair solution.

Topology-Aware Network Pruning using Multi-stage Graph Embedding and Reinforcement Learning

Sixing Yu · Arya Mazaheri · Ali Jannesari

Model compression is an essential technique for deploying deep neural networks (DNNs) on power and memory-constrained resources. However, existing model-compression methods often rely on human expertise and focus on parameters' local importance, ignoring the rich topology information within DNNs. In this paper, we propose a novel multi-stage graph embedding technique based on graph neural networks (GNNs) to identify DNN topologies and use reinforcement learning (RL) to find a suitable compression policy. We performed resource-constrained (i.e., FLOPs) channel pruning and compared our approach with state-of-the-art model compression methods.We evaluated our method on various models from typical to mobile-friendly networks, such as ResNet family, VGG-16, MobileNet-v1/v2, and ShuffleNet. Results show that our method can achieve higher compression ratios with a minimal fine-tuning cost yet yields outstanding and competitive performance.

Stochastic Reweighted Gradient Descent

Ayoub El Hanchi · David Stephens · Chris Maddison

Importance sampling is a promising strategy for improving the convergence rate of stochastic gradient methods. It is typically used to precondition the optimization problem, but it can also be used to reduce the variance of the gradient estimator. Unfortunately, this latter point of view has yet to lead to practical methods that provably improve the asymptotic error of stochastic gradient methods. In this work, we propose stochastic reweighted gradient descent (SRG), a stochastic gradient method based solely on importance sampling that can reduce the variance of the gradient estimator and improve on the asymptotic error of stochastic gradient descent (SGD) in the strongly convex and smooth case. We show that SRG can be extended to combine the benefits of both importance-sampling-based preconditioning and variance reduction. When compared to SGD, the resulting algorithm can simultaneously reduce the condition number and the asymptotic error, both by up to a factor equal to the number of component functions. We demonstrate improved convergence in practice on regularized logistic regression problems.

Sharpened Quasi-Newton Methods: Faster Superlinear Rate and Larger Local Convergence Neighborhood

Qiujiang Jin · Alec Koppel · Ketan Rajawat · Aryan Mokhtari

Non-asymptotic analysis of quasi-Newton methods have received a lot of attention recently. In particular, several works have established a non-asymptotic superlinear rate of $$\mathcal{O}((1/\sqrt{t})^t)$$ for the (classic) BFGS method by exploiting the fact that its error of Newton direction approximation approaches zero. Moreover, a greedy variant of the BFGS method was recently proposed which accelerates the convergence of BFGS by directly approximating the Hessian matrix, instead of Newton direction, and achieves a fast local quadratic convergence rate. Alas, the local quadratic convergence of Greedy-BFGS requires way more updates compared to the number of iterations that BFGS requires for a local superlinear rate. This is due to the fact that in Greedy-BFGS the Hessian is directly approximated and the Newton direction approximation may not be as accurate as the one for BFGS. In this paper, we close this gap and present a novel BFGS method that has the best of two worlds. More precisely, it leverages the approximation ideas of both BFGS and Greedy-BFGS to properly approximate both the Newton direction and the Hessian matrix. Our theoretical results show that our method out-performs both BFGS and Greedy-BFGS in terms of convergence rate, while it reaches its quadratic convergence rate with fewer steps compared to Greedy-BFGS. Numerical experiments on various datasets also confirm our theoretical findings.

Image-to-Image Regression with Distribution-Free Uncertainty Quantification and Applications in Imaging

Anastasios Angelopoulos · Amit Pal Kohli · Stephen Bates · Michael Jordan · Jitendra Malik · Thayer Alshaabi · Srigokul Upadhyayula · Yaniv Romano

Image-to-image regression is an important learning task, used frequently in biological imaging. Current algorithms, however, do not generally offer statistical guarantees that protect against a model's mistakes and hallucinations. To address this, we develop uncertainty quantification techniques with rigorous statistical guarantees for image-to-image regression problems. In particular, we show how to derive uncertainty intervals around each pixel that are guaranteed to contain the true value with a user-specified confidence probability. Our methods work in conjunction with any base machine learning model, such as a neural network, and endow it with formal mathematical guarantees—regardless of the true unknown data distribution or choice of model. Furthermore, they are simple to implement and computationally inexpensive. We evaluate our procedure on three image-to-image regression tasks: quantitative phase microscopy, accelerated magnetic resonance imaging, and super-resolution transmission electron microscopy of a Drosophila melanogaster brain.

FedNL: Making Newton-Type Methods Applicable to Federated Learning

Mher Safaryan · Rustem Islamov · Xun Qian · Peter Richtarik

Inspired by recent work of Islamov et al (2021), we propose a family of Federated Newton Learn (\algname{FedNL}) methods, which we believe is a marked step in the direction of making second-order methods applicable to FL. In contrast to the aforementioned work, \algname{FedNL} employs a different Hessian learning technique which i) enhances privacy as it does not rely on the training data to be revealed to the coordinating server, ii) makes it applicable beyond generalized linear models, and iii) provably works with general contractive compression operators for compressing the local Hessians, such as Top-$K$ or Rank-$R$, which are vastly superior in practice. Notably, we do not need to rely on error feedback for our methods to work with contractive compressors. Moreover, we develop \algname{FedNL-PP}, \algname{FedNL-CR} and \algname{FedNL-LS}, which are variants of \algname{FedNL} that support partial participation, and globalization via cubic regularization and line search, respectively, and \algname{FedNL-BC}, which is a variant that can further benefit from bidirectional compression of gradients and models, i.e., smart uplink gradient and smart downlink model compression. We prove local convergence rates that are independent of the condition number, the number of training data points, and compression variance. Our communication efficient Hessian learning technique provably learns the Hessian at the optimum. Finally, we perform a variety of numerical experiments that show that our \algname{FedNL} methods have state-of-the-art communication complexity when compared to key baselines.

Outstanding Paper
Solving Stackelberg Prediction Game with Least Squares Loss via Spherically Constrained Least Squares Reformulation

Jiali Wang · Wen Huang · Rujun Jiang · Xudong Li · Alex Wang

The Stackelberg prediction game (SPG) is popular in characterizing strategic interactions between a learner and an attacker. As an important special case, the SPG with least squares loss (SPG-LS) has recently received much research attention. Although initially formulated as a difficult bi-level optimization problem, SPG-LS admits tractable reformulations which can be polynomially globally solved by semidefinite programming or second order cone programming. However, all the available approaches are not well-suited for handling large-scale datasets, especially those with huge numbers of features. In this paper, we explore an alternative reformulation of the SPG-LS. By a novel nonlinear change of variables, we rewrite the SPG-LS as a spherically constrained least squares (SCLS) problem. Theoretically, we show that an $\epsilon$ optimal solutions to the SCLS (and the SPG-LS) can be achieved in $\tilde O(N/\sqrt{\epsilon})$ floating-point operations, where $N$ is the number of nonzero entries in the data matrix. Practically, we apply two well-known methods for solving this new reformulation, i.e., the Krylov subspace method and the Riemannian trust region method. Both algorithms are factorization free so that they are suitable for solving large scale problems. Numerical results on both synthetic and real-world datasets indicate that the SPG-LS, equipped with the SCLS reformulation, can be solved orders of magnitude faster than the state of the art.

Dimension-free Complexity Bounds for High-order Nonconvex Finite-sum Optimization

Dongruo Zhou · Quanquan Gu

Stochastic high-order methods for finding first-order stationary points in nonconvex finite-sum optimization have witnessed increasing interest in recent years, and various upper and lower bounds of the oracle complexity have been proved. However, under standard regularity assumptions, existing complexity bounds are all dimension-dependent (e.g., polylogarithmic dependence), which contrasts with the dimension-free complexity bounds for stochastic first-order methods and deterministic high-order methods. In this paper, we show that the polylogarithmic dimension dependence gap is not essential and can be closed. More specifically, we propose stochastic high-order algorithms with novel first-order and high-order derivative estimators, which can achieve dimension-free complexity bounds. With the access to $p$-th order derivatives of the objective function, we prove that our algorithm finds $\epsilon$-stationary points with $O(n^{(2p-1)/(2p)}/\epsilon^{(p+1)/p})$ high-order oracle complexities, where $n$ is the number of individual functions. Our result strictly improves the complexity bounds of existing high-order deterministic methods with respect to the dependence on $n$, and it is dimension-free compared with existing stochastic high-order methods.

Value Function based Difference-of-Convex Algorithm for Bilevel Hyperparameter Selection Problems

Lucy Gao · Jane J. Ye · Haian Yin · Shangzhi Zeng · Jin Zhang

Existing gradient-based optimization methods for hyperparameter tuning can only guarantee theoretical convergence to stationary solutions when the bilevel program satisfies the condition that for fixed upper-level variables, the lower-level is strongly convex (LLSC) and smooth (LLS). This condition is not satisfied for bilevel programs arising from tuning hyperparameters in many machine learning algorithms. In this work, we develop a sequentially convergent Value Function based Difference-of-Convex Algorithm with inexactness (VF-iDCA). We then ask: can this algorithm achieve stationary solutions without LLSC and LLS assumptions? We provide a positive answer to this question for bilevel programs from a broad class of hyperparameter tuning applications. Extensive experiments justify our theoretical results and demonstrate the superiority of the proposed VF-iDCA when applied to tune hyperparameters.

Probabilistic Bilevel Coreset Selection

Xiao Zhou · Renjie Pi · Weizhong Zhang · Yong LIN · Zonghao Chen · Tong Zhang

The goal of coreset selection in supervised learning is to produce a weighted subset of data, so that training only on the subset achieves similar performance as training on the entire dataset. Existing methods achieved promising results in resource-constrained scenarios such as continual learning and streaming. However, most of the existing algorithms are limited to traditional machine learning models. A few algorithms that can handle large models adopt greedy search approaches due to the difficulty in solving the discrete subset selection problem, which is computationally costly when coreset becomes larger and often produces suboptimal results. In this work, for the first time we propose a continuous probabilistic bilevel formulation of coreset selection by learning a probablistic weight for each training sample. The overall objective is posed as a bilevel optimization problem, where 1) the inner loop samples coresets and train the model to convergence and 2) the outer loop updates the sample probability progressively according to the model's performance. Importantly, we develop an efficient solver to the bilevel optimization problem via unbiased policy gradient without trouble of implicit differentiation. We theoretically prove the convergence of this training procedure and demonstrate the superiority of our algorithm against various coreset selection methods in various tasks, especially in more challenging label-noise and class-imbalance scenarios.

Linear-Time Gromov Wasserstein Distances using Low Rank Couplings and Costs

Meyer Scetbon · Gabriel Peyré · Marco Cuturi

The ability to align points across two related yet incomparable point clouds (e.g. living in different spaces) plays an important role in machine learning. The Gromov-Wasserstein (GW) framework provides an increasingly popular answer to such problems, by seeking a low-distortion, geometry-preserving assignment between these points.As a non-convex, quadratic generalization of optimal transport (OT), GW is NP-hard. While practitioners often resort to solving GW approximately as a nested sequence of entropy-regularized OT problems, the cubic complexity (in the number $n$ of samples) of that approach is a roadblock.We show in this work how a recent variant of the OT problem that restricts the set of admissible couplings to those having a low-rank factorization is remarkably well suited to the resolution of GW:when applied to GW, we show that this approach is not only able to compute a stationary point of the GW problem in time $O(n^2)$, but also uniquely positioned to benefit from the knowledge that the initial cost matrices are low-rank, to yield a linear time $O(n)$ GW approximation. Our approach yields similar results, yet orders of magnitude faster computation than the SoTA entropic GW approaches, on both simulated and real data.

On Implicit Bias in Overparameterized Bilevel Optimization

Paul Vicol · Jonathan Lorraine · Fabian Pedregosa · David Duvenaud · Roger Grosse

Many problems in machine learning involve bilevel optimization (BLO), including hyperparameter optimization, meta-learning, and dataset distillation. Bilevel problems involve inner and outer parameters, each optimized for its own objective. Often, at least one of the two levels is underspecified and there are multiple ways to choose among equivalent optima. Inspired by recent studies of the implicit bias induced by optimization algorithms in single-level optimization, we investigate the implicit bias of different gradient-based algorithms for jointly optimizing the inner and outer parameters. We delineate two standard BLO methods---cold-start and warm-start BLO---and show that the converged solution or long-run behavior depends to a large degree on these and other algorithmic choices, such as the hypergradient approximation. We also show that the solutions from warm-start BLO can encode a surprising amount of information about the outer objective, even when the outer optimization variables are low-dimensional. We believe that implicit bias deserves as central a role in the study of bilevel optimization as it has attained in the study of single-level neural net optimization.

Neural Network Weights Do Not Converge to Stationary Points: An Invariant Measure Perspective

Jingzhao Zhang · Haochuan Li · Suvrit Sra · Ali Jadbabaie

This work examines the deep disconnect between existing theoretical analyses of gradient-based algorithms and the practice of training deep neural networks. Specifically, we provide numerical evidence that in large-scale neural network training (e.g., ImageNet + ResNet101, and WT103 + TransformerXL models), the neural network's weights do not converge to stationary points where the gradient of the loss is zero. Remarkably, however, we observe that even though the weights do not converge to stationary points, the progress in minimizing the loss function halts and training loss stabilizes. Inspired by this observation, we propose a new perspective based on ergodic theory of dynamical systems to explain it. Rather than studying the evolution of weights, we study the evolution of the distribution of weights. We prove convergence of the distribution of weights to an approximate invariant measure, thereby explaining how the training loss can stabilize without weights necessarily converging to stationary points. We further discuss how this perspective can better align optimization theory with empirical observations in machine learning practice.

Convergence and Recovery Guarantees of the K-Subspaces Method for Subspace Clustering

Peng Wang · Huikang Liu · Anthony Man-Cho So · Laura Balzano

The K-subspaces (KSS) method is a generalization of the K-means method for subspace clustering. In this work, we present local convergence analysis and a recovery guarantee for KSS, assuming data are generated by the semi-random union of subspaces model, where $N$ points are randomly sampled from $K \ge 2$ overlapping subspaces. We show that if the initial assignment of the KSS method lies within a neighborhood of a true clustering, it converges at a superlinear rate and finds the correct clustering within $\Theta(\log\log N)$ iterations with high probability. Moreover, we propose a thresholding inner-product based spectral method for initialization and prove that it produces a point in this neighborhood. We also present numerical results of the studied method to support our theoretical developments.

Restarted Nonconvex Accelerated Gradient Descent: No More Polylogarithmic Factor in the $O(\epsilon^{-7/4})$ Complexity

Huan Li · Zhouchen Lin

This paper studies the accelerated gradient descent for general nonconvex problems under the gradient Lipschitz and Hessian Lipschitz assumptions. We establish that a simple restarted accelerated gradient descent (AGD) finds an $\epsilon$-approximate first-order stationary point in $O(\epsilon^{-7/4})$ gradient computations with simple proofs. Our complexity does not hide any polylogarithmic factors, and thus it improves over the state-of-the-art one by the $O(\log\frac{1}{\epsilon})$ factor. Our simple algorithm only consists of Nesterov's classical AGD and a restart mechanism, and it does not need the negative curvature exploitation or the optimization of regularized surrogate functions. Technically, our simple proof does not invoke the analysis for the strongly convex AGD, which is crucial to remove the $O(\log\frac{1}{\epsilon})$ factor.

Understanding the unstable convergence of gradient descent

Kwangjun Ahn · Jingzhao Zhang · Suvrit Sra

Most existing analyses of (stochastic) gradient descent rely on the condition that for $L$-smooth costs, the step size is less than $2/L$. However, many works have observed that in machine learning applications step sizes often do not fulfill this condition, yet (stochastic) gradient descent still converges, albeit in an unstable manner. We investigate this unstable convergence phenomenon from first principles, and discuss key causes behind it. We also identify its main characteristics, and how they interrelate based on both theory and experiments, offering a principled view toward understanding the phenomenon.

Federated Minimax Optimization: Improved Convergence Analyses and Algorithms

PRANAY SHARMA · Rohan Panda · Gauri Joshi · Pramod K Varshney

In this paper, we consider nonconvex minimax optimization, which is gaining prominence in many modern machine learning applications, such as GANs. Large-scale edge-based collection of training data in these applications calls for communication-efficient distributed optimization algorithms, such as those used in federated learning, to process the data. In this paper, we analyze local stochastic gradient descent ascent (SGDA), the local-update version of the SGDA algorithm. SGDA is the core algorithm used in minimax optimization, but it is not well-understood in a distributed setting. We prove that Local SGDA has \textit{order-optimal} sample complexity for several classes of nonconvex-concave and nonconvex-nonconcave minimax problems, and also enjoys \textit{linear speedup} with respect to the number of clients. We provide a novel and tighter analysis, which improves the convergence and communication guarantees in the existing literature. For nonconvex-PL and nonconvex-one-point-concave functions, we improve the existing complexity results for centralized minimax problems. Furthermore, we propose a momentum-based local-update algorithm, which has the same convergence guarantees, but outperforms Local SGDA as demonstrated in our experiments.

Inductive Matrix Completion: No Bad Local Minima and a Fast Algorithm

Pini Zilber · Boaz Nadler

The inductive matrix completion (IMC) problem is to recover a low rank matrix from few observed entries while incorporating prior knowledge about its row and column subspaces. In this work, we make three contributions to the IMC problem: (i) we prove that under suitable conditions, the IMC optimization landscape has no bad local minima; (ii) we derive a simple scheme with theoretical guarantees to estimate the rank of the unknown matrix; and (iii) we propose GNIMC, a simple Gauss-Newton based method to solve the IMC problem, analyze its runtime and derive for it strong recovery guarantees. The guarantees for GNIMC are sharper in several aspects than those available for other methods, including a quadratic convergence rate, fewer required observed entries and stability to errors or deviations from low-rank. Empirically, given entries observed uniformly at random, GNIMC recovers the underlying matrix substantially faster than several competing methods.

FedNest: Federated Bilevel, Minimax, and Compositional Optimization

Davoud Ataee Tarzanagh · Mingchen Li · Christos Thrampoulidis · Samet Oymak

Standard federated optimization methods successfully apply to stochastic problems with single-level structure. However, many contemporary ML problems - including adversarial robustness, hyperparameter tuning, actor-critic - fall undernested bilevel programming that subsumes minimax and compositional optimization. In this work, we propose FedNest: A federated alternating stochastic gradient method to address general nested problems. We establish provable convergence rates for FedNest in the presence of heterogeneous data and introduce variations for bilevel, minimax, and compositional optimization. FedNest introduces multiple innovations including federated hypergradient computation and variance reduction to address inner-level heterogeneity. We complement our theory with experiments on hyperparameter & hyper-representation learning and minimax optimization that demonstrate the benefits of our method in practice.

AdaGrad Avoids Saddle Points

Kimon Antonakopoulos · Panayotis Mertikopoulos · Georgios Piliouras · Xiao Wang

Adaptive first-order methods in optimization have widespread ML applications due to their ability to adapt to non-convex landscapes. However, their convergence guarantees are typically stated in terms of vanishing gradient norms, which leaves open the issue of converging to undesirable saddle points (or even local maxima). In this paper, we focus on the AdaGrad family of algorithms - from scalar to full-matrix preconditioning - and we examine the question of whether the method's trajectories avoid saddle points. A major challenge that arises here is that AdaGrad's step-size (or, more accurately, the method's preconditioner) evolves over time in a filtration-dependent way, i.e., as a function of all gradients observed in earlier iterations; as a result, avoidance results for methods with a constant or vanishing step-size do not apply. We resolve this challenge by combining a series of step-size stabilization arguments with a recursive representation of the AdaGrad preconditioner that allows us to employ center-stable techniques and ultimately show that the induced trajectories avoid saddle points from almost any initial condition.

Fast and Provable Nonconvex Tensor RPCA

Haiquan Qiu · Yao Wang · Shaojie Tang · Deyu Meng · QUANMING YAO

In this paper, we study nonconvex tensor robust principal component analysis (RPCA) based on the $t$-SVD. We first propose an alternating projection method, i.e., APT, which converges linearly to the ground-truth under the incoherence conditions of tensors. However, as the projection to the low-rank tensor space in APT can be slow, we further propose to speedup such a process by utilizing the property of the tangent space of low-rank. The resulting algorithm, i.e., EAPT, is not only more efficient than APT but also keeps the linear convergence. Compared with existing tensor RPCA works, the proposed method, especially EAPT, is not only more effective due to the recovery guarantee and adaption in the transformed (frequency) domain but also more efficient due to faster convergence rate and lower iteration complexity. These benefits are also empirically verified both on synthetic data, and real applications, e.g., hyperspectral image denoising and video background subtraction.

On Convergence of Gradient Descent Ascent: A Tight Local Analysis

Haochuan Li · Farzan Farnia · Subhro Das · Ali Jadbabaie

Gradient Descent Ascent (GDA) methods are the mainstream algorithms for minimax optimization in generative adversarial networks (GANs). Convergence properties of GDA have drawn significant interest in the recent literature. Specifically, for $\min_{x} \max_{y} f(x;y)$ where $f$ is strongly-concave in $y$ and possibly nonconvex in $x$, (Lin et al., 2020) proved the convergence of GDA with a stepsize ratio $\eta_y/\eta_x=\Theta(\kappa^2)$ where $\eta_x$ and $\eta_y$ are the stepsizes for $x$ and $y$ and $\kappa$ is the condition number for $y$. While this stepsize ratio suggests a slow training of the min player, practical GAN algorithms typically adopt similar stepsizes for both variables, indicating a wide gap between theoretical and empirical results. In this paper, we aim to bridge this gap by analyzing the \emph{local convergence} of general \emph{nonconvex-nonconcave} minimax problems. We demonstrate that a stepsize ratio of $\Theta(\kappa)$ is necessary and sufficient for local convergence of GDA to a Stackelberg Equilibrium, where $\kappa$ is the local condition number for $y$. We prove a nearly tight convergence rate with a matching lower bound. We further extend the convergence guarantees to stochastic GDA and extra-gradient methods (EG). Finally, we conduct several numerical experiments to support our theoretical findings.

Convergence Rates of Non-Convex Stochastic Gradient Descent Under a Generic Lojasiewicz Condition and Local Smoothness

Kevin Scaman · Cedric Malherbe · Ludovic DOS SANTOS

Training over-parameterized neural networks involves the empirical minimization of highly non-convex objective functions. Recently, a large body of works provided theoretical evidence that, despite this non-convexity, properly initialized over-parameterized networks can converge to a zero training loss through the introduction of the Polyak-Lojasiewicz condition. However, these analyses are restricted to quadratic losses such as mean square error, and tend to indicate fast exponential convergence rates that are seldom observed in practice. In this work, we propose to extend these results by analyzing stochastic gradient descent under more generic Lojasiewicz conditions that are applicable to any convex loss function, thus extending the current theory to a larger panel of losses commonly used in practice such as cross-entropy. Moreover, our analysis provides high-probability bounds on the approximation error under sub-Gaussian gradient noise and only requires the local smoothness of the objective function, thus making it applicable to deep neural networks in realistic settings.

A Single-Loop Gradient Descent and Perturbed Ascent Algorithm for Nonconvex Functional Constrained Optimization

Songtao Lu

Nonconvex constrained optimization problems can be used to model a number of machine learning problems, such as multi-class Neyman-Pearson classification and constrained Markov decision processes. However, such kinds of problems are challenging because both the objective and constraints are possibly nonconvex, so it is difficult to balance the reduction of the loss value and reduction of constraint violation. Although there are a few methods that solve this class of problems, all of them are double-loop or triple-loop algorithms, and they require oracles to solve some subproblems up to certain accuracy by tuning multiple hyperparameters at each iteration. In this paper, we propose a novel gradient descent and perturbed ascent (GDPA) algorithm to solve a class of smooth nonconvex inequality constrained problems. The GDPA is a primal-dual algorithm, which only exploits the first-order information of both the objective and constraint functions to update the primal and dual variables in an alternating way. The key feature of the proposed algorithm is that it is a single-loop algorithm, where only two step-sizes need to be tuned. We show that under a mild regularity condition GDPA is able to find Karush-Kuhn-Tucker (KKT) points of nonconvex functional constrained problems with convergence rate guarantees. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first single-loop algorithm that can solve the general nonconvex smooth problems with nonconvex inequality constraints. Numerical results also showcase the superiority of GDPA compared with the best-known algorithms (in terms of both stationarity measure and feasibility of the obtained solutions).

