Poster Session 3

Hall E


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Structure Preserving Neural Networks: A Case Study in the Entropy Closure of the Boltzmann Equation

Steffen Schotthöfer · Tianbai Xiao · Martin Frank · Cory Hauck

In this paper, we explore applications of deep learning in statistical physics. We choose the Boltzmann equation as a typical example, where neural networks serve as a closure to its moment system. We present two types of neural networks to embed the convexity of entropy and to preserve the minimum entropy principle and intrinsic mathematical structures of the moment system of the Boltzmann equation. We derive an error bound for the generalization gap of convex neural networks which are trained in Sobolev norm and use the results to construct data sampling methods for neural network training. Numerical experiments demonstrate that the neural entropy closure is significantly faster than classical optimizers while maintaining sufficient accuracy.

Composing Partial Differential Equations with Physics-Aware Neural Networks

Matthias Karlbauer · Timothy Praditia · Sebastian Otte · Sergey Oladyshkin · Wolfgang Nowak · Martin V Butz

We introduce a compositional physics-aware FInite volume Neural Network (FINN) for learning spatiotemporal advection-diffusion processes. FINN implements a new way of combining the learning abilities of artificial neural networks with physical and structural knowledge from numerical simulation by modeling the constituents of partial differential equations (PDEs) in a compositional manner. Results on both one- and two-dimensional PDEs (Burgers’, diffusion-sorption, diffusion-reaction, Allen–Cahn) demonstrate FINN’s superior modeling accuracy and excellent out-of-distribution generalization ability beyond initial and boundary conditions. With only one tenth of the number of parameters on average, FINN outperforms pure machine learning and other state-of-the-art physics-aware models in all cases—often even by multiple orders of magnitude. Moreover, FINN outperforms a calibrated physical model when approximating sparse real-world data in a diffusion-sorption scenario, confirming its generalization abilities and showing explanatory potential by revealing the unknown retardation factor of the observed process.

Neuro-Symbolic Language Modeling with Automaton-augmented Retrieval

Uri Alon · Frank Xu · Junxian He · Sudipta Sengupta · Dan Roth · Graham Neubig

Retrieval-based language models (R-LM) model the probability of natural language text by combining a standard language model (LM) with examples retrieved from an external datastore at test time. While effective, a major bottleneck of using these models in practice is the computationally costly datastore search, which can be performed as frequently as every time step.In this paper, we present RetoMaton - retrieval automaton - which approximates the datastore search, based on (1) saving pointers between consecutive datastore entries, and(2) clustering of entries into "states".This effectively results in a weighted finite automaton built on top of the datastore, instead of representing the datastore as a flat list.The creation of the automaton is unsupervised, and a RetoMaton can be constructed from any text collection: either the original training corpus or from another domain. Traversing this automaton at inference time, in parallel to the LM inference, reduces its perplexity by up to 1.85, or alternativelysaves up to 83% of the nearest neighbor searches over $k$NN-LM (Khandelwal et al., 2020) without hurting perplexity. Our code and trained models are available at .

Towards Coherent and Consistent Use of Entities in Narrative Generation

Pinelopi Papalampidi · Kris Cao · Tomas Kocisky

Large pre-trained language models (LMs) have demonstrated impressive capabilities in generating long, fluent text; however, there is little to no analysis on their ability to maintain entity coherence and consistency. In this work, we focus on the end task of narrative generation and systematically analyse the long-range entity coherence and consistency in generated stories. First, we propose a set of automatic metrics for measuring model performance in terms of entity usage. Given these metrics, we quantify the limitations of current LMs. Next, we propose augmenting a pre-trained LM with a dynamic entity memory in an end-to-end manner by using an auxiliary entity-related loss for guiding the reads and writes to the memory. We demonstrate that the dynamic entity memory increases entity coherence according to both automatic and human judgment and helps preserving entity-related information especially in settings with a limited context window. Finally, we also validate that our automatic metrics are correlated with human ratings and serve as a good indicator of the quality of generated stories.

Optimally Controllable Perceptual Lossy Compression

Zeyu Yan · Fei Wen · Peilin Liu

Recent studies in lossy compression show that distortion and perceptual quality are at odds with each other, which put forward the tradeoff between distortion and perception (D-P). Intuitively, to attain different perceptual quality, different decoders have to be trained. In this paper, we present a nontrivial finding that only two decoders are sufficient for optimally achieving arbitrary (an infinite number of different) D-P tradeoff. We prove that arbitrary points of the D-P tradeoff bound can be achieved by a simple linear interpolation between the outputs of a minimum MSE decoder and a specifically constructed perfect perceptual decoder. Meanwhile, the perceptual quality (in terms of the squared Wasserstein-2 distancemetric) can be quantitatively controlled by the interpolation factor. Furthermore, to construct a perfect perceptual decoder, we propose two theoretically optimal training frameworks. The new frameworks are different from the distortion-plus-adversarial loss based heuristic framework widely used in existing methods, which are not only theoretically optimal but also can yield state-of-the-art performance in practical perceptual decoding. Finally, we validate our theoretical finding and demonstrate the superiority of our frameworks via experiments. Code is available at:

Learning to Solve PDE-constrained Inverse Problems with Graph Networks

QINGQING ZHAO · David B. Lindell · Gordon Wetzstein

Learned graph neural networks (GNNs) have recently been established as fast and accurate alternatives for principled solvers in simulating the dynamics of physical systems. In many application domains across science and engineering, however, we are not only interested in a forward simulation but also in solving inverse problems with constraints defined by a partial differential equation (PDE). Here we explore GNNs to solve such PDE-constrained inverse problems. Given a sparse set of measurements, we are interested in recovering the initial condition or parameters of the PDE. We demonstrate that GNNs combined with autodecoder-style priors are well-suited for these tasks, achieving more accurate estimates of initial conditions or physical parameters than other learned approaches when applied to the wave equation or Navier Stokes equations. We also demonstrate computational speedups of up to 90x using GNNs compared to principled solvers.

ModLaNets: Learning Generalisable Dynamics via Modularity and Physical Inductive Bias

Yupu Lu · Shijie Lin · Guanqi Chen · Jia Pan

Deep learning models are able to approximate one specific dynamical system but struggle at learning generalisable dynamics, where dynamical systems obey the same laws of physics but contain different numbers of elements (e.g., double- and triple-pendulum systems). To relieve this issue, we proposed the Modular Lagrangian Network (ModLaNet), a structural neural network framework with modularity and physical inductive bias. This framework models the energy of each element using modularity and then construct the target dynamical system via Lagrangian mechanics. Modularity is beneficial for reusing trained networks and reducing the scale of networks and datasets. As a result, our framework can learn from the dynamics of simpler systems and extend to more complex ones, which is not feasible using other relevant physics-informed neural networks. We examine our framework for modelling double-pendulum or three-body systems with small training datasets, where our models achieve the best data efficiency and accuracy performance compared with counterparts. We also reorganise our models as extensions to model multi-pendulum and multi-body systems, demonstrating the intriguing reusable feature of our framework.

Learning to Estimate and Refine Fluid Motion with Physical Dynamics

Mingrui Zhang · Jianhong Wang · James Tlhomole · Matthew Piggott

Extracting information on fluid motion directly from images is challenging. Fluid flow represents a complex dynamic system governed by the Navier-Stokes equations. General optical flow methods are typically designed for rigid body motion, and thus struggle if applied to fluid motion estimation directly. Further, optical flow methods only focus on two consecutive frames without utilising historical temporal information, while the fluid motion (velocity field) can be considered a continuous trajectory constrained by time-dependent partial differential equations (PDEs). This discrepancy has the potential to induce physically inconsistent estimations. Here we propose an unsupervised learning based prediction-correction scheme for fluid flow estimation. An estimate is first given by a PDE-constrained optical flow predictor, which is then refined by a physical based corrector. The proposed approach outperforms optical flow methods and shows competitive results compared to existing supervised learning based methods on a benchmark dataset. Furthermore, the proposed approach can generalize to complex real-world fluid scenarios where ground truth information is effectively unknowable. Finally, experiments demonstrate that the physical corrector can refine flow estimates by mimicking the operator splitting method commonly utilised in fluid dynamical simulation.

Tractable Dendritic RNNs for Reconstructing Nonlinear Dynamical Systems

Manuel Brenner · Florian Hess · Jonas M Mikhaeil · Leonard Bereska · Zahra Monfared · Po-Chen Kuo · Daniel Durstewitz

In many scientific disciplines, we are interested in inferring the nonlinear dynamical system underlying a set of observed time series, a challenging task in the face of chaotic behavior and noise. Previous deep learning approaches toward this goal often suffered from a lack of interpretability and tractability. In particular, the high-dimensional latent spaces often required for a faithful embedding, even when the underlying dynamics lives on a lower-dimensional manifold, can hamper theoretical analysis. Motivated by the emerging principles of dendritic computation, we augment a dynamically interpretable and mathematically tractable piecewise-linear (PL) recurrent neural network (RNN) by a linear spline basis expansion. We show that this approach retains all the theoretically appealing properties of the simple PLRNN, yet boosts its capacity for approximating arbitrary nonlinear dynamical systems in comparatively low dimensions. We employ two frameworks for training the system, one combining BPTT with teacher forcing, and another based on fast and scalable variational inference. We show that the dendritically expanded PLRNN achieves better reconstructions with fewer parameters and dimensions on various dynamical systems benchmarks and compares favorably to other methods, while retaining a tractable and interpretable structure.

An Intriguing Property of Geophysics Inversion

Yinan Feng · Yinpeng Chen · Shihang Feng · Peng Jin · Zicheng Liu · Youzuo Lin

Inversion techniques are widely used to reconstruct subsurface physical properties (e.g., velocity, conductivity) from surface-based geophysical measurements (e.g., seismic, electric/magnetic (EM) data). The problems are governed by partial differential equations (PDEs) like the wave or Maxwell's equations. Solving geophysical inversion problems is challenging due to the ill-posedness and high computational cost. To alleviate those issues, recent studies leverage deep neural networks to learn the inversion mappings from measurements to the property directly.In this paper, we show that such a mapping can be well modeled by a very shallow (but not wide) network with only five layers. This is achieved based on our new finding of an intriguing property: a near-linear relationship between the input and output, after applying integral transform in high dimensional space. In particular, when dealing with the inversion from seismic data to subsurface velocity governed by a wave equation, the integral results of velocity with Gaussian kernels are linearly correlated to the integral of seismic data with sine kernels. Furthermore, this property can be easily turned into a light-weight encoder-decoder network for inversion. The encoder contains the integration of seismic data and the linear transformation without need for fine-tuning. The decoder only consists of a single transformer block to reverse the integral of velocity.Experiments show that this interesting property holds for two geophysics inversion problems over four different datasets. Compared to much deeper InversionNet, our method achieves comparable accuracy, but consumes significantly fewer parameters

Particle Transformer for Jet Tagging

Huilin Qu · Congqiao Li · Sitian Qian

Jet tagging is a critical yet challenging classification task in particle physics. While deep learning has transformed jet tagging and significantly improved performance, the lack of a large-scale public dataset impedes further enhancement. In this work, we present JetClass, a new comprehensive dataset for jet tagging. The JetClass dataset consists of 100 M jets, about two orders of magnitude larger than existing public datasets. A total of 10 types of jets are simulated, including several types unexplored for tagging so far. Based on the large dataset, we propose a new Transformer-based architecture for jet tagging, called Particle Transformer (ParT). By incorporating pairwise particle interactions in the attention mechanism, ParT achieves higher tagging performance than a plain Transformer and surpasses the previous state-of-the-art, ParticleNet, by a large margin. The pre-trained ParT models, once fine-tuned, also substantially enhance the performance on two widely adopted jet tagging benchmarks. The dataset, code and models are publicly available at

BabelTower: Learning to Auto-parallelized Program Translation

Yuanbo Wen · Qi Guo · Qiang Fu · XiaQing Li · jianxing xu · Yanlin Tang · Yongwei Zhao · Xing Hu · Zidong Du · Ling Li · Chao Wang · Xuehai Zhou · Yunji Chen

GPUs have become the dominant computing platforms for many applications, while programming GPUs with the widely-used CUDA parallel programming model is difficult. As sequential C code is relatively easy to obtain either from legacy repositories or by manual implementation, automatically translating C to its parallel CUDA counterpart is promising to relieve the burden of GPU programming. However, because of huge differences between the sequential C and the parallel CUDA programming model, existing approaches fail to conduct the challenging auto-parallelized program translation. In this paper, we propose a learning-based framework, i.e., BabelTower, to address this problem. We first create a large-scale dataset consisting of compute-intensive function-level monolingual corpora. We further propose using back-translation with a discriminative reranker to cope with unpaired corpora and parallel semantic conversion. Experimental results show that BabelTower outperforms state-of-the-art by 1.79, 6.09, and 9.39 in terms of BLEU, CodeBLEU, and specifically designed ParaBLEU, respectively. The CUDA code generated by BabelTower attains a speedup of up to 347x over the sequential C code, and the developer productivity is improved by at most 3.8x.

ContentVec: An Improved Self-Supervised Speech Representation by Disentangling Speakers

Kaizhi Qian · Yang Zhang · Heting Gao · Junrui Ni · Cheng-I Lai · David Cox · Mark Hasegawa-Johnson · Shiyu Chang

Self-supervised learning in speech involves training a speech representation network on a large-scale unannotated speech corpus, and then applying the learned representations to downstream tasks. Since the majority of the downstream tasks of SSL learning in speech largely focus on the content information in speech, the most desirable speech representations should be able to disentangle unwanted variations, such as speaker variations, from the content. However, disentangling speakers is very challenging, because removing the speaker information could easily result in a loss of content as well, and the damage of the latter usually far outweighs the benefit of the former. In this paper, we propose a new SSL method that can achieve speaker disentanglement without severe loss of content. Our approach is adapted from the HuBERT framework, and incorporates disentangling mechanisms to regularize both the teacher labels and the learned representations. We evaluate the benefit of speaker disentanglement on a set of content-related downstream tasks, and observe a consistent and notable performance advantage of our speaker-disentangled representations.

On Distribution Shift in Learning-based Bug Detectors

Jingxuan He · Luca Beurer-Kellner · Martin Vechev

Deep learning has recently achieved initial success in program analysis tasks such as bug detection. Lacking real bugs, most existing works construct training and test data by injecting synthetic bugs into correct programs. Despite achieving high test accuracy (e.g., >90%), the resulting bug detectors are found to be surprisingly unusable in practice, i.e., <10% precision when used to scan real software repositories. In this work, we argue that this massive performance difference is caused by a distribution shift, i.e., a fundamental mismatch between the real bug distribution and the synthetic bug distribution used to train and evaluate the detectors. To address this key challenge, we propose to train a bug detector in two phases, first on a synthetic bug distribution to adapt the model to the bug detection domain, and then on a real bug distribution to drive the model towards the real distribution. During these two phases, we leverage a multi-task hierarchy, focal loss, and contrastive learning to further boost performance. We evaluate our approach extensively on three widely studied bug types, for which we construct new datasets carefully designed to capture the real bug distribution. The results demonstrate that our approach is practically effective and successfully mitigates the distribution shift: our learned detectors are highly performant on both our test set and the latest version of open source repositories. Our code, datasets, and models are publicly available at

A Context-Integrated Transformer-Based Neural Network for Auction Design

Zhijian Duan · Jingwu Tang · Yutong Yin · Zhe Feng · Xiang Yan · Manzil Zaheer · Xiaotie Deng

One of the central problems in auction design is developing an incentive-compatible mechanism that maximizes the auctioneer's expected revenue. While theoretical approaches have encountered bottlenecks in multi-item auctions, recently, there has been much progress on finding the optimal mechanism through deep learning. However, these works either focus on a fixed set of bidders and items, or restrict the auction to be symmetric. In this work, we overcome such limitations by factoring \emph{public} contextual information of bidders and items into the auction learning framework. We propose $\mathtt{CITransNet}$, a context-integrated transformer-based neural network for optimal auction design, which maintains permutation-equivariance over bids and contexts while being able to find asymmetric solutions. We show by extensive experiments that $\mathtt{CITransNet}$ can recover the known optimal solutions in single-item settings, outperform strong baselines in multi-item auctions, and generalize well to cases other than those in training.

Domain Adaptation for Time Series Forecasting via Attention Sharing

Xiaoyong Jin · Youngsuk Park · Danielle Robinson · Hao Wang · Yuyang Wang

Recently, deep neural networks have gained increasing popularity in the field of time series forecasting. A primary reason for their success is their ability to effectively capture complex temporal dynamics across multiple related time series. The advantages of these deep forecasters only start to emerge in the presence of a sufficient amount of data. This poses a challenge for typical forecasting problems in practice, where there is a limited number of time series or observations per time series, or both. To cope with this data scarcity issue, we propose a novel domain adaptation framework, Domain Adaptation Forecaster (DAF). DAF leverages statistical strengths from a relevant domain with abundant data samples (source) to improve the performance on the domain of interest with limited data (target). In particular, we use an attention-based shared module with a domain discriminator across domains and private modules for individual domains. We induce domain-invariant latent features (queries and keys) and retrain domain-specific features (values) simultaneously to enable joint training of forecasters on source and target domains. A main insight is that our design of aligning keys allows the target domain to leverage source time series even with different characteristics. Extensive experiments on various domains demonstrate that our proposed method outperforms state-of-the-art baselines on synthetic and real-world datasets, and ablation studies verify the effectiveness of our design choices.

Continuous-Time Modeling of Counterfactual Outcomes Using Neural Controlled Differential Equations

Nabeel Seedat · Fergus Imrie · Alexis Bellot · Zhaozhi Qian · Mihaela van der Schaar

Estimating counterfactual outcomes over time has the potential to unlock personalized healthcare by assisting decision-makers to answer "what-if" questions. Existing causal inference approaches typically consider regular, discrete-time intervals between observations and treatment decisions and hence are unable to naturally model irregularly sampled data, which is the common setting in practice. To handle arbitrary observation patterns, we interpret the data as samples from an underlying continuous-time process and propose to model its latent trajectory explicitly using the mathematics of controlled differential equations. This leads to a new approach, the Treatment Effect Neural Controlled Differential Equation (TE-CDE), that allows the potential outcomes to be evaluated at any time point. In addition, adversarial training is used to adjust for time-dependent confounding which is critical in longitudinal settings and is an added challenge not encountered in conventional time series. To assess solutions to this problem, we propose a controllable simulation environment based on a model of tumor growth for a range of scenarios with irregular sampling reflective of a variety of clinical scenarios. TE-CDE consistently outperforms existing approaches in all scenarios with irregular sampling.

Disentangling Disease-related Representation from Obscure for Disease Prediction

Chu-ran Wang · Fei Gao · Fandong Zhang · Fangwei Zhong · Yizhou Yu · Yizhou Wang

Disease-related representations play a crucial role in image-based disease prediction such as cancer diagnosis, due to its considerable generalization capacity. However, it is still a challenge to identify lesion characteristics in obscured images, as many lesions are obscured by other tissues. In this paper, to learn the representations for identifying obscured lesions, we propose a disentanglement learning strategy under the guidance of alpha blending generation in an encoder-decoder framework (DAB-Net). Specifically, we take mammogram mass benign/malignant classification as an example. In our framework, composite obscured mass images are generated by alpha blending and then explicitly disentangled into disease-related mass features and interference glands features. To achieve disentanglement learning, features of these two parts are decoded to reconstruct the mass and the glands with corresponding reconstruction losses, and only disease-related mass features are fed into the classifier for disease prediction. Experimental results on one public dataset DDSM and three in-house datasets demonstrate that the proposed strategy can achieve state-of-the-art performance. DAB-Net achieves substantial improvements of 3.9%∼4.4% AUC in obscured cases. Besides, the visualization analysis shows the model can better disentangle the mass and glands in the obscured image, suggesting the effectiveness of our solution in exploring the hidden characteristics in this challenging problem.

Design-Bench: Benchmarks for Data-Driven Offline Model-Based Optimization

Brandon Trabucco · Xinyang Geng · Aviral Kumar · Sergey Levine

Black-box model-based optimization (MBO) problems, where the goal is to find a design input that maximizes an unknown objective function, are ubiquitous in a wide range of domains, such as the design of proteins, DNA sequences, aircraft, and robots. Solving model-based optimization problems typically requires actively querying the unknown objective function on design proposals, which means physically building the candidate molecule, aircraft, or robot, testing it, and storing the result. This process can be expensive and time consuming, and one might instead prefer to optimize for the best design using only the data one already has. This setting---called offline MBO---poses substantial and different algorithmic challenges than more commonly studied online techniques. A number of recent works have demonstrated success with offline MBO for high-dimensional optimization problems using high-capacity deep neural networks. However, the lack of standardized benchmarks in this emerging field is making progress difficult to track. To address this, we present Design-Bench, a benchmark for offline MBO with a unified evaluation protocol and reference implementations of recent methods. Our benchmark includes a suite of diverse and realistic tasks derived from real-world optimization problems in biology, materials science, and robotics that present distinct challenges for offline MBO. Our benchmark and reference implementations are released at and

Blocks Assemble! Learning to Assemble with Large-Scale Structured Reinforcement Learning

Seyed Kamyar Seyed Ghasemipour · Satoshi Kataoka · Byron David · Daniel Freeman · Shixiang Gu · Igor Mordatch

Assembly of multi-part physical structures is both a valuable end product for autonomous robotics, as well as a valuable diagnostic task for open-ended training of embodied intelligent agents. We introduce a naturalistic physics-based environment with a set of connectable magnet blocks inspired by children’s toy kits. The objective is to assemble blocks into a succession of target blueprints. Despite the simplicity of this objective, the compositional nature of building diverse blueprints from a set of blocks leads to an explosion of complexity in structures that agents encounter. Furthermore, assembly stresses agents' multi-step planning, physical reasoning, and bimanual coordination. We find that the combination of large-scale reinforcement learning and graph-based policies-- surprisingly without any additional complexity -- is an effective recipe for training agents that not only generalize to complex unseen blueprints in a zero-shot manner, but even operate in a reset-free setting without being trained to do so. Through extensive experiments, we highlight the importance of large-scale training, structured representations, contributions of multi-task vs. single-task learning, as well as the effects of curriculums, and discuss qualitative behaviors of trained agents. Our accompanying project webpage can be found at:

Learning of Cluster-based Feature Importance for Electronic Health Record Time-series

Henrique Aguiar · Mauro Santos · Peter Watkinson · Tingting Zhu

The recent availability of Electronic Health Records (EHR) has allowed for the development of algorithms predicting inpatient risk of deterioration and trajectory evolution. However, prediction of disease progression with EHR is challenging since these data are sparse, heterogeneous, multi-dimensional, and multi-modal time-series. As such, clustering is regularly used to identify similar groups within the patient cohort to improve prediction. Current models have shown some success in obtaining cluster representations of patient trajectories. However, they i) fail to obtain clinical interpretability for each cluster, and ii) struggle to learn meaningful cluster numbers in the context of imbalanced distribution of disease outcomes. We propose a supervised deep learning model to cluster EHR data based on the identification of clinically understandable phenotypes with regard to both outcome prediction and patient trajectory. We introduce novel loss functions to address the problems of class imbalance and cluster collapse, and furthermore propose a feature-time attention mechanism to identify cluster-based phenotype importance across time and feature dimensions. We tested our model in two datasets corresponding to distinct medical settings. Our model yielded added interpretability to cluster formation and outperformed benchmarks by at least 4% in relevant metrics.

Outstanding Paper
Do Differentiable Simulators Give Better Policy Gradients?

Hyung Ju Suh · Max Simchowitz · Kaiqing Zhang · Russ Tedrake

Differentiable simulators promise faster computation time for reinforcement learning by replacing zeroth-order gradient estimates of a stochastic objective with an estimate based on first-order gradients. However, it is yet unclear what factors decide the performance of the two estimators on complex landscapes that involve long-horizon planning and control on physical systems, despite the crucial relevance of this question for the utility of differentiable simulators. We show that characteristics of certain physical systems, such as stiffness or discontinuities, may compromise the efficacy of the first-order estimator, and analyze this phenomenon through the lens of bias and variance. We additionally propose an $\alpha$-order gradient estimator, with $\alpha \in [0,1]$, which correctly utilizes exact gradients to combine the efficiency of first-order estimates with the robustness of zero-order methods. We demonstrate the pitfalls of traditional estimators and the advantages of the $\alpha$-order estimator on some numerical examples.

Adaptive Conformal Predictions for Time Series

Margaux Zaffran · Olivier FERON · Yannig Goude · julie Josse · Aymeric Dieuleveut

Uncertainty quantification of predictive models is crucial in decision-making problems. Conformal prediction is a general and theoretically sound answer. However, it requires exchangeable data, excluding time series. While recent works tackled this issue, we argue that Adaptive Conformal Inference (ACI, Gibbs & Candès, 2021), developed for distribution-shift time series, is a good procedure for time series with general dependency. We theoretically analyse the impact of the learning rate on its efficiency in the exchangeable and auto-regressive case. We propose a parameter-free method, AgACI, that adaptively builds upon ACI based on online expert aggregation. We lead extensive fair simulations against competing methods that advocate for ACI's use in time series. We conduct a real case study: electricity price forecasting. The proposed aggregation algorithm provides efficient prediction intervals for day-ahead forecasting. All the code and data to reproduce the experiments are made available on GitHub.