Anticorrelated Noise Injection for Improved Generalization

Antonio Orvieto · Hans Kersting · Frank Proske · Francis Bach · Aurelien Lucchi

Injecting artificial noise into gradient descent (GD) is commonly employed to improve the performance of machine learning models. Usually, uncorrelated noise is used in such perturbed gradient descent (PGD) methods. It is, however, not known if this is optimal or whether other types of noise could provide better generalization performance. In this paper, we zoom in on the problem of correlating the perturbations of consecutive PGD steps. We consider a variety of objective functions for which we find that GD with anticorrelated perturbations ("Anti-PGD") generalizes significantly better than GD and standard (uncorrelated) PGD. To support these experimental findings, we also derive a theoretical analysis that demonstrates that Anti-PGD moves to wider minima, while GD and PGD remain stuck in suboptimal regions or even diverge. This new connection between anticorrelated noise and generalization opens the field to novel ways to exploit noise for training machine learning models.

Tackling covariate shift with node-based Bayesian neural networks

Trung Trinh · Markus Heinonen · Luigi Acerbi · Samuel Kaski

Bayesian neural networks (BNNs) promise improved generalization under covariate shift by providing principled probabilistic representations of epistemic uncertainty. However, weight-based BNNs often struggle with high computational complexity of large-scale architectures and datasets. Node-based BNNs have recently been introduced as scalable alternatives, which induce epistemic uncertainty by multiplying each hidden node with latent random variables, while learning a point-estimate of the weights. In this paper, we interpret these latent noise variables as implicit representations of simple and domain-agnostic data perturbations during training, producing BNNs that perform well under covariate shift due to input corruptions. We observe that the diversity of the implicit corruptions depends on the entropy of the latent variables, and propose a straightforward approach to increase the entropy of these variables during training. We evaluate the method on out-of-distribution image classification benchmarks, and show improved uncertainty estimation of node-based BNNs under covariate shift due to input perturbations. As a side effect, the method also provides robustness against noisy training labels.

Why the Rich Get Richer? On the Balancedness of Random Partition Models

Changwoo Lee · Huiyan Sang

Random partition models are widely used in Bayesian methods for various clustering tasks, such as mixture models, topic models, and community detection problems. While the number of clusters induced by random partition models has been studied extensively, another important model property regarding the balancedness of partition has been largely neglected. We formulate a framework to define and theoretically study the balancedness of exchangeable random partition models, by analyzing how a model assigns probabilities to partitions with different levels of balancedness. We demonstrate that the "rich-get-richer" characteristic of many existing popular random partition models is an inevitable consequence of two common assumptions: product-form exchangeability and projectivity. We propose a principled way to compare the balancedness of random partition models, which gives a better understanding of what model works better and what doesn't for different applications. We also introduce the "rich-get-poorer" random partition models and illustrate their application to entity resolution tasks.

A Completely Tuning-Free and Robust Approach to Sparse Precision Matrix Estimation

Chau Tran · Guo Yu

Despite the vast literature on sparse Gaussian graphical models, current methods either are asymptotically tuning-free (which still require fine-tuning in practice) or hinge on computationally expensive methods (e.g., cross-validation) to determine the proper level of regularization. We propose a completely tuning-free approach for estimating sparse Gaussian graphical models. Our method uses model-agnostic regularization parameters to estimate each column of the target precision matrix and enjoys several desirable properties. Computationally, our estimator can be computed efficiently by linear programming. Theoretically, the proposed estimator achieves minimax optimal convergence rates under various norms. We further propose a second-stage enhancement with non-convex penalties which possesses the strong oracle property. Through comprehensive numerical studies, our methods demonstrate favorable statistical performance. Remarkably, our methods exhibit strong robustness to the violation of the Gaussian assumption and significantly outperform competing methods in the heavy-tailed settings.

Markov Chain Monte Carlo for Continuous-Time Switching Dynamical Systems

Lukas Köhs · Bastian Alt · Heinz Koeppl

Switching dynamical systems are an expressive model class for the analysis of time-series data. As in many fields within the natural and engineering sciences, the systems under study typically evolve continuously in time, it is natural to consider continuous-time model formulations consisting of switching stochastic differential equations governed by an underlying Markov jump process. Inference in these types of models is however notoriously difficult, and tractable computational schemes are rare. In this work, we propose a novel inference algorithm utilizing a Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach. The presented Gibbs sampler allows to efficiently obtain samples from the exact continuous-time posterior processes. Our framework naturally enables Bayesian parameter estimation, and we also include an estimate for the diffusion covariance, which is oftentimes assumed fixed in stochastic differential equations models. We evaluate our framework under the modeling assumption and compare it against an existing variational inference approach.

Calibrated Learning to Defer with One-vs-All Classifiers

Rajeev Verma · Eric Nalisnick

The learning to defer (L2D) framework has the potential to make AI systems safer. For a given input, the system can defer the decision to a human if the human is more likely than the model to take the correct action. We study the calibration of L2D systems, investigating if the probabilities they output are sound. We find that Mozannar & Sontag’s (2020) multiclass framework is not calibrated with respect to expert correctness. Moreover, it is not even guaranteed to produce valid probabilities due to its parameterization being degenerate for this purpose. We propose an L2D system based on one-vs-all classifiers that is able to produce calibrated probabilities of expert correctness. Furthermore, our loss function is also a consistent surrogate for multiclass L2D, like Mozannar & Sontag’s (2020). Our experiments verify that not only is our system calibrated, but this benefit comes at no cost to accuracy. Our model's accuracy is always comparable (and often superior) to Mozannar & Sontag’s (2020) model's in tasks ranging from hate speech detection to galaxy classification to diagnosis of skin lesions.

Tractable Uncertainty for Structure Learning

Benjie Wang · Matthew Wicker · Marta Kwiatkowska

Bayesian structure learning allows one to capture uncertainty over the causal directed acyclic graph (DAG) responsible for generating given data. In this work, we present Tractable Uncertainty for STructure learning (TRUST), a framework for approximate posterior inference that relies on probabilistic circuits as a representation of our posterior belief. In contrast to sample-based posterior approximations, our representation can capture a much richer space of DAGs, while being able to tractably answer a range of useful inference queries. We empirically demonstrate how probabilistic circuits can be used to as an augmented representation for structure learning methods, leading to improvement in both the quality of inferred structures and posterior uncertainty. Experimental results also demonstrate the improved representational capacity of TRUST, outperforming competing methods on conditional query answering.

Path-Gradient Estimators for Continuous Normalizing Flows

Lorenz Vaitl · Kim A. Nicoli · Shinichi Nakajima · Pan Kessel

Recent work has established a path-gradient estimator for simple variational Gaussian distributions and has argued that the path-gradient is particularly beneficial in the regime in which the variational distribution approaches the exact target distribution. In many applications, this regime can however not be reached by a simple Gaussian variational distribution. In this work, we overcome this crucial limitation by proposing a path-gradient estimator for the considerably more expressive variational family of continuous normalizing flows. We outline an efficient algorithm to calculate this estimator and establish its superior performance empirically.

Variational Feature Pyramid Networks


Recent architectures for object detection adopt a Feature Pyramid Network as a backbone for deep feature extraction. Many works focus on the design of pyramid networks which produce richer feature representations. In this work, we opt to learn a dataset-specific architecture for Feature Pyramid Networks. With the proposed method, the network fuses features at multiple scales, it is efficient in terms of parameters and operations, and yields better results across a variety of tasks and datasets. Starting by a complex network, we adopt Variational Inference to prune redundant connections. Our model, integrated with standard detectors, outperforms the state-of-the-art feature fusion networks.

Additive Gaussian Processes Revisited

Xiaoyu Lu · Alexis Boukouvalas · James Hensman

Gaussian Process (GP) models are a class of flexible non-parametric models that have rich representational power. By using a Gaussian process with additive structure, complex responses can be modelled whilst retaining interpretability. Previous work showed that additive Gaussian process models require high-dimensional interaction terms. We propose the orthogonal additive kernel (OAK), which imposes an orthogonality constraint on the additive functions, enabling an identifiable, low-dimensional representation of the functional relationship. We connect the OAK kernel to functional ANOVA decomposition, and show improved convergence rates for sparse computation methods. With only a small number of additive low-dimensional terms, we demonstrate the OAK model achieves similar or better predictive performance compared to black-box models, while retaining interpretability.

Probabilistic ODE Solutions in Millions of Dimensions

Nicholas Krämer · Nathanael Bosch · Jonathan Schmidt · Philipp Hennig

Probabilistic solvers for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) have emerged as an efficient framework for uncertainty quantification and inference on dynamical systems. In this work, we explain the mathematical assumptions and detailed implementation schemes behind solving high-dimensional ODEs with a probabilistic numerical algorithm. This has not been possible before due to matrix-matrix operations in each solver step, but is crucial for scientifically relevant problems---most importantly, the solution of discretised partial differential equations. In a nutshell, efficient high-dimensional probabilistic ODE solutions build either on independence assumptions or on Kronecker structure in the prior model. We evaluate the resulting efficiency on a range of problems, including the probabilistic numerical simulation of a differential equation with millions of dimensions.

Adaptive Gaussian Process Change Point Detection

Edoardo Caldarelli · Philippe Wenk · Stefan Bauer · Andreas Krause

Detecting change points in time series, i.e., points in time at which some observed process suddenly changes, is a fundamental task that arises in many real-world applications, with consequences for safety and reliability. In this work, we propose ADAGA, a novel Gaussian process-based solution to this problem, that leverages a powerful heuristics we developed based on statistical hypothesis testing. In contrast to prior approaches, ADAGA adapts to changes both in mean and covariance structure of the temporal process. In extensive experiments, we show its versatility and applicability to different classes of change points, demonstrating that it is significantly more accurate than current state-of-the-art alternatives.

Volatility Based Kernels and Moving Average Means for Accurate Forecasting with Gaussian Processes

Gregory Benton · Wesley Maddox · Andrew Wilson

A broad class of stochastic volatility models are defined by systems of stochastic differential equations, and while these models have seen widespread success in domains such as finance and statistical climatology, they typically lack an ability to condition on historical data to produce a true posterior distribution. To address this fundamental limitation, we show how to re-cast a class of stochastic volatility models as a hierarchical Gaussian process (GP) model with specialized covariance functions. This GP model retains the inductive biases of the stochastic volatility model while providing the posterior predictive distribution given by GP inference. Within this framework, we take inspiration from well studied domains to introduce a new class of models, Volt and Magpie, that significantly outperform baselines in stock and wind speed forecasting, and naturally extend to the multitask setting.

Fenrir: Physics-Enhanced Regression for Initial Value Problems

Filip Tronarp · Nathanael Bosch · Philipp Hennig

We show how probabilistic numerics can be used to convert an initial value problem into a Gauss--Markov process parametrised by the dynamics of the initial value problem. Consequently, the often difficult problem of parameter estimation in ordinary differential equations is reduced to hyper-parameter estimation in Gauss--Markov regression, which tends to be considerably easier. The method's relation and benefits in comparison to classical numerical integration and gradient matching approaches is elucidated. In particular, the method can, in contrast to gradient matching, handle partial observations, and has certain routes for escaping local optima not available to classical numerical integration. Experimental results demonstrate that the method is on par or moderately better than competing approaches.

Variational nearest neighbor Gaussian process

Luhuan Wu · Geoff Pleiss · John Cunningham

Variational approximations to Gaussian processes (GPs) typically use a small set of inducing points to form a low-rank approximation to the covariance matrix. In this work, we instead exploit a sparse approximation of the precision matrix. We propose variational nearest neighbor Gaussian process (VNNGP), which introduces a prior that only retains correlations within $K$ nearest-neighboring observations, thereby inducing sparse precision structure. Using the variational framework, VNNGP's objective can be factorized over both observations and inducing points, enabling stochastic optimization with a time complexity of $O(K^3)$. Hence, we can arbitrarily scale the inducing point size, even to the point of putting inducing points at every observed location. We compare VNNGP to other scalable GPs through various experiments, and demonstrate that VNNGP (1) can dramatically outperform low-rank methods, and (2) is less prone to overfitting than other nearest neighbor methods.

Preconditioning for Scalable Gaussian Process Hyperparameter Optimization

Jonathan Wenger · Geoff Pleiss · Philipp Hennig · John Cunningham · Jacob Gardner

Gaussian process hyperparameter optimization requires linear solves with, and log-determinants of, large kernel matrices. Iterative numerical techniques are becoming popular to scale to larger datasets, relying on the conjugate gradient method (CG) for the linear solves and stochastic trace estimation for the log-determinant. This work introduces new algorithmic and theoretical insights for preconditioning these computations. While preconditioning is well understood in the context of CG, we demonstrate that it can also accelerate convergence and reduce variance of the estimates for the log-determinant and its derivative. We prove general probabilistic error bounds for the preconditioned computation of the log-determinant, log-marginal likelihood and its derivatives. Additionally, we derive specific rates for a range of kernel-preconditioner combinations, showing that up to exponential convergence can be achieved. Our theoretical results enable provably efficient optimization of kernel hyperparameters, which we validate empirically on large-scale benchmark problems. There our approach accelerates training by up to an order of magnitude.

Spectral Representation of Robustness Measures for Optimization Under Input Uncertainty

Jixiang Qing · Tom Dhaene · Ivo Couckuyt

We study the inference of mean-variance robustness measures to quantify input uncertainty under the Gaussian Process (GP) framework. These measures are widely used in applications where the robustness of the solution is of interest, for example, in engineering design. While the variance is commonly used to characterize the robustness, Bayesian inference of the variance using GPs is known to be challenging. In this paper, we propose a Spectral Representation of Robustness Measures based on the GP's spectral representation, i.e., an analytical approach to approximately infer both robustness measures for normal and uniform input uncertainty distributions. We present two approximations based on different Fourier features and compare their accuracy numerically. To demonstrate their utility and efficacy in robust Bayesian Optimization, we integrate the analytical robustness measures in three standard acquisition functions for various robust optimization formulations. We show their competitive performance on numerical benchmarks and real-life applications.

Bayesian Optimization under Stochastic Delayed Feedback

Arun Verma · Zhongxiang Dai · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low

Bayesian optimization (BO) is a widely-used sequential method for zeroth-order optimization of complex and expensive-to-compute black-box functions. The existing BO methods assume that the function evaluation (feedback) is available to the learner immediately or after a fixed delay. Such assumptions may not be practical in many real-life problems like online recommendations, clinical trials, and hyperparameter tuning where feedback is available after a random delay. To benefit from the experimental parallelization in these problems, the learner needs to start new function evaluations without waiting for delayed feedback. In this paper, we consider the BO under stochastic delayed feedback problem. We propose algorithms with sub-linear regret guarantees that efficiently address the dilemma of selecting new function queries while waiting for randomly delayed feedback. Building on our results, we also make novel contributions to batch BO and contextual Gaussian process bandits. Experiments on synthetic and real-life datasets verify the performance of our algorithms.

Bayesian Optimization for Distributionally Robust Chance-constrained Problem

Yu Inatsu · Shion Takeno · Masayuki Karasuyama · Ichiro Takeuchi

In black-box function optimization, we need to consider not only controllable design variables but also uncontrollable stochastic environment variables. In such cases, it is necessary to solve the optimization problem by taking into account the uncertainty of the environmental variables. Chance-constrained (CC) problem, the problem of maximizing the expected value under a certain level of constraint satisfaction probability, is one of the practically important problems in the presence of environmental variables. In this study, we consider distributionally robust CC (DRCC) problem and propose a novel DRCC Bayesian optimization method for the case where the distribution of the environmental variables cannot be precisely specified. We show that the proposed method can find an arbitrary accurate solution with high probability in a finite number of trials, and confirm the usefulness of the proposed method through numerical experiments.

Efficient Distributionally Robust Bayesian Optimization with Worst-case Sensitivity

Sebastian Tay · Chuan Sheng Foo · Urano Daisuke · Richalynn Leong · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low

In distributionally robust Bayesian optimization (DRBO), an exact computation of the worst-case expected value requires solving an expensive convex optimization problem. We develop a fast approximation of the worst-case expected value based on the notion of worst-case sensitivity that caters to arbitrary convex distribution distances. We provide a regret bound for our novel DRBO algorithm with the fast approximation, and empirically show it is competitive with that using the exact worst-case expected value while incurring significantly less computation time. In order to guide the choice of distribution distance to be used with DRBO, we show that our approximation implicitly optimizes an objective close to an interpretable risk-sensitive value.

Improved Convergence Rates for Sparse Approximation Methods in Kernel-Based Learning

Sattar Vakili · Jonathan Scarlett · Da-shan Shiu · Alberto Bernacchia

Kernel-based models such as kernel ridge regression and Gaussian processes are ubiquitous in machine learning applications for regression and optimization. It is well known that a major downside for kernel-based models is the high computational cost; given a dataset of $n$ samples, the cost grows as $\mathcal{O}(n^3)$. Existing sparse approximation methods can yield a significant reduction in the computational cost, effectively reducing the actual cost down to as low as $\mathcal{O}(n)$ in certain cases. Despite this remarkable empirical success, significant gaps remain in the existing results for the analytical bounds on the error due to approximation. In this work, we provide novel confidence intervals for the Nystr\"om method and the sparse variational Gaussian process approximation method, which we establish using novel interpretations of the approximate (surrogate) posterior variance of the models. Our confidence intervals lead to improved performance bounds in both regression and optimization problems.

Scalable First-Order Bayesian Optimization via Structured Automatic Differentiation

Sebastian Ament · Carla Gomes

Bayesian Optimization (BO) has shown great promise for the global optimization of functions that are expensive to evaluate, but despite many successes, standard approaches can struggle in high dimensions. To improve the performance of BO, prior work suggested incorporating gradient information into a Gaussian process surrogate of the objective, giving rise to kernel matrices of size $nd$ × $nd$ for $n$ observations in $d$ dimensions. Naïvely multiplying with (resp. inverting) these matrices requires $O(n^2d^2)$ (resp. $O(n^3d^3)$) operations, which becomes infeasible for moderate dimensions and sample sizes. Here, we observe that a wide range of kernels gives rise to structured matrices, enabling an exact $O(n^2d)$ matrix-vector multiply for gradient observations and $O(n^2d^2)$ for Hessian observations. Beyond canonical kernel classes, we derive a programmatic approach to leveraging this type of structure for transformations and combinations of the discussed kernel classes, which constitutes a structure-aware automatic differentiation algorithm. Our methods apply to virtually all canonical kernels and automatically extend to complex kernels, like the neural network, radial basis function network, and spectral mixture kernels without any additional derivations, enabling flexible, problem-dependent modeling while scaling first-order BO to high $d$.

Scalable MCMC Sampling for Nonsymmetric Determinantal Point Processes

Insu Han · Mike Gartrell · Elvis Dohmatob · Amin Karbasi

A determinantal point process (DPP) is an elegant model that assigns a probability to every subset of a collection of $n$ items. While conventionally a DPP is parameterized by a symmetric kernel matrix, removing this symmetry constraint, resulting in nonsymmetric DPPs (NDPPs), leads to significant improvements in modeling power and predictive performance. Recent work has studied an approximate Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling algorithm for NDPPs restricted to size-$k$ subsets (called $k$-NDPPs). However, the runtime of this approach is quadratic in $n$, making it infeasible for large-scale settings. In this work, we develop a scalable MCMC sampling algorithm for $k$-NDPPs with low-rank kernels, thus enabling runtime that is sublinear in $n$. Our method is based on a state-of-the-art NDPP rejection sampling algorithm, which we enhance with a novel approach for efficiently constructing the proposal distribution. Furthermore, we extend our scalable $k$-NDPP sampling algorithm to NDPPs without size constraints. Our resulting sampling method has polynomial time complexity in the rank of the kernel, while the existing approach has runtime that is exponential in the rank. With both a theoretical analysis and experiments on real-world datasets, we verify that our scalable approximate sampling algorithms are orders of magnitude faster than existing sampling approaches for $k$-NDPPs and NDPPs.

Robust SDE-Based Variational Formulations for Solving Linear PDEs via Deep Learning

Lorenz Richter · Julius Berner

The combination of Monte Carlo methods and deep learning has recently led to efficient algorithms for solving partial differential equations (PDEs) in high dimensions. Related learning problems are often stated as variational formulations based on associated stochastic differential equations (SDEs), which allow the minimization of corresponding losses using gradient-based optimization methods. In respective numerical implementations it is therefore crucial to rely on adequate gradient estimators that exhibit low variance in order to reach convergence accurately and swiftly. In this article, we rigorously investigate corresponding numerical aspects that appear in the context of linear Kolmogorov PDEs. In particular, we systematically compare existing deep learning approaches and provide theoretical explanations for their performances. Subsequently, we suggest novel methods that can be shown to be more robust both theoretically and numerically, leading to substantial performance improvements.

Hessian-Free High-Resolution Nesterov Acceleration For Sampling

Ruilin Li · Hongyuan Zha · Molei Tao

Nesterov's Accelerated Gradient (NAG) for optimization has better performance than its continuous time limit (noiseless kinetic Langevin) when a finite step-size is employed (Shi et al., 2021). This work explores the sampling counterpart of this phenonemon and proposes a diffusion process, whose discretizations can yield accelerated gradient-based MCMC methods. More precisely, we reformulate the optimizer of NAG for strongly convex functions (NAG-SC) as a Hessian-Free High-Resolution ODE, change its high-resolution coefficient to a hyperparameter, inject appropriate noise, and discretize the resulting diffusion process. The acceleration effect of the new hyperparameter is quantified and it is not an artificial one created by time-rescaling. Instead, acceleration beyond underdamped Langevin in $W_2$ distance is quantitatively established for log-strongly-concave-and-smooth targets, at both the continuous dynamics level and the discrete algorithm level. Empirical experiments in both log-strongly-concave and multi-modal cases also numerically demonstrate this acceleration.

LSB: Local Self-Balancing MCMC in Discrete Spaces


We present the Local Self-Balancing sampler (LSB), a local Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method for sampling in purely discrete domains, which is able to autonomously adapt to the target distribution and to reduce the number of target evaluations required to converge. LSB is based on (i) a parametrization of locally balanced proposals, (ii) an objective function based on mutual information and (iii) a self-balancing learning procedure, which minimises the proposed objective to update the proposal parameters. Experiments on energy-based models and Markov networks show that LSB converges using a smaller number of queries to the oracle distribution compared to recent local MCMC samplers.

A Langevin-like Sampler for Discrete Distributions

Ruqi Zhang · Xingchao Liu · Qiang Liu

We propose discrete Langevin proposal (DLP), a simple and scalable gradient-basedproposal for sampling complex high-dimensional discrete distributions. In contrast to Gibbs sampling-based methods, DLP is able to update all coordinates in parallel in a single step and the magnitude of changes is controlled by a stepsize. This allows a cheap and efficient exploration in the space of high-dimensional and strongly correlated variables. We prove the efficiency of DLP by showing that the asymptotic bias of its stationary distribution is zero for log-quadratic distributions, and is small for distributions that are close to being log-quadratic. With DLP, we develop several variants of sampling algorithms, including unadjusted, Metropolis-adjusted, stochastic and preconditioned versions. DLP outperforms many popular alternatives on a wide variety of tasks, including Ising models, restricted Boltzmann machines, deep energy-based models, binary neural networks and language generation.

Scalable Spike-and-Slab

Niloy Biswas · Lester Mackey · Xiao-Li Meng

Spike-and-slab priors are commonly used for Bayesian variable selection, due to their interpretability and favorable statistical properties. However, existing samplers for spike-and-slab posteriors incur prohibitive computational costs when the number of variables is large. In this article, we propose Scalable Spike-and-Slab (S^3), a scalable Gibbs sampling implementation for high-dimensional Bayesian regression with the continuous spike-and-slab prior of George & McCulloch (1993). For a dataset with n observations and p covariates, S^3 has order max{n^2 pt, np} computational cost at iteration t where pt never exceeds the number of covariates switching spike-and-slab states between iterations t and t-1 of the Markov chain. This improves upon the order n^2 p per-iteration cost of state-of-the-art implementations as, typically, p_t is substantially smaller than p. We apply S^3 on synthetic and real-world datasets, demonstrating orders of magnitude speed-ups over existing exact samplers and significant gains in inferential quality over approximate samplers with comparable cost.

Nonparametric Involutive Markov Chain Monte Carlo

Carol Mak · Fabian Zaiser · Luke Ong

A challenging problem in probabilistic programming is to develop inference algorithms that work for arbitrary programs in a universal probabilistic programming language (PPL). We present the nonparametric involutive Markov chain Monte Carlo (NP-iMCMC) algorithm as a method for constructing MCMC inference algorithms for nonparametric models expressible in universal PPLs. Building on the unifying involutive MCMC framework, and by providing a general procedure for driving state movement between dimensions, we show that NP-iMCMC can generalise numerous existing iMCMC algorithms to work on nonparametric models. We prove the correctness of the NP-iMCMC sampler. Our empirical study shows that the existing strengths of several iMCMC algorithms carry over to their nonparametric extensions. Applying our method to the recently proposed Nonparametric HMC, an instance of (Multiple Step) NP-iMCMC, we have constructed several nonparametric extensions (all of which new) that exhibit significant performance improvements.

Continual Repeated Annealed Flow Transport Monte Carlo

Alexander Matthews · Michael Arbel · Danilo J. Rezende · Arnaud Doucet

We propose Continual Repeated Annealed Flow Transport Monte Carlo (CRAFT), a method that combines a sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) sampler (itself a generalization of Annealed Importance Sampling) with variational inference using normalizing flows. The normalizing flows are directly trained to transport between annealing temperatures using a KL divergence for each transition. This optimization objective is itself estimated using the normalizing flow/SMC approximation. We show conceptually and using multiple empirical examples that CRAFT improves on Annealed Flow Transport Monte Carlo (Arbel et al., 2021), on which it builds and also on Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) based Stochastic Normalizing Flows (Wu et al., 2020). By incorporating CRAFT within particle MCMC, we show that such learnt samplers can achieve impressively accurate results on a challenging lattice field theory example.

Algorithms for the Communication of Samples

Lucas Theis · Nour Ahmed

The efficient communication of noisy data has applications in several areas of machine learning, such as neural compression or differential privacy, and is also known as reverse channel coding or the channel simulation problem. Here we propose two new coding schemes with practical advantages over existing approaches. First, we introduce ordered random coding (ORC) which uses a simple trick to reduce the coding cost of previous approaches. This scheme further illuminates a connection between schemes based on importance sampling and the so-called Poisson functional representation. Second, we describe a hybrid coding scheme which uses dithered quantization to more efficiently communicate samples from distributions with bounded support.

Low-Precision Stochastic Gradient Langevin Dynamics

Ruqi Zhang · Andrew Wilson · Christopher De Sa

While low-precision optimization has been widely used to accelerate deep learning, low-precision sampling remains largely unexplored. As a consequence, sampling is simply infeasible in many large-scale scenarios, despite providing remarkable benefits to generalization and uncertainty estimation for neural networks. In this paper, we provide the first study of low-precision Stochastic Gradient Langevin Dynamics (SGLD), showing that its costs can be significantly reduced without sacrificing performance, due to its intrinsic ability to handle system noise. We prove that the convergence of low-precision SGLD with full-precision gradient accumulators is less affected by the quantization error than its SGD counterpart in the strongly convex setting. To further enable low-precision gradient accumulators, we develop a new quantization function for SGLD that preserves the variance in each update step. We demonstrate that low-precision SGLD achieves comparable performance to full-precision SGLD with only 8 bits on a variety of deep learning tasks.

Fast Relative Entropy Coding with A* coding

Gergely Flamich · Stratis Markou · Jose Miguel Hernandez-Lobato

Relative entropy coding (REC) algorithms encode a sample from a target distribution Q using a proposal distribution P, such that the expected codelength is O(KL[Q || P]). REC can be seamlessly integrated with existing learned compression models since, unlike entropy coding, it does not assume discrete Q or P, and does not require quantisation. However, general REC algorithms require an intractable Ω(exp(KL[Q || P])) runtime. We introduce AS* and AD* coding, two REC algorithms based on A* sampling. We prove that, for continuous distributions over the reals, if the density ratio is unimodal, AS* has O(D∞[Q || P]) expected runtime, where D∞[Q || P] is the Renyi ∞-divergence. We provide experimental evidence that AD* also has O(D∞[Q || P]) expected runtime. We prove that AS* and AD* achieve an expected codelength of O(KL[Q || P]). Further, we introduce DAD, an approximate algorithm based on AD which retains its favourable runtime and has bias similar to that of alternative methods. Focusing on VAEs, we propose the IsoKL VAE (IKVAE), which can be used with DAD* to further improve compression efficiency. We evaluate A* coding with (IK)VAEs on MNIST, showing that it can losslessly compress images near the theoretically optimal limit.

Accurate Quantization of Measures via Interacting Particle-based Optimization

Lantian Xu · Anna Korba · Dejan Slepcev

Approximating a target probability distribution can be cast as an optimization problem where the objective functional measures the dissimilarityto the target. This optimization can be addressed by approximating Wasserstein and related gradient flows. In practice, these are simulated by interacting particle systems, whose stationary states define an empirical measure approximating the target distribution. This approach has been popularized recently to design sampling algorithms, e.g. Stein Variational Gradient Descent, or by minimizing the Maximum Mean or Kernel Stein Discrepancy. However, little is known about quantization properties of these approaches, i.e. how well is the target approximated by a finite number particles.We investigate this question theoretically and numerically. In particular, we prove general upper bounds on the quantization error of MMD and KSD at rates which significantly outperform quantization by i.i.d. samples. We conduct experiments which show that the particle systems at study achieve fast rates in practice, and notably outperform greedy algorithms, such as kernel herding. We compare different gradient flows and highlight their quantization rates. Furthermore we introduce a Normalized Stein Variational Gradient Descent and argue in favor of adaptive kernels, which exhibit faster convergence. Finally we compare the Gaussian and Laplace kernels and argue that the Laplace kernel provides a more robust quantization.

Dynamic Regret of Online Markov Decision Processes

Peng Zhao · Long-Fei Li · Zhi-Hua Zhou

We investigate online Markov Decision Processes~(MDPs) with adversarially changing loss functions and known transitions. We choose \emph{dynamic regret} as the performance measure, defined as the performance difference between the learner and any sequence of feasible \emph{changing} policies. The measure is strictly stronger than the standard static regret that benchmarks the learner's performance with a fixed compared policy. We consider three foundational models of online MDPs, including episodic loop-free Stochastic Shortest Path (SSP), episodic SSP, and infinite-horizon MDPs. For the three models, we propose novel online ensemble algorithms and establish their dynamic regret guarantees respectively, in which the results for episodic (loop-free) SSP are provably minimax optimal in terms of time horizon and certain non-stationarity measure.

On the Impossibility of Learning to Cooperate with Adaptive Partner Strategies in Repeated Games

Robert Loftin · Frans Oliehoek

Learning to cooperate with other agents is challenging when those agents also possess the ability to adapt to our own behavior. Practical and theoretical approaches to learning in cooperative settings typically assume that other agents' behaviors are stationary, or else make very specific assumptions about other agents' learning processes. The goal of this work is to understand whether we can reliably learn to cooperate with other agents without such restrictive assumptions, which are unlikely to hold in real-world applications. Our main contribution is a set of impossibility results, which show that no learning algorithm can reliably learn to cooperate with all possible adaptive partners in a repeated matrix game, even if that partner is guaranteed to cooperate with some stationary strategy. Motivated by these results, we then discuss potential alternative assumptions which capture the idea that an adaptive partner will only adapt rationally to our behavior.

Distributional Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman Equations for Continuous-Time Reinforcement Learning

Harley Wiltzer · David Meger · Marc Bellemare

Continuous-time reinforcement learning offers an appealing formalism for describing control problems in which the passage of time is not naturally divided into discrete increments.Here we consider the problem of predicting the distribution of returns obtained by an agent interacting in a continuous-time, stochastic environment. Accurate return predictions have proven useful for determining optimal policies for risk-sensitive control, learning state representations, multiagent coordination, and more.We begin by establishing the distributional analogue of the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation for Ito diffusions and the broader class of Feller-Dynkin processes.We then specialize this equation to the setting in which the return distribution is approximated by N uniformly-weighted particles, a common design choice in distributional algorithms.Our derivation highlights additional terms due to statistical diffusivity which arise from the proper handling of distributions in the continuous-time setting. Based on this, we propose a tractable algorithm for approximately solving the distributional HJB based on a JKO scheme, which can be implemented in an online, control algorithm. We demonstrate the effectiveness of such an algorithm in a synthetic control problem.

Provable Reinforcement Learning with a Short-Term Memory

Yonathan Efroni · Chi Jin · Akshay Krishnamurthy · Sobhan Miryoosefi

Real-world sequential decision making problems commonly involve partial observability, which requires the agent to maintain a memory of history in order to infer the latent states, plan and make good decisions. Coping with partial observability in general is extremely challenging, as a number of worst-case statistical and computational barriers are known in learning Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes (POMDPs). Motivated by the problem structure in several physical applications, as well as a commonly used technique known as "frame stacking", this paper proposes to study a new subclass of POMDPs, whose latent states can be decoded by the most recent history of a short length m. We establish a set of upper and lower bounds on the sample complexity for learning near-optimal policies for this class of problems in both tabular and rich-observation settings (where the number of observations is enormous). In particular, in the rich-observation setting, we develop new algorithms using a novel "moment matching" approach with a sample complexity that scales exponentially with the short length m rather than the problem horizon, and is independent of the number of observations. Our results show that a short-term memory suffices for reinforcement learning in these environments.

Optimistic Linear Support and Successor Features as a Basis for Optimal Policy Transfer

Lucas N. Alegre · Ana Lucia Cetertich Bazzan · Bruno C. da Silva

In many real-world applications, reinforcement learning (RL) agents might have to solve multiple tasks, each one typically modeled via a reward function. If reward functions are expressed linearly, and the agent has previously learned a set of policies for different tasks, successor features (SFs) can be exploited to combine such policies and identify reasonable solutions for new problems. However, the identified solutions are not guaranteed to be optimal. We introduce a novel algorithm that addresses this limitation. It allows RL agents to combine existing policies and directly identify optimal policies for arbitrary new problems, without requiring any further interactions with the environment. We first show (under mild assumptions) that the transfer learning problem tackled by SFs is equivalent to the problem of learning to optimize multiple objectives in RL. We then introduce an SF-based extension of the Optimistic Linear Support algorithm to learn a set of policies whose SFs form a convex coverage set. We prove that policies in this set can be combined via generalized policy improvement to construct optimal behaviors for any new linearly-expressible tasks, without requiring any additional training samples. We empirically show that our method outperforms state-of-the-art competing algorithms both in discrete and continuous domains under value function approximation.

Mirror Learning: A Unifying Framework of Policy Optimisation

Jakub Grudzien Kuba · Christian Schroeder de Witt · Jakob Foerster

Modern deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms are motivated by either the general policy improvement (GPI) or trust-region learning (TRL) frameworks. However, algorithms that strictly respect these theoretical frameworks have proven unscalable. Surprisingly, the only known scalable algorithms violate the GPI/TRL assumptions, e.g. due to required regularisation or other heuristics. The current explanation of their empirical success is essentially “by analogy”: they are deemed approximate adaptations of theoretically sound methods. Unfortunately, studies have shown that in practice these algorithms differ greatly from their conceptual ancestors. In contrast, in this paper, we introduce a novel theoretical framework, named Mirror Learning, which provides theoretical guarantees to a large class of algorithms, including TRPO and PPO. While the latter two exploit the flexibility of our framework, GPI and TRL fit in merely as pathologically restrictive corner cases thereof. This suggests that the empirical performance of state-of-the-art methods is a direct consequence of their theoretical properties, rather than of aforementioned approximate analogies. Mirror learning sets us free to boldly explore novel, theoretically sound RL algorithms, a thus far uncharted wonderland.

Improved No-Regret Algorithms for Stochastic Shortest Path with Linear MDP

Liyu Chen · Rahul Jain · Haipeng Luo

We introduce two new no-regret algorithms for the stochastic shortest path (SSP) problem with a linear MDP that significantly improve over the only existing results of (Vial et al., 2021).Our first algorithm is computationally efficient and achieves a regret bound $O(\sqrt{d^3B_{\star}^2T_{\star} K})$, where $d$ is the dimension of the feature space, $B_{\star}$ and $T_{\star}$ are upper bounds of the expected costs and hitting time of the optimal policy respectively, and $K$ is the number of episodes.The same algorithm with a slight modification also achieves logarithmic regret of order $O(\frac{d^3B_{\star}^4}{c_{\min}^2\text{\rm gap}_{\min} }\ln^5\frac{dB_{\star} K}{c_{\min}})$, where $\text{\rm gap}_{\min}$ is the minimum sub-optimality gap and $c_{\min}$ is the minimum cost over all state-action pairs.Our result is obtained by developing a simpler and improved analysis for the finite-horizon approximation of (Cohen et al., 2021) with a smaller approximation error, which might be of independent interest.On the other hand, using variance-aware confidence sets in a global optimization problem,our second algorithm is computationally inefficient but achieves the first ``horizon-free'' regret bound $O(d^{3.5}B_{\star}\sqrt{K})$ with no polynomial dependency on $T_{\star}$ or $1/c_{\min}$,almost matching the $\Omega(dB_{\star}\sqrt{K})$ lower bound from (Min et al., 2021).

Learning Infinite-horizon Average-reward Markov Decision Process with Constraints

Liyu Chen · Rahul Jain · Haipeng Luo

We study regret minimization for infinite-horizon average-reward Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) under cost constraints.We start by designing a policy optimization algorithm with carefully designed action-value estimator and bonus term,and show that for ergodic MDPs, our algorithm ensures $O(\sqrt{T})$ regret and constant constraint violation, where $T$ is the total number of time steps.This strictly improves over the algorithm of (Singh et al., 2020), whose regret and constraint violation are both $O(T^{2/3})$.Next, we consider the most general class of weakly communicating MDPs. Through a finite-horizon approximation, we develop another algorithm with $O(T^{2/3})$ regret and constraint violation, which can be further improved to $O(\sqrt{T})$ via a simple modification,albeit making the algorithm computationally inefficient.As far as we know, these are the first set of provable algorithms for weakly communicating MDPs with cost constraints.

A State-Distribution Matching Approach to Non-Episodic Reinforcement Learning

Archit Sharma · Rehaan Ahmad · Chelsea Finn

While reinforcement learning (RL) provides a framework for learning through trial and error, translating RL algorithms into the real world has remained challenging. A major hurdle to real-world application arises from the development of algorithms in an episodic setting where the environment is reset after every trial, in contrast with the continual and non-episodic nature of the real-world encountered by embodied agents such as humans and robots. Enabling agents to learn behaviors autonomously in such non-episodic environments requires that the agent to be able to conduct its own trials. Prior works have considered an alternating approach where a forward policy learns to solve the task and the backward policy learns to reset the environment, but what initial state distribution should the backward policy reset the agent to? Assuming access to a few demonstrations, we propose a new method, MEDAL, that trains the backward policy to match the state distribution in the provided demonstrations. This keeps the agent close to the task-relevant states, allowing for a mix of easy and difficult starting states for the forward policy. Our experiments show that MEDAL matches or outperforms prior methods on three sparse-reward continuous control tasks from the EARL benchmark, with 40% gains on the hardest task, while making fewer assumptions than prior works.

Langevin Monte Carlo for Contextual Bandits

Pan Xu · Hongkai Zheng · Eric Mazumdar · Kamyar Azizzadenesheli · Animashree Anandkumar

We study the efficiency of Thompson sampling for contextual bandits. Existing Thompson sampling-based algorithms need to construct a Laplace approximation (i.e., a Gaussian distribution) of the posterior distribution, which is inefficient to sample in high dimensional applications for general covariance matrices. Moreover, the Gaussian approximation may not be a good surrogate for the posterior distribution for general reward generating functions. We propose an efficient posterior sampling algorithm, viz., Langevin Monte Carlo Thompson Sampling (LMC-TS), that uses Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods to directly sample from the posterior distribution in contextual bandits. Our method is computationally efficient since it only needs to perform noisy gradient descent updates without constructing the Laplace approximation of the posterior distribution. We prove that the proposed algorithm achieves the same sublinear regret bound as the best Thompson sampling algorithms for a special case of contextual bandits, viz., linear contextual bandits. We conduct experiments on both synthetic data and real-world datasets on different contextual bandit models, which demonstrates that directly sampling from the posterior is both computationally efficient and competitive in performance.

Prompting Decision Transformer for Few-Shot Policy Generalization

Mengdi Xu · Yikang Shen · Shun Zhang · Yuchen Lu · Ding Zhao · Josh Tenenbaum · Chuang Gan

Human can leverage prior experience and learn novel tasks from a handful of demonstrations. In contrast to offline meta-reinforcement learning, which aims to achieve quick adaptation through better algorithm design, we investigate the effect of architecture inductive bias on the few-shot learning capability. We propose a Prompt-based Decision Transformer (Prompt-DT), which leverages the sequential modeling ability of the Transformer architecture and the prompt framework to achieve few-shot adaptation in offline RL. We design the trajectory prompt, which contains segments of the few-shot demonstrations, and encodes task-specific information to guide policy generation. Our experiments in five MuJoCo control benchmarks show that Prompt-DT is a strong few-shot learner without any extra finetuning on unseen target tasks. Prompt-DT outperforms its variants and strong meta offline RL baselines by a large margin with a trajectory prompt containing only a few timesteps. Prompt-DT is also robust to prompt length changes and can generalize to out-of-distribution (OOD) environments. Project page: \href{}{}.

Contrastive UCB: Provably Efficient Contrastive Self-Supervised Learning in Online Reinforcement Learning

Shuang Qiu · Lingxiao Wang · Chenjia Bai · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang

In view of its power in extracting feature representation, contrastive self-supervised learning has been successfully integrated into the practice of (deep) reinforcement learning (RL), leading to efficient policy learning on various applications. Despite its tremendous empirical successes, the understanding of contrastive learning for RL remains elusive. To narrow such a gap, we study contrastive-learning empowered RL for a class of Markov decision processes (MDPs) and Markov games (MGs) with low-rank transitions. For both models, we propose to extract the correct feature representations of the low-rank model by minimizing a contrastive loss. Moreover, under the online setting, we propose novel upper confidence bound (UCB)-type algorithms that incorporate such a contrastive loss with online RL algorithms for MDPs or MGs. We further theoretically prove that our algorithm recovers the true representations and simultaneously achieves sample efficiency in learning the optimal policy and Nash equilibrium in MDPs and MGs. We also provide empirical studies to demonstrate the efficacy of the UCB-based contrastive learning method for RL. To the best of our knowledge, we provide the first provably efficient online RL algorithm that incorporates contrastive learning for representation learning.

Human-in-the-loop: Provably Efficient Preference-based Reinforcement Learning with General Function Approximation

Xiaoyu Chen · Han Zhong · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang · Liwei Wang

We study human-in-the-loop reinforcement learning (RL) with trajectory preferences, where instead of receiving a numeric reward at each step, the RL agent only receives preferences over trajectory pairs from a human overseer. The goal of the RL agent is to learn the optimal policy which is most preferred by the human overseer. Despite the empirical success in various real-world applications, the theoretical understanding of preference-based RL (PbRL) is only limited to the tabular case. In this paper, we propose the first optimistic model-based algorithm for PbRL with general function approximation, which estimates the model using value-targeted regression and calculates the exploratory policies by solving an optimistic planning problem. We prove that our algorithm achieves the regret bound of $\tilde{O} (\operatorname{poly}(d H) \sqrt{K} )$, where $d$ is the complexity measure of the transition and preference model depending on the Eluder dimension and log-covering numbers, $H$ is the planning horizon, $K$ is the number of episodes, and $\tilde O(\cdot)$ omits logarithmic terms. Our lower bound indicates that our algorithm is near-optimal when specialized to the linear setting. Furthermore, we extend the PbRL problem by formulating a novel problem called RL with $n$-wise comparisons, and provide the first sample-efficient algorithm for this new setting. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first theoretical result for PbRL with (general) function approximation.

Align-RUDDER: Learning From Few Demonstrations by Reward Redistribution

Vihang Patil · Markus Hofmarcher · Marius-Constantin Dinu · Matthias Dorfer · Patrick Blies · Johannes Brandstetter · Jose A. Arjona-Medina · Sepp Hochreiter

Reinforcement learning algorithms require many samples when solving complex hierarchical tasks with sparse and delayed rewards. For such complex tasks, the recently proposed RUDDER uses reward redistribution to leverage steps in the Q-function that are associated with accomplishing sub-tasks. However, often only few episodes with high rewards are available as demonstrations since current exploration strategies cannot discover them in reasonable time. In this work, we introduce Align-RUDDER, which utilizes a profile model for reward redistribution that is obtained from multiple sequence alignment of demonstrations. Consequently, Align-RUDDER employs reward redistribution effectively and, thereby, drastically improves learning on few demonstrations. Align-RUDDER outperforms competitors on complex artificial tasks with delayed rewards and few demonstrations. On the Minecraft ObtainDiamond task, Align-RUDDER is able to mine a diamond, though not frequently. Code is available at

AnyMorph: Learning Transferable Polices By Inferring Agent Morphology

Brandon Trabucco · mariano phielipp · Glen Berseth

The prototypical approach to reinforcement learning involves training policies tailored to a particular agent from scratch for every new morphology.Recent work aims to eliminate the re-training of policies by investigating whether a morphology-agnostic policy, trained on a diverse set of agents with similar task objectives, can be transferred to new agents with unseen morphologies without re-training. This is a challenging problem that required previous approaches to use hand-designed descriptions of the new agent's morphology. Instead of hand-designing this description, we propose a data-driven method that learns a representation of morphology directly from the reinforcement learning objective.Ours is the first reinforcement learning algorithm that can train a policy to generalize tonew agent morphologies without requiring a description of the agent's morphology in advance. We evaluate our approach on the standard benchmark for agent-agnostic control, and improve over the current state of the art in zero-shot generalization to new agents. Importantly, our method attains good performance without an explicit description of morphology.

DreamerPro: Reconstruction-Free Model-Based Reinforcement Learning with Prototypical Representations

Fei Deng · Ingook Jang · Sungjin Ahn

Reconstruction-based Model-Based Reinforcement Learning (MBRL) agents, such as Dreamer, often fail to discard task-irrelevant visual distractions that are prevalent in natural scenes. In this paper, we propose a reconstruction-free MBRL agent, called DreamerPro, that can enhance robustness to distractions. Motivated by the recent success of prototypical representations, a non-contrastive self-supervised learning approach in computer vision, DreamerPro combines Dreamer with prototypes. In order for the prototypes to benefit temporal dynamics learning in MBRL, we propose to additionally learn the prototypes from the recurrent states of the world model, thereby distilling temporal structures from past observations and actions into the prototypes. Experiments on the DeepMind Control suite show that DreamerPro achieves better overall performance than state-of-the-art contrastive MBRL agents when there are complex background distractions, and maintains similar performance as Dreamer in standard tasks where contrastive MBRL agents can perform much worse.

Stabilizing Off-Policy Deep Reinforcement Learning from Pixels

Edoardo Cetin · Philip Ball · Stephen Roberts · Oya Celiktutan

Off-policy reinforcement learning (RL) from pixel observations is notoriously unstable. As a result, many successful algorithms must combine different domain-specific practices and auxiliary losses to learn meaningful behaviors in complex environments. In this work, we provide novel analysis demonstrating that these instabilities arise from performing temporal-difference learning with a convolutional encoder and low-magnitude rewards. We show that this new visual deadly triad causes unstable training and premature convergence to degenerate solutions, a phenomenon we name catastrophic self-overfitting. Based on our analysis, we propose A-LIX, a method providing adaptive regularization to the encoder's gradients that explicitly prevents the occurrence of catastrophic self-overfitting using a dual objective. By applying A-LIX, we significantly outperform the prior state-of-the-art on the DeepMind Control and Atari benchmarks without any data augmentation or auxiliary losses.

Influence-Augmented Local Simulators: a Scalable Solution for Fast Deep RL in Large Networked Systems

Miguel Suau · Jinke He · Matthijs T. J. Spaan · Frans Oliehoek

Learning effective policies for real-world problems is still an open challenge for the field of reinforcement learning (RL). The main limitation being the amount of data needed and the pace at which that data can be obtained. In this paper, we study how to build lightweight simulators of complicated systems that can run sufficiently fast for deep RL to be applicable. We focus on domains where agents interact with a reduced portion of a larger environment while still being affected by the global dynamics. Our method combines the use of local simulators with learned models that mimic the influence of the global system. The experiments reveal that incorporating this idea into the deep RL workflow can considerably accelerate the training process and presents several opportunities for the future.

CtrlFormer: Learning Transferable State Representation for Visual Control via Transformer

Yao Mu · Shoufa Chen · Mingyu Ding · Jianyu Chen · Runjian Chen · Ping Luo

Transformer has achieved great successes in learning vision and language representation, which is general across various downstream tasks. In visual control, learning transferable state representation that can transfer between different control tasks is important to reduce the training sample size. However, porting Transformer to sample-efficient visual control remains a challenging and unsolved problem.To this end, we propose a novel Control Transformer (CtrlFormer), possessing many appealing benefits that prior arts do not have. Firstly, CtrlFormer jointly learns self-attention mechanisms between visual tokens and policy tokens among different control tasks, where multitask representation can be learned and transferred without catastrophic forgetting. Secondly, we carefully design a contrastive reinforcement learning paradigm to train CtrlFormer, enabling it to achieve high sample efficiency, which is important in control problems. For example, in the DMControl benchmark, unlike recent advanced methods that failed by producing a zero score in the ``Cartpole'' task after transfer learning with 100k samples, CtrlFormer can achieve a state-of-the-art score with only 100k samples while maintaining the performance of previous tasks. The code and models are released in our project homepage.