Language Models as Zero-Shot Planners: Extracting Actionable Knowledge for Embodied Agents

Wenlong Huang · Pieter Abbeel · Deepak Pathak · Igor Mordatch

Can world knowledge learned by large language models (LLMs) be used to act in interactive environments? In this paper, we investigate the possibility of grounding high-level tasks, expressed in natural language (e.g. “make breakfast”), to a chosen set of actionable steps (e.g. “open fridge”). While prior work focused on learning from explicit step-by-step examples of how to act, we surprisingly find that if pre-trained LMs are large enough and prompted appropriately, they can effectively decompose high-level tasks into mid-level plans without any further training. However, the plans produced naively by LLMs often cannot map precisely to admissible actions. We propose a procedure that conditions on existing demonstrations and semantically translates the plans to admissible actions. Our evaluation in the recent VirtualHome environment shows that the resulting method substantially improves executability over the LLM baseline. The conducted human evaluation reveals a trade-off between executability and correctness but shows a promising sign towards extracting actionable knowledge from language models.

Rethinking Graph Neural Networks for Anomaly Detection

Jianheng Tang · Jiajin Li · Ziqi Gao · Jia Li

Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) are widely applied for graph anomaly detection. As one of the key components for GNN design is to select a tailored spectral filter, we take the first step towards analyzing anomalies via the lens of the graph spectrum. Our crucial observation is the existence of anomalies will lead to the right-shift' phenomenon, that is, the spectral energy distribution concentrates less on low frequencies and more on high frequencies. This fact motivates us to propose the Beta Wavelet Graph Neural Network (BWGNN). Indeed, BWGNN has spectral and spatial localized band-pass filters to better handle theright-shift' phenomenon in anomalies. We demonstrate the effectiveness of BWGNN on four large-scale anomaly detection datasets. Our code and data are released at

Fast Aquatic Swimmer Optimization with Differentiable Projective Dynamics and Neural Network Hydrodynamic Models

Elvis Nava · John Zhang · Mike Yan Michelis · Tao Du · Pingchuan Ma · Benjamin F. Grewe · Wojciech Matusik · Robert Katzschmann

Aquatic locomotion is a classic fluid-structure interaction (FSI) problem of interest to biologists and engineers. Solving the fully coupled FSI equations for incompressible Navier-Stokes and finite elasticity is computationally expensive. Optimizing robotic swimmer design within such a system generally involves cumbersome, gradient-free procedures on top of the already costly simulation.To address this challenge we present a novel, fully differentiable hybrid approach to FSI that combines a 2D direct numerical simulation for the deformable solid structure of the swimmer and a physics-constrained neural network surrogate to capture hydrodynamic effects of the fluid.For the deformable solid simulation of the swimmer's body, we use state-of-the-art techniques from the field of computer graphics to speed up the finite-element method (FEM). For the fluid simulation, we use a U-Net architecture trained with a physics-based loss function to predict the flow field at each time step. The pressure and velocity field outputs from the neural network are sampled around the boundary of our swimmer using an immersed boundary method (IBM) to compute its swimming motion accurately and efficiently.We demonstrate the computational efficiency and differentiability of our hybrid simulator on a 2D carangiform swimmer. Due to differentiability, the simulator can be used for computational design of controls for soft bodies immersed in fluids via direct gradient-based optimization.

Proving Theorems using Incremental Learning and Hindsight Experience Replay

Eser Aygün · Ankit Anand · Laurent Orseau · Xavier Glorot · Stephen McAleer · Vlad Firoiu · Lei Zhang · Doina Precup · Shibl Mourad

Traditional automated theorem proving systems for first-order logic depend on speed-optimized search and many handcrafted heuristics designed to work over a wide range of domains. Machine learning approaches in the literature either depend on these traditional provers to bootstrap themselves, by leveraging these heuristics, or can struggle due to limited existing proof data. The latter issue can be explained by the lack of a smooth difficulty gradient in theorem proving datasets; large gaps in difficulty between different theorems can make training harder or even impossible. In this paper, we adapt the idea of hindsight experience replay from reinforcement learning to the automated theorem proving domain, so as to use the intermediate data generated during unsuccessful proof attempts. We build a first-order logic prover by disabling all the smart clause-scoring heuristics of the state-of-the-art E prover and replacing them with a clause-scoring neural network learned by using hindsight experience replay in an incremental learning setting. Clauses are represented as graphs and presented to transformer networks with spectral features. We show that provers trained in this way can outperform previous machine learning approaches and compete with the state of the art heuristic-based theorem prover E in its best configuration, on the popular benchmarks MPTP2078, M2k and Mizar40. The proofs generated by our algorithm are also almost always significantly shorter than E’s proofs.

Discovering Generalizable Spatial Goal Representations via Graph-based Active Reward Learning

Aviv Netanyahu · Tianmin Shu · Josh Tenenbaum · Pulkit Agrawal

In this work, we consider one-shot imitation learning for object rearrangement tasks, where an AI agent needs to watch a single expert demonstration and learn to perform the same task in different environments. To achieve a strong generalization, the AI agent must infer the spatial goal specification for the task. However, there can be multiple goal specifications that fit the given demonstration. To address this, we propose a reward learning approach, Graph-based Equivalence Mappings (GEM), that can discover spatial goal representations that are aligned with the intended goal specification, enabling successful generalization in unseen environments. Specifically, GEM represents a spatial goal specification by a reward function conditioned on i) a graph indicating important spatial relationships between objects and ii) state equivalence mappings for each edge in the graph indicating invariant properties of the corresponding relationship. GEM combines inverse reinforcement learning and active reward learning to efficiently improve the reward function by utilizing the graph structure and domain randomization enabled by the equivalence mappings. We conducted experiments with simulated oracles and with human subjects. The results show that GEM can drastically improve the generalizability of the learned goal representations over strong baselines.

Neural Inverse Kinematic

Raphael Bensadoun · Shir Gur · Nitsan Blau · Lior Wolf

Inverse kinematic (IK) methods recover the parameters of the joints, given the desired position of selected elements in the kinematic chain. While the problem is well-defined and low-dimensional, it has to be solved rapidly, accounting for multiple possible solutions. In this work, we propose a neural IK method that employs the hierarchical structure of the problem to sequentially sample valid joint angles conditioned on the desired position and on the preceding joints along the chain. In our solution, a hypernetwork $f$ recovers the parameters of multiple primary networks {$g_1,g_2,\dots,g_N$, where $N$ is the number of joints}, such that each $g_i$ outputs a distribution of possible joint angles, and is conditioned on the sampled values obtained from the previous primary networks $g_j, j

GLaM: Efficient Scaling of Language Models with Mixture-of-Experts

Nan Du · Yanping Huang · Andrew Dai · Simon Tong · Dmitry Lepikhin · Yuanzhong Xu · Maxim Krikun · Yanqi Zhou · Adams Wei Yu · Orhan Firat · Barret Zoph · William Fedus · Maarten Bosma · Zongwei Zhou · Tao Wang · Emma Wang · Kellie Webster · Marie Pellat · Kevin Robinson · Kathleen Meier-Hellstern · Toju Duke · Lucas Dixon · Kun Zhang · Quoc Le · Yonghui Wu · Zhifeng Chen · Claire Cui

Scaling language models with more data, compute and parameters has driven significant progress in natural language processing. For example, thanks to scaling, GPT-3 was able to achieve strong results on in-context learning tasks. However, training these large dense models requires significant amounts of computing resources. In this paper, we propose and develop a family of language models named \glam (\textbf{G}eneralist \textbf{La}nguage \textbf{M}odel), which uses a sparsely activated mixture-of-experts architecture to scale the model capacity while also incurring substantially less training cost compared to dense variants. The largest \glam has 1.2 trillion parameters, which is approximately 7x larger than GPT-3. It consumes only 1/3 of the energy used to train GPT-3 and requires half of the computation flops for inference, while still achieving better overall fewshot performance across 29 NLP tasks.

Deploying Convolutional Networks on Untrusted Platforms Using 2D Holographic Reduced Representations

Mohammad Mahmudul Alam · Edward Raff · Tim Oates · James Holt

Due to the computational cost of running inference for a neural network, the need to deploy the inferential steps on a third party's compute environment or hardware is common. If the third party is not fully trusted, it is desirable to obfuscate the nature of the inputs and outputs, so that the third party can not easily determine what specific task is being performed. Provably secure protocols for leveraging an untrusted party exist but are too computational demanding to run in practice. We instead explore a different strategy of fast, heuristic security that we call \textit{Connectionist Symbolic Pseudo Secrets}. By leveraging Holographic Reduced Representations (HRRs), we create a neural network with a pseudo-encryption style defense that empirically shows robustness to attack, even under threat models that unrealistically favor the adversary.

Object Permanence Emerges in a Random Walk along Memory

Pavel Tokmakov · Allan Jabri · Jie Li · Adrien Gaidon

This paper proposes a self-supervised objective for learning representations that localize objects under occlusion - a property known as object permanence. A central question is the choice of learning signal in cases of total occlusion. Rather than directly supervising the locations of invisible objects, we propose a self-supervised objective that requires neither human annotation, nor assumptions about object dynamics. We show that object permanence can emerge by optimizing for temporal coherence of memory: we fit a Markov walk along a space-time graph of memories, where the states in each time step are non-Markovian features from a sequence encoder. This leads to a memory representation that stores occluded objects and predicts their motion, to better localize them. The resulting model outperforms existing approaches on several datasets of increasing complexity and realism, despite requiring minimal supervision, and hence being broadly applicable.

Flow-Guided Sparse Transformer for Video Deblurring

Jing Lin · Yuanhao Cai · Xiaowan Hu · Haoqian Wang · Youliang Yan · Xueyi Zou · Henghui Ding · Yulun Zhang · Radu Timofte · Luc Van Gool

Exploiting similar and sharper scene patches in spatio-temporal neighborhoods is critical for video deblurring. However, CNN-based methods show limitations in capturing long-range dependencies and modeling non-local self-similarity. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, Flow-Guided Sparse Transformer (FGST), for video deblurring. In FGST, we customize a self-attention module, Flow-Guided Sparse Window-based Multi-head Self-Attention (FGSW-MSA). For each $query$ element on the blurry reference frame, FGSW-MSA enjoys the guidance of the estimated optical flow to globally sample spatially sparse yet highly related $key$ elements corresponding to the same scene patch in neighboring frames. Besides, we present a Recurrent Embedding (RE) mechanism to transfer information from past frames and strengthen long-range temporal dependencies. Comprehensive experiments demonstrate that our proposed FGST outperforms state-of-the-art (SOTA) methods on both DVD and GOPRO datasets and yields visually pleasant results in real video deblurring.

N-Penetrate: Active Learning of Neural Collision Handler for Complex 3D Mesh Deformations

Qingyang Tan · Zherong Pan · Breannan Smith · Takaaki Shiratori · Dinesh Manocha

We present a robust learning algorithm to detect and handle collisions in 3D deforming meshes. We first train a neural network to detect collisions and then use a numerical optimization algorithm to resolve penetrations guided by the network. Our learned collision handler can resolve collisions for unseen, high-dimensional meshes with thousands of vertices. To obtain stable network performance in such large and unseen spaces, we apply active learning by progressively inserting new collision data based on the network inferences. We automatically label these new data using an analytical collision detector and progressively fine-tune our detection networks. We evaluate our method for collision handling of complex, 3D meshes coming from several datasets with different shapes and topologies, including datasets corresponding to dressed and undressed human poses, cloth simulations, and human hand poses acquired using multi-view capture systems.

Staged Training for Transformer Language Models

Sheng Shen · Pete Walsh · Kurt Keutzer · Jesse Dodge · Matthew Peters · Iz Beltagy

The current standard approach to scaling transformer language models trains each model size from a different random initialization. As an alternative, we consider a staged training setup that begins with a small model and incrementally increases the amount of compute used for training by applying a "growth operator" to increase the model depth and width. By initializing each stage with the output of the previous one, the training process effectively re-uses the compute from prior stages and becomes more efficient. Our growth operators each take as input the entire training state (including model parameters, optimizer state, learning rate schedule, etc.) and output a new training state from which training continues. We identify two important properties of these growth operators, namely that they preserve both the loss and the ``training dynamics'' after applying the operator. While the loss-preserving property has been discussed previously, to the best of our knowledge this work is the first to identify the importance of preserving the training dynamics (the rate of decrease of the loss during training). To find the optimal schedule for stages, we use the scaling laws from (Kaplan et al., 2020) to find a precise schedule that gives the most compute saving by starting a new stage when training efficiency starts decreasing. We empirically validate our growth operators and staged training for autoregressive language models, showing up to 22% compute savings compared to a strong baseline trained from scratch. Our code is available at

Near-Exact Recovery for Tomographic Inverse Problems via Deep Learning

Martin Genzel · Ingo Gühring · Jan Macdonald · Maximilian März

This work is concerned with the following fundamental question in scientific machine learning: Can deep-learning-based methods solve noise-free inverse problems to near-perfect accuracy? Positive evidence is provided for the first time, focusing on a prototypical computed tomography (CT) setup. We demonstrate that an iterative end-to-end network scheme enables reconstructions close to numerical precision, comparable to classical compressed sensing strategies. Our results build on our winning submission to the recent AAPM DL-Sparse-View CT Challenge. Its goal was to identify the state-of-the-art in solving the sparse-view CT inverse problem with data-driven techniques. A specific difficulty of the challenge setup was that the precise forward model remained unknown to the participants. Therefore, a key feature of our approach was to initially estimate the unknown fanbeam geometry in a data-driven calibration step. Apart from an in-depth analysis of our methodology, we also demonstrate its state-of-the-art performance on the open-access real-world dataset LoDoPaB CT.

Self-supervised learning with random-projection quantizer for speech recognition

Chung-Cheng Chiu · James Qin · Yu Zhang · Jiahui Yu · Yonghui Wu

We present a simple and effective self-supervised learning approach for speech recognition. The approach learns a model to predict the masked speech signals, in the form of discrete labels generated with a random-projection quantizer. In particular the quantizer projects speech inputs with a randomly initialized matrix, and does a nearest-neighbor lookup in a randomly-initialized codebook. Neither the matrix nor the codebook are updated during self-supervised learning. Since the random-projection quantizer is not trained and is separated from the speech recognition model, the design makes the approach flexible and is compatible with universal speech recognition architecture. On LibriSpeech our approach achieves similar word-error-rates as previous work using self-supervised learning with non-streaming models, and provides lower word-error-rates than previous work with streaming models. On multilingual tasks the approach also provides significant improvement over wav2vec 2.0 and w2v-BERT.

Learning Multiscale Transformer Models for Sequence Generation

Bei Li · Tong Zheng · yi jing · Chengbo Jiao · Tong Xiao · Jingbo Zhu

Multiscale feature hierarchies have been witnessed the success in the computer vision area. This further motivates researchers to design multiscale Transformer for natural language processing, mostly based on the self-attention mechanism. For example, restricting the receptive field across heads or extracting local fine-grained features via convolutions. However, most of existing works directly modeled local features but ignored the word-boundary information. This results in redundant and ambiguous attention distributions, which lacks of interpretability. In this work, we define those scales in different linguistic units, including sub-words, words and phrases. We built a multiscale Transformer model by establishing relationships among scales based on word-boundary information and phrase-level prior knowledge. The proposed \textbf{U}niversal \textbf{M}ulti\textbf{S}cale \textbf{T}ransformer, namely \textsc{Umst}, was evaluated on two sequence generation tasks. Notably, it yielded consistent performance gains over the strong baseline on several test sets without sacrificing the efficiency.

NP-Match: When Neural Processes meet Semi-Supervised Learning

Jianfeng Wang · Thomas Lukasiewicz · Daniela Massiceti · Xiaolin Hu · Vladimir Pavlovic · Alexandros Neophytou

Semi-supervised learning (SSL) has been widely explored in recent years, and it is an effective way of leveraging unlabeled data to reduce the reliance on labeled data. In this work, we adjust neural processes (NPs) to the semi-supervised image classification task, resulting in a new method named NP-Match. NP-Match is suited to this task for two reasons. Firstly, NP-Match implicitly compares data points when making predictions, and as a result, the prediction of each unlabeled data point is affected by the labeled data points that are similar to it, which improves the quality of pseudolabels. Secondly, NP-Match is able to estimate uncertainty that can be used as a tool for selecting unlabeled samples with reliable pseudo-labels. Compared with uncertainty-based SSL methods implemented with Monte Carlo (MC) dropout, NP-Match estimates uncertainty with much less computational overhead, which can save time at both the training and the testing phases. We conducted extensive experiments on four public datasets, and NP-Match outperforms state-of-theart (SOTA) results or achieves competitive results on them, which shows the effectiveness of NPMatch and its potential for SSL.

Revisiting End-to-End Speech-to-Text Translation From Scratch

Biao Zhang · Barry Haddow · Rico Sennrich

End-to-end (E2E) speech-to-text translation (ST) often depends on pretraining its encoder and/or decoder using source transcripts via speech recognition or text translation tasks, without which translation performance drops substantially. However, transcripts are not always available, and how significant such pretraining is for E2E ST has rarely been studied in the literature. In this paper, we revisit this question and explore the extent to which the quality of E2E ST trained on speech-translation pairs alone can be improved. We reexamine several techniques proven beneficial to ST previously, and offer a set of best practices that biases a Transformer-based E2E ST system toward training from scratch. Besides, we propose parameterized distance penalty to facilitate the modeling of locality in the self-attention model for speech. On four benchmarks covering 23 languages, our experiments show that, without using any transcripts or pretraining, the proposed system reaches and even outperforms previous studies adopting pretraining, although the gap remains in (extremely) low-resource settings. Finally, we discuss neural acoustic feature modeling, where a neural model is designed to extract acoustic features from raw speech signals directly, with the goal to simplify inductive biases and add freedom to the model in describing speech. For the first time, we demonstrate its feasibility and show encouraging results on ST tasks.

Data Scaling Laws in NMT: The Effect of Noise and Architecture

Yamini Bansal · Behrooz Ghorbani · Ankush Garg · Biao Zhang · Colin Cherry · Behnam Neyshabur · Orhan Firat

In this work, we study the effect of varying the architecture and training data quality on the data scaling properties of Neural Machine Translation (NMT). First, we establish that the test loss of encoder-decoder transformer models scales as a power law in the number of training samples, with a dependence on the model size. Then, we systematically vary aspects of the training setup to understand how they impact the data scaling laws. In particular, we change the following (1) Architecture and task setup: We compare to a transformer-LSTM hybrid, and a decoder-only transformer with a language modeling loss (2) Noise level in the training distribution: We experiment with filtering, and adding iid synthetic noise. In all the above cases, we find that the data scaling exponents are minimally impacted, suggesting that marginally worse architectures or training data can be compensated for by adding more data. Lastly, we find that using back-translated data instead of parallel data, can significantly degrade the scaling exponent.

Dialog Inpainting: Turning Documents into Dialogs

Zhuyun Dai · Arun Tejasvi Chaganty · Vincent Zhao · Aida Amini · Qazi Mamunur Rashid · Mike Green · Kelvin Guu

Many important questions (e.g. "How to eat healthier?") require conversation to establish context and explore in depth. However, conversational question answering (ConvQA) systems have long been stymied by scarce training data that is expensive to collect. To address this problem, we propose a new technique for synthetically generating diverse and high-quality dialog data: dialog inpainting. Our approach takes the text of any document and transforms it into a two-person dialog between the writer and an imagined reader: we treat sentences from the article as utterances spoken by the writer, and then use a dialog inpainter to predict what the imagined reader asked or said in between each of the writer's utterances. By applying this approach to passages from Wikipedia and the web, we produce WikiDialog and WebDialog, two datasets totalling 19 million diverse information-seeking dialogs -- 1,000x larger than the largest existing ConvQA dataset. Furthermore, human raters judge the answer adequacy and conversationality of WikiDialog to be as good or better than existing manually-collected datasets. Remarkably, our approach shows strong zero-shot capability, generating high quality synthetic data without using any in-domain ConvQA data. Using our inpainted data to pre-train ConvQA retrieval systems, we significantly advance state-of-the-art across three benchmarks (QReCC, OR-QuAC, TREC CAsT) yielding up to 40% relative gains on standard evaluation metrics.

Does the Data Induce Capacity Control in Deep Learning?

Rubing Yang · Jialin Mao · Pratik Chaudhari

We show that the input correlation matrix of typical classification datasets has an eigenspectrum where, after a sharp initial drop, a large number of small eigenvalues are distributed uniformly over an exponentially large range. This structure is mirrored in a network trained on this data: we show that the Hessian and the Fisher Information Matrix (FIM) have eigenvalues that are spread uniformly over exponentially large ranges. We call such eigenspectra ``sloppy'' because sets of weights corresponding to small eigenvalues can be changed by large magnitudes without affecting the loss. Networks trained on atypical datasets with non-sloppy inputs do not share these traits and deep networks trained on such datasets generalize poorly. Inspired by this, we study the hypothesis that sloppiness of inputs aids generalization in deep networks. We show that if the Hessian is sloppy, we can compute non-vacuous PAC-Bayes generalization bounds analytically. By exploiting our empirical observation that training predominantly takes place in the non-sloppy subspace of the FIM, we develop data-distribution dependent PAC-Bayes priors that lead to accurate generalization bounds using numerical optimization.

Fighting Fire with Fire: Avoiding DNN Shortcuts through Priming

Chuan Wen · Jianing Qian · Jierui Lin · Jiaye Teng · Dinesh Jayaraman · Yang Gao

Across applications spanning supervised classification and sequential control, deep learning has been reported to find shortcut'' solutions that fail catastrophically under minor changes in the data distribution. In this paper, we show empirically that DNNs can be coaxed to avoid poor shortcuts by providing an additionalpriming'' feature computed from key input features, usually a coarse output estimate. Priming relies on approximate domain knowledge of these task-relevant key input features, which is often easy to obtain in practical settings. For example, one might prioritize recent frames over past frames in a video input for visual imitation learning, or salient foreground over background pixels for image classification. On NICO image classification, MuJoCo continuous control, and CARLA autonomous driving, our priming strategy works significantly better than several popular state-of-the-art approaches for feature selection and data augmentation. We connect these empirical findings to recent theoretical results on DNN optimization, and argue theoretically that priming distracts the optimizer away from poor shortcuts by creating better, simpler shortcuts.

Memory-Based Model Editing at Scale

Eric Mitchell · Charles Lin · Antoine Bosselut · Christopher Manning · Chelsea Finn

Even the largest neural networks make errors, and once-correct predictions can become invalid as the world changes. Model editors make local updates to the behavior of base (pre-trained) models to inject updated knowledge or correct undesirable behaviors. Existing model editors have shown promise, but also suffer from insufficient expressiveness: they struggle to accurately model an edit's intended scope (examples affected by the edit), leading to inaccurate predictions for test inputs loosely related to the edit, and they often fail altogether after many edits. As a higher-capacity alternative, we propose Semi-Parametric Editing with a Retrieval-Augmented Counterfactual Model (SERAC), which stores edits in an explicit memory and learns to reason over them to modulate the base model's predictions as needed. To enable more rigorous evaluation of model editors, we introduce three challenging language model editing problems based on question answering, fact-checking, and dialogue generation. We find that only SERAC achieves high performance on all three problems, consistently outperforming existing approaches to model editing by a significant margin. Code, data, and additional project information will be made available at

Winning the Lottery Ahead of Time: Efficient Early Network Pruning

John Rachwan · Daniel Zügner · Bertrand Charpentier · Simon Geisler · Morgane Ayle · Stephan Günnemann

Pruning, the task of sparsifying deep neural networks, received increasing attention recently. Although state-of-the-art pruning methods extract highly sparse models, they neglect two main challenges: (1) the process of finding these sparse models is often very expensive; (2) unstructured pruning does not provide benefits in terms of GPU memory, training time, or carbon emissions. We propose Early Compression via Gradient Flow Preservation (EarlyCroP), which efficiently extracts state-of-the-art sparse models before or early in training addressing challenge (1), and can be applied in a structured manner addressing challenge (2). This enables us to train sparse networks on commodity GPUs whose dense versions would be too large, thereby saving costs and reducing hardware requirements. We empirically show that EarlyCroP outperforms a rich set of baselines for many tasks (incl. classification, regression) and domains (incl. computer vision, natural language processing, and reinforcment learning). EarlyCroP leads to accuracy comparable to dense training while outperforming pruning baselines.

Active Learning on a Budget: Opposite Strategies Suit High and Low Budgets

Guy Hacohen · Avihu Dekel · Daphna Weinshall

Investigating active learning, we focus on the relation between the number of labeled examples (budget size), and suitable querying strategies. Our theoretical analysis shows a behavior reminiscent of phase transition: typical examples are best queried when the budget is low, while unrepresentative examples are best queried when the budget is large. Combined evidence shows that a similar phenomenon occurs in common classification models. Accordingly, we propose TypiClust -- a deep active learning strategy suited for low budgets. In a comparative empirical investigation of supervised learning, using a variety of architectures and image datasets, TypiClust outperforms all other active learning strategies in the low-budget regime. Using TypiClust in the semi-supervised framework, performance gets an even more significant boost. In particular, state-of-the-art semi-supervised methods trained on CIFAR-10 with 10 labeled examples selected by TypiClust, reach 93.2% accuracy -- an improvement of 39.4% over random selection. Code is available at

AutoSNN: Towards Energy-Efficient Spiking Neural Networks

Byunggook Na · Jisoo Mok · Seongsik Park · Dongjin Lee · Hyeokjun Choe · Sungroh Yoon

Spiking neural networks (SNNs) that mimic information transmission in the brain can energy-efficiently process spatio-temporal information through discrete and sparse spikes, thereby receiving considerable attention. To improve accuracy and energy efficiency of SNNs, most previous studies have focused solely on training methods, and the effect of architecture has rarely been studied. We investigate the design choices used in the previous studies in terms of the accuracy and number of spikes and figure out that they are not best-suited for SNNs. To further improve the accuracy and reduce the spikes generated by SNNs, we propose a spike-aware neural architecture search framework called AutoSNN. We define a search space consisting of architectures without undesirable design choices. To enable the spike-aware architecture search, we introduce a fitness that considers both the accuracy and number of spikes. AutoSNN successfully searches for SNN architectures that outperform hand-crafted SNNs in accuracy and energy efficiency. We thoroughly demonstrate the effectiveness of AutoSNN on various datasets including neuromorphic datasets.