Offline RL Policies Should Be Trained to be Adaptive

Dibya Ghosh · Anurag Ajay · Pulkit Agrawal · Sergey Levine

Offline RL algorithms must account for the fact that the dataset they are provided may leave many facets of the environment unknown. The most common way to approach this challenge is to employ pessimistic or conservative methods, which avoid behaviors that are too dissimilar from those in the training dataset. However, relying exclusively on conservatism has drawbacks: performance is sensitive to the exact degree of conservatism, and conservative objectives can recover highly suboptimal policies. In this work, we propose that offline RL methods should instead be adaptive in the presence of uncertainty. We show that acting optimally in offline RL in a Bayesian sense involves solving an implicit POMDP. As a result, optimal policies for offline RL must be adaptive, depending not just on the current state but rather all the transitions seen so far during evaluation. We present a model-free algorithm for approximating this optimal adaptive policy, and demonstrate the efficacy of learning such adaptive policies in offline RL benchmarks.

Lyapunov Density Models: Constraining Distribution Shift in Learning-Based Control

Katie Kang · Paula Gradu · Jason Choi · Michael Janner · Claire Tomlin · Sergey Levine

Learned models and policies can generalize effectively when evaluated within the distribution of the training data, but can produce unpredictable and erroneous outputs on out-of-distribution inputs. In order to avoid distribution shift when deploying learning-based control algorithms, we seek a mechanism to constrain the agent to states and actions that resemble those that the method was trained on. In control theory, Lyapunov stability and control-invariant sets allow us to make guarantees about controllers that stabilize the system around specific states, while in machine learning, density models allow us to estimate the training data distribution. Can we combine these two concepts, producing learning-based control algorithms that constrain the system to in-distribution states using only in-distribution actions? In this paper, we propose to do this by combining concepts from Lyapunov stability and density estimation, introducing Lyapunov density models: a generalization of control Lyapunov functions and density models that provides guarantees about an agent's ability to stay in-distribution over its entire trajectory.

PMIC: Improving Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning with Progressive Mutual Information Collaboration

Pengyi Li · Hongyao Tang · Tianpei Yang · Xiaotian Hao · Tong Sang · Yan Zheng · Jianye Hao · Matthew Taylor · Wenyuan Tao · Zhen Wang

Learning to collaborate is critical in Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL). Previous works promote collaboration by maximizing the correlation of agents’ behaviors, which is typically characterized by Mutual Information (MI) in different forms. However, we reveal sub-optimal collaborative behaviors also emerge with strong correlations, and simply maximizing the MI can, surprisingly, hinder the learning towards better collaboration. To address this issue, we propose a novel MARL framework, called Progressive Mutual Information Collaboration (PMIC), for more effective MI-driven collaboration. PMIC uses a new collaboration criterion measured by the MI between global states and joint actions. Based on this criterion, the key idea of PMIC is maximizing the MI associated with superior collaborative behaviors and minimizing the MI associated with inferior ones. The two MI objectives play complementary roles by facilitating better collaborations while avoiding falling into sub-optimal ones. Experiments on a wide range of MARL benchmarks show the superior performance of PMIC compared with other algorithms.

Supervised Off-Policy Ranking

Yue Jin · Yue Zhang · Tao Qin · Xudong Zhang · Jian Yuan · Houqiang Li · Tie-Yan Liu

Off-policy evaluation (OPE) is to evaluate a target policy with data generated by other policies. Most previous OPE methods focus on precisely estimating the true performance of a policy. We observe that in many applications, (1) the end goal of OPE is to compare two or multiple candidate policies and choose a good one, which is a much simpler task than precisely evaluating their true performance; and (2) there are usually multiple policies that have been deployed to serve users in real-world systems and thus the true performance of these policies can be known. Inspired by the two observations, in this work, we study a new problem, supervised off-policy ranking (SOPR), which aims to rank a set of target policies based on supervised learning by leveraging off-policy data and policies with known performance. We propose a method to solve SOPR, which learns a policy scoring model by minimizing a ranking loss of the training policies rather than estimating the precise policy performance. The scoring model in our method, a hierarchical Transformer based model, maps a set of state-action pairs to a score, where the state of each pair comes from the off-policy data and the action is taken by a target policy on the state in an offline manner. Extensive experiments on public datasets show that our method outperforms baseline methods in terms of rank correlation, regret value, and stability. Our code is publicly available at GitHub.

The Primacy Bias in Deep Reinforcement Learning

Evgenii Nikishin · Max Schwarzer · Pierluca D'Oro · Pierre-Luc Bacon · Aaron Courville

This work identifies a common flaw of deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms: a tendency to rely on early interactions and ignore useful evidence encountered later. Because of training on progressively growing datasets, deep RL agents incur a risk of overfitting to earlier experiences, negatively affecting the rest of the learning process. Inspired by cognitive science, we refer to this effect as the primacy bias. Through a series of experiments, we dissect the algorithmic aspects of deep RL that exacerbate this bias. We then propose a simple yet generally-applicable mechanism that tackles the primacy bias by periodically resetting a part of the agent. We apply this mechanism to algorithms in both discrete (Atari 100k) and continuous action (DeepMind Control Suite) domains, consistently improving their performance.

Regularizing a Model-based Policy Stationary Distribution to Stabilize Offline Reinforcement Learning

Shentao Yang · Yihao Feng · Shujian Zhang · Mingyuan Zhou

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) extends the paradigm of classical RL algorithms to purely learning from static datasets, without interacting with the underlying environment during the learning process. A key challenge of offline RL is the instability of policy training, caused by the mismatch between the distribution of the offline data and the undiscounted stationary state-action distribution of the learned policy. To avoid the detrimental impact of distribution mismatch, we regularize the undiscounted stationary distribution of the current policy towards the offline data during the policy optimization process. Further, we train a dynamics model to both implement this regularization and better estimate the stationary distribution of the current policy, reducing the error induced by distribution mismatch. On a wide range of continuous-control offline RL datasets, our method indicates competitive performance, which validates our algorithm. The code is publicly available.

Model-Free Opponent Shaping

Christopher Lu · Timon Willi · Christian Schroeder de Witt · Jakob Foerster

In general-sum games the interaction of self-interested learning agents commonly leads to collectively worst-case outcomes, such as defect-defect in the iterated prisoner's dilemma (IPD). To overcome this, some methods, such as Learning with Opponent-Learning Awareness (LOLA), directly shape the learning process of their opponents. However, these methods are myopic since only a small number of steps can be anticipated, are asymmetric since they treat other agents as naive learners, and require the use of higher-order derivatives, which are calculated through white-box access to an opponent's differentiable learning algorithm. To address these issues, we propose Model-Free Opponent Shaping (M-FOS). M-FOS learns in a meta-game in which each meta-step is an episode of the underlying game. The meta-state consists of the policies in the underlying game and the meta-policy produces a new policy to be used in the next episode. M-FOS then uses generic model-free optimisation methods to learn meta-policies that accomplish long-horizon opponent shaping. Empirically, M-FOS near-optimally exploits naive learners and other, more sophisticated algorithms from the literature. For example, to the best of our knowledge, it is the first method to learn the well-known ZD extortion strategy in the IPD. In the same settings, M-FOS leads to socially optimal outcomes under meta-self-play. Finally, we show that M-FOS can be scaled to high-dimensional settings.

Pessimism meets VCG: Learning Dynamic Mechanism Design via Offline Reinforcement Learning

Boxiang Lyu · Zhaoran Wang · Mladen Kolar · Zhuoran Yang

Dynamic mechanism design has garnered significant attention from both computer scientists and economists in recent years. By allowing agents to interact with the seller over multiple rounds, where agents’ reward functions may change with time and are state-dependent, the framework is able to model a rich class of real-world problems. In these works, the interaction between agents and sellers is often assumed to follow a Markov Decision Process (MDP). We focus on the setting where the reward and transition functions of such an MDP are not known a priori, and we are attempting to recover the optimal mechanism using an a priori collected data set. In the setting where the function approximation is employed to handle large state spaces, with only mild assumptions on the expressiveness of the function class, we are able to design a dynamic mechanism using offline reinforcement learning algorithms. Moreover, learned mechanisms approximately have three key desiderata: efficiency, individual rationality, and truthfulness. Our algorithm is based on the pessimism principle and only requires a mild assumption on the coverage of the offline data set. To the best of our knowledge, our work provides the first offline RL algorithm for dynamic mechanism design without assuming uniform coverage.

Efficient Model-based Multi-agent Reinforcement Learning via Optimistic Equilibrium Computation

Pier Giuseppe Sessa · Maryam Kamgarpour · Andreas Krause

We consider model-based multi-agent reinforcement learning, where the environment transition model is unknown and can only be learned via expensive interactions with the environment. We propose H-MARL (Hallucinated Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning), a novel sample-efficient algorithm that can efficiently balance exploration, i.e., learning about the environment, and exploitation, i.e., achieve good equilibrium performance in the underlying general-sum Markov game. H-MARL builds high-probability confidence intervals around the unknown transition model and sequentially updates them based on newly observed data. Using these, it constructs an optimistic hallucinated game for the agents for which equilibrium policies are computed at each round. We consider general statistical models (e.g., Gaussian processes, deep ensembles, etc.) and policy classes (e.g., deep neural networks), and theoretically analyze our approach by bounding the agents' dynamic regret. Moreover, we provide a convergence rate to the equilibria of the underlying Markov game. We demonstrate our approach experimentally on an autonomous driving simulation benchmark. H-MARL learns successful equilibrium policies after a few interactions with the environment and can significantly improve the performance compared to non-optimistic exploration methods.

Disentangling Sources of Risk for Distributional Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Kyunghwan Son · Junsu Kim · Sungsoo Ahn · Roben Delos Reyes · Yung Yi · Jinwoo Shin

In cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning, the outcomes of agent-wise policies are highly stochastic due to the two sources of risk: (a) random actions taken by teammates and (b) random transition and rewards. Although the two sources have very distinct characteristics, existing frameworks are insufficient to control the risk-sensitivity of agent-wise policies in a disentangled manner. To this end, we propose Disentangled RIsk-sensitive Multi-Agent reinforcement learning (DRIMA) to separately access the risk sources. For example, our framework allows an agent to be optimistic with respect to teammates (who can prosocially adapt) but more risk-neutral with respect to the environment (which does not adapt). Our experiments demonstrate that DRIMA significantly outperforms prior state-of-the-art methods across various scenarios in the StarCraft Multi-agent Challenge environment. Notably, DRIMA shows robust performance where prior methods learn only a highly suboptimal policy, regardless of reward shaping, exploration scheduling, and noisy (random or adversarial) agents.

Scalable Deep Reinforcement Learning Algorithms for Mean Field Games

Mathieu Lauriere · Sarah Perrin · Sertan Girgin · Paul Muller · Ayush Jain · Theophile Cabannes · Georgios Piliouras · Julien Perolat · Romuald Elie · Olivier Pietquin · Matthieu Geist

Mean Field Games (MFGs) have been introduced to efficiently approximate games with very large populations of strategic agents. Recently, the question of learning equilibria in MFGs has gained momentum, particularly using model-free reinforcement learning (RL) methods. One limiting factor to further scale up using RL is that existing algorithms to solve MFGs require the mixing of approximated quantities such as strategies or $q$-values. This is far from being trivial in the case of non-linear function approximation that enjoy good generalization properties, \textit{e.g.} neural networks. We propose two methods to address this shortcoming. The first one learns a mixed strategy from distillation of historical data into a neural network and is applied to the Fictitious Play algorithm. The second one is an online mixing method based on regularization that does not require memorizing historical data or previous estimates. It is used to extend Online Mirror Descent. We demonstrate numerically that these methods efficiently enable the use of Deep RL algorithms to solve various MFGs. In addition, we show that these methods outperform SotA baselines from the literature.

Revisiting Some Common Practices in Cooperative Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Wei Fu · Chao Yu · Zelai Xu · Jiaqi Yang · Yi Wu

Many advances in cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) are based on two common design principles: value decomposition and parameter sharing. A typical MARL algorithm of this fashion decomposes a centralized Q-function into local Q-networks with parameters shared across agents. Such an algorithmic paradigm enables centralized training and decentralized execution (CTDE) and leads to efficient learning in practice. Despite all the advantages, we revisit these two principles and show that in certain scenarios, e.g., environments with a highly multi-modal reward landscape, value decomposition, and parameter sharing can be problematic and lead to undesired outcomes. In contrast, policy gradient (PG) methods with individual policies provably converge to an optimal solution in these cases, which partially supports some recent empirical observations that PG can be effective in many MARL testbeds. Inspired by our theoretical analysis, we present practical suggestions on implementing multi-agent PG algorithms for either high rewards or diverse emergent behaviors and empirically validate our findings on a variety of domains, ranging from the simplified matrix and grid-world games to complex benchmarks such as StarCraft Multi-Agent Challenge and Google Research Football. We hope our insights could benefit the community towards developing more general and more powerful MARL algorithms.

Independent Policy Gradient for Large-Scale Markov Potential Games: Sharper Rates, Function Approximation, and Game-Agnostic Convergence

Dongsheng Ding · Chen-Yu Wei · Kaiqing Zhang · Mihailo Jovanovic

We examine global non-asymptotic convergence properties of policy gradient methods for multi-agent reinforcement learning (RL) problems in Markov potential games (MPGs). To learn a Nash equilibrium of an MPG in which the size of state space and/or the number of players can be very large, we propose new independent policy gradient algorithms that are run by all players in tandem. When there is no uncertainty in the gradient evaluation, we show that our algorithm finds an $\epsilon$-Nash equilibrium with $O(1/\epsilon^2)$ iteration complexity which does not explicitly depend on the state space size. When the exact gradient is not available, we establish $O(1/\epsilon^5)$ sample complexity bound in a potentially infinitely large state space for a sample-based algorithm that utilizes function approximation. Moreover, we identify a class of independent policy gradient algorithms that enjoy convergence for both zero-sum Markov games and Markov cooperative games with the players that are oblivious to the types of games being played. Finally, we provide computational experiments to corroborate the merits and the effectiveness of our theoretical developments.

Self-Organized Polynomial-Time Coordination Graphs

Qianlan Yang · Weijun Dong · Zhizhou Ren · Jianhao Wang · Tonghan Wang · Chongjie Zhang

Coordination graph is a promising approach to model agent collaboration in multi-agent reinforcement learning. It conducts a graph-based value factorization and induces explicit coordination among agents to complete complicated tasks. However, one critical challenge in this paradigm is the complexity of greedy action selection with respect to the factorized values. It refers to the decentralized constraint optimization problem (DCOP), which and whose constant-ratio approximation are NP-hard problems. To bypass this systematic hardness, this paper proposes a novel method, named Self-Organized Polynomial-time Coordination Graphs (SOP-CG), which uses structured graph classes to guarantee the accuracy and the computational efficiency of collaborated action selection. SOP-CG employs dynamic graph topology to ensure sufficient value function expressiveness. The graph selection is unified into an end-to-end learning paradigm. In experiments, we show that our approach learns succinct and well-adapted graph topologies, induces effective coordination, and improves performance across a variety of cooperative multi-agent tasks.

Individual Reward Assisted Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Li Wang · Yupeng Zhang · Yujing Hu · Weixun Wang · Chongjie Zhang · Yang Gao · Jianye Hao · Tangjie Lv · Changjie Fan

In many real-world multi-agent systems, the sparsity of team rewards often makes it difficult for an algorithm to successfully learn a cooperative team policy. At present, the common way for solving this problem is to design some dense individual rewards for the agents to guide the cooperation. However, most existing works utilize individual rewards in ways that do not always promote teamwork and sometimes are even counterproductive. In this paper, we propose \emph{Individual Reward Assisted Team Policy Learning} (IRAT), which learns two policies for each agent from the dense individual reward and the sparse team reward with discrepancy constraints for updating the two policies mutually. Experimental results in different scenarios, such as the Multi-Agent Particle Environment and the Google Research Football Environment, show that IRAT significantly outperforms the baseline methods and can greatly promote team policy learning without deviating from the original team objective, even when the individual rewards are misleading or conflict with the team rewards.

Generalized Beliefs for Cooperative AI

Darius Muglich · Luisa Zintgraf · Christian Schroeder de Witt · Shimon Whiteson · Jakob Foerster

Self-play is a common method for constructing solutions in Markov games that can yield optimal policies in collaborative settings. However, these policies often adopt highly-specialized conventions that make playing with a novel partner difficult. To address this, recent approaches rely on encoding symmetry and convention-awareness into policy training, but these require strong environmental assumptions and can complicate policy training. To overcome this, we propose moving the learning of conventions to the belief space. Specifically, we propose a belief learning paradigm that can maintain beliefs over rollouts of policies not seen at training time, and can thus decode and adapt to novel conventions at test time. We show how to leverage this belief model for both search and training of a best response over a pool of policies to greatly improve zero-shot coordination. We also show how our paradigm promotes explainability and interpretability of nuanced agent conventions.

Greedy when Sure and Conservative when Uncertain about the Opponents

Haobo Fu · Ye Tian · Hongxiang Yu · Weiming Liu · Shuang Wu · Jiechao Xiong · Ying Wen · Kai Li · Junliang Xing · Qiang Fu · Wei Yang

We develop a new approach, named Greedy when Sure and Conservative when Uncertain (GSCU), to competing online against unknown and nonstationary opponents. GSCU improves in four aspects: 1) introduces a novel way of learning opponent policy embeddings offline; 2) trains offline a single best response (conditional additionally on our opponent policy embedding) instead of a finite set of separate best responses against any opponent; 3) computes online a posterior of the current opponent policy embedding, without making the discrete and ineffective decision which type the current opponent belongs to; and 4) selects online between a real-time greedy policy and a fixed conservative policy via an adversarial bandit algorithm, gaining a theoretically better regret than adhering to either. Experimental studies on popular benchmarks demonstrate GSCU's superiority over the state-of-the-art methods. The code is available online at \url{}.

Deconfounded Value Decomposition for Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Jiahui Li · Kun Kuang · Baoxiang Wang · Furui Liu · Long Chen · Changjie Fan · Fei Wu · Jun Xiao

Value decomposition (VD) methods have been widely used in cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL), where credit assignment plays an important role in guiding the agents’ decentralized execution. In this paper, we investigate VD from a novel perspective of causal inference. We first show that the environment in existing VD methods is an unobserved confounder as the common cause factor of the global state and the joint value function, which leads to the confounding bias on learning credit assignment. We then present our approach, deconfounded value decomposition (DVD), which cuts off the backdoor confounding path from the global state to the joint value function. The cut is implemented by introducing the \textit{trajectory graph}, which depends only on the local trajectories, as a proxy confounder. DVD is general enough to be applied to various VD methods, and extensive experiments show that DVD can consistently achieve significant performance gains over different state-of-the-art VD methods on StarCraft II and MACO benchmarks.

Welfare Maximization in Competitive Equilibrium: Reinforcement Learning for Markov Exchange Economy

ZHIHAN LIU · Lu Miao · Zhaoran Wang · Michael Jordan · Zhuoran Yang

We study a bilevel economic system, which we refer to as a \emph{Markov exchange economy} (MEE), from the point of view of multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL). An MEE involves a central planner and a group of self-interested agents. The goal of the agents is to form a Competitive Equilibrium (CE), where each agent myopically maximizes her own utility at each step. The goal of the central planner is to steer the system so as to maximize social welfare, which is defined as the sum of the utilities of all agents.Working in a setting in which the utility function and the system dynamics are both unknown, we propose to find the socially optimal policy and the CE from data via both online and offline variants of MARL. Concretely, we first devise a novel suboptimality metric specifically tailored to MEE, such that minimizing such a metric certifies globally optimal policies for both the planner and the agents. Second, in the online setting, we propose an algorithm, dubbed as \texttt{MOLM}, which combines the optimism principle for exploration with subgame CE seeking.Our algorithm can readily incorporate general function approximation tools for handling large state spaces and achieves a sublinear regret. Finally, we adapt the algorithm to an offline setting based on the pessimism principle and establish an upper bound on the suboptimality.

Simplex Neural Population Learning: Any-Mixture Bayes-Optimality in Symmetric Zero-sum Games

Siqi Liu · Marc Lanctot · Luke Marris · Nicolas Heess

Learning to play optimally against any mixture over a diverse set of strategies is of important practical interests in competitive games. In this paper, we propose simplex-NeuPL that satisfies two desiderata simultaneously: i) learning a population of strategically diverse basis policies, represented by a single conditional network; ii) using the same network, learn best-responses to any mixture over the simplex of basis policies. We show that the resulting conditional policies incorporate prior information about their opponents effectively, enabling near optimal returns against arbitrary mixture policies in a game with tractable best-responses. We verify that such policies behave Bayes-optimally under uncertainty and offer insights in using this flexibility at test time. Finally, we offer evidence that learning best-responses to any mixture policies is an effective auxiliary task for strategic exploration, which, by itself, can lead to more performant populations.

Sample and Communication-Efficient Decentralized Actor-Critic Algorithms with Finite-Time Analysis

Ziyi Chen · Yi Zhou · Rong-Rong Chen · Shaofeng Zou

Actor-critic (AC) algorithms have been widely used in decentralized multi-agent systems to learn the optimal joint control policy. However, existing decentralized AC algorithms either need to share agents' sensitive information or lack communication-efficiency. In this work, we develop decentralized AC and natural AC (NAC) algorithms that avoid sharing agents' local information and are sample and communication-efficient. In both algorithms, agents share only noisy rewards and use mini-batch local policy gradient updates to ensure high sample and communication efficiency. Particularly for decentralized NAC, we develop a decentralized Markovian SGD algorithm with an adaptive mini-batch size to efficiently compute the natural policy gradient. Under Markovian sampling and linear function approximation, we prove that the proposed decentralized AC and NAC algorithms achieve the state-of-the-art sample complexities $\mathcal{O}(\epsilon^{-2}\ln\epsilon^{-1})$ and $\mathcal{O}(\epsilon^{-3}\ln\epsilon^{-1})$, respectively, and achieve an improved communication complexity $\mathcal{O}(\epsilon^{-1}\ln\epsilon^{-1})$. Numerical experiments demonstrate that the proposed algorithms achieve lower sample and communication complexities than the existing decentralized AC algorithms.

Differentially Private Approximate Quantiles

Haim Kaplan · Shachar Schnapp · Uri Stemmer

In this work we study the problem of differentially private (DP) quantiles, in which given dataset $X$ and quantiles $q_1, ..., q_m \in [0,1]$, we want to output $m$ quantile estimations which are as close as possible to the true quantiles and preserve DP. We describe a simple recursive DP algorithm, which we call Approximate Quantiles (AQ), for this task. We give a worst case upper bound on its error, and show that its error is much lower than of previous implementations on several different datasets. Furthermore, it gets this low error while running time two orders of magnitude faster that the best previous implementation.

Fairness Interventions as (Dis)Incentives for Strategic Manipulation

Xueru Zhang · Mahdi Khalili · Kun Jin · Parinaz Naghizadeh · Mingyan Liu

Although machine learning (ML) algorithms are widely used to make decisions about individuals in various domains, concerns have arisen that (1) these algorithms are vulnerable to strategic manipulation and "gaming the algorithm"; and (2) ML decisions may exhibit bias against certain social groups. Existing works have largely examined these as two separate issues, e.g., by focusing on building ML algorithms robust to strategic manipulation, or on training a fair ML algorithm. In this study, we set out to understand the impact they each have on the other, and examine how to characterize fair policies in the presence of strategic behavior. The strategic interaction between a decision maker and individuals (as decision takers) is modeled as a two-stage (Stackelberg) game; when designing an algorithm, the former anticipates the latter may manipulate their features in order to receive more favorable decisions. We analytically characterize the equilibrium strategies of both, and examine how the algorithms and their resulting fairness properties are affected when the decision maker is strategic (anticipates manipulation), as well as the impact of fairness interventions on equilibrium strategies. In particular, we identify conditions under which anticipation of strategic behavior may mitigate/exacerbate unfairness, and conditions under which fairness interventions can serve as (dis)incentives for strategic manipulation.

Robust Models Are More Interpretable Because Attributions Look Normal

Zifan Wang · Matt Fredrikson · Anupam Datta

Recent work has found that adversarially-robust deep networks used for image classification are more interpretable: their feature attributions tend to be sharper, and are more concentrated on the objects associated with the image’s ground- truth class. We show that smooth decision boundaries play an important role in this enhanced interpretability, as the model’s input gradients around data points will more closely align with boundaries’ normal vectors when they are smooth. Thus, because robust models have smoother boundaries, the results of gradient- based attribution methods, like Integrated Gradients and DeepLift, will capture more accurate information about nearby decision boundaries. This understanding of robust interpretability leads to our second contribution: boundary attributions, which aggregate information about the normal vectors of local decision bound- aries to explain a classification outcome. We show that by leveraging the key fac- tors underpinning robust interpretability, boundary attributions produce sharper, more concentrated visual explanations—even on non-robust models.

Sequential Covariate Shift Detection Using Classifier Two-Sample Tests

Sooyong Jang · Sangdon Park · Insup Lee · Osbert Bastani

A standard assumption in supervised learning is that the training data and test data are from the same distribution. However, this assumption often fails to hold in practice, which can cause the learned model to perform poorly. We consider the problem of detecting covariate shift, where the covariate distribution shifts but the conditional distribution of labels given covariates remains the same. This problem can naturally be solved using a two-sample test—i.e., test whether the current test distribution of covariates equals the training distribution of covariates. Our algorithm builds on classifier tests, which train a discriminator to distinguish train and test covariates, and then use the accuracy of this discriminator as a test statistic. A key challenge is that classifier tests assume given a fixed set of test covariates. In practice, test covariates often arrive sequentially over time—e.g., a self-driving car observes a stream of images while driving. Furthermore, covariate shift can occur multiple times—i.e., shift and then shift back later or gradually shift over time. To address these challenges, our algorithm trains the discriminator online. Additionally, it evaluates test accuracy using each new covariate before taking a gradient step; this strategy avoids constructing a held-out test set, which can improve sample efficiency. We prove that this optimization preserves the correctness—i.e., our algorithm achieves a desired bound on the false positive rate. In our experiments, we show that our algorithm efficiently detects covariate shifts on multiple datasets—ImageNet, IWildCam, and Py150.

A Joint Exponential Mechanism For Differentially Private Top-$k$

Jennifer Gillenwater · Matthew Joseph · andres munoz · Monica Ribero Diaz

We present a differentially private algorithm for releasing the sequence of $k$ elements with the highest counts from a data domain of $d$ elements. The algorithm is a "joint" instance of the exponential mechanism, and its output space consists of all $O(d^k)$ length-$k$ sequences. Our main contribution is a method to sample this exponential mechanism in time $O(dk\log(k) + d\log(d))$ and space $O(dk)$. Experiments show that this approach outperforms existing pure differential privacy methods and improves upon even approximate differential privacy methods for moderate $k$.

Transfer Learning In Differential Privacy's Hybrid-Model

Refael Kohen · Or Sheffet

The \emph{hybrid-model} (Avent et al 2017) in Differential Privacy is a an augmentation of the local-model where in addition to $N$ local-agents we are assisted by one special agent who is in fact a curator holding the sensitive details of $n$ additional individuals. Here we study the problem of machine learning in the hybrid-model where the $n$ individuals in the curator's dataset are drawn from a \emph{different} distribution than the one of the general population (the local-agents). We give a general scheme -- Subsample-Test-Reweigh -- for this \emph{transfer learning} problem, which reduces any curator-model learner to a learner in the hybrid-model using iterative subsampling and reweighing of the $n$ examples held by the curator based on a smooth variation (introduced by Bun et al 2020) of the Multiplicative-Weights algorithm. Our scheme has a sample complexity which relies on the $\chi^2$-divergence between the two distributions. We give worst-case analysis bounds on the sample complexity required for our private reduction. Aiming to reduce said sample complexity, we give two specific instances our sample complexity can be drastically reduced (one instance is analyzed mathematically, while the other - empirically) and pose several directions for follow-up work.

Robust Kernel Density Estimation with Median-of-Means principle

Pierre Humbert · Batiste Le Bars · Ludovic Minvielle

In this paper, we introduce a robust non-parametric density estimator combining the popular Kernel Density Estimation method and the Median-of-Means principle (MoM-KDE). This estimator is shown to achieve robustness for a large class of anomalous data, potentially adversarial. In particular, while previous works only prove consistency results under very specific contamination models, this work provides finite-sample high-probability error-bounds without any prior knowledge on the outliers. To highlight the robustness of our method, we introduce an influence function adapted to the considered OUI framework. Finally, we show that MoM-KDE achieves competitive results when compared with other robust kernel estimators, while having significantly lower computational complexity.

Bounding Training Data Reconstruction in Private (Deep) Learning

Chuan Guo · Brian Karrer · Kamalika Chaudhuri · Laurens van der Maaten

Differential privacy is widely accepted as the de facto method for preventing data leakage in ML, and conventional wisdom suggests that it offers strong protection against privacy attacks. However, existing semantic guarantees for DP focus on membership inference, which may overestimate the adversary's capabilities and is not applicable when membership status itself is non-sensitive. In this paper, we derive the first semantic guarantees for DP mechanisms against training data reconstruction attacks under a formal threat model. We show that two distinct privacy accounting methods---Renyi differential privacy and Fisher information leakage---both offer strong semantic protection against data reconstruction attacks.

Plug & Play Attacks: Towards Robust and Flexible Model Inversion Attacks

Lukas Struppek · Dominik Hintersdorf · Antonio De Almeida Correia · Antonia Adler · Kristian Kersting

Model inversion attacks (MIAs) aim to create synthetic images that reflect the class-wise characteristics from a target classifier's private training data by exploiting the model's learned knowledge. Previous research has developed generative MIAs that use generative adversarial networks (GANs) as image priors tailored to a specific target model. This makes the attacks time- and resource-consuming, inflexible, and susceptible to distributional shifts between datasets. To overcome these drawbacks, we present Plug & Play Attacks, which relax the dependency between the target model and image prior, and enable the use of a single GAN to attack a wide range of targets, requiring only minor adjustments to the attack. Moreover, we show that powerful MIAs are possible even with publicly available pre-trained GANs and under strong distributional shifts, for which previous approaches fail to produce meaningful results. Our extensive evaluation confirms the improved robustness and flexibility of Plug & Play Attacks and their ability to create high-quality images revealing sensitive class characteristics.

FriendlyCore: Practical Differentially Private Aggregation

Eliad Tsfadia · Edith Cohen · Haim Kaplan · Yishay Mansour · Uri Stemmer

Differentially private algorithms for common metric aggregation tasks, such as clustering or averaging, often have limited practicality due to their complexity or to the large number of data points that is required for accurate results.We propose a simple and practical tool $\mathsf{FriendlyCore}$ that takes a set of points ${\cal D}$ from an unrestricted (pseudo) metric space as input. When ${\cal D}$ has effective diameter $r$, $\mathsf{FriendlyCore}$ returns a ``stable'' subset ${\cal C} \subseteq {\cal D}$ that includes all points, except possibly few outliers, and is {\em guaranteed} to have diameter $r$. $\mathsf{FriendlyCore}$ can be used to preprocess the input before privately aggregating it, potentially simplifying the aggregation or boosting its accuracy. Surprisingly, $\mathsf{FriendlyCore}$ is light-weight with no dependence on the dimension. We empirically demonstrate its advantages in boosting the accuracy of mean estimation and clustering tasks such as $k$-means and $k$-GMM, outperforming tailored methods.

ViT-NeT: Interpretable Vision Transformers with Neural Tree Decoder

Sangwon Kim · Jaeyeal Nam · Byoung Chul Ko

Vision transformers (ViTs), which have demonstrated a state-of-the-art performance in image classification, can also visualize global interpretations through attention-based contributions. However, the complexity of the model makes it difficult to interpret the decision-making process, and the ambiguity of the attention maps can cause incorrect correlations between image patches. In this study, we propose a new ViT neural tree decoder (ViT-NeT). A ViT acts as a backbone, and to solve its limitations, the output contextual image patches are applied to the proposed NeT. The NeT aims to accurately classify fine-grained objects with similar inter-class correlations and different intra-class correlations. In addition, it describes the decision-making process through a tree structure and prototype and enables a visual interpretation of the results. The proposed ViT-NeT is designed to not only improve the classification performance but also provide a human-friendly interpretation, which is effective in resolving the trade-off between performance and interpretability. We compared the performance of ViT-NeT with other state-of-art methods using widely used fine-grained visual categorization benchmark datasets and experimentally proved that the proposed method is superior in terms of the classification performance and interpretability. The code and models are publicly available at

Fishing for User Data in Large-Batch Federated Learning via Gradient Magnification

Yuxin Wen · Jonas Geiping · Liam Fowl · Micah Goldblum · Tom Goldstein

Federated learning (FL) has rapidly risen in popularity due to its promise of privacy and efficiency. Previous works have exposed privacy vulnerabilities in the FL pipeline by recovering user data from gradient updates. However, existing attacks fail to address realistic settings because they either 1) require toy settings with very small batch sizes, or 2) require unrealistic and conspicuous architecture modifications. We introduce a new strategy that dramatically elevates existing attacks to operate on batches of arbitrarily large size, and without architectural modifications. Our model-agnostic strategy only requires modifications to the model parameters sent to the user, which is a realistic threat model in many scenarios. We demonstrate the strategy in challenging large-scale settings, obtaining high-fidelity data extraction in both cross-device and cross-silo federated learning. Code is available at

Public Data-Assisted Mirror Descent for Private Model Training

Ehsan Amid · Arun Ganesh · Rajiv Mathews · Swaroop Ramaswamy · Shuang Song · Thomas Steinke · Thomas Steinke · Vinith Suriyakumar · Om Thakkar · Abhradeep Guha Thakurta

In this paper, we revisit the problem of using in-distribution public data to improve the privacy/utility trade-offs for differentially private (DP) model training. (Here, public data refers to auxiliary data sets that have no privacy concerns.) We design a natural variant of DP mirror descent, where the DP gradients of the private/sensitive data act as the linear term, and the loss generated by the public data as the mirror map.We show that, for linear regression with feature vectors drawn from a non-isotropic sub-Gaussian distribution, our algorithm, PDA-DPMD (a variant of mirror descent), provides population risk guarantees that are asymptotically better than the best known guarantees under DP (without having access to public data), when the number of public data samples is sufficiently large. We further show that our algorithm has natural ``noise stability'' properties that control the variance due to noise added to ensure DP.We demonstrate the efficacy of our algorithm by showing privacy/utility trade-offs on four benchmark datasets (StackOverflow, WikiText-2, CIFAR-10, and EMNIST). We show that our algorithm not only significantly improves over traditional DP-SGD, which does not have access to public data, but to our knowledge is the first to improve over DP-SGD on models that have been pre-trained with public data.

Low-Complexity Deep Convolutional Neural Networks on Fully Homomorphic Encryption Using Multiplexed Parallel Convolutions

Eunsang Lee · Joon-Woo Lee · Junghyun Lee · Young-Sik KIM · Yongjune Kim · Jong-Seon No · Woosuk Choi

Recently, the standard ResNet-20 network was successfully implemented on the fully homomorphic encryption scheme, residue number system variant Cheon-Kim-Kim-Song (RNS-CKKS) scheme using bootstrapping, but the implementation lacks practicality due to high latency and low security level. To improve the performance, we first minimize total bootstrapping runtime using multiplexed parallel convolution that collects sparse output data for multiple channels compactly. We also propose the imaginary-removing bootstrapping to prevent the deep neural networks from catastrophic divergence during approximate ReLU operations. In addition, we optimize level consumptions and use lighter and tighter parameters. Simulation results show that we have 4.67x lower inference latency and 134x less amortized runtime (runtime per image) for ResNet-20 compared to the state-of-the-art previous work, and we achieve standard 128-bit security. Furthermore, we successfully implement ResNet-110 with high accuracy on the RNS-CKKS scheme for the first time.

Robin Hood and Matthew Effects: Differential Privacy Has Disparate Impact on Synthetic Data

Georgi Ganev · Bristena Oprisanu · Emiliano De Cristofaro

Generative models trained with Differential Privacy (DP) can be used to generate synthetic data while minimizing privacy risks. We analyze the impact of DP on these models vis-a-vis underrepresented classes/subgroups of data, specifically, studying: 1) the size of classes/subgroups in the synthetic data, and 2) the accuracy of classification tasks run on them. We also evaluate the effect of various levels of imbalance and privacy budgets. Our analysis uses three state-of-the-art DP models (PrivBayes, DP-WGAN, and PATE-GAN) and shows that DP yields opposite size distributions in the generated synthetic data. It affects the gap between the majority and minority classes/subgroups; in some cases by reducing it (a "Robin Hood" effect) and, in others, by increasing it (a "Matthew" effect). Either way, this leads to (similar) disparate impacts on the accuracy of classification tasks on the synthetic data, affecting disproportionately more the underrepresented subparts of the data. Consequently, when training models on synthetic data, one might incur the risk of treating different subpopulations unevenly, leading to unreliable or unfair conclusions.

Meaningfully debugging model mistakes using conceptual counterfactual explanations

Abubakar Abid · Mert Yuksekgonul · James Zou

Understanding and explaining the mistakes made by trained models is critical to many machine learning objectives, such as improving robustness, addressing concept drift, and mitigating biases. However, this is often an ad hoc process that involves manually looking at the model's mistakes on many test samples and guessing at the underlying reasons for those incorrect predictions. In this paper, we propose a systematic approach, conceptual counterfactual explanations (CCE), that explains why a classifier makes a mistake on a particular test sample(s) in terms of human-understandable concepts (e.g. this zebra is misclassified as a dog because of faint stripes). We base CCE on two prior ideas: counterfactual explanations and concept activation vectors, and validate our approach on well-known pretrained models, showing that it explains the models' mistakes meaningfully. In addition, for new models trained on data with spurious correlations, CCE accurately identifies the spurious correlation as the cause of model mistakes from a single misclassified test sample. On two challenging medical applications, CCE generated useful insights, confirmed by clinicians, into biases and mistakes the model makes in real-world settings. The code for CCE is publicly available and can easily be applied to explain mistakes in new models.

Measuring the Effect of Training Data on Deep Learning Predictions via Randomized Experiments

Jinkun Lin · Anqi Zhang · Mathias Lécuyer · Jinyang Li · Aurojit Panda · Siddhartha Sen

We develop a new, principled algorithm for estimating the contribution of training data points to the behavior of a deep learning model, such as a specific prediction it makes. Our algorithm estimates the AME, a quantity that measures the expected (average) marginal effect of adding a data point to a subset of the training data, sampled from a given distribution. When subsets are sampled from the uniform distribution, the AME reduces to the well-known Shapley value. Our approach is inspired by causal inference and randomized experiments: we sample different subsets of the training data to train multiple submodels, and evaluate each submodel's behavior. We then use a LASSO regression to jointly estimate the AME of each data point, based on the subset compositions. Under sparsity assumptions ($k \ll N$ datapoints have large AME), our estimator requires only $O(k\log N)$ randomized submodel trainings, improving upon the best prior Shapley value estimators.

Robust Counterfactual Explanations for Tree-Based Ensembles

Sanghamitra Dutta · Jason Long · Saumitra Mishra · Cecilia Tilli · Daniele Magazzeni

Counterfactual explanations inform ways to achieve a desired outcome from a machine learning model. However, such explanations are not robust to certain real-world changes in the underlying model (e.g., retraining the model, changing hyperparameters, etc.), questioning their reliability in several applications, e.g., credit lending. In this work, we propose a novel strategy - that we call RobX - to generate robust counterfactuals for tree-based ensembles, e.g., XGBoost. Tree-based ensembles pose additional challenges in robust counterfactual generation, e.g., they have a non-smooth and non-differentiable objective function, and they can change a lot in the parameter space under retraining on very similar data. We first introduce a novel metric - that we call Counterfactual Stability - that attempts to quantify how robust a counterfactual is going to be to model changes under retraining, and comes with desirable theoretical properties. Our proposed strategy RobX works with any counterfactual generation method (base method) and searches for robust counterfactuals by iteratively refining the counterfactual generated by the base method using our metric Counterfactual Stability. We compare the performance of RobX with popular counterfactual generation methods (for tree-based ensembles) across benchmark datasets. The results demonstrate that our strategy generates counterfactuals that are significantly more robust (nearly 100% validity after actual model changes) and also realistic (in terms of local outlier factor) over existing state-of-the-art methods.

A Rigorous Study of Integrated Gradients Method and Extensions to Internal Neuron Attributions

Daniel Lundstrom · Tianjian Huang · Meisam Razaviyayn

As deep learning (DL) efficacy grows, concerns for poor model explainability grow also. Attribution methods address the issue of explainability by quantifying the importance of an input feature for a model prediction. Among various methods, Integrated Gradients (IG) sets itself apart by claiming other methods failed to satisfy desirable axioms, while IG and methods like it uniquely satisfy said axioms. This paper comments on fundamental aspects of IG and its applications/extensions: 1) We identify key differences between IG function spaces and the supporting literature’s function spaces which problematize previous claims of IG uniqueness. We show that with the introduction of an additional axiom, non-decreasing positivity, the uniqueness claims can be established. 2) We address the question of input sensitivity by identifying function classes where IG is/is not Lipschitz in the attributed input. 3) We show that axioms for single-baseline methods have analogous properties for methods with probability distribution baselines. 4) We introduce a computationally efficient method of identifying internal neurons that contribute to specified regions of an IG attribution map. Finally, we present experimental results validating this method.

Estimating and Penalizing Induced Preference Shifts in Recommender Systems

Micah Carroll · Anca Dragan · Stuart Russell · Dylan Hadfield-Menell

The content that a recommender system (RS) shows to users influences them. Therefore, when choosing a recommender to deploy, one is implicitly also choosing to induce specific internal states in users. Even more, systems trained via long-horizon optimization will have direct incentives to manipulate users, e.g. shift their preferences so they are easier to satisfy. We focus on induced preference shifts in users. We argue that – before deployment – system designers should: estimate the shifts a recommender would induce; evaluate whether such shifts would be undesirable; and perhaps even actively optimize to avoid problematic shifts. These steps involve two challenging ingredients: estimation requires anticipating how hypothetical policies would influence user preferences if deployed – we do this by using historical user interaction data to train a predictive user model which implicitly contains their preference dynamics;evaluation and optimization additionally require metrics to assess whether such influences are manipulative or otherwise unwanted – we use the notion of "safe shifts", that define a trust region within which behavior is safe: for instance, the natural way in which users would shift without interference from the system could be deemed "safe". In simulated experiments, we show that our learned preference dynamics model is effective in estimating user preferences and how they would respond to new recommenders. Additionally, we show that recommenders that optimize for staying in the trust region can avoid manipulative behaviors while still generating engagement.

Framework for Evaluating Faithfulness of Local Explanations

Sanjoy Dasgupta · Nave Frost · Michal Moshkovitz

We study the faithfulness of an explanation system to the underlying prediction model. We show that this can be captured by two properties, consistency and sufficiency, and introduce quantitative measures of the extent to which these hold. Interestingly, these measures depend on the test-time data distribution.For a variety of existing explanation systems, such as anchors, we analytically study these quantities. We also provide estimators and sample complexity bounds for empirically determining the faithfulness of black-box explanation systems. Finally, we experimentally validate the new properties and estimators.

A Consistent and Efficient Evaluation Strategy for Attribution Methods

Yao Rong · Tobias Leemann · Vadim Borisov · Gjergji Kasneci · Enkelejda Kasneci

With a variety of local feature attribution methods being proposed in recent years, follow-up work suggested several evaluation strategies. To assess the attribution quality across different attribution techniques, the most popular among these evaluation strategies in the image domain use pixel perturbations. However, recent advances discovered that different evaluation strategies produce conflicting rankings of attribution methods and can be prohibitively expensive to compute. In this work, we present an information-theoretic analysis of evaluation strategies based on pixel perturbations. Our findings reveal that the results are strongly affected by information leakage through the shape of the removed pixels as opposed to their actual values. Using our theoretical insights, we propose a novel evaluation framework termed Remove and Debias (ROAD) which offers two contributions: First, it mitigates the impact of the confounders, which entails higher consistency among evaluation strategies. Second, ROAD does not require the computationally expensive retraining step and saves up to 99% in computational costs compared to the state-of-the-art. We release our source code at

Training Characteristic Functions with Reinforcement Learning: XAI-methods play Connect Four

Stephan Wäldchen · Sebastian Pokutta · Felix Huber

Characteristic functions (from cooperative game theory) are able to evaluate partial inputs and form the basis for attribution methods like Shapley values. These attribution methods allow us to measure how important each input component is for the function output---one of the goals of explainable AI (XAI).Given a standard classifier function, it is unclear how partial input should be realised.Instead, most XAI-methods for black-box classifiers like neural networks consider counterfactual inputs that generally lie off-manifold, which makes them hard to evaluate and easy to manipulate.We propose a setup to directly train characteristic functions in the form of neural networks to play simple two-player games. We apply this to the game of Connect Four by randomly hiding colour information from our agents during training. This has three advantages for comparing XAI-methods: It alleviates the ambiguity about how to realise partial input, makes off-manifold evaluation unnecessary and allows us to compare the methods by letting them play against each other.

Label-Descriptive Patterns and Their Application to Characterizing Classification Errors

Michael Hedderich · Jonas Fischer · Dietrich Klakow · Jilles Vreeken

State-of-the-art deep learning methods achieve human-like performance on many tasks, but make errors nevertheless. Characterizing these errors in easily interpretable terms gives insight into whether a classifier is prone to making systematic errors, but also gives a way to act and improve the classifier. We propose to discover those feature-value combinations (i.e., patterns) that strongly correlate with correct resp. erroneous predictions to obtain a global and interpretable description for arbitrary classifiers. We show this is an instance of the more general label description problem, which we formulate in terms of the Minimum Description Length principle. To discover a good pattern set, we develop the efficient Premise algorithm. Through an extensive set of experiments we show it performs very well in practice on both synthetic and real-world data. Unlike existing solutions, it ably recovers ground truth patterns, even on highly imbalanced data over many features. Through two case studies on Visual Question Answering and Named Entity Recognition, we confirm that Premise gives clear and actionable insight into the systematic errors made by modern NLP classifiers.

XAI for Transformers: Better Explanations through Conservative Propagation

Ameen Ali · Thomas Schnake · Oliver Eberle · Grégoire Montavon · Klaus-robert Mueller · Lior Wolf

Transformers have become an important workhorse of machine learning, with numerous applications. This necessitates the development of reliable methods for increasing their transparency. Multiple interpretability methods, often based on gradient information, have been proposed. We show that the gradient in a Transformer reflects the function only locally, and thus fails to reliably identify the contribution of input features to the prediction. We identify Attention Heads and LayerNorm as main reasons for such unreliable explanations and propose a more stable way for propagation through these layers. Our proposal, which can be seen as a proper extension of the well-established LRP method to Transformers, is shown both theoretically and empirically to overcome the deficiency of a simple gradient-based approach, and achieves state-of-the-art explanation performance on a broad range of Transformer models and datasets.

Quantification and Analysis of Layer-wise and Pixel-wise Information Discarding

Haotian Ma · Hao Zhang · Fan Zhou · Yinqing Zhang · Quanshi Zhang

This paper presents a method to explain how the information of each input variable is gradually discarded during the forward propagation in a deep neural network (DNN), which provides new perspectives to explain DNNs. We define two types of entropy-based metrics, i.e. (1) the discarding of pixel-wise information used in the forward propagation, and (2) the uncertainty of the input reconstruction, to measure input information contained by a specific layer from two perspectives. Unlike previous attribution metrics, the proposed metrics ensure the fairness of comparisons between different layers of different DNNs. We can use these metrics to analyze the efficiency of information processing in DNNs, which exhibits strong connections to the performance of DNNs. We analyze information discarding in apixel-wise manner, which is different from the information bottleneck theory measuring feature information w.r.t. the sample distribution. Experiments have shown the effectiveness of our metrics in analyzing classic DNNs and explaining existing deep-learning techniques. The code is available at

Interpretable Off-Policy Learning via Hyperbox Search

Daniel Tschernutter · Tobias Hatt · Stefan Feuerriegel

Personalized treatment decisions have become an integral part of modern medicine. Thereby, the aim is to make treatment decisions based on individual patient characteristics. Numerous methods have been developed for learning such policies from observational data that achieve the best outcome across a certain policy class. Yet these methods are rarely interpretable. However, interpretability is often a prerequisite for policy learning in clinical practice. In this paper, we propose an algorithm for interpretable off-policy learning via hyperbox search. In particular, our policies can be represented in disjunctive normal form (i.e., OR-of-ANDs) and are thus intelligible. We prove a universal approximation theorem that shows that our policy class is flexible enough to approximate any measurable function arbitrarily well. For optimization, we develop a tailored column generation procedure within a branch-and-bound framework. Using a simulation study, we demonstrate that our algorithm outperforms state-of-the-art methods from interpretable off-policy learning in terms of regret. Using real-word clinical data, we perform a user study with actual clinical experts, who rate our policies as highly interpretable.