Overcoming Oscillations in Quantization-Aware Training

Markus Nagel · Marios Fournarakis · Yelysei Bondarenko · Tijmen Blankevoort

When training neural networks with simulated quantization, we observe that quantized weights can, rather unexpectedly, oscillate between two grid-points. The importance of this effect and its impact on quantization-aware training (QAT) are not well-understood or investigated in literature. In this paper, we delve deeper into the phenomenon of weight oscillations and show that it can lead to a significant accuracy degradation due to wrongly estimated batch-normalization statistics during inference and increased noise during training. These effects are particularly pronounced in low-bit ($\leq$ 4-bits) quantization of efficient networks with depth-wise separable layers, such as MobileNets and EfficientNets. In our analysis we investigate several previously proposed QAT algorithms and show that most of these are unable to overcome oscillations. Finally, we propose two novel QAT algorithms to overcome oscillations during training: oscillation dampening and iterative weight freezing. We demonstrate that our algorithms achieve state-of-the-art accuracy for low-bit (3 & 4 bits) weight and activation quantization of efficient architectures, such as MobileNetV2, MobileNetV3, and EfficentNet-lite on ImageNet. Our source code is available at

Dataset Condensation via Efficient Synthetic-Data Parameterization

Jang-Hyun Kim · Jinuk Kim · Seong Joon Oh · Sangdoo Yun · Hwanjun Song · Joonhyun Jeong · Jung-Woo Ha · Hyun Oh Song

The great success of machine learning with massive amounts of data comes at a price of huge computation costs and storage for training and tuning. Recent studies on dataset condensation attempt to reduce the dependence on such massive data by synthesizing a compact training dataset. However, the existing approaches have fundamental limitations in optimization due to the limited representability of synthetic datasets without considering any data regularity characteristics. To this end, we propose a novel condensation framework that generates multiple synthetic data with a limited storage budget via efficient parameterization considering data regularity. We further analyze the shortcomings of the existing gradient matching-based condensation methods and develop an effective optimization technique for improving the condensation of training data information. We propose a unified algorithm that drastically improves the quality of condensed data against the current state-of-the-art on CIFAR-10, ImageNet, and Speech Commands.

Searching for BurgerFormer with Micro-Meso-Macro Space Design

Longxing Yang · Yu Hu · Shun Lu · Zihao Sun · Jilin Mei · Yinhe Han · Xiaowei Li

With the success of Transformers in the computer vision field, the automated design of vision Transformers has attracted significant attention. Recently, MetaFormer found that simple average pooling can achieve impressive performance, which naturally raises the question of how to design a search space to search diverse and high-performance Transformer-like architectures. By revisiting typical search spaces, we design micro-meso-macro space to search for Transformer-like architectures, namely BurgerFormer. Micro, meso, and macro correspond to the granularity levels of operation, block and stage, respectively. At the microscopic level, we enrich the atomic operations to include various normalizations, activation functions, and basic operations (e.g., multi-head self attention, average pooling). At the mesoscopic level, a hamburger structure is searched out as the basic BurgerFormer block. At the macroscopic level, we search for the depth, width, and expansion ratio of the network based on the multi-stage architecture. Meanwhile, we propose a hybrid sampling method for effectively training the supernet. Experimental results demonstrate that the searched BurgerFormer architectures achieve comparable even superior performance compared with current state-of-the-art Transformers on the ImageNet and COCO datasets. The codes can be available at

Multi-scale Feature Learning Dynamics: Insights for Double Descent

Mohammad Pezeshki · Amartya Mitra · Yoshua Bengio · Guillaume Lajoie

An intriguing phenomenon that arises from the high-dimensional learning dynamics of neural networks is the phenomenon of ``double descent''. The more commonly studied aspect of this phenomenon corresponds to \textit{model-wise} double descent where the test error exhibits a second descent with increasing model complexity, beyond the classical U-shaped error curve. In this work, we investigate the origins of the less studied \textit{epoch-wise} double descent in which the test error undergoes two non-monotonous transitions, or descents as the training time increases. We study a linear teacher-student setup exhibiting epoch-wise double descent similar to that in deep neural networks. In this setting, we derive closed-form analytical expressions describing the generalization error in terms of low-dimensional scalar macroscopic variables. We find that double descent can be attributed to distinct features being learned at different scales: as fast-learning features overfit, slower-learning features start to fit, resulting in a second descent in test error. We validate our findings through numerical simulations where our theory accurately predicts empirical findings and remains consistent with observations in deep neural networks.

Dataset Condensation with Contrastive Signals

Saehyung Lee · SANGHYUK CHUN · Sangwon Jung · Sangdoo Yun · Sungroh Yoon

Recent studies have demonstrated that gradient matching-based dataset synthesis, or dataset condensation (DC), methods can achieve state-of-theart performance when applied to data-efficient learning tasks. However, in this study, we prove that the existing DC methods can perform worse than the random selection method when taskirrelevant information forms a significant part of the training dataset. We attribute this to the lack of participation of the contrastive signals between the classes resulting from the class-wise gradient matching strategy. To address this problem, we propose Dataset Condensation with Contrastive signals (DCC) by modifying the loss function to enable the DC methods to effectively capture the differences between classes. In addition, we analyze the new loss function in terms of training dynamics by tracking the kernel velocity. Furthermore, we introduce a bi-level warm-up strategy to stabilize the optimization. Our experimental results indicate that while the existing methods are ineffective for fine-grained image classification tasks, the proposed method can successfully generate informative synthetic datasets for the same tasks. Moreover, we demonstrate that the proposed method outperforms the baselines even on benchmark datasets such as SVHN, CIFAR-10, and CIFAR-100. Finally, we demonstrate the high applicability of the proposed method by applying it to continual learning tasks.

Equivariant Priors for compressed sensing with unknown orientation

Anna Kuzina · Kumar Pratik · Fabio Valerio Massoli · Arash Behboodi

In compressed sensing, the goal is to reconstruct the signal from an underdetermined system of linear measurements. Thus, prior knowledge about the signal of interest and its structure is required. Additionally, in many scenarios, the signal has an unknown orientation prior to measurements. To address such recovery problems, we propose using equivariant generative models as a prior, which encapsulate orientation information in their latent space. Thereby, we show that signals with unknown orientations can be recovered with iterative gradient descent on the latent space of these models and provide additional theoretical recovery guarantees. We construct an equivariant variational autoencoder and use the decoder as generative prior for compressed sensing. We discuss additional potential gains of the proposed approach in terms of convergence and latency.

Injecting Logical Constraints into Neural Networks via Straight-Through Estimators

Zhun Yang · Joohyung Lee · Chiyoun Park

Injecting discrete logical constraints into neural network learning is one of the main challenges in neuro-symbolic AI. We find that a straight-through-estimator, a method introduced to train binary neural networks, could effectively be applied to incorporate logical constraints into neural network learning. More specifically, we design a systematic way to represent discrete logical constraints as a loss function; minimizing this loss using gradient descent via a straight-through-estimator updates the neural network's weights in the direction that the binarized outputs satisfy the logical constraints. The experimental results show that by leveraging GPUs and batch training, this method scales significantly better than existing neuro-symbolic methods that require heavy symbolic computation for computing gradients. Also, we demonstrate that our method applies to different types of neural networks, such as MLP, CNN, and GNN, making them learn with no or fewer labeled data by learning directly from known constraints.

Prioritized Training on Points that are Learnable, Worth Learning, and not yet Learnt

Sören Mindermann · Jan Brauner · Muhammed Razzak · Mrinank Sharma · Andreas Kirsch · Winnie Xu · Benedikt Höltgen · Aidan Gomez · Adrien Morisot · Sebastian Farquhar · Yarin Gal

Training on web-scale data can take months. But much computation and time is wasted on redundant and noisy points that are already learnt or not learnable. To accelerate training, we introduce Reducible Holdout Loss Selection (RHO-LOSS), a simple but principled technique which selects approximately those points for training that most reduce the model's generalization loss. As a result, RHO-LOSS mitigates the weaknesses of existing data selection methods: techniques from the optimization literature typically select "hard" (e.g. high loss) points, but such points are often noisy (not learnable) or less task-relevant. Conversely, curriculum learning prioritizes "easy" points, but such points need not be trained on once learned. In contrast, RHO-LOSS selects points that are learnable, worth learning, and not yet learnt. RHO-LOSS trains in far fewer steps than prior art, improves accuracy, and speeds up training on a wide range of datasets, hyperparameters, and architectures (MLPs, CNNs, and BERT). On the large web-scraped image dataset Clothing-1M, RHO-LOSS trains in 18x fewer steps and reaches 2% higher final accuracy than uniform data shuffling.

A Neural Tangent Kernel Perspective of GANs

Jean-Yves Franceschi · Emmanuel de Bézenac · Ibrahim Ayed · Mickael Chen · Sylvain Lamprier · Patrick Gallinari

We propose a novel theoretical framework of analysis for Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). We reveal a fundamental flaw of previous analyses which, by incorrectly modeling GANs' training scheme, are subject to ill-defined discriminator gradients. We overcome this issue which impedes a principled study of GAN training, solving it within our framework by taking into account the discriminator's architecture. To this end, we leverage the theory of infinite-width neural networks for the discriminator via its Neural Tangent Kernel. We characterize the trained discriminator for a wide range of losses and establish general differentiability properties of the network. From this, we derive new insights about the convergence of the generated distribution, advancing our understanding of GANs' training dynamics. We empirically corroborate these results via an analysis toolkit based on our framework, unveiling intuitions that are consistent with GAN practice.

Style Equalization: Unsupervised Learning of Controllable Generative Sequence Models

Jen-Hao Rick Chang · Ashish Shrivastava · Hema Koppula · Xiaoshuai Zhang · Oncel Tuzel

Controllable generative sequence models with the capability to extract and replicate the style of specific examples enable many applications, including narrating audiobooks in different voices, auto-completing and auto-correcting written handwriting, and generating missing training samples for downstream recognition tasks. However, under an unsupervised-style setting, typical training algorithms for controllable sequence generative models suffer from the training-inference mismatch, where the same sample is used as content and style input during training but unpaired samples are given during inference. In this paper, we tackle the training-inference mismatch encountered during unsupervised learning of controllable generative sequence models. The proposed method is simple yet effective, where we use a style transformation module to transfer target style information into an unrelated style input. This method enables training using unpaired content and style samples and thereby mitigate the training-inference mismatch. We apply style equalization to text-to-speech and text-to-handwriting synthesis on three datasets. We conduct thorough evaluation, including both quantitative and qualitative user studies. Our results show that by mitigating the training-inference mismatch with the proposed style equalization, we achieve style replication scores comparable to real data in our user studies.

Neural Inverse Transform Sampler

Henry Li · Yuval Kluger

Any explicit functional representation $f$ of a density is hampered by two main obstacles when we wish to use it as a generative model: designing $f$ so that sampling is fast, and estimating $Z = \int f$ so that $Z^{-1}f$ integrates to 1. This becomes increasingly complicated as $f$ itself becomes complicated. In this paper, we show that when modeling one-dimensional conditional densities with a neural network, $Z$ can be exactly and efficiently computed by letting the network represent the cumulative distribution function of a target density, and applying a generalized fundamental theorem of calculus. We also derive a fast algorithm for sampling from the resulting representation by the inverse transform method. By extending these principles to higher dimensions, we introduce the \textbf{Neural Inverse Transform Sampler (NITS)}, a novel deep learning framework for modeling and sampling from general, multidimensional, compactly-supported probability densities. NITS is a highly expressive density estimator that boasts end-to-end differentiability, fast sampling, and exact and cheap likelihood evaluation. We demonstrate the applicability of NITS by applying it to realistic, high-dimensional density estimation tasks: likelihood-based generative modeling on the CIFAR-10 dataset, and density estimation on the UCI suite of benchmark datasets, where NITS produces compelling results rivaling or surpassing the state of the art.

Antibody-Antigen Docking and Design via Hierarchical Structure Refinement

Wengong Jin · Regina Barzilay · Tommi Jaakkola

Computational antibody design seeks to automatically create an antibody that binds to an antigen. The binding affinity is governed by the 3D binding interface where antibody residues (paratope) closely interact with antigen residues (epitope). Thus, the key question of antibody design is how to predict the 3D paratope-epitope complex (i.e., docking) for paratope generation. In this paper, we propose a new model called Hierarchical Structure Refinement Network (HSRN) for paratope docking and design. During docking, HSRN employs a hierarchical message passing network to predict atomic forces and use them to refine a binding complex in an iterative, equivariant manner. During generation, its autoregressive decoder progressively docks generated paratopes and builds a geometric representation of the binding interface to guide the next residue choice. Our results show that HSRN significantly outperforms prior state-of-the-art on paratope docking and design benchmarks.

Diffusion Models for Adversarial Purification

Weili Nie · Brandon Guo · Yujia Huang · Chaowei Xiao · Arash Vahdat · Animashree Anandkumar

Adversarial purification refers to a class of defense methods that remove adversarial perturbations using a generative model. These methods do not make assumptions on the form of attack and the classification model, and thus can defend pre-existing classifiers against unseen threats. However, their performance currently falls behind adversarial training methods. In this work, we propose DiffPure that uses diffusion models for adversarial purification: Given an adversarial example, we first diffuse it with a small amount of noise following a forward diffusion process, and then recover the clean image through a reverse generative process. To evaluate our method against strong adaptive attacks in an efficient and scalable way, we propose to use the adjoint method to compute full gradients of the reverse generative process. Extensive experiments on three image datasets including CIFAR-10, ImageNet and CelebA-HQ with three classifier architectures including ResNet, WideResNet and ViT demonstrate that our method achieves the state-of-the-art results, outperforming current adversarial training and adversarial purification methods, often by a large margin.

Gaussian Mixture Variational Autoencoder with Contrastive Learning for Multi-Label Classification

Junwen Bai · Shufeng Kong · Carla Gomes

Multi-label classification (MLC) is a prediction task where each sample can have more than one label. We propose a novel contrastive learning boosted multi-label prediction model based on a Gaussian mixture variational autoencoder (C-GMVAE), which learns a multimodal prior space and employs a contrastive loss. Many existing methods introduce extra complex neural modules like graph neural networks to capture the label correlations, in addition to the prediction modules. We find that by using contrastive learning in the supervised setting, we can exploit label information effectively in a data-driven manner, and learn meaningful feature and label embeddings which capture the label correlations and enhance the predictive power. Our method also adopts the idea of learning and aligning latent spaces for both features and labels. In contrast to previous works based on a unimodal prior, C-GMVAE imposes a Gaussian mixture structure on the latent space, to alleviate the posterior collapse and over-regularization issues. C-GMVAE outperforms existing methods on multiple public datasets and can often match other models' full performance with only 50\% of the training data. Furthermore, we show that the learnt embeddings provide insights into the interpretation of label-label interactions.

VarScene: A Deep Generative Model for Realistic Scene Graph Synthesis

Tathagat Verma · Abir De · Yateesh Agrawal · Vishwa Vinay · Soumen Chakrabarti

Scene graphs are powerful abstractions that capture relationships between objects in images by modeling objects as nodes and relationships as edges.Generation of realistic synthetic scene graphs has applications like scene synthesis and data augmentation for supervised learning. Existing graph generative models are predominantly targeted toward molecular graphs, leveraging the limited vocabulary of atoms and bonds and also the well-defined semantics of chemical compounds. In contrast, scene graphs have much larger object and relation vocabularies, and their semantics are latent. To address this challenge, we propose a variational autoencoder for scene graphs, which is optimized for the maximum mean discrepancy (MMD) between the ground truth scene graph distribution and distribution of the generated scene graphs. Our method views a scene graph as a collection of star graphs and encodes it into a latent representation of the underlying stars. The decoder generates scene graphs by learning to sample the component stars and edges between them. Our experiments show that our method is able to mimic the underlying scene graph generative process more accurately than several state-of-the-art baselines.

It’s Raw! Audio Generation with State-Space Models

Karan Goel · Albert Gu · Chris Donahue · Christopher Re

Developing architectures suitable for modeling raw audio is a challenging problem due to the high sampling rates of audio waveforms. Standard sequence modeling approaches like RNNs and CNNs have previously been tailored to fit the demands of audio, but the resultant architectures make undesirable computational tradeoffs and struggle to model waveforms effectively. We propose SaShiMi, a new multi-scale architecture for waveform modeling built around the recently introduced S4 model for long sequence modeling. We identify that S4 can be unstable during autoregressive generation, and provide a simple improvement to its parameterization by drawing connections to Hurwitz matrices. SaShiMi yields state-of-the-art performance for unconditional waveform generation in the autoregressive setting. Additionally, SaShiMi improves non-autoregressive generation performance when used as the backbone architecture for a diffusion model. Compared to prior architectures in the autoregressive generation setting, SaShiMi generates piano and speech waveforms which humans find more musical and coherent respectively, e.g. 2× better mean opinion scores than WaveNet on an unconditional speech generation task. On a music generation task, SaShiMi outperforms WaveNet on density estimation and speed at both training and inference even when using 3× fewer parameters

Unsupervised Image Representation Learning with Deep Latent Particles

Tal Daniel · Aviv Tamar

We propose a new representation of visual data that disentangles object position from appearance. Our method, termed Deep Latent Particles (DLP), decomposes the visual input into low-dimensional latent ``particles'', where each particle is described by its spatial location and features of its surrounding region. To drive learning of such representations, we follow a VAE-based based approach and introduce a prior for particle positions based on a spatial-Softmax architecture, and a modification of the evidence lower bound loss inspired by the Chamfer distance between particles. We demonstrate that our DLP representations are useful for downstream tasks such as unsupervised keypoint (KP) detection, image manipulation, and video prediction for scenes composed of multiple dynamic objects. In addition, we show that our probabilistic interpretation of the problem naturally provides uncertainty estimates for particle locations, which can be used for model selection, among other tasks.

Learning Efficient and Robust Ordinary Differential Equations via Invertible Neural Networks

Weiming Zhi · Tin Lai · Lionel Ott · Edwin V Bonilla · Fabio Ramos

Advances in differentiable numerical integrators have enabled the use of gradient descent techniques to learn ordinary differential equations (ODEs), where a flexible function approximator (often a neural network) is used to estimate the system dynamics, given as a time derivative. However, these integrators can be unsatisfactorily slow and unstable when learning systems of ODEs from long sequences. We propose to learn an ODE of interest from data by viewing its dynamics as a vector field related to another base vector field via a diffeomorphism (i.e., a differentiable bijection), represented by an invertible neural network (INN). By learning both the INN and the dynamics of the base ODE, we provide an avenue to offload some of the complexity in modelling the dynamics directly on to the INN. Consequently, by restricting the base ODE to be amenable to integration, we can speed up and improve the robustness of integrating trajectories from the learned system. We demonstrate the efficacy of our method in training and evaluating benchmark ODE systems, as well as within continuous-depth neural networks models. We show that our approach attains speed-ups of up to two orders of magnitude when integrating learned ODEs.

Neuro-Symbolic Hierarchical Rule Induction

Claire Glanois · Zhaohui Jiang · Xuening Feng · Paul Weng · Matthieu Zimmer · Dong Li · Wulong Liu · Jianye Hao

We propose Neuro-Symbolic Hierarchical Rule Induction, an efficient interpretable neuro-symbolic model, to solve Inductive Logic Programming (ILP) problems. In this model, which is built from a pre-defined set of meta-rules organized in a hierarchical structure, first-order rules are invented by learning embeddings to match facts and body predicates of a meta-rule. To instantiate, we specifically design an expressive set of generic meta-rules, and demonstrate they generate a consequent fragment of Horn clauses. As a differentiable model, HRI can be trained both via supervised learning and reinforcement learning. To converge to interpretable rules, we inject a controlled noise to avoid local optima and employ an interpretability-regularization term. We empirically validate our model on various tasks (ILP, visual genome, reinforcement learning) against relevant state-of-the-art methods, including traditional ILP methods and neuro-symbolic models.

General-purpose, long-context autoregressive modeling with Perceiver AR

Curtis Hawthorne · Andrew Jaegle · Cătălina Cangea · Sebastian Borgeaud · Charlie Nash · Mateusz Malinowski · Sander Dieleman · Oriol Vinyals · Matthew Botvinick · Ian Simon · Hannah Sheahan · Neil Zeghidour · Jean-Baptiste Alayrac · Joao Carreira · Jesse Engel

Real-world data is high-dimensional: a book, image, or musical performance can easily contain hundreds of thousands of elements even after compression. However, the most commonly used autoregressive models, Transformers, are prohibitively expensive to scale to the number of inputs and layers needed to capture this long-range structure. We develop Perceiver AR, an autoregressive, modality-agnostic architecture which uses cross-attention to map long-range inputs to a small number of latents while also maintaining end-to-end causal masking. Perceiver AR can directly attend to over a hundred thousand tokens, enabling practical long-context density estimation without the need for hand-crafted sparsity patterns or memory mechanisms. When trained on images or music, Perceiver AR generates outputs with clear long-term coherence and structure. Our architecture also obtains state-of-the-art likelihood on long-sequence benchmarks, including 64x64 ImageNet images and PG-19 books.

Marginal Tail-Adaptive Normalizing Flows

Mike Laszkiewicz · Johannes Lederer · Asja Fischer

Learning the tail behavior of a distribution is a notoriously difficult problem. By definition, the number of samples from the tail is small, and deep generative models, such as normalizing flows, tend to concentrate on learning the body of the distribution. In this paper, we focus on improving the ability of normalizing flows to correctly capture the tail behavior and, thus, form more accurate models. We prove that the marginal tailedness of an autoregressive flow can be controlled viathe tailedness of the marginals of its base distribution. This theoretical insight leads us to a novel type of flows based on flexible base distributions and data-driven linear layers. An empirical analysis shows that the proposed method improveson the accuracy—especially on the tails of the distribution—and is able to generate heavy-tailed data. We demonstrate its application on a weather and climate example, in which capturing the tail behavior is essential.

SkexGen: Autoregressive Generation of CAD Construction Sequences with Disentangled Codebooks

Xiang Xu · Karl Willis · Joseph G Lambourne · Chin-Yi Cheng · Pradeep Kumar Jayaraman · Yasutaka Furukawa

We present SkexGen, a novel autoregressive generative model for computer-aided design (CAD) construction sequences containing sketch-and-extrude modeling operations. Our model utilizes distinct Transformer architectures to encode topological, geometric, and extrusion variations of construction sequences into disentangled codebooks. Autoregressive Transformer decoders generate CAD construction sequences sharing certain properties specified by the codebook vectors. Extensive experiments demonstrate that our disentangled codebook representation generates diverse and high-quality CAD models, enhances user control, and enables efficient exploration of the design space. The code is available at

NeuroFluid: Fluid Dynamics Grounding with Particle-Driven Neural Radiance Fields

Shanyan Guan · Huayu Deng · Yunbo Wang · Xiaokang Yang

Deep learning has shown great potential for modeling the physical dynamics of complex particle systems such as fluids. Existing approaches, however, require the supervision of consecutive particle properties, including positions and velocities. In this paper, we consider a partially observable scenario known as fluid dynamics grounding, that is, inferring the state transitions and interactions within the fluid particle systems from sequential visual observations of the fluid surface. We propose a differentiable two-stage network named NeuroFluid. Our approach consists of (i) a particle-driven neural renderer, which involves fluid physical properties into the volume rendering function, and (ii) a particle transition model optimized to reduce the differences between the rendered and the observed images. NeuroFluid provides the first solution to unsupervised learning of particle-based fluid dynamics by training these two models jointly. It is shown to reasonably estimate the underlying physics of fluids with different initial shapes, viscosity, and densities.

Equivariance versus Augmentation for Spherical Images

Jan Gerken · Oscar Carlsson · Hampus Linander · Fredrik Ohlsson · Christoffer Petersson · Daniel Persson

We analyze the role of rotational equivariance in convolutional neural networks (CNNs) applied to spherical images. We compare the performance of the group equivariant networks known as S2CNNs and standard non-equivariant CNNs trained with an increasing amount of data augmentation. The chosen architectures can be considered baseline references for the respective design paradigms. Our models are trained and evaluated on single or multiple items from the MNIST- or FashionMNIST dataset projected onto the sphere. For the task of image classification, which is inherently rotationally invariant, we find that by considerably increasing the amount of data augmentation and the size of the networks, it is possible for the standard CNNs to reach at least the same performance as the equivariant network. In contrast, for the inherently equivariant task of semantic segmentation, the non-equivariant networks are consistently outperformed by the equivariant networks with significantly fewer parameters. We also analyze and compare the inference latency and training times of the different networks, enabling detailed tradeoff considerations between equivariant architectures and data augmentation for practical problems.