Neuron Dependency Graphs: A Causal Abstraction of Neural Networks

Yaojie Hu · Jin Tian

We discover that neural networks exhibit approximate logical dependencies among neurons, and we introduce Neuron Dependency Graphs (NDG) that extract and present them as directed graphs. In an NDG, each node corresponds to the boolean activation value of a neuron, and each edge models an approximate logical implication from one node to another. We show that the logical dependencies extracted from the training dataset generalize well to the test set. In addition to providing symbolic explanations to the neural network's internal structure, NDGs can represent a Structural Causal Model. We empirically show that an NDG is a causal abstraction of the corresponding neural network that "unfolds" the same way under causal interventions using the theory by Geiger et al. (2021). Code is available at

On the Adversarial Robustness of Causal Algorithmic Recourse

Ricardo Dominguez-Olmedo · Amir Karimi · Bernhard Schölkopf

Algorithmic recourse seeks to provide actionable recommendations for individuals to overcome unfavorable classification outcomes from automated decision-making systems. Recourse recommendations should ideally be robust to reasonably small uncertainty in the features of the individual seeking recourse. In this work, we formulate the adversarially robust recourse problem and show that recourse methods that offer minimally costly recourse fail to be robust. We then present methods for generating adversarially robust recourse for linear and for differentiable classifiers. Finally, we show that regularizing the decision-making classifier to behave locally linearly and to rely more strongly on actionable features facilitates the existence of adversarially robust recourse.

Knowledge-Grounded Self-Rationalization via Extractive and Natural Language Explanations

Bodhisattwa Prasad Majumder · Oana-Maria Camburu · Thomas Lukasiewicz · Julian McAuley

Models that generate extractive rationales (i.e., subsets of features) or natural language explanations (NLEs) for their predictions are important for explainable AI. While an extractive rationale provides a quick view of the features most responsible for a prediction, an NLE allows for a comprehensive description of the decision-making process behind a prediction. However, current models that generate the best extractive rationales or NLEs often fall behind the state-of-the-art (SOTA) in terms of task performance. In this work, we bridge this gap by introducing RExC, a self-rationalizing framework that grounds its predictions and two complementary types of explanations (NLEs and extractive rationales) in background knowledge. Our framework improves over previous methods by: (i) reaching SOTA task performance while also providing explanations, (ii) providing two types of explanations, while existing models usually provide only one type, and (iii) beating by a large margin the previous SOTA in terms of quality of both types of explanations. Furthermore, a perturbation analysis in RExC shows a high degree of association between explanations and predictions, a necessary property of faithful explanations.

POEM: Out-of-Distribution Detection with Posterior Sampling

Yifei Ming · Ying Fan · Yixuan Li

Out-of-distribution (OOD) detection is indispensable for machine learning models deployed in the open world. Recently, the use of an auxiliary outlier dataset during training (also known as outlier exposure) has shown promising performance. As the sample space for potential OOD data can be prohibitively large, sampling informative outliers is essential. In this work, we propose a novel posterior sampling based outlier mining framework, POEM, which facilitates efficient use of outlier data and promotes learning a compact decision boundary between ID and OOD data for improved detection. We show that POEM establishes state-of-the-art performance on common benchmarks. Compared to the current best method that uses a greedy sampling strategy, POEM improves the relative performance by 42.0% and 24.2% (FPR95) on CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100, respectively. We further provide theoretical insights on the effectiveness of POEM for OOD detection.

Selective Network Linearization for Efficient Private Inference

Minsu Cho · Ameya Joshi · Brandon Reagen · Siddharth Garg · Chinmay Hegde

Private inference (PI) enables inferences directly on cryptographically secure data. While promising to address many privacy issues, it has seen limited use due to extreme runtimes. Unlike plaintext inference, where latency is dominated by FLOPs, in PI non-linear functions (namely ReLU) are the bottleneck. Thus, practical PI demands novel ReLU-aware optimizations. To reduce PI latency we propose a gradient-based algorithm that selectively linearizes ReLUs while maintaining prediction accuracy. We evaluate our algorithm on several standard PI benchmarks. The results demonstrate up to $4.25\%$ more accuracy (iso-ReLU count at 50K) or $2.2\times$ less latency (iso-accuracy at 70\%) than the current state of the art and advance the Pareto frontier across the latency-accuracy space. To complement empirical results, we present a ``no free lunch" theorem that sheds light on how and when network linearization is possible while maintaining prediction accuracy.

Efficient Computation of Higher-Order Subgraph Attribution via Message Passing

Ping Xiong · Thomas Schnake · Grégoire Montavon · Klaus-robert Mueller · Shinichi Nakajima

Explaining graph neural networks (GNNs) has become more and more important recently. Higher-order interpretation schemes, such as GNN-LRP (layer-wise relevance propagation for GNN), emerged as powerful tools for unraveling how different features interact thereby contributing to explaining GNNs.GNN-LRP gives a relevance attribution of walks between nodes at each layer, and the subgraph attribution is expressed as a sum over exponentially many such walks. In this work, we demonstrate that such exponential complexity can be avoided. In particular, we propose novel algorithmsthat enable to attribute subgraphs with GNN-LRP in linear-time (w.r.t. the network depth). Our algorithms are derived via message passing techniques that make use of the distributive property, therebydirectly computing quantitiesfor higher-order explanations.We further adapt our efficient algorithms to computea generalization of subgraph attributions that also takes into account the neighboring graph features.Experimental results show the significant acceleration of the proposed algorithms and demonstrate the high usefulness and scalability of our novel generalized subgraph attribution method.

A Theoretical Analysis on Independence-driven Importance Weighting for Covariate-shift Generalization

Renzhe Xu · Xingxuan Zhang · Zheyan Shen · Tong Zhang · Peng Cui

Covariate-shift generalization, a typical case in out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization, requires a good performance on the unknown test distribution, which varies from the accessible training distribution in the form of covariate shift. Recently, independence-driven importance weighting algorithms in stable learning literature have shown empirical effectiveness to deal with covariate-shift generalization on several learning models, including regression algorithms and deep neural networks, while their theoretical analyses are missing. In this paper, we theoretically prove the effectiveness of such algorithms by explaining them as feature selection processes. We first specify a set of variables, named minimal stable variable set, that is the minimal and optimal set of variables to deal with covariate-shift generalization for common loss functions, such as the mean squared loss and binary cross-entropy loss. Afterward, we prove that under ideal conditions, independence-driven importance weighting algorithms could identify the variables in this set. Analysis of asymptotic properties is also provided. These theories are further validated in several synthetic experiments.

Modular Conformal Calibration

Charles Marx · Shengjia Zhao · Willie Neiswanger · Stefano Ermon

Uncertainty estimates must be calibrated (i.e., accurate) and sharp (i.e., informative) in order to be useful. This has motivated a variety of methods for {\em recalibration}, which use held-out data to turn an uncalibrated model into a calibrated model. However, the applicability of existing methods is limited due to their assumption that the original model is also a probabilistic model. We introduce a versatile class of algorithms for recalibration in regression that we call \emph{modular conformal calibration} (MCC). This framework allows one to transform any regression model into a calibrated probabilistic model. The modular design of MCC allows us to make simple adjustments to existing algorithms that enable well-behaved distribution predictions. We also provide finite-sample calibration guarantees for MCC algorithms. Our framework recovers isotonic recalibration, conformal calibration, and conformal interval prediction, implying that our theoretical results apply to those methods as well. Finally, we conduct an empirical study of MCC on 17 regression datasets. Our results show that new algorithms designed in our framework achieve near-perfect calibration and improve sharpness relative to existing methods.

Rethinking Image-Scaling Attacks: The Interplay Between Vulnerabilities in Machine Learning Systems

Yue Gao · Ilia Shumailov · Kassem Fawaz

As real-world images come in varying sizes, the machine learning model is part of a larger system that includes an upstream image scaling algorithm. In this paper, we investigate the interplay between vulnerabilities of the image scaling procedure and machine learning models in the decision-based black-box setting. We propose a novel sampling strategy to make a black-box attack exploit vulnerabilities in scaling algorithms, scaling defenses, and the final machine learning model in an end-to-end manner. Based on this scaling-aware attack, we reveal that most existing scaling defenses are ineffective under threat from downstream models. Moreover, we empirically observe that standard black-box attacks can significantly improve their performance by exploiting the vulnerable scaling procedure. We further demonstrate this problem on a commercial Image Analysis API with decision-based black-box attacks.

Context-Aware Drift Detection

Oliver Cobb · Arnaud Van Looveren

When monitoring machine learning systems, two-sample tests of homogeneity form the foundation upon which existing approaches to drift detection build. They are used to test for evidence that the distribution underlying recent deployment data differs from that underlying the historical reference data. Often, however, various factors such as time-induced correlation mean that batches of recent deployment data are not expected to form an i.i.d. sample from the historical data distribution. Instead we may wish to test for differences in the distributions conditional on \textit{context} that is permitted to change. To facilitate this we borrow machinery from the causal inference domain to develop a more general drift detection framework built upon a foundation of two-sample tests for conditional distributional treatment effects. We recommend a particular instantiation of the framework based on maximum conditional mean discrepancies. We then provide an empirical study demonstrating its effectiveness for various drift detection problems of practical interest, such as detecting drift in the distributions underlying subpopulations of data in a manner that is insensitive to their respective prevalences. The study additionally demonstrates applicability to ImageNet-scale vision problems.

Accelerating Shapley Explanation via Contributive Cooperator Selection

Guanchu Wang · Yu-Neng Chuang · Mengnan Du · Fan Yang · Quan Zhou · Pushkar Tripathi · Xuanting Cai · Xia Hu

Even though Shapley value provides an effective explanation for a DNN model prediction, the computation relies on the enumeration of all possible input feature coalitions, which leads to the exponentially growing complexity. To address this problem, we propose a novel method SHEAR to significantly accelerate the Shapley explanation for DNN models, where only a few coalitions of input features are involved in the computation. The selection of the feature coalitions follows our proposed Shapley chain rule to minimize the absolute error from the ground-truth Shapley values, such that the computation can be both efficient and accurate. To demonstrate the effectiveness, we comprehensively evaluate SHEAR across multiple metrics including the absolute error from the ground-truth Shapley value, the faithfulness of the explanations, and running speed. The experimental results indicate SHEAR consistently outperforms state-of-the-art baseline methods across different evaluation metrics, which demonstrates its potentials in real-world applications where the computational resource is limited.

An Equivalence Between Data Poisoning and Byzantine Gradient Attacks

Sadegh Farhadkhani · Rachid Guerraoui · Lê-Nguyên Hoang · Oscar Villemaud

To study the resilience of distributed learning, the Byzantine" literature considers a strong threat model where workers can report arbitrary gradients to the parameter server. Whereas this model helped obtain several fundamental results, it has sometimes been considered unrealistic, when the workers are mostly trustworthy machines. In this paper, we show a surprising equivalence between this model and data poisoning, a threat considered much more realistic. More specifically, we prove that every gradient attack can be reduced to data poisoning, in any personalized federated learning system with PAC guarantees (which we show are both desirable and realistic). This equivalence makes it possible to obtain new impossibility results on the resilience of \emph{any}robust'' learning algorithm to data poisoning in highly heterogeneous applications, as corollaries of existing impossibility theorems on Byzantine machine learning. Moreover, using our equivalence, we derive a practical attack that we show (theoretically and empirically) can be very effective against classical personalized federated learning models.

DAVINZ: Data Valuation using Deep Neural Networks at Initialization

Zhaoxuan Wu · Yao Shu · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in developing trustworthy methods to evaluate the value of data in many real-world applications (e.g., collaborative machine learning, data marketplaces). Existing data valuation methods typically valuate data using the generalization performance of converged machine learning models after their long-term model training, hence making data valuation on large complex deep neural networks (DNNs) unaffordable. To this end, we theoretically derive a domain-aware generalization bound to estimate the generalization performance of DNNs without model training. We then exploit this theoretically derived generalization bound to develop a novel training-free data valuation method named data valuation at initialization (DAVINZ) on DNNs, which consistently achieves remarkable effectiveness and efficiency in practice. Moreover, our training-free DAVINZ, surprisingly, can even theoretically and empirically enjoy the desirable properties that training-based data valuation methods usually attain, thus making it more trustworthy in practice.

Sample Efficient Learning of Predictors that Complement Humans

Mohammad-Amin Charusaie · Hussein Mozannar · David Sontag · Samira Samadi

One of the goals of learning algorithms is to complement and reduce the burden on human decision makers. The expert deferral setting wherein an algorithm can either predict on its own or defer the decision to a downstream expert helps accomplish this goal. A fundamental aspect of this setting is the need to learn complementary predictors that improve on the human's weaknesses rather than learning predictors optimized for average error. In this work, we provide the first theoretical analysis of the benefit of learning complementary predictors in expert deferral. To enable efficiently learning such predictors, we consider a family of consistent surrogate loss functions for expert deferral and analyze their theoretical properties. Finally, we design active learning schemes that require minimal amount of data of human expert predictions in order to learn accurate deferral systems.

Online Learning for Min Sum Set Cover and Pandora’s Box

Evangelia Gergatsouli · Christos Tzamos

Two central problems in Stochastic Optimization are Min-Sum Set Cover and Pandora’s Box. In Pandora’s Box, we are presented with n boxes, each containing an unknown value and the goal is to open the boxes in some order to minimize the sum of the search cost and the smallest value found. Given a distribution of value vectors, we are asked to identify a near-optimal search order. Min-Sum Set Cover corresponds to the case where values are either 0 or infinity.In this work, we study the case where the value vectors are not drawn from a distribution but are presented to a learner in an online fashion. We present a computationally efficient algorithm that is constant-competitive against the cost of the optimal search order. We extend our results to a bandit setting where only the values of the boxes opened are revealed to the learner after every round. We also generalize our results to other commonly studied variants of Pandora’s Box and Min-Sum Set Cover that involve selecting more than a single value subject to a matroid constraint.

Smoothed Adversarial Linear Contextual Bandits with Knapsacks

Vidyashankar Sivakumar · Shiliang Zuo · Arindam Banerjee

Many bandit problems are characterized by the learner making decisions under constraints. The learner in Linear Contextual Bandits with Knapsacks (LinCBwK) receives a resource consumption vector in addition to a scalar reward in each time step which are both linear functions of the context corresponding to the chosen arm. For a fixed time horizon $T$, the goal of the learner is to maximize rewards while ensuring resource consumptions do not exceed a pre-specified budget. We present algorithms and characterize regret for LinCBwK in the smoothed setting where base context vectors are assumed to be perturbed by Gaussian noise. We consider both the stochastic and adversarial settings for the base contexts, and our analysis of stochastic LinCBwK can be viewed as a warm-up to the more challenging adversarial LinCBwK. For the stochastic setting, we obtain $O(\sqrt{T})$ additive regret bounds compared to the best context dependent fixed policy. The analysis combines ideas for greedy parameter estimation in \cite{kmrw18, siwb20} and the primal-dual paradigm first explored in \cite{agde17, agde14}. Our main contribution is an algorithm with $O(\log T)$ competitive ratio relative to the best context dependent fixed policy for the adversarial setting. The algorithm for the adversarial setting employs ideas from the primal-dual framework \cite{agde17, agde14} and a novel adaptation of the doubling trick \cite{isss19}.

Simultaneously Learning Stochastic and Adversarial Bandits with General Graph Feedback

Fang Kong · Yichi Zhou · Shuai Li

The problem of online learning with graph feedback has been extensively studied in the literature due to its generality and potential to model various learning tasks. Existing works mainly study the adversarial and stochastic feedback separately. If the prior knowledge of the feedback mechanism is unavailable or wrong, such specially designed algorithms could suffer great loss. To avoid this problem, \citet{erez2021towards} try to optimize for both environments. However, they assume the feedback graphs are undirected and each vertex has a self-loop, which compromises the generality of the framework and may not be satisfied in applications. With a general feedback graph, the observation of an arm may not be available when this arm is pulled, which makes the exploration more expensive and the algorithms more challenging to perform optimally in both environments. In this work, we overcome this difficulty by a new trade-off mechanism with a carefully-designed proportion for exploration and exploitation. We prove the proposed algorithm simultaneously achieves $\mathrm{poly} \log T$ regret in the stochastic setting and minimax-optimal regret of $\tilde{O}(T^{2/3})$ in the adversarial setting where $T$ is the horizon and $\tilde{O}$ hides parameters independent of $T$ as well as logarithmic terms. To our knowledge, this is the first best-of-both-worlds result for general feedback graphs.

Thompson Sampling for (Combinatorial) Pure Exploration

Siwei Wang · Jun Zhu

Existing methods of combinatorial pure exploration mainly focus on the UCB approach. To make the algorithm efficient, they usually use the sum of upper confidence bounds within arm set $S$ to represent the upper confidence bound of $S$, which can be much larger than the tight upper confidence bound of $S$ and leads to a much higher complexity than necessary, since the empirical means of different arms in $S$ are independent. To deal with this challenge, we explore the idea of Thompson Sampling (TS) that uses independent random samples instead of the upper confidence bounds, and design the first TS-based algorithm TS-Explore for (combinatorial) pure exploration. In TS-Explore, the sum of independent random samples within arm set $S$ will not exceed the tight upper confidence bound of $S$ with high probability. Hence it solves the above challenge, and achieves a lower complexity upper bound than existing efficient UCB-based algorithms in general combinatorial pure exploration. As for pure exploration of classic multi-armed bandit, we show that TS-Explore achieves an asymptotically optimal complexity upper bound.

Revisiting Online Submodular Minimization: Gap-Dependent Regret Bounds, Best of Both Worlds and Adversarial Robustness

Shinji Ito

In this paper, we consider online decision problems with submodular loss functions. For such problems, existing studies have only dealt with worst-case analysis. This study goes beyond worst-case analysis to show instance-dependent regret bounds. More precisely, for each of the full-information and bandit-feedback settings, we propose an algorithm that achieves a gap-dependent O(log T)-regret bound in the stochastic environment and is comparable to the best existing algorithm in the adversarial environment. The proposed algorithms also work well in the stochastic environment with adversarial corruptions, which is an intermediate setting between the stochastic and adversarial environments.

Rotting Infinitely Many-Armed Bandits

Jung-hun Kim · Milan Vojnovic · Se-Young Yun

We consider the infinitely many-armed bandit problem with rotting rewards, where the mean reward of an arm decreases at each pull of the arm according to an arbitrary trend with maximum rotting rate $\varrho=o(1)$. We show that this learning problem has an $\Omega(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, \sqrt{T}\})$ worst-case regret lower bound where $T$ is the time horizon. We show that a matching upper bound $\tilde{O}(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, \sqrt{T}\})$, up to a poly-logarithmic factor, can be achieved by an algorithm that uses a UCB index for each arm and a threshold value to decide whether to continue pulling an arm or remove the arm from further consideration, when the algorithm knows the value of the maximum rotting rate $\varrho$. We also show that an $\tilde{O}(\max\{\varrho^{1/3}T, T^{3/4}\})$ regret upper bound can be achieved by an algorithm that does not know the value of $\varrho$, by using an adaptive UCB index along with an adaptive threshold value.

Batched Dueling Bandits

Arpit Agarwal · Rohan Ghuge · viswanath nagarajan

The K-armed dueling bandit problem, where the feedback is in the form of noisy pairwise comparisons, has been widely studied. Previous works have only focused on the sequential setting where the policy adapts after every comparison. However, in many applications such as search ranking and recommendation systems, it is preferable to perform comparisons in a limited number of parallel batches. We study the batched K-armed dueling bandit problem under two standard settings: (i) existence of a Condorcet winner, and (ii) strong stochastic transitivity and stochastic triangle inequality. For both settings, we obtain algorithms with a smooth trade-off between the number of batches and regret. Our regret bounds match the best known sequential regret bounds (up to poly-logarithmic factors), using only a logarithmic number of batches. We complement our regret analysis with a nearly-matching lower bound. Finally, we also validate our theoretical results via experiments on synthetic and real data.

Equivalence Analysis between Counterfactual Regret Minimization and Online Mirror Descent

Weiming Liu · Huacong Jiang · Bin Li · Houqiang Li

Follow-the-Regularized-Leader (FTRL) and Online Mirror Descent (OMD) are regret minimization algorithms for Online Convex Optimization (OCO), they are mathematically elegant but less practical in solving Extensive-Form Games (EFGs). Counterfactual Regret Minimization (CFR) is a technique for approximating Nash equilibria in EFGs. CFR and its variants have a fast convergence rate in practice, but their theoretical results are not satisfactory. In recent years, researchers have been trying to link CFRs with OCO algorithms, which may provide new theoretical results and inspire new algorithms. However, existing analysis is restricted to local decision points. In this paper, we show that CFRs with Regret Matching and Regret Matching+ are equivalent to special cases of FTRL and OMD, respectively. According to these equivalences, a new FTRL and a new OMD algorithm, which can be considered as extensions of vanilla CFR and CFR+, are derived. The experimental results show that the two variants converge faster than conventional FTRL and OMD, even faster than vanilla CFR and CFR+ in some EFGs.

Consistent Polyhedral Surrogates for Top-k Classification and Variants

Anish Thilagar · Rafael Frongillo · Jessie Finocchiaro · Emma Goodwill

Top-$k$ classification is a generalization of multiclass classification used widely in information retrieval, image classification, and other extreme classification settings. Several hinge-like (piecewise-linear) surrogates have been proposed for the problem, yet all are either non-convex or inconsistent.For the proposed hinge-like surrogates that are convex (i.e., polyhedral), we apply the recent embedding framework of Finocchiaro et al.(2019; 2022) to determine the prediction problem for which the surrogate is consistent.These problems can all be interpreted as variants of top-$k$ classification, which may be better aligned with some applications.We leverage this analysis to derive constraints on the conditional label distributions under which these proposed surrogates become consistent for top-$k$.It has been further suggested that every convex hinge-like surrogate must be inconsistent for top-$k$.Yet, we use the same embedding framework to give the first consistent polyhedral surrogate for this problem.

Stochastic Contextual Dueling Bandits under Linear Stochastic Transitivity Models

Viktor Bengs · Aadirupa Saha · Eyke Hüllermeier

We consider the regret minimization task in a dueling bandits problem with context information. In every round of the sequential decision problem, the learner makes a context-dependent selection of two choice alternatives (arms) to be compared with each other and receives feedback in the form of noisy preference information. We assume that the feedback process is determined by a linear stochastic transitivity model with contextualized utilities (CoLST), and the learner's task is to include the best arm (with highest latent context-dependent utility) in the duel. We propose a computationally efficient algorithm, \Algo{CoLSTIM}, which makes its choice based on imitating the feedback process using perturbed context-dependent utility estimates of the underlying CoLST model. If each arm is associated with a $d$-dimensional feature vector, we show that \Algo{CoLSTIM} achieves a regret of order $\tilde O( \sqrt{dT})$ after $T$ learning rounds. Additionally, we also establish the optimality of \Algo{CoLSTIM} by showing a lower bound for the weak regret that refines the existing average regret analysis. Our experiments demonstrate its superiority over state-of-art algorithms for special cases of CoLST models.

Optimal and Efficient Dynamic Regret Algorithms for Non-Stationary Dueling Bandits

Aadirupa Saha · Shubham Gupta

We study the problem of \emph{dynamic regret minimization} in $K$-armed Dueling Bandits under non-stationary or time-varying preferences. This is an online learning setup where the agent chooses a pair of items at each round and observes only a relative binary `win-loss' feedback for this pair sampled from an underlying preference matrix at that round. We first study the problem of static-regret minimization for adversarial preference sequences and design an efficient algorithm with $O(\sqrt{KT})$ regret bound. We next use similar algorithmic ideas to propose an efficient and provably optimal algorithm for dynamic-regret minimization under two notions of non-stationarities. In particular, we show $\tO(\sqrt{SKT})$ and $\tO({V_T^{1/3}K^{1/3}T^{2/3}})$ dynamic-regret guarantees, respectively, with $S$ being the total number of `effective-switches' in the underlying preference relations and $V_T$ being a measure of `continuous-variation' non-stationarity. These rates are provably optimal as justified with matching lower bound guarantees. Moreover, our proposed algorithms are flexible as they can be easily `blackboxed' to yield dynamic regret guarantees for other notions of dueling bandits regret, including condorcet regret, best-response bounds, and Borda regret. The complexity of these problems have not been studied prior to this work despite the practicality of non-stationary environments. Our results are corroborated with extensive simulations.

Online Nonsubmodular Minimization with Delayed Costs: From Full Information to Bandit Feedback

Tianyi Lin · Aldo Pacchiano · Yaodong Yu · Michael Jordan

Motivated by applications to online learning in sparse estimation and Bayesian optimization, we consider the problem of online unconstrained nonsubmodular minimization with delayed costs in both full information and bandit feedback settings. In contrast to previous works on online unconstrained submodular minimization, we focus on a class of nonsubmodular functions with special structure, and prove regret guarantees for several variants of the online and approximate online bandit gradient descent algorithms in static and delayed scenarios. We derive bounds for the agent's regret in the full information and bandit feedback setting, even if the delay between choosing a decision and receiving the incurred cost is unbounded. Key to our approach is the notion of $(\alpha, \beta)$-regret and the extension of the generic convex relaxation model from~\citet{El-2020-Optimal}, the analysis of which is of independent interest. We conduct and showcase several simulation studies to demonstrate the efficacy of our algorithms.

Outstanding Paper
Learning Mixtures of Linear Dynamical Systems

Yanxi Chen · H. Vincent Poor

We study the problem of learning a mixture of multiple linear dynamical systems (LDSs) from unlabeled short sample trajectories, each generated by one of the LDS models. Despite the wide applicability of mixture models for time-series data, learning algorithms that come with end-to-end performance guarantees are largely absent from existing literature. There are multiple sources of technical challenges, including but not limited to (1) the presence of latent variables (i.e. the unknown labels of trajectories); (2) the possibility that the sample trajectories might have lengths much smaller than the dimension $d$ of the LDS models; and (3) the complicated temporal dependence inherent to time-series data. To tackle these challenges, we develop a two-stage meta-algorithm, which is guaranteed to efficiently recover each ground-truth LDS model up to error $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{d/T})$, where $T$ is the total sample size. We validate our theoretical studies with numerical experiments, confirming the efficacy of the proposed algorithm.

Massively Parallel $k$-Means Clustering for Perturbation Resilient Instances

Vincent Cohen-Addad · Vahab Mirrokni · Peilin Zhong

We consider $k$-means clustering of $n$ data points in Euclidean space in the Massively Parallel Computation (MPC) model, a computational model which is an abstraction of modern massively parallel computing system such as MapReduce. Recent work provides evidence that getting $O(1)$-approximate $k$-means solution for general input points using $o(\log n)$ rounds in the MPC model may be impossible under certain conditions [Ghaffari, Kuhn \& Uitto'2019]. However, the real-world data points usually have better structures. One instance of interest is the set of data points which is perturbation resilient [Bilu \& Linial'2010]. In particular, a point set is $\alpha$-perturbation resilient for $k$-means if perturbing pairwise distances by multiplicative factors in the range $[1,\alpha]$ does not change the optimum $k$-means clusters. We bypass the worst case lower bound by considering the perturbation resilient input points and showing $o(\log n)$ rounds $k$-means clustering algorithms for these instances in the MPC model. Specifically, we show a fully scalable $(1+\varepsilon)$-approximate $k$-means clustering algorithm for $O(\alpha)$-perturbation resilient instance in the MPC model using $O(1)$ rounds and ${O}_{\varepsilon,d}(n^{1+1/\alpha^2+o(1)})$ total space. If the space per machine is sufficiently larger than $k$, i.e., at least $k\cdot n^{\Omega(1)}$, we also develop an optimal $k$-means clustering algorithm for $O(\alpha)$-perturbation resilient instance in MPC using $O(1)$ rounds and ${O}_d(n^{1+o(1)}\cdot(n^{1/\alpha^2}+k))$ total space.

Residual-Based Sampling for Online Outlier-Robust PCA

Tianhao Zhu · Jie Shen

Outlier-robust principal component analysis (ORPCA) has been broadly applied in scientific discovery in the last decades. In this paper, we study online ORPCA, an important variant that addresses the practical challenge that the data points arrive in a sequential manner and the goal is to recover the underlying subspace of the clean data with one pass of the data. Our main contribution is the first provable algorithm that enjoys comparable recovery guarantee to the best known batch algorithm, while significantly improving upon the state-of-the-art online ORPCA algorithms. The core technique is a robust version of the residual norm which, informally speaking, leverages not only the importance of a data point, but also how likely it behaves as an outlier.

Scaling Gaussian Process Optimization by Evaluating a Few Unique Candidates Multiple Times

Daniele Calandriello · Luigi Carratino · Alessandro Lazaric · Michal Valko · Lorenzo Rosasco

Computing a Gaussian process (GP) posterior has a computational cost cubical in the number of historical points. A reformulation of the same GP posterior highlights that this complexity mainly depends on how many \emph{unique} historical points are considered. This can have important implication in active learning settings, where the set of historical points is constructed sequentially by the learner. We show that sequential black-box optimization based on GPs (GP-Opt) can be made efficient by sticking to a candidate solution for multiple evaluation steps and switch only when necessary. Limiting the number of switches also limits the number of unique points in the history of the GP. Thus, the efficient GP reformulation can be used to exactly and cheaply compute the posteriors required to run the GP-Opt algorithms. This approach is especially useful in real-world applications of GP-Opt with high switch costs (e.g. switching chemicals in wet labs, data/model loading in hyperparameter optimization). As examples of this meta-approach, we modify two well-established GP-Opt algorithms, GP-UCB and GP-EI, to switch candidates as infrequently as possible adapting rules from batched GP-Opt. These versions preserve all the theoretical no-regret guarantees while improving practical aspects of the algorithms such as runtime, memory complexity, and the ability of batching candidates and evaluating them in parallel.

Streaming Algorithms for Support-Aware Histograms

Justin Chen · Piotr Indyk · Tal Wagner

Histograms, i.e., piece-wise constant approximations, are a popular tool used to represent data distributions. Traditionally, the difference between the histogram and the underlying distribution (i.e., the approximation error) is measured using the L_p norm, which sums the differences between the two functions over all items in the domain. Although useful in many applications, the drawback of this error measure is that it treats approximation errors of all items in the same way, irrespective of whether the mass of an item is important for the downstream application that uses the approximation. As a result, even relatively simple distributions cannot be approximated by succinct histograms without incurring large error.In this paper, we address this issue by adapting the definition of approximation so that only the errors of the items that belong to the support of the distribution are considered. Under this definition, we develop efficient 1-pass and 2-pass streaming algorithms that compute near-optimal histograms in sub-linear space. We also present lower bounds on the space complexity of this problem. Surprisingly, under this notion of error, there is an exponential gap in the space complexity of 1-pass and 2-pass streaming algorithms. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of our algorithms on a collection of real and synthetic data sets.

Power-Law Escape Rate of SGD

Takashi Mori · Liu Ziyin · Kangqiao Liu · Masahito Ueda

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) undergoes complicated multiplicative noise for the mean-square loss. We use this property of SGD noise to derive a stochastic differential equation (SDE) with simpler additive noise by performing a random time change. Using this formalism, we show that the log loss barrier $\Delta\log L=\log[L(\theta^s)/L(\theta^*)]$ between a local minimum $\theta^*$ and a saddle $\theta^s$ determines the escape rate of SGD from the local minimum, contrary to the previous results borrowing from physics that the linear loss barrier $\Delta L=L(\theta^s)-L(\theta^*)$ decides the escape rate. Our escape-rate formula strongly depends on the typical magnitude $h^*$ and the number $n$ of the outlier eigenvalues of the Hessian. This result explains an empirical fact that SGD prefers flat minima with low effective dimensions, giving an insight into implicit biases of SGD.

Generalized Results for the Existence and Consistency of the MLE in the Bradley-Terry-Luce Model

Heejong Bong · Alessandro Rinaldo

Ranking problems based on pairwise comparisons, such as those arising in online gaming, often involve a large pool of items to order. In these situations, the gap in performance between any two items can be significant, and the smallest and largest winning probabilities can be very close to zero or one. Furthermore, each item may be compared only to a subset of all the items, so that not all pairwise comparisons are observed. In this paper, we study the performance of the Bradley-Terry-Luce model for ranking from pairwise comparison data under more realistic settings than those considered in the literature so far. In particular, we allow for near-degenerate winning probabilities and arbitrary comparison designs. We obtain novel results about the existence of the maximum likelihood estimator (MLE) and the corresponding $\ell_2$ estimation error without the bounded winning probability assumption commonly used in the literature and for arbitrary comparison graph topologies. Central to our approach is the reliance on the Fisher information matrix to express the dependence on the graph topologies and the impact of the values of the winning probabilities on the estimation risk and on the conditions for the existence of the MLE. Our bounds recover existing results as special cases but are more broadly applicable.

Faster Algorithms for Learning Convex Functions

Ali Siahkamari · Durmus Alp Emre Acar · Christopher Liao · Kelly Geyer · Venkatesh Saligrama · Brian Kulis

The task of approximating an arbitrary convex function arises in several learning problems such as convex regression, learning with a difference of convex (DC) functions, and learning Bregman or $f$-divergences. In this paper, we develop and analyze an approach for solving a broad range of convex function learning problems that is faster than state-of-the-art approaches. Our approach is based on a 2-block ADMM method where each block can be computed in closed form. For the task of convex Lipschitz regression, we establish that our proposed algorithm converges with iteration complexity of $ O(n\sqrt{d}/\epsilon)$ for a dataset $\bm X \in \mathbb R^{n\times d}$ and $\epsilon > 0$. Combined with per-iteration computation complexity, our method converges with the rate $O(n^3 d^{1.5}/\epsilon+n^2 d^{2.5}/\epsilon+n d^3/\epsilon)$. This new rate improves the state of the art rate of $O(n^5d^2/\epsilon)$ if $d = o( n^4)$. Further we provide similar solvers for DC regression and Bregman divergence learning. Unlike previous approaches, our method is amenable to the use of GPUs. We demonstrate on regression and metric learning experiments that our approach is over 100 times faster than existing approaches on some data sets, and produces results that are comparable to state of the art.

Feature selection using e-values

Subhabrata Majumdar · Snigdhansu Chatterjee

In the context of supervised learning, we introduce the concept of e-value. An e-value is a scalar quantity that represents the proximity of the sampling distribution of parameter estimates in a model trained on a subset of features to that of the model trained on all features (i.e. the full model). Under general conditions, a rank ordering of e-values separates models that contain all essential features from those that do not. For a p-dimensional feature space, this requires fitting only the full model and evaluating p+1 models, as opposed to the traditional requirement of fitting and evaluating 2^p models.The above e-values framework is applicable to a wide range of parametric models. We use data depths and a fast resampling-based algorithm to implement a feature selection procedure, providing consistency results. Through experiments across several model settings and synthetic and real datasets, we establish that the e-values can be a promising general alternative to existing model-specific methods of feature selection.

ActiveHedge: Hedge meets Active Learning

Bhuvesh Kumar · Jacob Abernethy · Venkatesh Saligrama

We consider the classical problem of multi-class prediction with expert advice, but with an active learning twist. In this new setting the learner will only query the labels of a small number of examples, but still aims to minimize regret to the best expert as usual; the learner is also allowed a very short "burn-in" phase where it can fast-forward and query certain highly-informative examples. We design an algorithm that utilizes Hedge (aka Exponential Weights) as a subroutine, and we show that under a very particular combinatorial constraint on the matrix of expert predictions we can obtain a very strong regret guarantee while querying very few labels. This constraint, which we refer to as $\zeta$-compactness, or just compactness, can be viewed as a non-stochastic variant of the disagreement coefficient, another popular parameter used to reason about the sample complexity of active learning in the IID setting. We also give a polynomial-time algorithm to calculate the $\zeta$-compactness of a matrix up to an approximation factor of 3.

One-Pass Algorithms for MAP Inference of Nonsymmetric Determinantal Point Processes

Aravind Reddy · Ryan A. Rossi · Zhao Song · Anup Rao · Tung Mai · Nedim Lipka · Gang Wu · Eunyee Koh · Nesreen K Ahmed

In this paper, we initiate the study of one-pass algorithms for solving the maximum-a-posteriori (MAP) inference problem for Non-symmetric Determinantal Point Processes (NDPPs). In particular, we formulate streaming and online versions of the problem and provide one-pass algorithms for solving these problems. In our streaming setting, data points arrive in an arbitrary order and the algorithms are constrained to use a single-pass over the data as well as sub-linear memory, and only need to output a valid solution at the end of the stream. Our online setting has an additional requirement of maintaining a valid solution at any point in time. We design new one-pass algorithms for these problems and show that they perform comparably to (or even better than) the offline greedy algorithm while using substantially lower memory.

Deciphering Lasso-based Classification Through a Large Dimensional Analysis of the Iterative Soft-Thresholding Algorithm

Malik TIOMOKO · Ekkehard Schnoor · Mohamed El Amine Seddik · Igor Colin · Aladin Virmaux

This paper proposes a theoretical analysis of a Lasso-based classification algorithm. Leveraging on a realistic regime where the dimension of the data $p$ and their number $n$ are of the same order of magnitude, the theoretical classification error is derived as a function of the data statistics. As a result, insights into the functioning of the Lasso in classification and its differences with competing algorithms are highlighted. Our work is based on an original novel analysis of the Iterative Soft-Thresholding Algorithm (ISTA), which may be of independent interest beyond the particular problem studied here and may be adapted to similar iterative schemes.A theoretical optimization of the model's hyperparameters is also provided, which allows for the data- and time-consuming cross-validation to be avoided. Finally, several applications on synthetic and real data are provided to validate the theoretical study and justify its impact in the design and understanding of algorithms of practical interest.

Robustness Implies Generalization via Data-Dependent Generalization Bounds

Kenji Kawaguchi · Zhun Deng · Kyle Luh · Jiaoyang Huang

This paper proves that robustness implies generalization via data-dependent generalization bounds. As a result, robustness and generalization are shown to be connected closely in a data-dependent manner. Our bounds improve previous bounds in two directions, to solve an open problem that has seen little development since 2010. The first is to reduce the dependence on the covering number. The second is to remove the dependence on the hypothesis space. We present several examples, including ones for lasso and deep learning, in which our bounds are provably preferable. The experiments on real-world data and theoretical models demonstrate near-exponential improvements in various situations. To achieve these improvements, we do not require additional assumptions on the unknown distribution; instead, we only incorporate an observable and computable property of the training samples. A key technical innovation is an improved concentration bound for multinomial random variables that is of independent interest beyond robustness and generalization.

Learning to Hash Robustly, Guaranteed

Alexandr Andoni · Daniel Beaglehole

The indexing algorithms for the high-dimensional nearest neighbor search (NNS) with the best worst-case guarantees are based on the randomized Locality Sensitive Hashing (LSH), and its derivatives. In practice, many heuristic approaches exist to "learn" the best indexing method in order to speed-up NNS, crucially adapting to the structure of the given dataset. Oftentimes, these heuristics outperform the LSH-based algorithms on real datasets, but, almost always, come at the cost of losing the guarantees of either correctness or robust performance on adversarial queries, or apply to datasets with an assumed extra structure/model. In this paper, we design an NNS algorithm for the Hamming space that has worst-case guarantees essentially matching that of theoretical algorithms, while optimizing the hashing to the structure of the dataset (think instance-optimal algorithms) for performance on the minimum-performing query. We evaluate the algorithm's ability to optimize for a given dataset both theoretically and practically. On the theoretical side, we exhibit a natural setting (dataset model) where our algorithm is much better than the standard theoretical one. On the practical side, we run experiments that show that our algorithm has a 1.8x and 2.1x better recall on the worst-performing queries to the MNIST and ImageNet datasets.

Policy Gradient Method For Robust Reinforcement Learning

Yue Wang · Shaofeng Zou

This paper develops the first policy gradient method with global optimality guarantee and complexity analysis for robust reinforcement learning under model mismatch. Robust reinforcement learning is to learn a policy robust to model mismatch between simulator and real environment. We first develop the robust policy (sub-)gradient, which is applicable for any differentiable parametric policy class. We show that the proposed robust policy gradient method converges to the global optimum asymptotically under direct policy parameterization. We further develop a smoothed robust policy gradient method, and show that to achieve an $\epsilon$-global optimum, the complexity is $\mathcal O(\epsilon^{-3})$. We then extend our methodology to the general model-free setting, and design the robust actor-critic method with differentiable parametric policy class and value function. We further characterize its asymptotic convergence and sample complexity under the tabular setting. Finally, we provide simulation results to demonstrate the robustness of our methods.

A query-optimal algorithm for finding counterfactuals

Guy Blanc · Caleb Koch · Jane Lange · Li-Yang Tan

We design an algorithm for finding counterfactuals with strong theoretical guarantees on its performance. For any monotone model $f : X^d \to \{0,1\}$ and instance $x^\star$, our algorithm makes\[ S(f)^{O(\Delta_f(x^\star))}\cdot \log d\]queries to $f$ and returns an {\sl optimal} counterfactual for $x^\star$: a nearest instance $x'$ to $x^\star$ for which $f(x')\ne f(x^\star)$. Here $S(f)$ is the sensitivity of $f$, a discrete analogue of the Lipschitz constant, and $\Delta_f(x^\star)$ is the distance from $x^\star$ to its nearest counterfactuals. The previous best known query complexity was $d^{\,O(\Delta_f(x^\star))}$, achievable by brute-force local search. We further prove a lower bound of $S(f)^{\Omega(\Delta_f(x^\star))} + \Omega(\log d)$ on the query complexity of any algorithm, thereby showing that the guarantees of our algorithm are essentially optimal.

Linear Bandit Algorithms with Sublinear Time Complexity

Shuo Yang · Tongzheng Ren · Sanjay Shakkottai · Eric Price · Inderjit Dhillon · Sujay Sanghavi

We propose two linear bandits algorithms with per-step complexity sublinear in the number of arms $K$. The algorithms are designed for applications where the arm set is extremely large and slowly changing. Our key realization is that choosing an arm reduces to a maximum inner product search (MIPS) problem, which can be solved approximately without breaking regret guarantees. Existing approximate MIPS solvers run in sublinear time. We extend those solvers and present theoretical guarantees for online learning problems, where adaptivity (i.e., a later step depends on the feedback in previous steps) becomes a unique challenge. We then explicitly characterize the tradeoff between the per-step complexity and regret. For sufficiently large $K$, our algorithms have sublinear per-step complexity and $\widetilde O(\sqrt{T})$ regret. Empirically, we evaluate our proposed algorithms in a synthetic environment and a real-world online movie recommendation problem. Our proposed algorithms can deliver a more than 72 times speedup compared to the linear time baselines while retaining similar regret.

Quantum-Inspired Algorithms from Randomized Numerical Linear Algebra

Nadiia Chepurko · Kenneth Clarkson · Lior Horesh · Honghao Lin · David Woodruff

We create classical (non-quantum) dynamic data structures supporting queries for recommender systems and least-squares regression that are comparable to their quantum analogues. De-quantizing such algorithms has received a flurry of attention in recent years; we obtain sharper bounds for these problems. More significantly, we achieve these improvements by arguing that the previous quantum-inspired algorithms for these problems are doing leverage or ridge-leverage score sampling in disguise; these are powerful and standard techniques in randomized numerical linear algebra. With this recognition, we are able to employ the large body of work in numerical linear algebra to obtain algorithms for these problems that are simpler or faster (or both) than existing approaches. Our experiments demonstrate that the proposed data structures also work well on real-world datasets.

Individual Preference Stability for Clustering

Saba Ahmadi · Pranjal Awasthi · Samir Khuller · Matthäus Kleindessner · Jamie Morgenstern · Pattara Sukprasert · Ali Vakilian

In this paper, we propose a natural notion of individual preference (IP) stability for clustering, which asks that every data point, on average, is closer to the points in its own cluster than to the points in any other cluster. Our notion can be motivated from several perspectives, including game theory and algorithmic fairness. We study several questions related to our proposed notion. We first show that deciding whether a given data set allows for an IP-stable clustering in general is NP-hard. As a result, we explore the design of efficient algorithms for finding IP-stable clusterings in some restricted metric spaces. We present a polytime algorithm to find a clustering satisfying exact IP-stability on the real line, and an efficient algorithm to find an IP-stable 2-clustering for a tree metric. We also consider relaxing the stability constraint, i.e., every data point should not be too far from its own cluster compared to any other cluster. For this case, we provide polytime algorithms with different guarantees. We evaluate some of our algorithms and several standard clustering approaches on real data sets.

Correlated Quantization for Distributed Mean Estimation and Optimization

Ananda Suresh · Ziteng Sun · Jae Ro · Felix Xinnan Yu

We study the problem of distributed mean estimation and optimization under communication constraints. We propose a correlated quantization protocol whose error guarantee depends on the deviation of data points instead of their absolute range. The design doesn't need any prior knowledge on the concentration property of the dataset, which is required to get such dependence in previous works. We show that applying the proposed protocol as a sub-routine in distributed optimization algorithms leads to better convergence rates. We also prove the optimality of our protocol under mild assumptions. Experimental results show that our proposed algorithm outperforms existing mean estimation protocols on a diverse set of tasks.

Multiple-Play Stochastic Bandits with Shareable Finite-Capacity Arms

Xuchuang Wang · Hong Xie · John C. S. Lui

We generalize the multiple-play multi-armed bandits (MP-MAB) problem with a shareable arms setting, in which several plays can share the same arm. Furthermore, each shareable arm has a finite reward capacity and a “per-load” reward distribution, both of which are unknown to the learner. The reward from a shareable arm is load-dependent, which is the “per-load” reward multiplying either the number of plays pulling the arm, or its reward capacity when the number of plays exceeds the capacity limit. When the “per-load” reward follows a Gaussian distribution, we prove a sample complexity lower bound of learning the capacity from load-dependent rewards and also a regret lower bound of this new MP-MAB problem. We devise a capacity estimator whose sample complexity upper bound matches the lower bound in terms of reward means and capacities. We also propose an online learning algorithm to address the problem and prove its regret upper bound. This regret upper bound's first term is the same as regret lower bound's, and its second and third terms also evidently correspond to lower bound's. Extensive experiments validate our algorithm’s performance and also its gain in 5G & 4G base station selection.

Coordinated Attacks against Contextual Bandits: Fundamental Limits and Defense Mechanisms

Jeongyeol Kwon · Yonathan Efroni · Constantine Caramanis · Shie Mannor

Motivated by online recommendation systems, we propose the problem of finding the optimal policy in multitask contextual bandits when a small fraction $\alpha < 1/2$ of tasks (users) are arbitrary and adversarial. The remaining fraction of good users share the same instance of contextual bandits with $S$ contexts and $A$ actions (items). Naturally, whether a user is good or adversarial is not known in advance. The goal is to robustly learn the policy that maximizes rewards for good users with as few user interactions as possible. Without adversarial users, established results in collaborative filtering show that $O(1/\epsilon^2)$ per-user interactions suffice to learn a good policy, precisely because information can be shared across users. This parallelization gain is fundamentally altered by the presence of adversarial users: unless there are super-polynomial number of users, we show a lower bound of $\tilde{\Omega}(\min(S,A) \cdot \alpha^2 / \epsilon^2)$ {\it per-user} interactions to learn an $\epsilon$-optimal policy for the good users. We then show we can achieve an $\tilde{O}(\min(S,A)\cdot \alpha/\epsilon^2)$ upper-bound, by employing efficient robust mean estimators for both uni-variate and high-dimensional random variables. We also show that this can be improved depending on the distributions of contexts.

The Algebraic Path Problem for Graph Metrics

Enrique Fita Sanmartín · Sebastian Damrich · Fred Hamprecht

Finding paths with optimal properties is a foundational problem in computer science. The notions of shortest paths (minimal sum of edge costs), minimax paths (minimal maximum edge weight), reliability of a path and many others all arise as special cases of the "algebraic path problem" (APP). Indeed, the APP formalizes the relation between different semirings such as min-plus, min-max and the distances they induce. We here clarify, for the first time, the relation between the potential distance and the log-semiring. We also define a new unifying family of algebraic structures that include all above-mentioned path problems as well as the commute cost and others as special or limiting cases. The family comprises not only semirings but also strong bimonoids (that is, semirings without distributivity). We call this new and very general distance the "log-norm distance". Finally, we derive some sufficient conditions which ensure that the APP associated with a semiring defines a metric over an arbitrary graph.

Steerable 3D Spherical Neurons

Pavlo Melnyk · Michael Felsberg · Mårten Wadenbäck

Emerging from low-level vision theory, steerable filters found their counterpart in prior work on steerable convolutional neural networks equivariant to rigid transformations. In our work, we propose a steerable feed-forward learning-based approach that consists of neurons with spherical decision surfaces and operates on point clouds. Such spherical neurons are obtained by conformal embedding of Euclidean space and have recently been revisited in the context of learning representations of point sets. Focusing on 3D geometry, we exploit the isometry property of spherical neurons and derive a 3D steerability constraint. After training spherical neurons to classify point clouds in a canonical orientation, we use a tetrahedron basis to quadruplicate the neurons and construct rotation-equivariant spherical filter banks. We then apply the derived constraint to interpolate the filter bank outputs and, thus, obtain a rotation-invariant network. Finally, we use a synthetic point set and real-world 3D skeleton data to verify our theoretical findings. The code is available at

H-Consistency Bounds for Surrogate Loss Minimizers

Pranjal Awasthi · Anqi Mao · Mehryar Mohri · Yutao Zhong

We present a detailed study of estimation errors in terms of surrogate loss estimation errors. We refer to such guarantees as H-consistency bounds, since they account for the hypothesis set H adopted. These guarantees are significantly stronger than H-calibration or H-consistency. They are also more informative than similar excess error bounds derived in the literature, when H is the family of all measurable functions. We prove general theorems providing such guarantees, for both the distribution-dependent and distribution-independent settings. We show that our bounds are tight, modulo a convexity assumption. We also show that previous excess error bounds can be recovered as special cases of our general results. We then present a series of explicit bounds in the case of the zero-one loss, with multiple choices of the surrogate loss and for both the family of linear functions and neural networks with one hidden-layer. We further prove more favorable distribution-dependent guarantees in that case. We also present a series of explicit bounds in the case of the adversarial loss, with surrogate losses based on the supremum of the $\rho$-margin, hinge or sigmoid loss and for the same two general hypothesis sets. Here too, we prove several enhancements of these guarantees under natural distributional assumptions. Finally, we report the results of simulations illustrating our bounds and their tightness.