Optimal Clipping and Magnitude-aware Differentiation for Improved Quantization-aware Training

Charbel Sakr · Steve Dai · Rangha Venkatesan · Brian Zimmer · William Dally · Brucek Khailany

Data clipping is crucial in reducing noise in quantization operations and improving the achievable accuracy of quantization-aware training (QAT). Current practices rely on heuristics to set clipping threshold scalars and cannot be shown to be optimal. We propose Optimally Clipped Tensors And Vectors (OCTAV), a recursive algorithm to determine MSE-optimal clipping scalars. Derived from the fast Newton-Raphson method, OCTAV finds optimal clipping scalars on the fly, for every tensor, at every iteration of the QAT routine. Thus, the QAT algorithm is formulated with provably minimum quantization noise at each step. In addition, we reveal limitations in common gradient estimation techniques in QAT and propose magnitude-aware differentiation as a remedy to further improve accuracy. Experimentally, OCTAV-enabled QAT achieves state-of-the-art accuracy on multiple tasks. These include training-from-scratch and retraining ResNets and MobileNets on ImageNet, and Squad fine-tuning using BERT models, where OCTAV-enabled QAT consistently preserves accuracy at low precision (4-to-6-bits). Our results require no modifications to the baseline training recipe, except for the insertion of quantization operations where appropriate.

Neural Network Poisson Models for Behavioural and Neural Spike Train Data

Moein Khajehnejad · Forough Habibollahi · Richard Nock · Ehsan Arabzadeh · Peter Dayan · Amir Dezfouli

One of the most important and challenging application areas for complex machine learning methods is to predict, characterize and model rich, multi-dimensional, neural data. Recent advances in neural recording techniques have made it possible to monitor the activity of a large number of neurons across different brain regions as animals perform behavioural tasks. This poses the critical challenge of establishing links between neural activity at a microscopic scale, which might for instance represent sensory input, and at a macroscopic scale, which then generates behaviour. Predominant modeling methods apply rather disjoint techniques to these scales; by contrast, we suggest an end-to-end model which exploits recent developments of flexible, but tractable, neural network point-process models to characterize dependencies between stimuli, actions, and neural data. We apply this model to a public dataset collected using Neuropixel probes in mice performing a visually-guided behavioural task as well as a synthetic dataset produced from a hierarchical network model with reciprocally connected sensory and integration circuits intended to characterize animal behaviour in a fixed-duration motion discrimination task. We show that our model outperforms previous approaches and contributes novel insights into the relationships between neural activity and behaviour.

A Branch and Bound Framework for Stronger Adversarial Attacks of ReLU Networks

Huan Zhang · Shiqi Wang · Kaidi Xu · Yihan Wang · Suman Jana · Cho-Jui Hsieh · Zico Kolter

Strong adversarial attacks are important for evaluating the true robustness of deep neural networks. Most existing attacks search in the input space, e.g., using gradient descent, and may miss adversarial examples due to non-convexity. In this work, we systematically search adversarial examples in the activation space of ReLU networks to tackle hard instances where none of the existing adversarial attacks succeed. Unfortunately, searching the activation space typically relies on generic mixed integer programming (MIP) solvers and is limited to small networks and easy problem instances. To improve scalability and practicability, we use branch and bound (BaB) with specialized GPU-based bound propagation methods, and propose a top-down beam-search approach to quickly identify the subspace that may contain adversarial examples. Moreover, we build an adversarial candidates pool using cheap attacks to further assist the search in activation space via diving techniques and a bottom-up large neighborhood search. Our adversarial attack framework, BaB-Attack, opens up a new opportunity for designing novel adversarial attacks not limited to searching the input space, and enables us to borrow techniques from integer programming theory and neural network verification. In experiments, we can successfully generate adversarial examples when existing attacks on input space fail. Compared to off-the-shelf MIP solver based attacks that requires significant computations, we outperform in both success rates and efficiency.

GACT: Activation Compressed Training for Generic Network Architectures

Xiaoxuan Liu · Lianmin Zheng · Dequan Wang · Yukuo Cen · Weize Chen · Xu Han · Jianfei Chen · Zhiyuan Liu · Jie Tang · Joseph Gonzalez · Michael Mahoney · Alvin Cheung

Training large neural network (NN) models requires extensive memory resources, and Activation Compression Training (ACT) is a promising approach to reduce training memory footprint. This paper presents GACT, an ACT framework to support a broad range of machine learning tasks for generic NN architectures with limited domain knowledge. By analyzing a linearized version of ACT’s approximate gradient, we prove the convergence of GACT without prior knowledge on operator type or model architecture. To make training stable, we propose an algorithm that decides the compression ratio for each tensor by estimating its impact on the gradient at run time. We implement GACT as a PyTorch library that readily applies to any NN architecture. GACT reduces the activation memory for convolutional NNs, transformers, and graph NNs by up to 8.1x, enabling training with a 4.2x to 24.7x larger batch size, with negligible accuracy loss.

Fast Finite Width Neural Tangent Kernel

Roman Novak · Jascha Sohl-Dickstein · Samuel Schoenholz

The Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK), defined as the outer product of the neural network (NN) Jacobians, has emerged as a central object of study in deep learning. In the infinite width limit, the NTK can sometimes be computed analytically and is useful for understanding training and generalization of NN architectures. At finite widths, the NTK is also used to better initialize NNs, compare the conditioning across models, perform architecture search, and do meta-learning. Unfortunately, the finite width NTK is notoriously expensive to compute, which severely limits its practical utility. We perform the first in-depth analysis of the compute and memory requirements for NTK computation in finite width networks. Leveraging the structure of neural networks, we further propose two novel algorithms that change the exponent of the compute and memory requirements of the finite width NTK, dramatically improving efficiency.Our algorithms can be applied in a black box fashion to any differentiable function, including those implementing neural networks.We open-source our implementations within the Neural Tangents package at

Outstanding Paper
G-Mixup: Graph Data Augmentation for Graph Classification

Xiaotian Han · Zhimeng Jiang · Ninghao Liu · Xia Hu

This work develops mixup for graph data. Mixup has shown superiority in improving the generalization and robustness of neural networks by interpolating features and labels between two random samples. Traditionally, Mixup can work on regular, grid-like, and Euclidean data such as image or tabular data. However, it is challenging to directly adopt Mixup to augment graph data because different graphs typically: 1) have different numbers of nodes; 2) are not readily aligned; and 3) have unique typologies in non-Euclidean space. To this end, we propose G-Mixup to augment graphs for graph classification by interpolating the generator (i.e., graphon) of different classes of graphs. Specifically, we first use graphs within the same class to estimate a graphon. Then, instead of directly manipulating graphs, we interpolate graphons of different classes in the Euclidean space to get mixed graphons, where the synthetic graphs are generated through sampling based on the mixed graphons. Extensive experiments show that G-Mixup substantially improves the generalization and robustness of GNNs.

Universal Hopfield Networks: A General Framework for Single-Shot Associative Memory Models

Beren Millidge · Tommaso Salvatori · Yuhang Song · Thomas Lukasiewicz · Rafal Bogacz

A large number of neural network models of associative memory have been proposed in the literature. These include the classical Hopfield networks (HNs), sparse distributed memories (SDMs), and more recently the modern continuous Hopfield networks (MCHNs), which possess close links with self-attention in machine learning. In this paper, we propose a general framework for understanding the operation of such memory networks as a sequence of three operations: similarity, separation, and projection. We derive all these memory models as instances of our general framework with differing similarity and separation functions. We extend the mathematical framework of Krotov et al (2020) to express general associative memory models using neural network dynamics with local computation, and derive a general energy function that is a Lyapunov function of the dynamics. Finally, using our framework, we empirically investigate the capacity of using different similarity functions for these associative memory models, beyond the dot product similarity measure, and demonstrate empirically that Euclidean or Manhattan distance similarity metrics perform substantially better in practice on many tasks, enabling a more robust retrieval and higher memory capacity than existing~models.

Multi-Grained Vision Language Pre-Training: Aligning Texts with Visual Concepts

Yan Zeng · Xinsong Zhang · Hang Li

Most existing methods in vision language pre-training rely on object-centric features extracted through object detection and make fine-grained alignments between the extracted features and texts. It is challenging for these methods to learn relations among multiple objects. To this end, we propose a new method called X-VLM to perform `multi-grained vision language pre-training.' The key to learning multi-grained alignments is to locate visual concepts in the image given the associated texts, and in the meantime align the texts with the visual concepts, where the alignments are in multi-granularity. Experimental results show that X-VLM effectively leverages the learned multi-grained alignments to many downstream vision language tasks and consistently outperforms state-of-the-art methods.

Continual Learning with Guarantees via Weight Interval Constraints

Maciej Wołczyk · Karol J. Piczak · Bartosz Wójcik · Łukasz Pustelnik · Paweł Morawiecki · Jacek Tabor · Tomasz Trzcinski · Przemysław Spurek

We introduce a new training paradigm that enforces interval constraints on neural network parameter space to control forgetting. Contemporary Continual Learning (CL) methods focus on training neural networks efficiently from a stream of data, while reducing the negative impact of catastrophic forgetting, yet they do not provide any firm guarantees that network performance will not deteriorate uncontrollably over time. In this work, we show how to put bounds on forgetting by reformulating continual learning of a model as a continual contraction of its parameter space. To that end, we propose Hyperrectangle Training, a new training methodology where each task is represented by a hyperrectangle in the parameter space, fully contained in the hyperrectangles of the previous tasks. This formulation reduces the NP-hard CL problem back to polynomial time while providing full resilience against forgetting. We validate our claim by developing InterContiNet (Interval Continual Learning) algorithm which leverages interval arithmetic to effectively model parameter regions as hyperrectangles. Through experimental results, we show that our approach performs well in a continual learning setup without storing data from previous tasks.

Blurs Behave Like Ensembles: Spatial Smoothings to Improve Accuracy, Uncertainty, and Robustness

Namuk Park · Songkuk Kim

Neural network ensembles, such as Bayesian neural networks (BNNs), have shown success in the areas of uncertainty estimation and robustness. However, a crucial challenge prohibits their use in practice. BNNs require a large number of predictions to produce reliable results, leading to a significant increase in computational cost. To alleviate this issue, we propose spatial smoothing, a method that ensembles neighboring feature map points of convolutional neural networks. By simply adding a few blur layers to the models, we empirically show that spatial smoothing improves accuracy, uncertainty estimation, and robustness of BNNs across a whole range of ensemble sizes. In particular, BNNs incorporating spatial smoothing achieve high predictive performance merely with a handful of ensembles. Moreover, this method also can be applied to canonical deterministic neural networks to improve the performances. A number of evidences suggest that the improvements can be attributed to the stabilized feature maps and the smoothing of the loss landscape. In addition, we provide a fundamental explanation for prior works — namely, global average pooling, pre-activation, and ReLU6 — by addressing them as special cases of spatial smoothing. These not only enhance accuracy, but also improve uncertainty estimation and robustness by making the loss landscape smoother in the same manner as spatial smoothing. The code is available at

Breaking Down Out-of-Distribution Detection: Many Methods Based on OOD Training Data Estimate a Combination of the Same Core Quantities

Julian Bitterwolf · Alexander Meinke · Maximilian Augustin · Matthias Hein

It is an important problem in trustworthy machine learning to recognize out-of-distribution (OOD) inputs which are inputs unrelated to the in-distribution task. Many out-of-distribution detection methods have been suggested in recent years. The goal of this paper is to recognize common objectives as well as to identify the implicit scoring functions of different OOD detection methods. We focus on the sub-class of methods that use surrogate OOD data during training in order to learn an OOD detection score that generalizes to new unseen out-distributions at test time.We show that binary discrimination between in- and (different) out-distributions is equivalent to several distinct formulations of the OOD detection problem. When trained in a shared fashion with a standard classifier, this binary discriminator reaches an OOD detection performance similar to that of Outlier Exposure. Moreover, we show that the confidence loss which is used by Outlier Exposure has an implicit scoring function which differs in a non-trivial fashion from the theoretically optimal scoring function in the case where training and test out-distribution are the same, which again is similar to the one used when training an Energy-Based OOD detector or when adding a background class. In practice, when trained in exactly the same way, all these methods perform similarly.

Comprehensive Analysis of Negative Sampling in Knowledge Graph Representation Learning

Hidetaka Kamigaito · Katsuhiko Hayashi

Negative sampling~(NS) loss plays an important role in learning knowledge graph embedding~(KGE) to handle a huge number of entities. However, the performance of KGE degrades without hyperparameters such as the margin term and number of negative samples in NS loss being appropriately selected. Currently, empirical hyperparameter tuning addresses this problem at the cost of computational time. To solve this problem, we theoretically analyzed NS loss to assist hyperparameter tuning and understand the better use of the NS loss in KGE learning. Our theoretical analysis showed that scoring methods with restricted value ranges, such as TransE and RotatE, require appropriate adjustment of the margin term or the number of negative samples different from those without restricted value ranges, such as RESCAL, ComplEx, and DistMult. We also propose subsampling methods specialized for the NS loss in KGE studied from a theoretical aspect. Our empirical analysis on the FB15k-237, WN18RR, and YAGO3-10 datasets showed that the results of actually trained models agree with our theoretical findings.

Linearity Grafting: Relaxed Neuron Pruning Helps Certifiable Robustness

Tianlong Chen · Huan Zhang · Zhenyu Zhang · Shiyu Chang · Sijia Liu · Pin-Yu Chen · Zhangyang “Atlas” Wang

Certifiable robustness is a highly desirable property for adopting deep neural networks (DNNs) in safety-critical scenarios, but often demands tedious computations to establish. The main hurdle lies in the massive amount of non-linearity in large DNNs. To trade off the DNN expressiveness (which calls for more non-linearity) and robustness certification scalability (which prefers more linearity), we propose a novel solution to strategically manipulate neurons, by "grafting" appropriate levels of linearity. The core of our proposal is to first linearize insignificant ReLU neurons, to eliminate the non-linear components that are both redundant for DNN performance and harmful to its certification. We then optimize the associated slopes and intercepts of the replaced linear activations for restoring model performance while maintaining certifiability. Hence, typical neuron pruning could be viewed as a special case of grafting a linear function of the fixed zero slopes and intercept, that might overly restrict the network flexibility and sacrifice its performance. Extensive experiments on multiple datasets and network backbones show that our linearity grafting can (1) effectively tighten certified bounds; (2) achieve competitive certifiable robustness without certified robust training (i.e., over 30% improvements on CIFAR-10 models); and (3) scale up complete verification to large adversarially trained models with 17M parameters. Codes are available at

Adversarial Masking for Self-Supervised Learning

Yuge Shi · Siddharth N · Phil Torr · Adam Kosiorek

We propose ADIOS, a masked image model (MIM) framework for self-supervised learning, which simultaneously learns a masking function and an image encoder using an adversarial objective. The image encoder is trained to minimise the distance between representations of the original and that of a masked image. The masking function, conversely, aims at maximising this distance. ADIOS consistently improves on state-of-the-art self-supervised learning (SSL) methods on a variety of tasks and datasets---including classification on ImageNet100 and STL10, transfer learning on CIFAR10/100, Flowers102 and iNaturalist, as well as robustness evaluated on the backgrounds challenge (Xiao et al., 2021)---while generating semantically meaningful masks. Unlike modern MIM models such as MAE, BEiT and iBOT, ADIOS does not rely on the image-patch tokenisation construction of Vision Transformers, and can be implemented with convolutional backbones. We further demonstrate that the masks learned by ADIOS are more effective in improving representation learning of SSL methods than masking schemes used in popular MIM models.

Provable Stochastic Optimization for Global Contrastive Learning: Small Batch Does Not Harm Performance

Zhuoning Yuan · Yuexin Wu · Zi-Hao Qiu · Xianzhi Du · Lijun Zhang · Denny Zhou · Tianbao Yang

In this paper, we study contrastive learning from an optimization perspective, aiming to analyze and address a fundamental issue of existing contrastive learning methods that either rely on a large batch size or a large dictionary of feature vectors. We consider a global objective for contrastive learning, which contrasts each positive pair with all negative pairs for an anchor point. From the optimization perspective, we explain why existing methods such as SimCLR require a large batch size in order to achieve a satisfactory result. In order to remove such requirement, we propose a memory-efficient Stochastic Optimization algorithm for solving the Global objective of Contrastive Learning of Representations, named SogCLR. We show that its optimization error is negligible under a reasonable condition after a sufficient number of iterations or is diminishing for a slightly different global contrastive objective. Empirically, we demonstrate that SogCLR with small batch size (e.g., 256) can achieve similar performance as SimCLR with large batch size (e.g., 8192) on self-supervised learning task on ImageNet-1K. We also attempt to show that the proposed optimization technique is generic and can be applied to solving other contrastive losses, e.g., two-way contrastive losses for bimodal contrastive learning. The proposed method is implemented in our open-sourced library LibAUC (

OFA: Unifying Architectures, Tasks, and Modalities Through a Simple Sequence-to-Sequence Learning Framework

Peng Wang · An Yang · Rui Men · Junyang Lin · Shuai Bai · Zhikang Li · Jianxin Ma · Chang Zhou · Jingren Zhou · Hongxia Yang

In this work, we pursue a unified paradigm for multimodal pretraining to break the shackles of complex task/modality-specific customization. We propose OFA, a Task-Agnostic and Modality-Agnostic framework that supports Task Comprehensiveness. OFA unifies a diverse set of cross-modal and unimodal tasks, including image generation, visual grounding, image captioning, image classification, language modeling, etc., in a simple sequence-to-sequence learning framework. OFA follows the instruction-based learning in both pretraining and finetuning stages, requiring no extra task-specific layers for downstream tasks. In comparison with the recent state-of-the-art vision & language models that rely on extremely large cross-modal datasets, OFA is pretrained on only 20M publicly available image-text pairs. Despite its simplicity and relatively small-scale training data, OFA achieves new SOTAs in a series of cross-modal tasks while attaining highly competitive performances on uni-modal tasks. Our further analysis indicates that OFA can also effectively transfer to unseen tasks and unseen domains. Our code and models are publicly available at

Multirate Training of Neural Networks

Tiffany Vlaar · Benedict Leimkuhler

We propose multirate training of neural networks: partitioning neural network parameters into "fast" and "slow" parts which are trained on different time scales, where slow parts are updated less frequently. By choosing appropriate partitionings we can obtain substantial computational speed-up for transfer learning tasks. We show for applications in vision and NLP that we can fine-tune deep neural networks in almost half the time, without reducing the generalization performance of the resulting models. We analyze the convergence properties of our multirate scheme and draw a comparison with vanilla SGD. We also discuss splitting choices for the neural network parameters which could enhance generalization performance when neural networks are trained from scratch. A multirate approach can be used to learn different features present in the data and as a form of regularization. Our paper unlocks the potential of using multirate techniques for neural network training and provides several starting points for future work in this area.

Variational Wasserstein gradient flow

Jiaojiao Fan · Qinsheng Zhang · Amirhossein Taghvaei · Yongxin Chen

Wasserstein gradient flow has emerged as a promising approach to solve optimization problems over the space of probability distributions. A recent trend is to use the well-known JKO scheme in combination with input convex neural networks to numerically implement the proximal step. The most challenging step, in this setup, is to evaluate functions involving density explicitly, such as entropy, in terms of samples. This paper builds on the recent works with a slight but crucial difference: we propose to utilize a variational formulation of the objective function formulated as maximization over a parametric class of functions. Theoretically, the proposed variational formulation allows the construction of gradient flows directly for empirical distributions with a well-defined and meaningful objective function. Computationally, this approach replaces the computationally expensive step in existing methods, to handle objective functions involving density, with inner loop updates that only require a small batch of samples and scale well with the dimension. The performance and scalability of the proposed method are illustrated with the aid of several numerical experiments involving high-dimensional synthetic and real datasets.

Building Robust Ensembles via Margin Boosting

Dinghuai Zhang · Hongyang Zhang · Aaron Courville · Yoshua Bengio · Pradeep Ravikumar · Arun Sai Suggala

In the context of adversarial robustness, a single model does not usually have enough power to defend against all possible adversarial attacks, and as a result, has sub-optimal robustness. Consequently, an emerging line of work has focused on learning an ensemble of neural networks to defend against adversarial attacks. In this work, we take a principled approach towards building robust ensembles. We view this problem from the perspective of margin-boosting and develop an algorithm for learning an ensemble with maximum margin. Through extensive empirical evaluation on benchmark datasets, we show that our algorithm not only outperforms existing ensembling techniques, but also large models trained in an end-to-end fashion. An important byproduct of our work is a margin-maximizing cross-entropy (MCE) loss, which is a better alternative to the standard cross-entropy (CE) loss. Empirically, we show that replacing the CE loss in state-of-the-art adversarial training techniques with our MCE loss leads to significant performance improvement.

Investigating Generalization by Controlling Normalized Margin

Alexander Farhang · Jeremy Bernstein · Kushal Tirumala · Yang Liu · Yisong Yue

Weight norm ‖W‖ and margin γ participate in learning theory via the normalized margin γ/‖W‖. Since standard neural net optimizers do not control normalized margin, it is hard to test whether this quantity causally relates to generalization. This paper designs a series of experimental studies that explicitly control normalized margin and thereby tackle two central questions. First: does normalized margin always have a causal effect on generalization? The paper finds that no—networks can be produced where normalized margin has seemingly no relationship with generalization, counter to the theory of Bartlett et al. (2017). Second: does normalized margin ever have a causal effect on generalization? The paper finds that yes—in a standard training setup, test performance closely tracks normalized margin. The paper suggests a Gaussian process model as a promising explanation for this behavior.

Connect, Not Collapse: Explaining Contrastive Learning for Unsupervised Domain Adaptation

Kendrick Shen · Robbie Jones · Ananya Kumar · Sang Michael Xie · Jeff Z. HaoChen · Tengyu Ma · Percy Liang

We consider unsupervised domain adaptation (UDA), where labeled data from a source domain (e.g., photos) and unlabeled data from a target domain (e.g., sketches) are used to learn a classifier for the target domain. Conventional UDA methods (e.g., domain adversarial training) learn domain-invariant features to generalize from the source domain to the target domain. In this paper, we show that contrastive pre-training, which learns features on unlabeled source and target data and then fine-tunes on labeled source data, is competitive with strong UDA methods. However, we find that contrastive pre-training does not learn domain-invariant features, diverging from conventional UDA intuitions. We show theoretically that contrastive pre-training can learn features that vary subtantially across domains but still generalize to the target domain, by disentangling domain and class information. We empirically validate our theory on benchmark vision datasets.

VLUE: A Multi-Task Multi-Dimension Benchmark for Evaluating Vision-Language Pre-training

Wangchunshu Zhou · Yan Zeng · shizhe diao · Xinsong Zhang

Recent advances in vision-language pre-training (VLP) have demonstrated impressive performance in a range of vision-language (VL) tasks. However, there exist several challenges for measuring the community's progress in building general multi-modal intelligence. First, most of the downstream VL datasets are annotated using raw images that are already seen during pre-training, which may result in an overestimation of current VLP models' generalization ability. Second, recent VLP work mainly focuses on absolute performance but overlooks the efficiency-performance trade-off, which is also an important indicator for measuring progress.To this end, we introduce the Vision-Language Understanding Evaluation (VLUE) benchmark, a multi-task multi-dimension benchmark for evaluating the generalization capabilities and the efficiency-performance trade-off (``Pareto SOTA'') of VLP models.We demonstrate that there is a sizable generalization gap for all VLP models when testing on out-of-distribution test sets annotated on images from a more diverse distribution that spreads across cultures.Moreover, we find that measuring the efficiency-performance trade-off of VLP models leads to complementary insights for several design choices of VLP.We release the VLUE benchmark to promote research on building vision-language models that generalize well to images unseen during pre-training and are practical in terms of efficiency-performance trade-off.

Let Invariant Rationale Discovery Inspire Graph Contrastive Learning

Sihang Li · Xiang Wang · An Zhang · Ying-Xin Wu · Xiangnan He · Tat-Seng Chua

Leading graph contrastive learning (GCL) methods perform graph augmentations in two fashions: (1) randomly corrupting the anchor graph, which could cause the loss of semantic information, or (2) using domain knowledge to maintain salient features, which undermines the generalization to other domains. Taking an invariance look at GCL, we argue that a high-performing augmentation should preserve the salient semantics of anchor graphs regarding instance-discrimination.To this end, we relate GCL with invariant rationale discovery, and propose a new framework, Rationale-aware Graph Contrastive Learning (RGCL). Specifically, without supervision signals, RGCL uses a rationale generator to reveal salient features about graph instance-discrimination as the rationale, and then creates rationale-aware views for contrastive learning. This rationale-aware pre-training scheme endows the backbone model with the powerful representation ability, further facilitating the fine-tuning on downstream tasks. On MNIST-Superpixel and MUTAG datasets, visual inspections on the discovered rationales showcase that the rationale generator successfully captures the salient features (\ie distinguishing semantic nodes in graphs). On biochemical molecule and social network benchmark datasets, the state-of-the-art performance of RGCL demonstrates the effectiveness of rationale-aware views for contrastive learning. Our codes are available at

Graph Neural Architecture Search Under Distribution Shifts

Yijian Qin · Xin Wang · Ziwei Zhang · Pengtao Xie · Wenwu Zhu

Graph neural architecture search has shown great potentials for automatically designing graph neural network (GNN) architectures for graph classification tasks. However, when there is a distribution shift between training and testing graphs, the existing approaches fail to deal with the problem of adapting to unknown test graph structures since they only search for a fixed architecture for all graphs. To solve this problem, we propose a novel GRACES model which is able to generalize under distribution shifts through tailoring a customized GNN architecture suitable for each graph instance with unknown distribution. Specifically, we design a self-supervised disentangled graph encoder to characterize invariant factors hidden in diverse graph structures. Then, we propose a prototype-based architecture customization strategy to generate the most suitable GNN architecture weights in a continuous space for each graph instance. We further propose a customized super-network to share weights among different architectures for the sake of efficient training. Extensive experiments on both synthetic and real-world datasets demonstrate that our proposed GRACES model can adapt to diverse graph structures and achieve state-of-the-art performance for graph classification tasks under distribution shifts.

How Powerful are Spectral Graph Neural Networks

Xiyuan Wang · Muhan Zhang

Spectral Graph Neural Network is a kind of Graph Neural Network (GNN) based on graph signal filters. Some models able to learn arbitrary spectral filters have emerged recently. However, few works analyze the expressive power of spectral GNNs. This paper studies spectral GNNs’ expressive power theoretically. We first prove that even spectral GNNs without nonlinearity can produce arbitrary graph signals and give two conditions for reaching universality. They are: 1) no multiple eigenvalues of graph Laplacian, and 2) no missing frequency components in node features. We also establish a connection between the expressive power of spectral GNNs and Graph Isomorphism (GI) testing, the latter of which is often used to characterize spatial GNNs’ expressive power. Moreover, we study the difference in empirical performance among different spectral GNNs with the same expressive power from an optimization perspective, and motivate the use of an orthogonal basis whose weight function corresponds to the graph signal density in the spectrum. Inspired by the analysis, we propose JacobiConv, which uses Jacobi basis due to its orthogonality and flexibility to adapt to a wide range of weight functions. JacobiConv deserts nonlinearity while outperforming all baselines on both synthetic and real-world datasets.

Constraint-based graph network simulator

Yulia Rubanova · Alvaro Sanchez-Gonzalez · Tobias Pfaff · Peter Battaglia

In the area of physical simulations, nearly all neural-network-based methods directly predict future states from the input states. However, many traditional simulation engines instead model the constraints of the system and select the state which satisfies them. Here we present a framework for constraint-based learned simulation, where a scalar constraint function is implemented as a graph neural network, and future predictions are computed by solving the optimization problem defined by the learned constraint. Our model achieves comparable or better accuracy to top learned simulators on a variety of challenging physical domains, and offers several unique advantages. We can improve the simulation accuracy on a larger system by applying more solver iterations at test time. We also can incorporate novel hand-designed constraints at test time and simulate new dynamics which were not present in the training data. Our constraint-based framework shows how key techniques from traditional simulation and numerical methods can be leveraged as inductive biases in machine learning simulators.

PACE: A Parallelizable Computation Encoder for Directed Acyclic Graphs

Zehao Dong · Muhan Zhang · Fuhai Li · Yixin Chen

Optimization of directed acyclic graph (DAG) structures has many applications, such as neural architecture search (NAS) and probabilistic graphical model learning. Encoding DAGs into real vectors is a dominant component in most neural-network-based DAG optimization frameworks.Currently, most popular DAG encoders use an asynchronous message passing scheme which sequentially processes nodes according to the dependency between nodes in a DAG. That is, a node must not be processed until all its predecessors are processed. As a result, they are inherently not parallelizable. In this work, we propose a Parallelizable Attention-based Computation structure Encoder (PACE) that processes nodes simultaneously and encodes DAGs in parallel. We demonstrate the superiority of PACE through encoder-dependent optimization subroutines that search the optimal DAG structure based on the learned DAG embeddings. Experiments show that PACE not only improves the effectiveness over previous sequential DAG encoders with a significantly boosted training and inference speed, but also generates smooth latent (DAG encoding) spaces that are beneficial to downstream optimization subroutines.

Structure-Aware Transformer for Graph Representation Learning

Dexiong Chen · Leslie O'Bray · Karsten Borgwardt

The Transformer architecture has gained growing attention in graph representation learning recently, as it naturally overcomes several limitations of graph neural networks (GNNs) by avoiding their strict structural inductive biases and instead only encoding the graph structure via positional encoding. Here, we show that the node representations generated by the Transformer with positional encoding do not necessarily capture structural similarity between them. To address this issue, we propose the Structure-Aware Transformer, a class of simple and flexible graph Transformers built upon a new self-attention mechanism. This new self-attention incorporates structural information into the original self-attention by extracting a subgraph representation rooted at each node before computing the attention. We propose several methods for automatically generating the subgraph representation and show theoretically that the resulting representations are at least as expressive as the subgraph representations. Empirically, our method achieves state-of-the-art performance on five graph prediction benchmarks. Our structure-aware framework can leverage any existing GNN to extract the subgraph representation, and we show that it systematically improves performance relative to the base GNN model, successfully combining the advantages of GNNs and Transformers. Our code is available at

Ripple Attention for Visual Perception with Sub-quadratic Complexity

Lin Zheng · Huijie Pan · Lingpeng Kong

Transformer architectures are now central to sequence modeling tasks. At its heart is the attention mechanism, which enables effective modeling of long-term dependencies in a sequence. Recently, transformers have been successfully applied in the computer vision domain, where 2D images are first segmented into patches and then treated as 1D sequences. Such linearization, however, impairs the notion of spatial locality in images, which bears important visual clues. To bridge the gap, we propose \emph{ripple attention}, a sub-quadratic attention mechanism for vision transformers. Built upon the recent kernel-based efficient attention mechanisms, we design a novel dynamic programming algorithm that weights contributions of different tokens to a query with respect to their relative spatial distances in the 2D space in linear observed time.Extensive experiments and analyses demonstrate the effectiveness of ripple attention on various visual tasks.

Self-supervised Models are Good Teaching Assistants for Vision Transformers

Haiyan Wu · Yuting Gao · Yinqi Zhang · Shaohui Lin · Yuan Xie · Xing Sun · Ke Li

Transformers have shown remarkable progress on computer vision tasks in the past year. Compared to their CNN counterparts, transformers usually need the help of distillation to achieve comparable results on middle or small sized datasets. Meanwhile, recent researches discover that when transformers are trained with supervised and self-supervised manner respectively, the captured patterns are quite different both qualitatively and quantitatively. These findings motivate us to introduce an self-supervised teaching assistant (SSTA) besides the commonly used supervised teacher to improve the performance of transformers. Specifically, we propose a head-level knowledge distillation method that selects the most important head of the supervised teacher and self-supervised teaching assistant, and let the student mimic the attention distribution of these two heads, so as to make the student focus on the relationship between tokens deemed by the teacher and the teacher assistant. Extensive experiments verify the effectiveness of SSTA and demonstrate that the proposed SSTA is a good compensation to the supervised teacher. Meanwhile, some analytical experiments towards multiple perspectives (e.g. prediction, shape bias, robustness, and transferability to downstream tasks) with supervised teachers, self-supervised teaching assistants and students are inductive and may inspire future researches.

Plug-In Inversion: Model-Agnostic Inversion for Vision with Data Augmentations

Amin Ghiasi · Hamid Kazemi · Steven Reich · Chen Zhu · Micah Goldblum · Tom Goldstein

Existing techniques for model inversion typically rely on hard-to-tune regularizers, such as total variation or feature regularization, which must be individually calibrated for each network in order to produce adequate images. In this work, we introduce Plug-In Inversion, which relies on a simple set of augmentations and does not require excessive hyper-parameter tuning. Under our proposed augmentation-based scheme, the same set of augmentation hyper-parameters can be used for inverting a wide range of image classification models, regardless of input dimensions or the architecture. We illustrate the practicality of our approach by inverting Vision Transformers (ViTs) and Multi-Layer Perceptrons (MLPs) trained on the ImageNet dataset, tasks which to the best of our knowledge have not been successfully accomplished by any previous works.

In defense of dual-encoders for neural ranking

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

Transformer-based models such as BERT have proven successful in information retrieval problem, which seek to identify relevant documents for a given query. There are two broad flavours of such models: cross-attention (CA) models, which learn a joint embedding for the query and document, and dual-encoder (DE) models, which learn separate embeddings for the query and document. Empirically, CA models are often found to be more accurate, which has motivated a series of works seeking to bridge this gap. However, a more fundamental question remains less explored: does this performance gap reflect an inherent limitation in the capacity of DE models, or a limitation in the training of such models? And does such an understanding suggest a principled means of improving DE models? In this paper, we study these questions, with three contributions. First, we establish theoretically that with a sufficiently large embedding dimension, DE models have the capacity to model a broad class of score distributions. Second, we show empirically that on real-world problems, DE models may overfit to spurious correlations in the training set, and thus under-perform on test samples. To mitigate this behaviour, we propose a suitable distillation strategy, and confirm its practical efficacy on the MSMARCO-Passage and Natural Questions benchmarks.

From block-Toeplitz matrices to differential equations on graphs: towards a general theory for scalable masked Transformers

Krzysztof Choromanski · Han Lin · Haoxian Chen · Tianyi Zhang · Arijit Sehanobish · Valerii Likhosherstov · Jack Parker-Holder · Tamas Sarlos · Adrian Weller · Thomas Weingarten

In this paper we provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first comprehensive approach for incorporating various masking mechanisms into Transformers architectures in a scalable way. We show that recent results on linear causal attention (Choromanski et al., 2021) and log-linear RPE-attention (Luo et al., 2021) are special cases of this general mechanism. However by casting the problem as a topological (graph-based) modulation of unmasked attention, we obtain several results unknown before, including efficient d-dimensional RPE-masking and graph-kernel masking. We leverage many mathematical techniques ranging from spectral analysis through dynamic programming and random walks to new algorithms for solving Markov processes on graphs. We provide a corresponding empirical evaluation.

Linear Complexity Randomized Self-attention Mechanism

Lin Zheng · Chong Wang · Lingpeng Kong

Recently, random feature attentions (RFAs) are proposed to approximate the softmax attention in linear time and space complexity by linearizing the exponential kernel. In this paper, we first propose a novel perspective to understand the bias in such approximation by recasting RFAs as self-normalized importance samplers. This perspective further sheds light on an \emph{unbiased} estimator for the whole softmax attention, called randomized attention (RA). RA constructs positive random features via query-specific distributions and enjoys greatly improved approximation fidelity, albeit exhibiting quadratic complexity. By combining the expressiveness in RA and the efficiency in RFA, we develop a novel linear complexity self-attention mechanism called linear randomized attention (LARA). Extensive experiments across various domains demonstrate that RA and LARA significantly improve the performance of RFAs by a substantial margin.

Efficient Representation Learning via Adaptive Context Pooling

Chen Huang · Walter Talbott · Navdeep Jaitly · Joshua M Susskind

Self-attention mechanisms model long-range context by using pairwise attention between all input tokens. In doing so, they assume a fixed attention granularity defined by the individual tokens (e.g., text characters or image pixels), which may not be optimal for modeling complex dependencies at higher levels. In this paper, we propose ContextPool to address this problem by adapting the attention granularity for each token. Inspired by the success of ConvNets that are combined with pooling to capture long-range dependencies, we learn to pool neighboring features for each token before computing attention in a given attention layer. The pooling weights and support size are adaptively determined, allowing the pooled features to encode meaningful context with varying scale. We show that ContextPool makes attention models more expressive, achieving strong performance often with fewer layers and thus significantly reduced cost. Experiments validate that our ContextPool module, when plugged into transformer models, matches or surpasses state-of-the-art performance using less compute on several language and image benchmarks, outperforms recent works with learned context sizes or sparse attention patterns, and is also applicable to ConvNets for efficient feature learning.

Toward Compositional Generalization in Object-Oriented World Modeling

Linfeng Zhao · Lingzhi Kong · Robin Walters · Lawson Wong

Compositional generalization is a critical ability in learning and decision-making. We focus on the setting of reinforcement learning in object-oriented environments to study compositional generalization in world modeling. We (1) formalize the compositional generalization problem with an algebraic approach and (2) study how a world model can achieve that. We introduce a conceptual environment, Object Library, and two instances, and deploy a principled pipeline to measure the generalization ability. Motivated by the formulation, we analyze several methods with exact or no compositional generalization ability using our framework, and design a differentiable approach, Homomorphic Object-oriented World Model (HOWM), that achieves soft but more efficient compositional generalization.

Fast Population-Based Reinforcement Learning on a Single Machine

Arthur Flajolet · Claire Bizon Monroc · Karim Beguir · Thomas Pierrot

Training populations of agents has demonstrated great promise in Reinforcement Learning for stabilizing training, improving exploration and asymptotic performance, and generating a diverse set of solutions. However, population-based training is often not considered by practitioners as it is perceived to be either prohibitively slow (when implemented sequentially), or computationally expensive (if agents are trained in parallel on independent accelerators). In this work, we compare implementations and revisit previous studies to show that the judicious use of compilation and vectorization allows population-based training to be performed on a single machine with one accelerator with minimal overhead compared to training a single agent. We also show that, when provided with a few accelerators, our protocols extend to large population sizes for applications such as hyperparameter tuning. We hope that this work and the public release of our code will encourage practitioners to use population-based learning techniques more frequently for their research and applications.

NeuralEF: Deconstructing Kernels by Deep Neural Networks

Zhijie Deng · Jiaxin Shi · Jun Zhu

Learning the principal eigenfunctions of an integral operator defined by a kernel and a data distribution is at the core of many machine learning problems. Traditional nonparametric solutions based on the Nystrom formula suffer from scalability issues. Recent work has resorted to a parametric approach, i.e., training neural networks to approximate the eigenfunctions. However, the existing method relies on an expensive orthogonalization step and is difficult to implement. We show that these problems can be fixed by using a new series of objective functions that generalizes the EigenGame to function space. We test our method on a variety of supervised and unsupervised learning problems and show it provides accurate approximations to the eigenfunctions of polynomial, radial basis, neural network Gaussian process, and neural tangent kernels. Finally, we demonstrate our method can scale up linearised Laplace approximation of deep neural networks to modern image classification datasets through approximating the Gauss-Newton matrix. Code is available at

Visual Attention Emerges from Recurrent Sparse Reconstruction

Baifeng Shi · Yale Song · Neel Joshi · Trevor Darrell · Xin Wang

Visual attention helps achieve robust perception under noise, corruption, and distribution shifts in human vision, which are areas where modern neural networks still fall short. We present VARS, Visual Attention from Recurrent Sparse reconstruction, a new attention formulation built on two prominent features of the human visual attention mechanism: recurrency and sparsity. Related features are grouped together via recurrent connections between neurons, with salient objects emerging via sparse regularization. VARS adopts an attractor network with recurrent connections that converges toward a stable pattern over time.Network layers are represented as ordinary differential equations (ODEs), formulating attention as a recurrent attractor network that equivalently optimizes the sparse reconstruction of input using a dictionary of ``templates'' encodingunderlying patterns of data. We show that self-attention is a special case of VARS with a single-step optimization and no sparsity constraint. VARS can be readily used as a replacement for self-attention in popular vision transformers, consistently improving their robustness across various benchmarks.

Transformer Quality in Linear Time

Weizhe Hua · Zihang Dai · Hanxiao Liu · Quoc Le

We revisit the design choices in Transformers, and propose methods to address their weaknesses in handling long sequences. First, we propose a simple layer named gated attention unit, which allows the use of a weaker single-head attention with minimal quality loss. We then propose a linear approximation method complementary to this new layer, which is accelerator-friendly and highly competitive in quality. The resulting model, named FLASH, matches the perplexity of improved Transformers over both short (512) and long (8K) context lengths, achieving training speedups of up to 4.9x on Wiki-40B and 12.1x on PG-19 for auto-regressive language modeling, and 4.8x on C4 for masked language modeling.

What Dense Graph Do You Need for Self-Attention?

Yuxin Wang · Chu-Tak Lee · Qipeng Guo · Zhangyue Yin · yunhua zhou · Xuanjing Huang · Xipeng Qiu

Transformers have made progress in miscellaneous tasks, but suffer from quadratic computational and memory complexities. Recent works propose sparse transformers with attention on sparse graphs to reduce complexity and remain strong performance. While effective, the crucial parts of how dense a graph needs to be to perform well are not fully explored. In this paper, we propose Normalized Information Payload (NIP), a graph scoring function measuring information transfer on graph, which provides an analysis tool for trade-offs between performance and complexity. Guided by this theoretical analysis, we present Hypercube Transformer, a sparse transformer that models token interactions in a hypercube and shows comparable or even better results with vanilla transformer while yielding $O(N\log N)$ complexity with sequence length $N$. Experiments on tasks requiring various sequence lengths lay validation for our graph function well.

Dual Decomposition of Convex Optimization Layers for Consistent Attention in Medical Images

Tom Ron · Tamir Hazan

A key concern in integrating machine learning models in medicine is the ability to interpret their reasoning. Popular explainability methods have demonstrated satisfactory results in natural image recognition, yet in medical image analysis, many of these approaches provide partial and noisy explanations. Recently, attention mechanisms have shown compelling results both in their predictive performance and in their interpretable qualities. A fundamental trait of attention is that it leverages salient parts of the input which contribute to the model's prediction. To this end, our work focuses on the explanatory value of attention weight distributions. We propose a multi-layer attention mechanism that enforces consistent interpretations between attended convolutional layers using convex optimization. We apply duality to decompose the consistency constraints between the layers by reparameterizing their attention probability distributions. We further suggest learning the dual witness by optimizing with respect to our objective; thus, our implementation uses standard back-propagation, hence it is highly efficient. While preserving predictive performance, our proposed method leverages weakly annotated medical imaging data and provides complete and faithful explanations to the model's prediction.

Multi Resolution Analysis (MRA) for Approximate Self-Attention

Zhanpeng Zeng · Sourav Pal · Jeffery Kline · Glenn Fung · Vikas Singh

Transformers have emerged as a preferred model for many tasks in natural langugage processing and vision. Recent efforts on training and deploying Transformers more efficiently have identified many strategies to approximate the self-attention matrix, a key module in a Transformer architecture. Effective ideas include various prespecified sparsity patterns, low-rank basis expansions and combinations thereof. In this paper, we revisit classical Multiresolution Analysis (MRA) concepts such as Wavelets, whose potential value in this setting remains underexplored thus far. We show that simple approximations based on empirical feedback and design choices informed by modern hardware and implementation challenges, eventually yield a MRA-based approach for self-attention with an excellent performance profile across most criteria of interest. We undertake an extensive set of experiments and demonstrate that this multi-resolution scheme outperforms most efficient self-attention proposals and is favorable for both short and long sequences. Code is available at \url{}.

Dynamic Topic Models for Temporal Document Networks

Delvin Zhang · Hady Lauw

Dynamic topic models explore the time evolution of topics in temporally accumulative corpora. While existing topic models focus on the dynamics of individual documents, we propose two neural topic models aimed at learning unified topic distributions that incorporate both document dynamics and network structure. For the first model, by adding a time dimension, we propose Time-Aware Optimal Transport, which measures the probability of a link between two differently timestamped documents using their semantic distance. Since the gradually evolving topological structure of network may also influence the establishment of a new link, for the second model, we further design a Temporal Point Process to capture the impact of historical neighbors on the current link formation at the network level. Experiments on four dynamic document networks demonstrate the advantage of our models in jointly modeling document dynamics and network adjacency.

A Functional Information Perspective on Model Interpretation

Itai Gat · Nitay Calderon · Roi Reichart · Tamir Hazan

Contemporary predictive models are hard to interpret as their deep nets exploit numerous complex relations between input elements. This work suggests a theoretical framework for model interpretability by measuring the contribution of relevant features to the functional entropy of the network with respect to the input. We rely on the log-Sobolev inequality that bounds the functional entropy by the functional Fisher information with respect to the covariance of the data. This provides a principled way to measure the amount of information contribution of a subset of features to the decision function. Through extensive experiments, we show that our method surpasses existing interpretability sampling-based methods on various data signals such as image, text, and audio.

Be Like Water: Adaptive Floating Point for Machine Learning

Thomas Y. Yeh · Maxwell Sterner · Zerlina Lai · Brandon Chuang · Alexander Ihler

In the pursuit of optimizing memory and compute density to accelerate machine learning applications, reduced precision training and inference has been an active area of research. While some approaches selectively apply low precision computations, this may require costly off-chip data transfers or mixed precision support. In this paper, we propose a novel numerical representation, Adaptive Floating Point (AFP), that dynamically adjusts to the characteristics of deep learning data. AFP requires no changes to the model topology, requires no additional training, and applies to all layers of DNN models. We evaluate AFP on aspectrum of representative models in computer vision and NLP, and show that our technique enables ultra-low precision inference of deep learning models while providing accuracy comparable to full precision inference. By dynamically adjusting to ML data, AFP increases memory density by 1.6x, 1.6x, and 3.2x and compute density by 4x, 1.3x, and 12x when compared to BFP, BFloat16, and FP32.

Lie Point Symmetry Data Augmentation for Neural PDE Solvers

Johannes Brandstetter · Max Welling · Daniel Worrall

Neural networks are increasingly being used to solve partial differential equations (PDEs), replacing slower numerical solvers. However, a critical issue is that neural PDE solvers require high-quality ground truth data, which usually must come from the very solvers they are designed to replace. Thus, we are presented with a proverbial chicken-and-egg problem. In this paper, we present a method, which can partially alleviate this problem, by improving neural PDE solver sample complexity---Lie point symmetry data augmentation (LPSDA). In the context of PDEs, it turns out we are able to quantitatively derive an exhaustive list of data transformations, based on the Lie point symmetry group of the PDEs in question, something not possible in other application areas. We present this framework and demonstrate how it can easily be deployed to improve neural PDE solver sample complexity by an order of magnitude.

Bregman Neural Networks

Jordan Frecon · Gilles Gasso · Massimiliano Pontil · Saverio Salzo

We present a framework based on bilevel optimization for learning multilayer, deep data representations. On the one hand, the lower-level problem finds a representation by successively minimizing layer-wise objectives made of the sum of a prescribed regularizer as well as a fidelity term and some linear function both depending on the representation found at the previous layer. On the other hand, the upper-level problem optimizes over the linear functions to yield a linearly separable final representation. We show that, by choosing the fidelity term as the quadratic distance between two successive layer-wise representations, the bilevel problem reduces to the training of a feed-forward neural network. Instead, by elaborating on Bregman distances, we devise a novel neural network architecture additionally involving the inverse of the activation function reminiscent of the skip connection used in ResNets. Numerical experiments suggest that the proposed Bregman variant benefits from better learning properties and more robust prediction performance.

Quantifying and Learning Linear Symmetry-Based Disentanglement

Loek Tonnaer · Luis Armando Perez Rey · Vlado Menkovski · Mike Holenderski · Jacobus Portegies

The definition of Linear Symmetry-Based Disentanglement (LSBD) formalizes the notion of linearly disentangled representations, but there is currently no metric to quantify LSBD. Such a metric is crucial to evaluate LSBD methods and to compare them to previous understandings of disentanglement. We propose D_LSBD, a mathematically sound metric to quantify LSBD, and provide a practical implementation for SO(2) groups. Furthermore, from this metric we derive LSBD-VAE, a semi-supervised method to learn LSBD representations. We demonstrate the utility of our metric by showing that (1) common VAE-based disentanglement methods don't learn LSBD representations, (2) LSBD-VAE, as well as other recent methods, can learn LSBD representations needing only limited supervision on transformations, and (3) various desirable properties expressed by existing disentanglement metrics are also achieved by LSBD representations.

Exploiting Redundancy: Separable Group Convolutional Networks on Lie Groups

David Knigge · David Romero · Erik Bekkers

Group convolutional neural networks (G-CNNs) have been shown to increase parameter efficiency and model accuracy by incorporating geometric inductive biases. In this work, we investigate the properties of representations learned by regular G-CNNs, and show considerable parameter redundancy in group convolution kernels. This finding motivates further weight-tying by sharing convolution kernels over subgroups. To this end, we introduce convolution kernels that are separable over the subgroup and channel dimensions. In order to obtain equivariance to arbitrary affine Lie groups we provide a continuous parameterisation of separable convolution kernels. We evaluate our approach across several vision datasets, and show that our weight sharing leads to improved performance and computational efficiency. In many settings, separable G-CNNs outperform their non-separable counterpart, while only using a fraction of their training time. In addition, thanks to the increase in computational efficiency, we are able to implement G-CNNs equivariant to the $\mathrm{Sim(2)}$ group; the group of dilations, rotations and translations of the plane. $\mathrm{Sim(2)}$-equivariance further improves performance on all tasks considered, and achieves state-of-the-art performance on rotated MNIST.

PDO-s3DCNNs: Partial Differential Operator Based Steerable 3D CNNs

Zhengyang Shen · Tao Hong · Qi She · Jinwen Ma · Zhouchen Lin

Steerable models can provide very general and flexible equivariance by formulating equivariance requirements in the language of representation theory and feature fields, which has been recognized to be effective for many vision tasks. However, deriving steerable models for 3D rotations is much more difficult than that in the 2D case, due to more complicated mathematics of 3D rotations. In this work, we employ partial differential operators (PDOs) to model 3D filters, and derive general steerable 3D CNNs, which are called PDO-s3DCNNs. We prove that the equivariant filters are subject to linear constraints, which can be solved efficiently under various conditions. As far as we know, PDO-s3DCNNs are the most general steerable CNNs for 3D rotations, in the sense that they cover all common subgroups of SO(3) and their representations, while existing methods can only be applied to specific groups and representations. Extensive experiments show that our models can preserve equivariance well in the discrete domain, and outperform previous works on SHREC'17 retrieval and ISBI 2012 segmentation tasks with a low network complexity.