Learning General Halfspaces with Adversarial Label Noise via Online Gradient Descent

Ilias Diakonikolas · Vasilis Kontonis · Christos Tzamos · Nikos Zarifis

We study the problem of learning general — i.e., not necessarily homogeneous — halfspaces with adversarial label noise under the Gaussian distribution. Prior work has provided a sophisticated polynomial-time algorithm for this problem. In this work, we show that the problem can be solved directly via online gradient descent applied to a sequence of natural non-convex surrogates. This approach yields a simple iterative learning algorithm for general halfspaces with near-optimal sample complexity, runtime, and error guarantee. At the conceptual level, our work establishes an intriguing connection between learning halfspaces with adversarial noise and online optimization that may find other applications.

The Teaching Dimension of Regularized Kernel Learners

Hong Qian · Xu-Hui Liu · Chen-Xi Su · Aimin Zhou · Yang Yu

Teaching dimension (TD) is a fundamental theoretical property for understanding machine teaching algorithms. It measures the sample complexity of teaching a target hypothesis to a learner. The TD of linear learners has been studied extensively, whereas the results of teaching non-linear learners are rare. A recent result investigates the TD of polynomial and Gaussian kernel learners. Unfortunately, the theoretical bounds therein show that the TD is high when teaching those non-linear learners. Inspired by the fact that regularization can reduce the learning complexity in machine learning, a natural question is whether the similar fact happens in machine teaching. To answer this essential question, this paper proposes a unified theoretical framework termed STARKE to analyze the TD of regularized kernel learners. On the basis of STARKE, we derive a generic result of any type of kernels. Furthermore, we disclose that the TD of regularized linear and regularized polynomial kernel learners can be strictly reduced. For regularized Gaussian kernel learners, we reveal that, although their TD is infinite, their epsilon-approximate TD can be exponentially reduced compared with that of the unregularized learners. The extensive experimental results of teaching the optimization-based learners verify the theoretical findings.

Sparse Mixed Linear Regression with Guarantees: Taming an Intractable Problem with Invex Relaxation

Adarsh Barik · Jean Honorio

In this paper, we study the problem of sparse mixed linear regression on an unlabeled dataset that is generated from linear measurements from two different regression parameter vectors. Since the data is unlabeled, our task is to not only figure out a good approximation of regression parameter vectors but also label the dataset correctly. In its original form, this problem is NP-hard. The most popular algorithms to solve this problem (such as Expectation-Maximization) have a tendency to stuck at local minima. We provide a novel invex relaxation for this intractable problem which leads to a solution with provable theoretical guarantees. This relaxation enables exact recovery of data labels. Furthermore, we recover close approximation of regression parameter vectors which match the true parameter vectors in support and sign. Our formulation uses a carefully constructed primal dual witnesses framework for the invex problem. Furthermore, we show that the sample complexity of our method is only logarithmic in terms of the dimension of the regression parameter vectors.

TURF: Two-Factor, Universal, Robust, Fast Distribution Learning Algorithm

Yi Hao · Ayush Jain · Alon Orlitsky · Vaishakh Ravindrakumar

Approximating distributions from their samples is a canonical statistical-learning problem. One of its most powerful and successful modalities approximates every distribution to an $\ell_1$ distance essentially at most a constant times larger than its closest $t$-piece degree-$d$ polynomial, where $t\ge1$ and $d\ge0$. Letting $c_{t,d}$ denote the smallest such factor, clearly $c_{1,0}=1$, and it can be shown that $c_{t,d}\ge 2$ for all other $t$ and $d$. Yet current computationally efficient algorithms show only $c_{t,1}\le 2.25$ and the bound rises quickly to $c_{t,d}\le 3$ for $d\ge 9$. We derive a near-linear-time and essentially sample-optimal estimator that establishes $c_{t,d}=2$ for all $(t,d)\ne(1,0)$. Additionally, for many practical distributions, the lowest approximation distance is achieved by polynomials with vastly varying number of pieces. We provide a method that estimates this number near-optimally, hence helps approach the best possible approximation. Experiments combining the two techniques confirm improved performance over existing methodologies.

Multiclass learning with margin: exponential rates with no bias-variance trade-off

Stefano Vigogna · Giacomo Meanti · Ernesto De Vito · Lorenzo Rosasco

We study the behavior of error bounds for multiclass classification under suitable margin conditions. For a wide variety of methods we prove that the classification error under a hard-margin condition decreases exponentially fast without any bias-variance trade-off. Different convergence rates can be obtained in correspondence of different margin assumptions. With a self-contained and instructive analysis we are able to generalize known results from the binary to the multiclass setting.

Refined Convergence Rates for Maximum Likelihood Estimation under Finite Mixture Models

Tudor Manole · Nhat Ho

We revisit the classical problem of deriving convergence rates for the maximum likelihood estimator (MLE) in finite mixture models. The Wasserstein distance has become a standard loss function for the analysis of parameter estimation in these models, due in part to its ability to circumvent label switching and to accurately characterize the behaviour of fitted mixture components with vanishing weights. However, the Wasserstein distance is only able to capture the worst-case convergence rate among the remaining fitted mixture components. We demonstrate that when the log-likelihood function is penalized to discourage vanishing mixing weights, stronger loss functions can be derived to resolve this shortcoming of the Wasserstein distance. These new loss functions accurately capture the heterogeneity in convergence rates of fitted mixture components, and we use them to sharpen existing pointwise and uniform convergence rates in various classes of mixture models. In particular, these results imply that a subset of the components of the penalized MLE typically converge significantly faster than could have been anticipated from past work. We further show that some of these conclusions extend to the traditional MLE. Our theoretical findings are supported by a simulation study to illustrate these improved convergence rates.

High Probability Guarantees for Nonconvex Stochastic Gradient Descent with Heavy Tails

Shaojie Li · Yong Liu

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) is the workhorse in modern machine learning and data-driven optimization. Despite its popularity, existing theoretical guarantees for SGD are mainly derived in expectation and for convex learning problems. High probability guarantees of nonconvex SGD are scarce, and typically rely on “light-tail” noise assumptions and study the optimization and generalization performance separately. In this paper, we develop high probability bounds for nonconvex SGD with a joint perspective of optimization and generalization performance. Instead of the light tail assumption, we consider the gradient noise following a heavy-tailed sub-Weibull distribution, a novel class generalizing the sub-Gaussian and sub-Exponential families to potentially heavier-tailed distributions. Under these complicated settings, we first present high probability bounds with best-known rates in general nonconvex learning, then move to nonconvex learning with a gradient dominance curvature condition, for which we improve the learning guarantees to fast rates. We further obtain sharper learning guarantees by considering a mild Bernstein-type noise condition. Our analysis also reveals the effect of trade-offs between the optimization and generalization performance under different conditions. In the last, we show that gradient clipping can be employed to remove the bounded gradient-type assumptions. Additionally, in this case, the stepsize of SGD is completely oblivious to the knowledge of smoothness.

An Initial Alignment between Neural Network and Target is Needed for Gradient Descent to Learn

Emmanuel Abbe · Elisabetta Cornacchia · Jan Hazla · Christopher Marquis

This paper introduces the notion of “Initial Alignment” (INAL) between a neural network at initialization and a target function. It is proved that if a network and a Boolean target function do not have a noticeable INAL, then noisy gradient descent with normalized i.i.d. initialization will not learn in polynomial time. Thus a certain amount of knowledge about the target (measured by the INAL) is needed in the architecture design. This also provides an answer to an open problem posed in (AS-NeurIPS’20). The results are based on deriving lower-bounds for descent algorithms on symmetric neural networks without explicit knowledge of the target function beyond its INAL.

Inductive Biases and Variable Creation in Self-Attention Mechanisms

Benjamin Edelman · Surbhi Goel · Sham Kakade · Cyril Zhang

Self-attention, an architectural motif designed to model long-range interactions in sequential data, has driven numerous recent breakthroughs in natural language processing and beyond. This work provides a theoretical analysis of the inductive biases of self-attention modules. Our focus is to rigorously establish which functions and long-range dependencies self-attention blocks prefer to represent. Our main result shows that bounded-norm Transformer networks "create sparse variables": a single self-attention head can represent a sparse function of the input sequence, with sample complexity scaling only logarithmically with the context length. To support our analysis, we present synthetic experiments to probe the sample complexity of learning sparse Boolean functions with Transformers.

Topology-aware Generalization of Decentralized SGD

Tongtian Zhu · Fengxiang He · Lan Zhang · Zhengyang Niu · Mingli Song · Dacheng Tao

This paper studies the algorithmic stability and generalizability of decentralized stochastic gradient descent (D-SGD). We prove that the consensus model learned by D-SGD is $\mathcal{O}{(m/N\unaryplus1/m\unaryplus\lambda^2)}$-stable in expectation in the non-convex non-smooth setting, where $N$ is the total sample size of the whole system, $m$ is the worker number, and $1\unaryminus\lambda$ is the spectral gap that measures the connectivity of the communication topology. These results then deliver an $\mathcal{O}{(1/N\unaryplus{({(m^{-1}\lambda^2)}^{\frac{\alpha}{2}}\unaryplus m^{\unaryminus\alpha})}/{N^{1\unaryminus\frac{\alpha}{2}}})}$ in-average generalization bound, which is non-vacuous even when $\lambda$ is closed to $1$, in contrast to vacuous as suggested by existing literature on the projected version of D-SGD. Our theory indicates that the generalizability of D-SGD has a positive correlation with the spectral gap, and can explain why consensus control in initial training phase can ensure better generalization. Experiments of VGG-11 and ResNet-18 on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100 and Tiny-ImageNet justify our theory. To our best knowledge, this is the first work on the topology-aware generalization of vanilla D-SGD. Code is available at \url{}.

Understanding Gradient Descent on the Edge of Stability in Deep Learning

Sanjeev Arora · Zhiyuan Li · Abhishek Panigrahi

Deep learning experiments by \citet{cohen2021gradient} using deterministic Gradient Descent (GD) revealed an {\em Edge of Stability (EoS)} phase when learning rate (LR) and sharpness (\emph{i.e.}, the largest eigenvalue of Hessian) no longer behave as in traditional optimization. Sharpness stabilizes around $2/$LR and loss goes up and down across iterations, yet still with an overall downward trend. The current paper mathematically analyzes a new mechanism of implicit regularization in the EoS phase, whereby GD updates due to non-smooth loss landscape turn out to evolve along some deterministic flow on the manifold of minimum loss. This is in contrast to many previous results about implicit bias either relying on infinitesimal updates or noise in gradient. Formally, for any smooth function $L$ with certain regularity condition, this effect is demonstrated for (1) {\em Normalized GD}, i.e., GD with a varying LR $\eta_t =\frac{\eta}{\norm{\nabla L(x(t))}}$ and loss $L$; (2) GD with constant LR and loss $\sqrt{L- \min_x L(x)}$. Both provably enter the Edge of Stability, with the associated flow on the manifold minimizing $\lambda_{1}(\nabla^2 L)$. The above theoretical results have been corroborated by an experimental study.

Cooperative Online Learning in Stochastic and Adversarial MDPs

Tal Lancewicki · Aviv Rosenberg · Yishay Mansour

We study cooperative online learning in stochastic and adversarial Markov decision process (MDP). That is, in each episode, $m$ agents interact with an MDP simultaneously and share information in order to minimize their individual regret. We consider environments with two types of randomness: \emph{fresh} -- where each agent's trajectory is sampled i.i.d, and \emph{non-fresh} -- where the realization is shared by all agents (but each agent's trajectory is also affected by its own actions). More precisely, with non-fresh randomness the realization of every cost and transition is fixed at the start of each episode, and agents that take the same action in the same state at the same time observe the same cost and next state. We thoroughly analyze all relevant settings, highlight the challenges and differences between the models, and prove nearly-matching regret lower and upper bounds. To our knowledge, we are the first to consider cooperative reinforcement learning (RL) with either non-fresh randomness or in adversarial MDPs.

Simple and near-optimal algorithms for hidden stratification and multi-group learning

Christopher Tosh · Daniel Hsu

Multi-group agnostic learning is a formal learning criterion that is concerned with the conditional risks of predictors within subgroups of a population. The criterion addresses recent practical concerns such as subgroup fairness and hidden stratification. This paper studies the structure of solutions to the multi-group learningproblem, and provides simple and near-optimal algorithms for the learning problem.

Being Properly Improper

Tyler Sypherd · Richard Nock · Lalitha Sankar

Properness for supervised losses stipulates that the loss function shapes the learning algorithm towards the true posterior of the data generating distribution. Unfortunately, data in modern machine learning can be corrupted or twisted in many ways. Hence, optimizing a proper loss function on twisted data could perilously lead the learning algorithm towards the twisted posterior, rather than to the desired clean posterior. Many papers cope with specific twists (e.g., label/feature/adversarial noise), but there is a growing need for a unified and actionable understanding atop properness. Our chief theoretical contribution is a generalization of the properness framework with a notion called twist-properness, which delineates loss functions with the ability to "untwist" the twisted posterior into the clean posterior. Notably, we show that a nontrivial extension of a loss function called alpha-loss, which was first introduced in information theory, is twist-proper. We study the twist-proper alpha-loss under a novel boosting algorithm, called PILBoost, and provide formal and experimental results for this algorithm. Our overarching practical conclusion is that the twist-proper alpha-loss outperforms the proper log-loss on several variants of twisted data.

Neural Network Pruning Denoises the Features and Makes Local Connectivity Emerge in Visual Tasks

Franco Pellegrini · Giulio Biroli

Pruning methods can considerably reduce the size of artificial neural networks without harming their performance and in some cases they can even uncover sub-networks that, when trained in isolation, match or surpass the test accuracy of their dense counterparts. Here, we characterize the inductive bias that pruning imprints in such "winning lottery tickets": focusing on visual tasks, we analyze the architecture resulting from iterative magnitude pruning of a simple fully connected network. We show that the surviving node connectivity is local in input space, and organized in patterns reminiscent of the ones found in convolutional networks. We investigate the role played by data and tasks in shaping the architecture of the pruned sub-network. We find that pruning performances, and the ability to sift out the noise and make local features emerge, improve by increasing the size of the training set, and the semantic value of the data. We also study different pruning procedures, and find that iterative magnitude pruning is particularly effective in distilling meaningful connectivity out of features present in the original task. Our results suggest the possibility to automatically discover new and efficient architectural inductive biases in other datasets and tasks.

On the Finite-Time Complexity and Practical Computation of Approximate Stationarity Concepts of Lipschitz Functions

Lai Tian · Kaiwen Zhou · Anthony Man-Cho So

We report a practical finite-time algorithmic scheme to compute approximately stationary points for nonconvex nonsmooth Lipschitz functions. In particular, we are interested in two kinds of approximate stationarity notions for nonconvex nonsmooth problems, i.e., Goldstein approximate stationarity (GAS) and near-approximate stationarity (NAS). For GAS, our scheme removes the unrealistic subgradient selection oracle assumption in (Zhang et al., 2020, Assumption 1) and computes GAS with the same finite-time complexity. For NAS, Davis & Drusvyatskiy (2019) showed that $\rho$-weakly convex functions admit finite-time computation, while Tian & So (2021) provided the matching impossibility results of dimension-free finite-time complexity for first-order methods. Complement to these developments, in this paper, we isolate a new class of functions that could be Clarke irregular (and thus not weakly convex anymore) and show that our new algorithmic scheme can compute NAS points for functions in that class within finite time. To demonstrate the wide applicability of our new theoretical framework, we show that $\rho$-margin SVM, $1$-layer, and $2$-layer ReLU neural networks, all being Clarke irregular, satisfy our new conditions.

Nearly Optimal Policy Optimization with Stable at Any Time Guarantee

Tianhao Wu · Yunchang Yang · Han Zhong · Liwei Wang · Simon Du · Jiantao Jiao

Policy optimization methods are one of the most widely used classes of Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms. However, theoretical understanding of these methods remains insufficient. Even in the episodic (time-inhomogeneous) tabular setting, the state-of-the-art theoretical result of policy-based method in Shani et al. (2020) is only $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{S^2AH^4K})$ where $S$ is the number of states, $A$ is the number of actions, $H$ is the horizon, and $K$ is the number of episodes, and there is a $\sqrt{SH}$ gap compared with the information theoretic lower bound $\tilde{\Omega}(\sqrt{SAH^3K})$ (Jin et al., 2018). To bridge such a gap, we propose a novel algorithm Reference-based Policy Optimization with Stable at Any Time guarantee (RPO-SAT), which features the property ``Stable at Any Time''. We prove that our algorithm achieves $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{SAH^3K} + \sqrt{AH^4K})$ regret. When $S > H$, our algorithm is minimax optimal when ignoring logarithmic factors. To our best knowledge, RPO-SAT is the first computationally efficient, nearly minimax optimal policy-based algorithm for tabular RL.

Contextual Bandits with Smooth Regret: Efficient Learning in Continuous Action Spaces

Yinglun Zhu · Paul Mineiro

Designing efficient general-purpose contextual bandit algorithms that work with large---or even infinite---action spaces would facilitate application to important scenarios such as information retrieval, recommendation systems, and continuous control. While obtaining standard regret guarantees can be hopeless, alternative regret notions have been proposed to tackle the large action setting. We propose a smooth regret notion for contextual bandits, which dominates previously proposed alternatives. We design a statistically and computationally efficient algorithm---for the proposed smooth regret---that works with general function approximation under standard supervised oracles. We also present an adaptive algorithm that automatically adapts to any smoothness level. Our algorithms can be used to recover the previous minimax/Pareto optimal guarantees under the standard regret, e.g., in bandit problems with multiple best arms and Lipschitz/H{\"o}lder bandits. We conduct large-scale empirical evaluations demonstrating the efficacy of our proposed algorithms.

Minimax M-estimation under Adversarial Contamination

Sujay Bhatt · Guanhua Fang · Ping Li · Gennady Samorodnitsky

We present a new finite-sample analysis of Catoni’s M-estimator under adversarial contamination, where an adversary is allowed to corrupt a fraction of the samples arbitrarily. We make minimal assumptions on the distribution of the uncontaminated random variables, namely, we only assume the existence of a known upper bound~$\upsilon_{\varepsilon} > 0$ on the~$(1+\varepsilon)^{th}$ central moment of the random variables, namely, for~$\varepsilon \in (0,1]$ \[ \mathbb{E}_{X_1 \sim \mathcal{D}} \Big| X_1 - \mu \Big|^{1+\varepsilon} \leq \upsilon_{\varepsilon}. \]We provide a lower bound on the minimax error rate for the mean estimation problem under adversarial corruption under this weak assumption, and establish that the proposed M-estimator achieves this lower bound (up to multiplicative constants). When the variance is infinite, the tolerance to contamination of any estimator reduces as~$\varepsilon \downarrow 0$. We establish a tight upper bound that characterizes this bargain. To illustrate the usefulness of the derived robust M-estimator in an online setting, we present a bandit algorithm for the partially identifiable best arm identification problem that improves upon the sample complexity of the state of the art algorithms.

Adaptive Best-of-Both-Worlds Algorithm for Heavy-Tailed Multi-Armed Bandits

Jiatai Huang · Yan Dai · Longbo Huang

In this paper, we generalize the concept of heavy-tailed multi-armed bandits to adversarial environments, and develop robust best-of-both-worlds algorithms for heavy-tailed multi-armed bandits (MAB), where losses have $\alpha$-th ($1<\alpha\le 2$) moments bounded by $\sigma^\alpha$, while the variances may not exist. Specifically, we design an algorithm \texttt{HTINF}, when the heavy-tail parameters $\alpha$ and $\sigma$ are known to the agent, \texttt{HTINF} simultaneously achieves the optimal regret for both stochastic and adversarial environments, without knowing the actual environment type a-priori. When $\alpha,\sigma$ are unknown, \texttt{HTINF} achieves a $\log T$-style instance-dependent regret in stochastic cases and $o(T)$ no-regret guarantee in adversarial cases. We further develop an algorithm \texttt{AdaTINF}, achieving $\mathcal O(\sigma K^{1-\nicefrac 1\alpha}T^{\nicefrac{1}{\alpha}})$ minimax optimal regret even in adversarial settings, without prior knowledge on $\alpha$ and $\sigma$. This result matches the known regret lower-bound (Bubeck et al., 2013), which assumed a stochastic environment and $\alpha$ and $\sigma$ are both known. To our knowledge, the proposed \texttt{HTINF} algorithm is the first to enjoy a best-of-both-worlds regret guarantee, and \texttt{AdaTINF} is the first algorithm that can adapt to both $\alpha$ and $\sigma$ to achieve optimal gap-indepedent regret bound in classical heavy-tailed stochastic MAB setting and our novel adversarial formulation.

Efficiently Learning the Topology and Behavior of a Networked Dynamical System Via Active Queries

Daniel Rosenkrantz · Abhijin Adiga · Madhav Marathe · Zirou Qiu · S. S. Ravi · Richard Stearns · Anil Vullikanti

Using a discrete dynamical system model, many papers have addressedthe problem of learning the behavior (i.e., the local function ateach node) of a networked system through active queries, assumingthat the network topology is known. We address the problem ofinferring both the topology of the network and the behavior of adiscrete dynamical system through active queries. We consider twoquery models studied in the literature, namely the batch model(where all the queries must be submitted together) and the adaptivemodel (where responses to previous queries can be used in formulatinga new query). Our results are for systems where the state of eachnode is from {0,1} and the local functions are Boolean. We presentalgorithms to learn the topology and the behavior under both batchand adaptive query models for several classes of dynamical systems.These algorithms use only a polynomial number of queries. We alsopresent experimental results obtained by running our query generationalgorithms on synthetic and real-world networks.

Boosting Graph Structure Learning with Dummy Nodes

Xin Liu · Jiayang Cheng · Yangqiu Song · Xin Jiang

With the development of graph kernels and graph representation learning, many superior methods have been proposed to handle scalability and oversmoothing issues on graph structure learning. However, most of those strategies are designed based on practical experience rather than theoretical analysis. In this paper, we use a particular dummy node connecting to all existing vertices without affecting original vertex and edge properties. We further prove that such the dummy node can help build an efficient monomorphic edge-to-vertex transform and an epimorphic inverse to recover the original graph back. It also indicates that adding dummy nodes can preserve local and global structures for better graph representation learning. We extend graph kernels and graph neural networks with dummy nodes and conduct experiments on graph classification and subgraph isomorphism matching tasks. Empirical results demonstrate that taking graphs with dummy nodes as input significantly boosts graph structure learning, and using their edge-to-vertex graphs can also achieve similar results. We also discuss the gain of expressive power from the dummy in neural networks.

Lazy Estimation of Variable Importance for Large Neural Networks

Yue Gao · Abby Stevens · Garvesh Raskutti · Rebecca Willett

As opaque predictive models increasingly impact many areas of modern life, interest in quantifying the importance of a given input variable for making a specific prediction has grown. Recently, there has been a proliferation of model-agnostic methods to measure variable importance (VI) that analyze the difference in predictive power between a full model trained on all variables and a reduced model that excludes the variable(s) of interest. A bottleneck common to these methods is the estimation of the reduced model for each variable (or subset of variables), which is an expensive process that often does not come with theoretical guarantees. In this work, we propose a fast and flexible method for approximating the reduced model with important inferential guarantees. We replace the need for fully retraining a wide neural network by a linearization initialized at the full model parameters. By adding a ridge-like penalty to make the problem convex, we prove that when the ridge penalty parameter is sufficiently large, our method estimates the variable importance measure with an error rate of O(1/n) where n is the number of training samples. We also show that our estimator is asymptotically normal, enabling us to provide confidence bounds for the VI estimates. We demonstrate through simulations that our method is fast and accurate under several data-generating regimes, and we demonstrate its real-world applicability on a seasonal climate forecasting example.