Utilizing Expert Features for Contrastive Learning of Time-Series Representations

Manuel Nonnenmacher · Lukas Oldenburg · Ingo Steinwart · David Reeb

We present an approach that incorporates expert knowledge for time-series representation learning. Our method employs expert features to replace the commonly used data transformations in previous contrastive learning approaches. We do this since time-series data frequently stems from the industrial or medical field where expert features are often available from domain experts, while transformations are generally elusive for time-series data. We start by proposing two properties that useful time-series representations should fulfill and show that current representation learning approaches do not ensure these properties. We therefore devise ExpCLR, a novel contrastive learning approach built on an objective that utilizes expert features to encourage both properties for the learned representation. Finally, we demonstrate on three real-world time-series datasets that ExpCLR surpasses several state-of-the-art methods for both unsupervised and semi-supervised representation learning.

(Non-)Convergence Results for Predictive Coding Networks

Simon Frieder · Thomas Lukasiewicz

Predictive coding networks (PCNs) are (un)supervised learning models, coming from neuroscience, that approximate how the brain works. One major open problem around PCNs is their convergence behavior.In this paper, we use dynamical systems theory to formally investigate the convergence of PCNs as they are used in machine learning. Doing so, we put their theory on a firm, rigorous basis, by developing a precise mathematical framework for PCN and show that for sufficiently small weights and initializations, PCNs converge for any input. Thereby, we provide the theoretical assurance that previous implementations, whose convergence was assessed solely by numerical experiments, can indeed capture the correct behavior of PCNs. Outside of the identified regime of small weights and small initializations, we show via a counterexample that PCNs can diverge, countering common beliefs held in the community. This is achieved by identifying a Neimark-Sacker bifurcation in a PCN of small size, which gives rise to an unstable fixed point and an invariant curve around it.

Representation Topology Divergence: A Method for Comparing Neural Network Representations.

Serguei Barannikov · Ilya Trofimov · Nikita Balabin · Evgeny Burnaev

Comparison of data representations is a complex multi-aspect problem. We propose a method for comparing two data representations. We introduce the Representation Topology Divergence (RTD) score measuring the dissimilarity in multi-scale topology between two point clouds of equal size with a one-to-one correspondence between points. The two data point clouds can lie in different ambient spaces. The RTD score is one of the few topological data analysis based practical methods applicable to real machine learning datasets. Experiments show the agreement of RTD with the intuitive assessment of data representation similarity. The proposed RTD score is sensitive to the data representation's fine topological structure. We use the RTD score to gain insights on neural networks representations in computer vision and NLP domains for various problems: training dynamics analysis, data distribution shift, transfer learning, ensemble learning, disentanglement assessment.

Measuring Representational Robustness of Neural Networks Through Shared Invariances

Vedant Nanda · Till Speicher · Camila Kolling · John P Dickerson · Krishna Gummadi · Adrian Weller

A major challenge in studying robustness in deep learning is defining the set of meaningless'' perturbations to which a given Neural Network (NN) should be invariant. Most work on robustness implicitly uses a human as the reference model to define such perturbations. Our work offers a new view on robustness by using another reference NN to define the set of perturbations a given NN should be invariant to, thus generalizing the reliance on a referencehuman NN'' to any NN. This makes measuring robustness equivalent to measuring the extent to which two NNs share invariances.We propose a measure called \stir, which faithfully captures the extent to which two NNs share invariances. \stir re-purposes existing representation similarity measures to make them suitable for measuring shared invariances. Using our measure, we are able to gain insights about how shared invariances vary with changes in weight initialization, architecture, loss functions, and training dataset. Our implementation is available at: \url{}.

The Dual Form of Neural Networks Revisited: Connecting Test Time Predictions to Training Patterns via Spotlights of Attention

Kazuki Irie · Robert Cordas · Jürgen Schmidhuber

Linear layers in neural networks (NNs) trained by gradient descent can be expressed as a key-value memory system which stores all training datapoints and the initial weights, and produces outputs using unnormalised dot attention over the entire training experience. While this has been technically known since the 1960s, no prior work has effectively studied the operations of NNs in such a form, presumably due to prohibitive time and space complexities and impractical model sizes, all of them growing linearly with the number of training patterns which may get very large. However, this dual formulation offers a possibility of directly visualising how an NN makes use of training patterns at test time, by examining the corresponding attention weights. We conduct experiments on small scale supervised image classification tasks in single-task, multi-task, and continual learning settings, as well as language modelling, and discuss potentials and limits of this view for better understanding and interpreting how NNs exploit training patterns. Our code is public.

Flowformer: Linearizing Transformers with Conservation Flows

Haixu Wu · Jialong Wu · Jiehui Xu · Jianmin Wang · Mingsheng Long

Transformers based on the attention mechanism have achieved impressive success in various areas. However, the attention mechanism has a quadratic complexity, significantly impeding Transformers from dealing with numerous tokens and scaling up to bigger models. Previous methods mainly utilize the similarity decomposition and the associativity of matrix multiplication to devise linear-time attention mechanisms. They avoid degeneration of attention to a trivial distribution by reintroducing inductive biases such as the locality, thereby at the expense of model generality and expressiveness. In this paper, we linearize Transformers free from specific inductive biases based on the flow network theory. We cast attention as the information flow aggregated from the sources (values) to the sinks (results) through the learned flow capacities (attentions). Within this framework, we apply the property of flow conservation into attention and propose the Flow-Attention mechanism of linear complexity. By respectively conserving the incoming flow of sinks for source competition and the outgoing flow of sources for sink allocation, Flow-Attention inherently generates informative attentions without using specific inductive biases. Empowered by the Flow-Attention, Flowformer yields strong performance in linear time for wide areas, including long sequence, time series, vision, natural language, and reinforcement learning. The code and settings are available at this repository:

Spatial-Channel Token Distillation for Vision MLPs

Yanxi Li · Xinghao Chen · Minjing Dong · Yehui Tang · Yunhe Wang · Chang Xu

Recently, neural architectures with all Multi-layer Perceptrons (MLPs) have attracted great research interest from the computer vision community. However, the inefficient mixing of spatial-channel information causes MLP-like vision models to demand tremendous pre-training on large-scale datasets. This work solves the problem from a novel knowledge distillation perspective. We propose a novel Spatial-channel Token Distillation (STD) method, which improves the information mixing in the two dimensions by introducing distillation tokens to each of them. A mutual information regularization is further introduced to let distillation tokens focus on their specific dimensions and maximize the performance gain. Extensive experiments on ImageNet for several MLP-like architectures demonstrate that the proposed token distillation mechanism can efficiently improve the accuracy. For example, the proposed STD boosts the top-1 accuracy of Mixer-S16 on ImageNet from 73.8% to 75.7% without any costly pre-training on JFT-300M. When applied to stronger architectures, e.g. CycleMLP-B1 and CycleMLP-B2, STD can still harvest about 1.1% and 0.5% accuracy gains, respectively.

Neurocoder: General-Purpose Computation Using Stored Neural Programs

Hung Le · Svetha Venkatesh

Artificial Neural Networks are functionally equivalent to special-purpose computers. Their inter-neuronal connection weights represent the learnt Neural Program that instructs the networks on how to compute the data. However, without storing Neural Programs, they are restricted to only one, overwriting learnt programs when trained on new data. Here we design Neurocoder, a new class of general-purpose neural networks in which the neural network “codes” itself in a data-responsive way by composing relevant programs from a set of shareable, modular programs stored in external memory. This time, a Neural Program is efficiently treated as data in memory. Integrating Neurocoder into current neural architectures, we demonstrate new capacity to learn modular programs, reuse simple programs to build complex ones, handle pattern shifts and remember old programs as new ones are learnt, and show substantial performance improvement in solving object recognition, playing video games and continual learning tasks.

Improving Transformers with Probabilistic Attention Keys

Tam Nguyen · Tan Nguyen · Dung Le · Duy Khuong Nguyen · Viet-Anh Tran · Richard Baraniuk · Nhat Ho · Stanley Osher

Multi-head attention is a driving force behind state-of-the-art transformers, which achieve remarkable performance across a variety of natural language processing (NLP) and computer vision tasks. It has been observed that for many applications, those attention heads learn redundant embedding, and most of them can be removed without degrading the performance of the model. Inspired by this observation, we propose Transformer with a Mixture of Gaussian Keys (Transformer-MGK), a novel transformer architecture that replaces redundant heads in transformers with a mixture of keys at each head. These mixtures of keys follow a Gaussian mixture model and allow each attention head to focus on different parts of the input sequence efficiently. Compared to its conventional transformer counterpart, Transformer-MGK accelerates training and inference, has fewer parameters, and requires fewer FLOPs to compute while achieving comparable or better accuracy across tasks. Transformer-MGK can also be easily extended to use with linear attention. We empirically demonstrate the advantage of Transformer-MGK in a range of practical applications, including language modeling and tasks that involve very long sequences. On the Wikitext-103 and Long Range Arena benchmark, Transformer-MGKs with 4 heads attain comparable or better performance to the baseline transformers with 8 heads.

Rethinking Attention-Model Explainability through Faithfulness Violation Test

Yibing Liu · Haoliang Li · Yangyang Guo · Chenqi KONG · Jing Li · Shiqi Wang

Attention mechanisms are dominating the explainability of deep models. They produce probability distributions over the input, which are widely deemed as feature-importance indicators. However, in this paper, we find one critical limitation in attention explanations: weakness in identifying the polarity of feature impact. This would be somehow misleading -- features with higher attention weights may not faithfully contribute to model predictions; instead, they can impose suppression effects. With this finding, we reflect on the explainability of current attention-based techniques, such as Attention ⨀ Gradient and LRP-based attention explanations. We first propose an actionable diagnostic methodology (henceforth faithfulness violation test) to measure the consistency between explanation weights and the impact polarity. Through the extensive experiments, we then show that most tested explanation methods are unexpectedly hindered by the faithfulness violation issue, especially the raw attention. Empirical analyses on the factors affecting violation issues further provide useful observations for adopting explanation methods in attention models.

AGNAS: Attention-Guided Micro- and Macro-Architecture Search

Zihao Sun · Yu Hu · Shun Lu · Longxing Yang · Jilin Mei · Yinhe Han · Xiaowei Li

Micro- and macro-architecture search have emerged as two popular NAS paradigms recently. Existing methods leverage different search strategies for searching micro- and macro- architectures. When using architecture parameters to search for micro-structure such as normal cell and reduction cell, the architecture parameters can not fully reflect the corresponding operation importance. When searching for the macro-structure chained by pre-defined blocks, many sub-networks need to be sampled for evaluation, which is very time-consuming. To address the two issues, we propose a new search paradigm, that is, leverage the attention mechanism to guide the micro- and macro-architecture search, namely AGNAS. Specifically, we introduce an attention module and plug it behind each candidate operation or each candidate block. We utilize the attention weights to represent the importance of the relevant operations for the micro search or the importance of the relevant blocks for the macro search. Experimental results show that AGNAS can achieve 2.46% test error on CIFAR-10 in the DARTS search space, and 23.4% test error when directly searching on ImageNet in the ProxylessNAS search space. AGNAS also achieves optimal performance on NAS-Bench-201, outperforming state-of-the-art approaches. The source code can be available at

Convergence of Invariant Graph Networks

Chen Cai · Yusu Wang

Although theoretical properties such as expressive power and over-smoothing of graph neural networks (GNN) have been extensively studied recently, its convergence property is a relatively new direction. In this paper, we investigate the convergence of one powerful GNN, Invariant Graph Network (IGN) over graphs sampled from graphons. We first prove the stability of linear layers for general $k$-IGN (of order $k$) based on a novel interpretation of linear equivariant layers. Building upon this result, we prove the convergence of $k$-IGN under the model of \citet{ruiz2020graphon}, where we access the edge weight but the convergence error is measured for graphon inputs. Under the more natural (and more challenging) setting of \citet{keriven2020convergence} where one can only access 0-1 adjacency matrix sampled according to edge probability, we first show a negative result that the convergence of any IGN is not possible. We then obtain the convergence of a subset of IGNs, denoted as IGN-small, after the edge probability estimation. We show that IGN-small still contains function class rich enough that can approximate spectral GNNs arbitrarily well. Lastly, we perform experiments on various graphon models to verify our statements.

Rich Feature Construction for the Optimization-Generalization Dilemma

Jianyu Zhang · David Lopez-Paz · Léon Bottou

There often is a dilemma between ease of optimization and robust out-of-distribution (OoD) generalization. For instance, many OoD methods rely on penalty terms whose optimization is challenging. They are either too strong to optimize reliably or too weak to achieve their goals. We propose to initialize the networks with a rich representation containing a palette of potentially useful features, ready to be used by even simple models. On the one hand, a rich representation provides a good initialization for the optimizer. On the other hand, it also provides an inductive bias that helps OoD generalization. Such a representation is constructed with the Rich Feature Construction (RFC) algorithm, also called the Bonsai algorithm, which consists of a succession of training episodes. During discovery episodes, we craft a multi-objective optimization criterion and its associated datasets in a manner that prevents the network from using the features constructed in the previous iterations. During synthesis episodes, we use knowledge distillation to force the network to simultaneously represent all the previously discovered features. Initializing the networks with Bonsai representations consistently helps six OoD methods achieve top performance on ColoredMNIST benchmark. The same technique substantially outperforms comparable results on the Wilds Camelyon17 task, eliminates the high result variance that plagues other methods, and makes hyperparameter tuning and model selection more reliable.

NLP From Scratch Without Large-Scale Pretraining: A Simple and Efficient Framework

Xingcheng Yao · Yanan Zheng · Xiaocong Yang · Zhilin Yang

Pretrained language models have become the standard approach for many NLP tasks due to strong performance, but they are very expensive to train. We propose a simple and efficient learning framework, TLM, that does not rely on large-scale pretraining. Given some labeled task data and a large general corpus, TLM uses task data as queries to retrieve a tiny subset of the general corpus and jointly optimizes the task objective and the language modeling objective from scratch. On eight classification datasets in four domains, TLM achieves results better than or similar to pretrained language models (e.g., RoBERTa-Large) while reducing the training FLOPs by two orders of magnitude. With high accuracy and efficiency, we hope TLM will contribute to democratizing NLP and expediting its development.

Resilient and Communication Efficient Learning for Heterogeneous Federated Systems

Zhuangdi Zhu · Junyuan Hong · Steve Drew · Jiayu Zhou

The rise of Federated Learning (FL) is bringing machine learning to edge computing by utilizing data scattered across edge devices. However, the heterogeneity of edge network topologies and the uncertainty of wireless transmission are two major obstructions of FL's wide application in edge computing, leading to prohibitive convergence time and high communication cost. In this work, we propose an FL scheme to address both challenges simultaneously. Specifically, we enable edge devices to learn self-distilled neural networks that are readily prunable to arbitrary sizes, which capture the knowledge of the learning domain in a nested and progressive manner. Not only does our approach tackle system heterogeneity by serving edge devices with varying model architectures, but it also alleviates the issue of connection uncertainty by allowing transmitting part of the model parameters under faulty network connections, without wasting the contributing knowledge of the transmitted parameters. Extensive empirical studies show that under system heterogeneity and network instability, our approach demonstrates significant resilience and higher communication efficiency compared to the state-of-the-art.

Augment with Care: Contrastive Learning for Combinatorial Problems

Haonan Duan · Pashootan Vaezipoor · Max Paulus · Yangjun Ruan · Chris Maddison

Supervised learning can improve the design of state-of-the-art solvers for combinatorial problems, but labelling large numbers of combinatorial instances is often impractical due to exponential worst-case complexity. Inspired by the recent success of contrastive pre-training for images, we conduct a scientific study of the effect of augmentation design on contrastive pre-training for the Boolean satisfiability problem. While typical graph contrastive pre-training uses label-agnostic augmentations, our key insight is that many combinatorial problems have well-studied invariances, which allow for the design of label-preserving augmentations. We find that label-preserving augmentations are critical for the success of contrastive pre-training. We show that our representations are able to achieve comparable test accuracy to fully-supervised learning while using only 1% of the labels. We also demonstrate that our representations are more transferable to larger problems from unseen domains. Our code is available at

Cycle Representation Learning for Inductive Relation Prediction

Zuoyu Yan · Tengfei Ma · Liangcai Gao · Zhi Tang · Chao Chen

In recent years, algebraic topology and its modern development, the theory of persistent homology, has shown great potential in graph representation learning. In this paper, based on the mathematics of algebraic topology, we propose a novel solution for inductive relation prediction, an important learning task for knowledge graph completion. To predict the relation between two entities, one can use the existence of rules, namely a sequence of relations. Previous works view rules as paths and primarily focus on the searching of paths between entities. The space of rules is huge, and one has to sacrifice either efficiency or accuracy. In this paper, we consider rules as cycles and show that the space of cycles has a unique structure based on the mathematics of algebraic topology. By exploring the linear structure of the cycle space, we can improve the searching efficiency of rules. We propose to collect cycle bases that span the space of cycles. We build a novel GNN framework on the collected cycles to learn the representations of cycles, and to predict the existence/non-existence of a relation. Our method achieves state-of-the-art performance on benchmarks.

Model soups: averaging weights of multiple fine-tuned models improves accuracy without increasing inference time

Mitchell Wortsman · Gabriel Ilharco · Samir Gadre · Rebecca Roelofs · Raphael Gontijo Lopes · Ari Morcos · Hongseok Namkoong · Ali Farhadi · Yair Carmon · Simon Kornblith · Ludwig Schmidt

The conventional recipe for maximizing model accuracy is to (1) train multiple models with various hyperparameters and (2) pick the individual model which performs best on a held-out validation set, discarding the remainder. In this paper, we revisit the second step of this procedure in the context of fine-tuning large pre-trained models, where fine-tuned models often appear to lie in a single low error basin. We show that averaging the weights of multiple models fine-tuned with different hyperparameter configurations often improves accuracy and robustness. Unlike a conventional ensemble, we may average many models without incurring any additional inference or memory costs---we call the results “model soups.” When fine-tuning large pre-trained models such as CLIP, ALIGN, and a ViT-G pre-trained on JFT, our soup recipe provides significant improvements over the best model in a hyperparameter sweep on ImageNet. The resulting ViT-G model, which attains 90.94% top-1 accuracy on ImageNet, achieved a new state of the art. Furthermore, we show that the model soup approach extends to multiple image classification and natural language processing tasks, improves out-of-distribution performance, and improves zero-shot performance on new downstream tasks. Finally, we analytically relate the performance similarity of weight-averaging and logit-ensembling to flatness of the loss and confidence of the predictions, and validate this relation empirically. Code is available at

Do More Negative Samples Necessarily Hurt In Contrastive Learning?

Pranjal Awasthi · Nishanth Dikkala · Pritish Kamath

Recent investigations in noise contrastive estimation suggest, both empirically as well as theoretically, that while having more negative samples'' in the contrastive loss improves downstream classification performance initially, beyond a threshold, it hurts downstream performance due to acollision-coverage'' trade-off. But is such a phenomenon inherent in contrastive learning?We show in a simple theoretical setting, where positive pairs are generated by sampling from the underlying latent class (introduced by Saunshi et al. (ICML 2019)), that the downstream performance of the representation optimizing the (population) contrastive loss in fact does not degrade with the number of negative samples. Along the way, we give a structural characterization of the optimal representation in our framework, for noise contrastive estimation. We also provide empirical support for our theoretical results on CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 datasets.

MetAug: Contrastive Learning via Meta Feature Augmentation

Jiangmeng Li · Wenwen Qiang · Changwen Zheng · Bing Su · Hui Xiong

What matters for contrastive learning? We argue that contrastive learning heavily relies on informative features, or ``hard'' (positive or negative) features. Early works include more informative features by applying complex data augmentations and large batch size or memory bank, and recent works design elaborate sampling approaches to explore informative features. The key challenge toward exploring such features is that the source multi-view data is generated by applying random data augmentations, making it infeasible to always add useful information in the augmented data. Consequently, the informativeness of features learned from such augmented data is limited. In response, we propose to directly augment the features in latent space, thereby learning discriminative representations without a large amount of input data. We perform a meta learning technique to build the augmentation generator that updates its network parameters by considering the performance of the encoder. However, insufficient input data may lead the encoder to learn collapsed features and therefore malfunction the augmentation generator. A new margin-injected regularization is further added in the objective function to avoid the encoder learning a degenerate mapping. To contrast all features in one gradient back-propagation step, we adopt the proposed optimization-driven unified contrastive loss instead of the conventional contrastive loss. Empirically, our method achieves state-of-the-art results on several benchmark datasets.

Investigating Why Contrastive Learning Benefits Robustness against Label Noise

Yihao Xue · Kyle Whitecross · Baharan Mirzasoleiman

Self-supervised Contrastive Learning (CL) has been recently shown to be very effective in preventing deep networks from overfitting noisy labels. Despite its empirical success, the theoretical understanding of the effect of contrastive learning on boosting robustness is very limited. In this work, we rigorously prove that the representation matrix learned by contrastive learning boosts robustness, by having: (i) one prominent singular value corresponding to each sub-class in the data, and significantly smaller remaining singular values; and (ii) a large alignment between the prominent singular vectors and the clean labels of each sub-class. The above properties enable a linear layer trained on such representations to effectively learn the clean labels without overfitting the noise. We further show that the low-rank structure of the Jacobian of deep networks pre-trained with contrastive learning allows them to achieve a superior performance initially, when fine-tuned on noisy labels. Finally, we demonstrate that the initial robustness provided by contrastive learning enables robust training methods to achieve state-of-the-art performance under extreme noise levels, e.g., an average of 27.18% and 15.58% increase in accuracy on CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 with 80% symmetric noisy labels, and 4.11% increase in accuracy on WebVision.

Contrastive Learning with Boosted Memorization

Zhihan Zhou · Jiangchao Yao · Yan-Feng Wang · Bo Han · Ya Zhang

Self-supervised learning has achieved a great success in the representation learning of visual and textual data. However, the current methods are mainly validated on the well-curated datasets, which do not exhibit the real-world long-tailed distribution. Recent attempts to consider self-supervised long-tailed learning are made by rebalancing in the loss perspective or the model perspective, resembling the paradigms in the supervised long-tailed learning. Nevertheless, without the aid of labels, these explorations have not shown the expected significant promise due to the limitation in tail sample discovery or the heuristic structure design. Different from previous works, we explore this direction from an alternative perspective, i.e., the data perspective, and propose a novel Boosted Contrastive Learning (BCL) method. Specifically, BCL leverages the memorization effect of deep neural networks to automatically drive the information discrepancy of the sample views in contrastive learning, which is more efficient to enhance the long-tailed learning in the label-unaware context. Extensive experiments on a range of benchmark datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of BCL over several state-of-the-art methods. Our code is available at

Identity-Disentangled Adversarial Augmentation for Self-supervised Learning

Kaiwen Yang · Tianyi Zhou · Xinmei Tian · Dacheng Tao

Data augmentation is critical to contrastive self-supervised learning, whose goal is to distinguish a sample's augmentations (positives) from other samples (negatives). However, strong augmentations may change the sample-identity of the positives, while weak augmentation produces easy positives/negatives leading to nearly-zero loss and ineffective learning. In this paper, we study a simple adversarial augmentation method that can modify training data to be hard positives/negatives without distorting the key information about their original identities. In particular, we decompose a sample $x$ to be its variational auto-encoder (VAE) reconstruction $G(x)$ plus the residual $R(x)=x-G(x)$, where $R(x)$ retains most identity-distinctive information due to an information-theoretic interpretation of the VAE objective. We then adversarially perturb $G(x)$ in the VAE's bottleneck space and adds it back to the original $R(x)$ as an augmentation, which is therefore sufficiently challenging for contrastive learning and meanwhile preserves the sample identity intact. We apply this ``identity-disentangled adversarial augmentation (IDAA)'' to different self-supervised learning methods. On multiple benchmark datasets, IDAA consistently improves both their efficiency and generalization performance. We further show that IDAA learned on a dataset can be transferred to other datasets. Code is available at \href{}{}.

Interventional Contrastive Learning with Meta Semantic Regularizer

Wenwen Qiang · Jiangmeng Li · Changwen Zheng · Bing Su · Hui Xiong

Contrastive learning (CL)-based self-supervised learning models learn visual representations in a pairwise manner. Although the prevailing CL model has achieved great progress, in this paper, we uncover an ever-overlooked phenomenon: When the CL model is trained with full images, the performance tested in full images is better than that in foreground areas; when the CL model is trained with foreground areas, the performance tested in full images is worse than that in foreground areas. This observation reveals that backgrounds in images may interfere with the model learning semantic information and their influence has not been fully eliminated. To tackle this issue, we build a Structural Causal Model (SCM) to model the background as a confounder. We propose a backdoor adjustment-based regularization method, namely \textit{Interventional Contrastive Learning with Meta Semantic Regularizer} (ICL-MSR), to perform causal intervention towards the proposed SCM. ICL-MSR can be incorporated into any existing CL methods to alleviate background distractions from representation learning. Theoretically, we prove that ICL-MSR achieves a tighter error bound. Empirically, our experiments on multiple benchmark datasets demonstrate that ICL-MSR is able to improve the performances of different state-of-the-art CL methods.

On the Surrogate Gap between Contrastive and Supervised Losses

Han Bao · Yoshihiro Nagano · Kento Nozawa

Contrastive representation learning encourages data representation to make semantically similar pairs closer than randomly drawn negative samples, which has been successful in various domains such as vision, language, and graphs.Recent theoretical studies have attempted to explain the benefit of the large negative sample size by upper-bounding the downstream classification loss with the contrastive loss.However, the previous surrogate bounds have two drawbacks: they are only legitimate for a limited range of negative sample sizes and prohibitively large even within that range.Due to these drawbacks, there still does not exist a consensus on how negative sample size theoretically correlates with downstream classification performance.Following the simplified setting where positive pairs are drawn from the true distribution (not generated by data augmentation; as supposed in previous studies),this study establishes surrogate upper and lower bounds for the downstream classification loss for all negative sample sizes that best explain the empirical observations on the negative sample size in the earlier studies.Our bounds suggest that the contrastive loss can be viewed as a surrogate objective of the downstream loss and larger negative sample sizes improve downstream classification because the surrogate gap between contrastive and supervised losses decays.We verify that our theory is consistent with experiments on synthetic, vision, and language datasets.

Exploring the Gap between Collapsed & Whitened Features in Self-Supervised Learning

Bobby He · Mete Ozay

Avoiding feature collapse, when a Neural Network (NN) encoder maps all inputs to a constant vector, is a shared implicit desideratum of various methodological advances in self-supervised learning (SSL). To that end, whitened features have been proposed as an explicit objective to ensure uncollapsed features \cite{zbontar2021barlow,ermolov2021whitening,hua2021feature,bardes2022vicreg}. We identify power law behaviour in eigenvalue decay, parameterised by exponent $\beta{\geq}0$, as a spectrum that bridges between the collapsed & whitened feature extremes. We provide theoretical & empirical evidence highlighting the factors in SSL, like projection layers & regularisation strength, that influence eigenvalue decay rate, & demonstrate that the degree of feature whitening affects generalisation, particularly in label scarce regimes. We use our insights to motivate a novel method, PMP (PostMan-Pat), which efficiently post-processes a pretrained encoder to enforce eigenvalue decay rate with power law exponent $\beta$, & find that PostMan-Pat delivers improved label efficiency and transferability across a range of SSL methods and encoder architectures.

Locally Sparse Neural Networks for Tabular Biomedical Data

Junchen Yang · Ofir Lindenbaum · Yuval Kluger

Tabular datasets with low-sample-size or many variables are prevalent in biomedicine. Practitioners in this domain prefer linear or tree-based models over neural networks since the latter are harder to interpret and tend to overfit when applied to tabular datasets. To address these neural networks' shortcomings, we propose an intrinsically interpretable network for heterogeneous biomedical data. We design a locally sparse neural network where the local sparsity is learned to identify the subset of most relevant features for each sample. This sample-specific sparsity is predicted via a gating network, which is trained in tandem with the prediction network. By forcing the model to select a subset of the most informative features for each sample, we reduce model overfitting in low-sample-size data and obtain an interpretable model. We demonstrate that our method outperforms state-of-the-art models when applied to synthetic or real-world biomedical datasets using extensive experiments. Furthermore, the proposed framework dramatically outperforms existing schemes when evaluating its interpretability capabilities. Finally, we demonstrate the applicability of our model to two important biomedical tasks: survival analysis and marker gene identification.

Dual Perspective of Label-Specific Feature Learning for Multi-Label Classification

Jun-Yi Hang · Min-Ling Zhang

Label-specific features serve as an effective strategy to facilitate multi-label classification, which account for the distinct discriminative properties of each class label via tailoring its own features. Existing approaches implement this strategy in a quite straightforward way, i.e. finding the most pertinent and discriminative features for each class label and directly inducing classifiers on constructed label-specific features. In this paper, we propose a dual perspective for label-specific feature learning, where label-specific discriminative properties are considered by identifying each label’s own non-informative features and making the discrimination process immutable to variations of these features. To instantiate it, we present a perturbation-based approach DELA to provide classifiers with label-specific immutability on simultaneously identified non-informative features, which is optimized towards a probabilistically-relaxed expected risk minimization problem. Comprehensive experiments on 10 benchmark data sets show that our approach outperforms the state-of-the-art counterparts.

Detecting Corrupted Labels Without Training a Model to Predict

Zhaowei Zhu · Zihao Dong · Yang Liu

Label noise in real-world datasets encodes wrong correlation patterns and impairs the generalization of deep neural networks (DNNs). It is critical to find efficient ways to detect corrupted patterns. Current methods primarily focus on designing robust training techniques to prevent DNNs from memorizing corrupted patterns. These approaches often require customized training processes and may overfit corrupted patterns, leading to a performance drop in detection. In this paper, from a more data-centric perspective, we propose a training-free solution to detect corrupted labels. Intuitively, closer'' instances are more likely to share the same clean label. Based on the neighborhood information, we propose two methods: the first one useslocal voting" via checking the noisy label consensuses of nearby features. The second one is a ranking-based approach that scores each instance and filters out a guaranteed number of instances that are likely to be corrupted. We theoretically analyze how the quality of features affects the local voting and provide guidelines for tuning neighborhood size. We also prove the worst-case error bound for the ranking-based method. Experiments with both synthetic and real-world label noise demonstrate our training-free solutions consistently and significantly improve most of the training-based baselines. Code is available at

Prototype-Anchored Learning for Learning with Imperfect Annotations

Xiong Zhou · Xianming Liu · Deming Zhai · Junjun Jiang · Xin Gao · Xiangyang Ji

The success of deep neural networks greatly relies on the availability of large amounts of high-quality annotated data, which however are difficult or expensive to obtain. The resulting labels may be class imbalanced, noisy or human biased. It is challenging to learn unbiased classification models from imperfectly annotated datasets, on which we usually suffer from overfitting or underfitting. In this work, we thoroughly investigate the popular softmax loss and margin-based loss, and offer a feasible approach to tighten the generalization error bound by maximizing the minimal sample margin. We further derive the optimality condition for this purpose, which indicates how the class prototypes should be anchored. Motivated by theoretical analysis, we propose a simple yet effective method, namely prototype-anchored learning (PAL), which can be easily incorporated into various learning-based classification schemes to handle imperfect annotation. We verify the effectiveness of PAL on class-imbalanced learning and noise-tolerant learning by extensive experiments on synthetic and real-world datasets.

Learning to Predict Graphs with Fused Gromov-Wasserstein Barycenters

Luc Brogat-Motte · Rémi Flamary · Celine Brouard · Juho Rousu · Florence d'Alché-Buc

This paper introduces a novel and generic framework to solve the flagship task of supervised labeled graph prediction by leveraging Optimal Transport tools. We formulate the problem as regression with the Fused Gromov-Wasserstein (FGW) loss and propose a predictive model relying on a FGW barycenter whose weights depend on inputs. First we introduce a non-parametric estimator based on kernel ridge regression for which theoretical results such as consistency and excess risk bound are proved. Next we propose an interpretable parametric model where the barycenter weights are modeled with a neural network and the graphs on which the FGW barycenter is calculated are additionally learned. Numerical experiments show the strength of the method and its ability to interpolate in the labeled graph space on simulated data and on a difficult metabolic identification problem where it can reach very good performance with very little engineering.

Deep Safe Incomplete Multi-view Clustering: Theorem and Algorithm

Huayi Tang · Yong Liu

Incomplete multi-view clustering is a significant but challenging task. Although jointly imputing incomplete samples and conducting clustering has been shown to achieve promising performance, learning from both complete and incomplete data may be worse than learning only from complete data, particularly when imputed views are semantic inconsistent with missing views. To address this issue, we propose a novel framework to reduce the clustering performance degradation risk from semantic inconsistent imputed views. Concretely, by the proposed bi-level optimization framework, missing views are dynamically imputed from the learned semantic neighbors, and imputed samples are automatically selected for training. In theory, the empirical risk of the model is no higher than learning only from complete data, and the model is never worse than learning only from complete data in terms of expected risk with high probability. Comprehensive experiments demonstrate that the proposed method achieves superior performance and efficient safe incomplete multi-view clustering.

Estimating Instance-dependent Bayes-label Transition Matrix using a Deep Neural Network

Shuo Yang · Erkun Yang · Bo Han · Yang Liu · Min Xu · Gang Niu · Tongliang Liu

In label-noise learning, estimating the transition matrix is a hot topic as the matrix plays an important role in building statistically consistent classifiers. Traditionally, the transition from clean labels to noisy labels (i.e., clean-label transition matrix (CLTM)) has been widely exploited to learn a clean label classifier by employing the noisy data. Motivated by that classifiers mostly output Bayes optimal labels for prediction, in this paper, we study to directly model the transition from Bayes optimal labels to noisy labels (i.e., Bayes-label transition matrix (BLTM)) and learn a classifier to predict Bayes optimal labels. Note that given only noisy data, it is ill-posed to estimate either the CLTM or the BLTM. But favorably, Bayes optimal labels have less uncertainty compared with the clean labels, i.e., the class posteriors of Bayes optimal labels are one-hot vectors while those of clean labels are not. This enables two advantages to estimate the BLTM, i.e., (a) a set of examples with theoretically guaranteed Bayes optimal labels can be collected out of noisy data; (b) the feasible solution space is much smaller. By exploiting the advantages, we estimate the BLTM parametrically by employing a deep neural network, leading to better generalization and superior classification performance.

Invariant Ancestry Search

Phillip Bredahl Mogensen · Nikolaj Thams · Jonas Peters

Recently, methods have been proposed that exploit the invariance of prediction models with respect to changing environments to infer subsets of the causal parents of a response variable. If the environments influence only few of the underlying mechanisms, the subset identified by invariant causal prediction (ICP), for example, may be small, or even empty. We introduce the concept of minimal invariance and propose invariant ancestry search (IAS). In its population version, IAS outputs a set which contains only ancestors of the response and is a superset of the output of ICP. When applied to data, corresponding guarantees hold asymptotically if the underlying test for invariance has asymptotic level and power. We develop scalable algorithms and perform experiments on simulated and real data.

Unaligned Supervision for Automatic Music Transcription in The Wild

Ben Maman · Amit Bermano

Multi-instrument Automatic Music Transcription (AMT), or the decoding of a musical recording into semantic musical content, is one of the holy grails of Music Information Retrieval. Current AMT approaches are restricted to piano and (some) guitar recordings, due to difficult data collection. In order to overcome data collection barriers, previous AMT approaches attempt to employ musical scores in the form of a digitized version of the same song or piece. The scores are typically aligned using audio features and strenuous human intervention to generate training labels. We introduce Note$_{EM}$, a method for simultaneously training a transcriber and aligning the scores to their corresponding performances, in a fully-automated process. Using this unaligned supervision scheme, complemented by pseudo-labels and pitch shift augmentation, our method enables training on in-the-wild recordings with unprecedented accuracy and instrumental variety. Using only synthetic data and unaligned supervision, we report SOTA note-level accuracy of the MAPS dataset, and large favorable margins on cross-dataset evaluations. We also demonstrate robustness and ease of use; we report comparable results when training on a small, easily obtainable, self-collected dataset, and we propose alternative labeling to the MusicNet dataset, which we show to be more accurate. Our project page is available at

Fourier Learning with Cyclical Data

Yingxiang Yang · Zhihan Xiong · Tianyi Liu · Taiqing Wang · Chong Wang

Many machine learning models for online applications, such as recommender systems, are often trained on data with cyclical properties. These data sequentially arrive from a time-varying distribution that is periodic in time. Existing algorithms either use streaming learning to track a time-varying set of optimal model parameters, yielding a dynamic regret that scales linearly in time; or partition the data of each cycle into multiple segments and train a separate model for each---a pluralistic approach that is computationally and storage-wise expensive.In this paper, we have designed a novel approach to overcome the aforementioned shortcomings. Our method, named "Fourier learning", encodes the periodicity into the model representation using a partial Fourier sequence, and trains the coefficient functions modeled by neural networks. Particularly, we design a Fourier multi-layer perceptron (F-MLP) that can be trained on streaming data with stochastic gradient descent (streaming-SGD), and we derive its convergence guarantees. We demonstrate Fourier learning's better performance with extensive experiments on synthetic and public datasets, as well as on a large-scale recommender system that is updated in real-time, and trained with tens of millions of samples per day.

Linear Adversarial Concept Erasure

Shaul Ravfogel · Michael Twiton · Yoav Goldberg · Ryan Cotterell

Modern neural models trained on textual data rely on pre-trained representations that emerge without direct supervision. As these representations are increasingly being used in real-world applications, the inability to \emph{control} their content becomes an increasingly important problem. In this work, we formulate the problem of identifying a linear subspace that corresponds to a given concept, and removing it from the representation. We formulate this problem as a constrained, linear minimax game, and show that existing solutions are generally not optimal for this task. We derive a closed-form solution for certain objectives, and propose a convex relaxation that works well for others. When evaluated in the context of binary gender removal, the method recovers a low-dimensional subspace whose removal mitigates bias by intrinsic and extrinsic evaluation. Surprisingly, we show that the method---despite being linear---is highly expressive, effectively mitigating bias in the output layers of deep, nonlinear classifiers while maintaining tractability and interpretability.

Score Matching Enables Causal Discovery of Nonlinear Additive Noise Models

Paul Rolland · Volkan Cevher · Matthäus Kleindessner · Chris Russell · Dominik Janzing · Bernhard Schölkopf · Francesco Locatello

This paper demonstrates how to recover causal graphs from the score of the data distribution in non-linear additive (Gaussian) noise models. Using score matching algorithms as a building block, we show how to design a new generation of scalable causal discovery methods. To showcase our approach, we also propose a new efficient method for approximating the score's Jacobian, enabling to recover the causal graph. Empirically, we find that the new algorithm, called SCORE, is competitive with state-of-the-art causal discovery methods while being significantly faster.

Provable Domain Generalization via Invariant-Feature Subspace Recovery

Haoxiang Wang · Haozhe Si · Bo Li · Han Zhao

Domain generalization asks for models trained over a set of training environments to perform well in unseen test environments. Recently, a series of algorithms such as Invariant Risk Minimization (IRM) has been proposed for domain generalization. However, Rosenfeld et al. (2021) shows that in a simple linear data model, even if non-convexity issues are ignored, IRM and its extensions cannot generalize to unseen environments with less than $d_s+1$ training environments, where $d_s$ is the dimension of the spurious-feature subspace. In this paper, we propose to achieve domain generalization with Invariant-feature Subspace Recovery (ISR). Our first algorithm, ISR-Mean, can identify the subspace spanned by invariant features from the first-order moments of the class-conditional distributions, and achieve provable domain generalization with $d_s+1$ training environments under the data model of Rosenfeld et al. (2021). Our second algorithm, ISR-Cov, further reduces the required number of training environments to $O(1)$ using the information of second-order moments. Notably, unlike IRM, our algorithms bypass non-convexity issues and enjoy global convergence guarantees. Empirically, our ISRs can obtain superior performance compared with IRM on synthetic benchmarks. In addition, on three real-world image and text datasets, we show that both ISRs can be used as simple yet effective post-processing methods to improve the worst-case accuracy of (pre-)trained models against spurious correlations and group shifts.

Subspace Learning for Effective Meta-Learning

Weisen JIANG · James Kwok · Yu Zhang

Meta-learning aims to extract meta-knowledge from historical tasks to accelerate learning on new tasks. Typical meta-learning algorithms like MAML learn a globally-shared meta-model for all tasks. However, when the task environments are complex, task model parameters are diverse and a common meta-model is insufficient to capture all the meta-knowledge. To address this challenge, in this paper, task model parameters are structured into multiple subspaces, and each subspace represents one type of meta-knowledge. We propose an algorithm to learn the meta-parameters (\ie, subspace bases). We theoretically study the generalization properties of the learned subspaces. Experiments on regression and classification meta-learning datasets verify the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.

Continual Learning via Sequential Function-Space Variational Inference

Tim G. J Rudner · Freddie Bickford Smith · QIXUAN FENG · Yee-Whye Teh · Yarin Gal

Sequential Bayesian inference over predictive functions is a natural framework for continual learning from streams of data. However, applying it to neural networks has proved challenging in practice. Addressing the drawbacks of existing techniques, we propose an optimization objective derived by formulating continual learning as sequential function-space variational inference. In contrast to existing methods that regularize neural network parameters directly, this objective allows parameters to vary widely during training, enabling better adaptation to new tasks. Compared to objectives that directly regularize neural network predictions, the proposed objective allows for more flexible variational distributions and more effective regularization. We demonstrate that, across a range of task sequences, neural networks trained via sequential function-space variational inference achieve better predictive accuracy than networks trained with related methods while depending less on maintaining a set of representative points from previous tasks.

Efficient Test-Time Model Adaptation without Forgetting

Shuaicheng Niu · Jiaxiang Wu · Yifan Zhang · Yaofo Chen · Shijian Zheng · Peilin Zhao · Mingkui Tan

Test-time adaptation provides an effective means of tackling the potential distribution shift between model training and inference, by dynamically updating the model at test time. This area has seen fast progress recently, at the effectiveness of handling test shifts. Nonetheless, prior methods still suffer two key limitations: 1) these methods rely on performing backward computation for each test sample, which takes a considerable amount of time; and 2) these methods focus on improving the performance on out-of-distribution test samples and ignore that the adaptation on test data may result in a catastrophic forgetting issue, \ie, the performance on in-distribution test samples may degrade. To address these issues, we propose an efficient anti-forgetting test-time adaptation (EATA) method. Specifically, we devise a sample-efficient entropy minimization loss to exclude uninformative samples out of backward computation, which improves the overall efficiency and meanwhile boosts the out-of-distribution accuracy. Afterward, we introduce a regularization loss to ensure that critical model weights tend to be preserved during adaptation, thereby alleviating the forgetting issue. Extensive experiments on CIFAR-10-C, ImageNet-C, and ImageNet-R verify the effectiveness and superiority of our EATA.

A Hierarchical Transitive-Aligned Graph Kernel for Un-attributed Graphs

Lu Bai · Lixin Cui · Edwin Hancock

In this paper, we develop a new graph kernel, namely the Hierarchical Transitive-Aligned Kernel, by transitively aligning the vertices between graphs through a family of hierarchical prototype graphs. Comparing to most existing state-of-the-art graph kernels, the proposed kernel has three theoretical advantages. First, it incorporates the locational correspondence information between graphs into the kernel computation, and thus overcomes the shortcoming of ignoring structural correspondences arising in most R-convolution kernels. Second, it guarantees the transitivity between the correspondence information that is not available for most existing matching kernels. Third, it incorporates the information of all graphs under comparisons into the kernel computation process, and thus encapsulates richer characteristics. Experimental evaluations demonstrate the effectiveness of the new transitive-aligned kernel.

Leverage Score Sampling for Tensor Product Matrices in Input Sparsity Time

David Woodruff · Amir Zandieh

We propose an input sparsity time sampling algorithm that can spectrally approximate the Gram matrix corresponding to the q-fold column-wise tensor product of q matrices using a nearly optimal number of samples, improving upon all previously known methods by poly(q) factors. Furthermore, for the important special case of the q-fold self-tensoring of a dataset, which is the feature matrix of the degree-q polynomial kernel, the leading term of our method’s runtime is proportional to the size of the dataset and has no dependence on q. Previous techniques either incur a poly(q) factor slowdown in their runtime or remove the dependence on q at the expense of having sub-optimal target dimension, and depend quadratically on the number of data-points in their runtime. Our sampling technique relies on a collection of q partially correlated random projections which can be simultaneously applied to a dataset X in total time that only depends on the size of X, and at the same time their q-fold Kronecker product acts as a near-isometry for any fixed vector in the column span of $X^{\otimes q}$. We also show that our sampling methods generalize to other classes of kernels beyond polynomial, such as Gaussian and Neural Tangent kernels.

Random Gegenbauer Features for Scalable Kernel Methods

Insu Han · Amir Zandieh · Haim Avron

We propose efficient random features for approximating a new and rich class of kernel functions that we refer to as Generalized Zonal Kernels (GZK). Our proposed GZK family, generalizes the zonal kernels (i.e., dot-product kernels on the unit sphere) by introducing radial factors in the Gegenbauer series expansion of these kernel functions. The GZK class of kernels includes a wide range of ubiquitous kernel functions such as the entirety of dot-product kernels as well as the Gaussian and the recently introduced Neural Tangent kernels. Interestingly, by exploiting the reproducing property of the Gegenbauer (Zonal) Harmonics, we can construct efficient random features for the GZK family based on randomly oriented Gegenbauer harmonics. We prove subspace embedding guarantees for our Gegenbauer features which ensures that our features can be used for approximately solving learning problems such as kernel k-means clustering, kernel ridge regression, etc. Empirical results show that our proposed features outperform recent kernel approximation methods.

Robust Meta-learning with Sampling Noise and Label Noise via Eigen-Reptile

Dong Chen · Lingfei Wu · Siliang Tang · Xiao Yun · Bo Long · Yueting Zhuang

Recent years have seen a surge of interest in meta-learning techniques for tackling the few-shot learning (FSL) problem. However, the meta-learner is prone to overfitting since there are only a few available samples, which can be identified as sampling noise on a clean dataset. Besides, when handling the data with noisy labels, the meta-learner could be extremely sensitive to label noise on a corrupted dataset. To address these two challenges, we present Eigen-Reptile (ER) that updates the meta-parameters with the main direction of historical task-specific parameters. Specifically, the main direction is computed in a fast way, where the scale of the calculated matrix is related to the number of gradient steps for the specific task instead of the number of parameters. Furthermore, to obtain a more accurate main direction for Eigen-Reptile in the presence of many noisy labels, we further propose Introspective Self-paced Learning (ISPL). We have theoretically and experimentally demonstrated the soundness and effectiveness of the proposed Eigen-Reptile and ISPL. Particularly, our experiments on different tasks show that the proposed method is able to outperform or achieve highly competitive performance compared with other gradient-based methods with or without noisy labels. The code and data for the proposed method are provided for research purposes

Functional Output Regression with Infimal Convolution: Exploring the Huber and $\epsilon$-insensitive Losses

Alex Lambert · Dimitri Bouche · Zoltan Szabo · Florence d'Alché-Buc

The focus of the paper is functional output regression (FOR) with convoluted losses. While most existing work consider the square loss setting, we leverage extensions of the Huber and the $\epsilon$-insensitive loss (induced by infimal convolution) and propose a flexible framework capable of handling various forms of outliers and sparsity in the FOR family. We derive computationally tractable algorithms relying on duality to tackle the resulting tasks in the context of vector-valued reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. The efficiency of the approach is demonstrated and contrasted with the classical squared loss setting on both synthetic and real-world benchmarks.

Measuring dissimilarity with diffeomorphism invariance

Théophile Cantelobre · Carlo Ciliberto · Benjamin Guedj · Alessandro Rudi

Measures of similarity (or dissimilarity) are a key ingredient to many machine learning algorithms. We introduce DID, a pairwise dissimilarity measure applicable to a wide range of data spaces, which leverages the data's internal structure to be invariant to diffeomorphisms. We prove that DID enjoys properties which make it relevant for theoretical study and practical use. By representing each datum as a function, DID is defined as the solution to an optimization problem in a Reproducing Kernel Hilbert Space and can be expressed in closed-form. In practice, it can be efficiently approximated via Nyström sampling. Empirical experiments support the merits of DID.

Importance Weighted Kernel Bayes' Rule

Liyuan Xu · Yutian Chen · Arnaud Doucet · Arthur Gretton

We study a nonparametric approach to Bayesian computation via feature means, where the expectation of prior features is updated to yield expected posterior features, based on regression from kernel or neural net features of the observations. All quantities involved in the Bayesian update are learned from observed data, making the method entirely model-free. The resulting algorithm is a novel instance of a kernel Bayes' rule (KBR). Our approach is based on importance weighting, which results in superior numerical stability to the existing approach to KBR, which requires operator inversion. We show the convergence of the estimator using a novel consistency analysis on the importance weighting estimator in the infinity norm. We evaluate our KBR on challenging synthetic benchmarks, including a filtering problem with a state-space model involving high dimensional image observations. The proposed method yields uniformly better empirical performance than the existing KBR, and competitive performance with other competing methods.We evaluate our KBR on challenging synthetic benchmarks, including a filtering problem with a state-space model involving high dimensional image observations. The proposed method yields uniformly better empirical performance than the existing KBR, and competitive performance with other competing methods.

An Asymptotic Test for Conditional Independence using Analytic Kernel Embeddings

Meyer Scetbon · Laurent Meunier · Yaniv Romano

We propose a new conditional dependence measure and a statistical test for conditional independence. The measure is based on the difference between analytic kernel embeddings of two well-suited distributions evaluated at a finite set of locations. We obtain its asymptotic distribution under the null hypothesis of conditional independence and design a consistent statistical test from it. We conduct a series of experiments showing that our new test outperforms state-of-the-art methods both in terms of type-I and type-II errors even in the high dimensional setting.

Nyström Kernel Mean Embeddings

Antoine Chatalic · Nicolas Schreuder · Lorenzo Rosasco · Alessandro Rudi

Kernel mean embeddings are a powerful tool to represent probability distributions over arbitrary spaces as single points in a Hilbert space. Yet, the cost of computing and storing such embeddings prohibits their direct use in large-scale settings. We propose an efficient approximation procedure based on the Nyström method, which exploits a small random subset of the dataset. Our main result is an upper bound on the approximation error of this procedure. It yields sufficient conditions on the subsample size to obtain the standard (1/sqrt(n)) rate while reducing computational costs. We discuss applications of this result for the approximation of the maximum mean discrepancy and quadrature rules, and we illustrate our theoretical findings with numerical experiments.

Distribution Regression with Sliced Wasserstein Kernels

Dimitri Marie Meunier · Massimiliano Pontil · Carlo Ciliberto

The problem of learning functions over spaces of probabilities - or distribution regression - is gaining significant interest in the machine learning community. The main challenge in these settings is to identify a suitable representation capturing all relevant properties of a distribution. The well-established approach in this sense is to use kernel mean embeddings, which lift kernel-induced similarity on the input domain at the probability level. This strategy effectively tackles the two-stage sampling nature of the problem, enabling one to derive estimators with strong statistical guarantees, such as universal consistency and excess risk bounds. However, kernel mean embeddings implicitly hinge on the maximum mean discrepancy (MMD), a metric on probabilities, which is not the most suited to capture geometrical relations between distributions. In contrast, optimal transport (OT) metrics, are potentially more appealing. In this work, we propose an OT-based estimator for distribution regression. We build on the Sliced Wasserstein distance to obtain an OT-based representation. We study the theoretical properties of a kernel ridge regression estimator based on such representation, for which we prove universal consistency and excess risk bounds. Preliminary experiments complement our theoretical findings by showing the effectiveness of the proposed approach and compare it with MMD-based estimators.

Learning Stable Classifiers by Transferring Unstable Features

Yujia Bao · Shiyu Chang · Regina Barzilay

While unbiased machine learning models are essential for many applications, bias is a human-defined concept that can vary across tasks. Given only input-label pairs, algorithms may lack sufficient information to distinguish stable (causal) features from unstable (spurious) features. However, related tasks often share similar biases -- an observation we may leverage to develop stable classifiers in the transfer setting. In this work, we explicitly inform the target classifier about unstable features in the source tasks. Specifically, we derive a representation that encodes the unstable features by contrasting different data environments in the source task. We achieve robustness by clustering data of the target task according to this representation and minimizing the worst-case risk across these clusters. We evaluate our method on both text and image classifications. Empirical results demonstrate that our algorithm is able to maintain robustness on the target task for both synthetically generated environments and real-world environments. Our code is available at

Data-Efficient Double-Win Lottery Tickets from Robust Pre-training

Tianlong Chen · Zhenyu Zhang · Sijia Liu · Yang Zhang · Shiyu Chang · Zhangyang “Atlas” Wang

Pre-training serves as a broadly adopted starting point for transfer learning on various downstream tasks. Recent investigations of lottery tickets hypothesis (LTH) demonstrate such enormous pre-trained models can be replaced by extremely sparse subnetworks (a.k.a. matching subnetworks) without sacrificing transferability. However, practical security-crucial applications usually pose more challenging requirements beyond standard transfer, which also demand these subnetworks to overcome adversarial vulnerability. In this paper, we formulate a more rigorous concept, Double-Win Lottery Tickets, in which a located subnetwork from a pre-trained model can be independently transferred on diverse downstream tasks, to reach BOTH the same standard and robust generalization, under BOTH standard and adversarial training regimes, as the full pre-trained model can do. We comprehensively examine various pre-training mechanisms and find that robust pre-training tends to craft sparser double-win lottery tickets with superior performance over the standard counterparts. For example, on downstream CIFAR-10/100 datasets, we identify double-win matching subnetworks with the standard, fast adversarial, and adversarial pre-training from ImageNet, at 89.26%/73.79%, 89.26%/79.03%, and 91.41%/83.22% sparsity, respectively. Furthermore, we observe the obtained double-win lottery tickets can be more data-efficient to transfer, under practical data-limited (e.g., 1% and 10%) downstream schemes. Our results show that the benefits from robust pre-training are amplified by the lottery ticket scheme, as well as the data-limited transfer setting. Codes are available at

Attentional Meta-learners for Few-shot Polythetic Classification

Ben Day · Ramon Viñas Torné · Nikola Simidjievski · Pietro Lió

Polythetic classifications, based on shared patterns of features that need neither be universal nor constant among members of a class, are common in the natural world and greatly outnumber monothetic classifications over a set of features. We show that threshold meta-learners, such as Prototypical Networks, require an embedding dimension that is exponential in the number of task-relevant features to emulate these functions. In contrast, attentional classifiers, such as Matching Networks, are polythetic by default and able to solve these problems with a linear embedding dimension. However, we find that in the presence of task-irrelevant features, inherent to meta-learning problems, attentional models are susceptible to misclassification. To address this challenge, we propose a self-attention feature-selection mechanism that adaptively dilutes non-discriminative features. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in meta-learning Boolean functions, and synthetic and real-world few-shot learning tasks.

C*-algebra Net: A New Approach Generalizing Neural Network Parameters to C*-algebra

Yuka Hashimoto · Zhao Wang · Tomoko Matsui

We propose a new framework that generalizes the parameters of neural network models to $C^*$-algebra-valued ones. $C^*$-algebra is a generalization of the space of complex numbers. A typical example is the space of continuous functions on a compact space. This generalization enables us to combine multiple models continuously and use tools for functions such as regression and integration. Consequently, we can learn features of data efficiently and adapt the models to problems continuously. We apply our framework to practical problems such as density estimation and few-shot learning and show that our framework enables us to learn features of data even with a limited number of samples. Our new framework highlights the potential possibility of applying the theory of $C^*$-algebra to general neural network models.

Nonlinear Feature Diffusion on Hypergraphs

Konstantin Prokopchik · Austin Benson · Francesco Tudisco

Hypergraphs are a common model for multiway relationships in data, and hypergraph semi-supervised learning is the problem of assigning labels to all nodes in a hypergraph, given labels on just a few nodes. Diffusions and label spreading are classical techniques for semi-supervised learning in the graph setting, and there are some standard ways to extend them to hypergraphs.However, these methods are linear models, and do not offer an obvious way of incorporating node features for making predictions.Here, we develop a nonlinear diffusion process on hypergraphs that spreads both features and labels following the hypergraph structure. Even though the process is nonlinear, we show global convergence to a unique limiting point for a broad class of nonlinearities and we show that such limit is the global minimum of a new regularized semi-supervised learning loss function which aims at reducing a generalized form of variance of the nodes across the hyperedges.The limiting point serves as a node embedding from which we make predictions with a linear model. Our approach is competitive with state-of-the-art graph and hypergraph neural networks, and also takes less time to train.

Kernel Methods for Radial Transformed Compositional Data with Many Zeros

Junyoung Park · Changwon Yoon · Cheolwoo Park · Jeongyoun Ahn

Compositional data analysis with a high proportion of zeros has gained increasing popularity, especially in chemometrics and human gut microbiomes research. Statistical analyses of this type of data are typically carried out via a log-ratio transformation after replacing zeros with small positive values. We should note, however, that this procedure is geometrically improper, as it causes anomalous distortions through the transformation. We propose a radial transformation that does not require zero substitutions and more importantly results in essential equivalence between domains before and after the transformation. We show that a rich class of kernels on hyperspheres can successfully define a kernel embedding for compositional data based on this equivalence. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that theoretically establishes the availability of the extensive library of kernel-based machine learning methods for compositional data. The applicability of the proposed approach is demonstrated with kernel principal component analysis.

Robust Task Representations for Offline Meta-Reinforcement Learning via Contrastive Learning

Haoqi Yuan · Zongqing Lu

We study offline meta-reinforcement learning, a practical reinforcement learning paradigm that learns from offline data to adapt to new tasks. The distribution of offline data is determined jointly by the behavior policy and the task. Existing offline meta-reinforcement learning algorithms cannot distinguish these factors, making task representations unstable to the change of behavior policies. To address this problem, we propose a contrastive learning framework for task representations that are robust to the distribution mismatch of behavior policies in training and test. We design a bi-level encoder structure, use mutual information maximization to formalize task representation learning, derive a contrastive learning objective, and introduce several approaches to approximate the true distribution of negative pairs. Experiments on a variety of offline meta-reinforcement learning benchmarks demonstrate the advantages of our method over prior methods, especially on the generalization to out-of-distribution behavior policies.

Fast Provably Robust Decision Trees and Boosting

Jun-Qi Guo · Ming-Zhuo Teng · Wei Gao · Zhi-Hua Zhou

Learning with adversarial robustness has been a challenge in contemporary machine learning, and recent years have witnessed increasing attention on robust decision trees and ensembles, mostly working with high computational complexity or without guarantees of provable robustness. This work proposes the Fast Provably Robust Decision Tree (FPRDT) with the smallest computational complexity O(n log n), a tradeoff between global and local optimizations over the adversarial 0/1 loss. We further develop the Provably Robust AdaBoost (PRAdaBoost) according to our robust decision trees, and present convergence analysis for training adversarial 0/1 loss. We conduct extensive experiments to support our approaches; in particular, our approaches are superior to those unprovably robust methods, and achieve better or comparable performance to those provably robust methods yet with the smallest running time.

Order Constraints in Optimal Transport

Yu Chin Fabian Lim · Laura Wynter · Shiau Hong Lim

Optimal transport is a framework for comparing measures whereby a cost is incurred for transporting one measure to another. Recent works have aimed to improve optimal transport plans through the introduction of various forms of structure. We introduce novel order constraints into the optimal transport formulation to allow for the incorporation of structure. We define an efficient method for obtaining explainable solutions to the new formulation that scales far better than standard approaches. The theoretical properties of the method are provided. We demonstrate experimentally that order constraints improve explainability using the e-SNLI (Stanford Natural Language Inference) dataset that includes human-annotated rationales as well as on several image color transfer examples.

Sublinear-Time Clustering Oracle for Signed Graphs

Stefan Neumann · Pan Peng

Social networks are often modeled using signed graphs, where vertices correspond to users and edges have a sign that indicates whether an interaction between users was positive or negative. The arising signed graphs typically contain a clear community structure in the sense that the graph can be partitioned into a small number of polarized communities, each defining a sparse cut and indivisible into smaller polarized sub-communities. We provide a local clustering oracle for signed graphs with such a clear community structure, that can answer membership queries, i.e., ``Given a vertex~$v$, which community does~$v$ belong to?'', in sublinear time by reading only a small portion of the graph. Formally, when the graph has bounded maximum degree and the number of communities is at most $O(\log n)$, then with $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{n}\operatorname{poly}(1/\varepsilon))$ preprocessing time, our oracle can answer each membership query in $\tilde{O}(\sqrt{n}\operatorname{poly}(1/\varepsilon))$ time, and it correctly classifies a $(1-\varepsilon)$-fraction of vertices w.r.t. a set of hidden planted ground-truth communities. Our oracle is desirable in applications where the clustering information is needed for only a small number of vertices. Previously, such local clustering oracles were only known for unsigned graphs; our generalization to signed graphs requires a number of new ideas and gives a novel spectral analysis of the behavior of random walks with signs. We evaluate our algorithm for constructing such an oracle and answering membership queries on both synthetic and real-world datasets, validating its performance in practice.

PAC-Bayesian Bounds on Rate-Efficient Classifiers

Alhabib Abbas · Yiannis Andreopoulos

We derive analytic bounds on the noise invariance of majority vote classifiers operating on compressed inputs. Specifically, starting from recent bounds on the true risk of majority vote classifiers, we extend the applicability of PAC-Bayesian theory to quantify the resilience of majority votes to input noise stemming from compression. The derived bounds are intuitive in binary classification settings, where they can be measured as expressions of voter differentials and voter pair agreement. By combining measures of input distortion with analytic guarantees on noise invariance, we prescribe rate-efficient machines to compress inputs without affecting subsequent classification. Our validation shows how bounding noise invariance can inform the compression stage for any majority vote classifier such that worst-case implications of bad input reconstructions are known, and inputs can be compressed to the minimum amount of information needed prior to inference.

More Efficient Sampling for Tensor Decomposition With Worst-Case Guarantees

Osman Asif Malik

Recent papers have developed alternating least squares (ALS) methods for CP and tensor ring decomposition with a per-iteration cost which is sublinear in the number of input tensor entries for low-rank decomposition. However, the per-iteration cost of these methods still has an exponential dependence on the number of tensor modes when parameters are chosen to achieve certain worst-case guarantees. In this paper, we propose sampling-based ALS methods for the CP and tensor ring decompositions whose cost does not have this exponential dependence, thereby significantly improving on the previous state-of-the-art. We provide a detailed theoretical analysis and also apply the methods in a feature extraction experiment.

Sharp-MAML: Sharpness-Aware Model-Agnostic Meta Learning

Momin Abbas · Quan Xiao · Lisha Chen · Pin-Yu Chen · Tianyi Chen

Model-agnostic meta learning (MAML) is currently one of the dominating approaches for few-shot meta-learning. Albeit its effectiveness, the training of MAML can be challenging due to the innate bilevel problem structure. Specifically, the loss landscape of MAML is much complex with possibly many more saddle points and local minima than its empirical risk minimization counterpart. To address this challenge, we leverage the recently invented sharpness-aware minimization and develop a sharpness-aware MAML approach that we term Sharp-MAML. We empirically demonstrate that Sharp-MAML and its computation-efficient variant can outperform popular existing MAML baselines (e.g., +12% accuracy on Mini-Imagenet). We complement the empirical study with the convergence analysis and the generalization bound of Sharp-MAML. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical and theoretical study on sharpness-aware minimization in the context of bilevel optimization.

On the Convergence of Local Stochastic Compositional Gradient Descent with Momentum

Hongchang Gao · Junyi Li · Heng Huang

Federated Learning has been actively studied due to its efficiency in numerous real-world applications in the past few years. However, the federated stochastic compositional optimization problem is still underexplored, even though it has widespread applications in machine learning. In this paper, we developed a novel local stochastic compositional gradient descent with momentum method, which facilitates Federated Learning for the stochastic compositional problem. Importantly, we investigated the convergence rate of our proposed method and proved that it can achieve the $O(1/\epsilon^4)$ sample complexity, which is better than existing methods. Meanwhile, our communication complexity $O(1/\epsilon^3)$ can match existing methods. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work achieving such favorable sample and communication complexities. Additionally, extensive experimental results demonstrate the superior empirical performance over existing methods, confirming the efficacy of our method.

SPDY: Accurate Pruning with Speedup Guarantees

Elias Frantar · Dan Alistarh

The recent focus on the efficiency of deep neural networks (DNNs) has led to significant work on model compression approaches, of which weight pruning is one of the most popular.At the same time, there is rapidly-growing computational support for efficiently executing the unstructured-sparse models obtained via pruning. Yet, most existing pruning methods minimize just the number of remaining weights, i.e. the size of the model, rather than optimizing for inference time.We address this gap by introducing SPDY, a new compression method which automatically determines layer-wise sparsity targets achieving a desired inference speedup on a given system, while minimizing accuracy loss. SPDY is the composition of two new techniques. The first is an efficient and general dynamic programming algorithm for solving constrained layer-wise compression problems, given a set of layer-wise error scores.The second technique is a local search procedure for automatically determining such scores in an accurate and robust manner.Experiments across popular vision and language models show that SPDY guarantees speedups while recovering higher accuracy relative to existing strategies, both for one-shot and gradual pruning scenarios, and is compatible with most existing pruning approaches. We also extend our approach to the recently-proposed task of pruning with very little data, where we achieve the best known accuracy recovery when pruning to the GPU-supported 2:4 sparsity pattern.

Flashlight: Enabling Innovation in Tools for Machine Learning

Jacob Kahn · Vineel Pratap · Tatiana Likhomanenko · Qiantong Xu · Awni Hannun · Jeff Cai · Paden Tomasello · Ann Lee · Edouard Grave · Gilad Avidov · Benoit Steiner · Vitaliy Liptchinsky · Gabriel Synnaeve · Ronan Collobert

As the computational requirements for machine learning systems and the size and complexity of machine learning frameworks increases, essential framework innovation has become challenging. While computational needs have driven recent compiler, networking, and hardware advancements, utilization of those advancements by machine learning tools is occurring at a slower pace. This is in part due to the difficulties involved in prototyping new computational paradigms with existing frameworks. Large frameworks prioritize machine learning researchers and practitioners as end users and pay comparatively little attention to systems researchers who can push frameworks forward --- we argue that both are equally important stakeholders. We introduce Flashlight, an open-source library built to spur innovation in machine learning tools and systems by prioritizing open, modular, customizable internals and state-of-the-art, research-ready models and training setups across a variety of domains. Flashlight allows systems researchers to rapidly prototype and experiment with novel ideas in machine learning computation and has low overhead, competing with and often outperforming other popular machine learning frameworks. We see Flashlight as a tool enabling research that can benefit widely used libraries downstream and bring machine learning and systems researchers closer together.

On the Robustness of CountSketch to Adaptive Inputs

Edith Cohen · Xin Lyu · Jelani Nelson · Tamas Sarlos · Moshe Shechner · Uri Stemmer

The last decade saw impressive progress towards understanding the performance of algorithms in {\em adaptive} settings, where subsequent inputs may depend on the output from prior inputs. Adaptive settings arise in processes with feedback or with adversarial attacks. Existing designs of robust algorithms are generic wrappers of non-robust counterparts and leave open the possibility of better tailored designs. The lowers bounds (attacks) are similarly worst-case and their significance to practical setting is unclear. Aiming to understand these questions, we study the robustness of \texttt{CountSketch}, a popular dimensionality reduction technique that maps vectors to a lower dimension usingrandomized linear measurements. The sketch supports recovering $\ell_2$-heavy hitters of a vector (entries with $v[i]^2 \geq \frac{1}{k}\|\boldsymbol{v}\|^2_2$). We show that the classic estimator is not robust, and can be attacked with a number of queries of the order of the sketch size. We propose a robust estimator (for a slightly modified sketch) that allows for quadratic number of queries in the sketch size, which is an improvement factor of $\sqrt{k}$ (for $k$ heavy hitters) over prior "blackbox" approaches.

Fast-Rate PAC-Bayesian Generalization Bounds for Meta-Learning

Jiechao Guan · Zhiwu Lu

PAC-Bayesian error bounds provide a theoretical guarantee on the generalization abilities of meta-learning from training tasks to unseen tasks. However, it is still unclear how tight PAC-Bayesian bounds we can achieve for meta-learning. In this work, we propose a general PAC-Bayesian framework to cope with single-task learning and meta-learning uniformly. With this framework, we generalize the two tightest PAC-Bayesian bounds (i.e., kl-bound and Catoni-bound) from single-task learning to standard meta-learning, resulting in fast convergence rates for PAC-Bayesian meta-learners. By minimizing the derived two bounds, we develop two meta-learning algorithms for classification problems with deep neural networks. For regression problems, by setting Gibbs optimal posterior for each training task, we obtain the closed-form formula of the minimizer of our Catoni-bound, leading to an efficient Gibbs meta-learning algorithm. Although minimizing our kl-bound can not yield a closed-form solution, we show that it can be extended for analyzing the more challenging meta-learning setting where samples from different training tasks exhibit interdependencies. Experiments empirically show that our proposed meta-learning algorithms achieve competitive results with respect to latest works.

Wide Neural Networks Forget Less Catastrophically

Seyed Iman Mirzadeh · Arslan Chaudhry · Dong Yin · Huiyi Hu · Razvan Pascanu · Dilan Gorur · Mehrdad Farajtabar

A primary focus area in continual learning research is alleviating the "catastrophic forgetting" problem in neural networks by designing new algorithms that are more robust to the distribution shifts. While the recent progress in continual learning literature is encouraging, our understanding of what properties of neural networks contribute to catastrophic forgetting is still limited. To address this, instead of focusing on continual learning algorithms, in this work, we focus on the model itself and study the impact of "width" of the neural network architecture on catastrophic forgetting, and show that width has a surprisingly significant effect on forgetting. To explain this effect, we study the learning dynamics of the network from various perspectives such as gradient orthogonality, sparsity, and lazy training regime. We provide potential explanations that are consistent with the empirical results across different architectures and continual learning benchmarks.

A Unified View on PAC-Bayes Bounds for Meta-Learning

Arezou Rezazadeh

Meta learning automatically infers an inductivebias, that includes the hyperparameter of the baselearningalgorithm, by observing data from a finitenumber of related tasks. This paper studiesPAC-Bayes bounds on meta generalizationgap. The meta-generalization gap comprises twosources of generalization gaps: the environmentleveland task-level gaps resulting from observationof a finite number of tasks and data samplesper task, respectively. In this paper, by upperbounding arbitrary convex functions, which linkthe expected and empirical losses at the environmentand also per-task levels, we obtain new PAC-Bayesbounds. Using these bounds, we developnew PAC-Bayes meta-learning algorithms. Numericalexamples demonstrate the merits of theproposed novel bounds and algorithm in comparisonto prior PAC-Bayes bounds for meta-learning

MAML and ANIL Provably Learn Representations

Liam Collins · Aryan Mokhtari · Sewoong Oh · Sanjay Shakkottai

Recent empirical evidence has driven conventional wisdom to believe that gradient-based meta-learning (GBML) methods perform well at few-shot learning because they learn an expressive data representation that is shared across tasks. However, the mechanics of GBML have remained largely mysterious from a theoretical perspective. In this paper, we prove that two well-known GBML methods, MAML and ANIL, as well as their first-order approximations, are capable of learning common representation among a set of given tasks. Specifically, in the well-known multi-task linear representation learning setting, they are able to recover the ground-truth representation at an exponentially fast rate. Moreover, our analysis illuminates that the driving force causing MAML and ANIL to recover the underlying representation is that they adapt the final layer of their model, which harnesses the underlying task diversity to improve the representation in all directions of interest. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first results to show that MAML and/or ANIL learn expressive representations and to rigorously explain why they do so.

C-MinHash: Improving Minwise Hashing with Circulant Permutation

Xiaoyun Li · Ping Li

Minwise hashing (MinHash) is an important and practical algorithm for generating random hashes to approximate the Jaccard (resemblance) similarity in massive binary (0/1) data. The basic theory of MinHash requires applying hundreds or even thousands of independent random permutations to each data vector in the dataset, in order to obtain reliable results for (e.g.,) building large-scale learning models or approximate near neighbor search. In this paper, we propose Circulant MinHash (C-MinHash) and provide the surprising theoretical results that using only two independent random permutations in a circulant manner leads to uniformly smaller Jaccard estimation variance than that of the classical MinHash with K independent permutations. Experiments are conducted to show the effectiveness of the proposed method. We also propose a more convenient C-MinHash variant which reduces two permutations to just one, with extensive numerical results to validate that it achieves essentially the same estimation accuracy as using two permutations.

Proximal Denoiser for Convergent Plug-and-Play Optimization with Nonconvex Regularization

Samuel Hurault · Arthur Leclaire · Nicolas Papadakis

Plug-and-Play (PnP) methods solve ill-posed inverse problems through iterative proximal algorithms by replacing a proximal operator by a denoising operation. When applied with deep neural network denoisers, these methods have shown state-of-the-art visual performance for image restoration problems. However, their theoretical convergence analysis is still incomplete. Most of the existing convergence results consider nonexpansive denoisers, which is non-realistic, or limit their analysis to strongly convex data-fidelity terms in the inverse problem to solve. Recently, it was proposed to train the denoiser as a gradient descent step on a functional parameterized by a deep neural network. Using such a denoiser guarantees the convergence of the PnP version of the Half-Quadratic-Splitting (PnP-HQS) iterative algorithm. In this paper, we show that this gradient denoiser can actually correspond to the proximal operator of another scalar function. Given this new result, we exploit the convergence theory of proximal algorithms in the nonconvex setting to obtain convergence results for PnP-PGD (Proximal Gradient Descent) and PnP-ADMM (Alternating Direction Method of Multipliers). When built on top of a smooth gradient denoiser, we show that PnP-PGD and PnP-ADMM are convergent and target stationary points of an explicit functional. These convergence results are confirmed with numerical experiments on deblurring, super-resolution and inpainting.

Safe Exploration for Efficient Policy Evaluation and Comparison

Runzhe Wan · Branislav Kveton · Rui Song

High-quality data plays a central role in ensuring the accuracy of policy evaluation. This paper initiates the study of efficient and safe data collection for bandit policy evaluation. We formulate the problem and investigate its several representative variants. For each variant, we analyze its statistical properties, derive the corresponding exploration policy, and design an efficient algorithm for computing it. Both theoretical analysis and experiments support the usefulness of the proposed methods.

Adversarial Attacks on Gaussian Process Bandits

Eric Han · Jonathan Scarlett

Gaussian processes (GP) are a widely-adopted tool used to sequentially optimize black-box functions, where evaluations are costly and potentially noisy. Recent works on GP bandits have proposed to move beyond random noise and devise algorithms robust to adversarial attacks. This paper studies this problem from the attacker's perspective, proposing various adversarial attack methods with differing assumptions on the attacker's strength and prior information. Our goal is to understand adversarial attacks on GP bandits from theoretical and practical perspectives. We focus primarily on targeted attacks on the popular GP-UCB algorithm and a related elimination-based algorithm, based on adversarially perturbing the function f to produce another function f~ whose optima are in some target region. Based on our theoretical analysis, we devise both white-box attacks (known f) and black-box attacks (unknown f), with the former including a Subtraction attack and Clipping attack, and the latter including an Aggressive subtraction attack. We demonstrate that adversarial attacks on GP bandits can succeed in forcing the algorithm towards the target region even with a low attack budget, and we test our attacks' effectiveness on a diverse range of objective functions.

GALAXY: Graph-based Active Learning at the Extreme

Jifan Zhang · Julian Katz-Samuels · Robert Nowak

Active learning is a label-efficient approach to train highly effective models while interactively selecting only small subsets of unlabelled data for labelling and training. In ``open world" settings, the classes of interest can make up a small fraction of the overall dataset -- most of the data may be viewed as an out-of-distribution or irrelevant class. This leads to extreme class-imbalance, and our theory and methods focus on this core issue. We propose a new strategy for active learning called GALAXY (Graph-based Active Learning At the eXtrEme), which blends ideas from graph-based active learning and deep learning. GALAXY automatically and adaptively selects more class-balanced examples for labeling than most other methods for active learning. Our theory shows that GALAXY performs a refined form of uncertainty sampling that gathers a much more class-balanced dataset than vanilla uncertainty sampling. Experimentally, we demonstrate GALAXY's superiority over existing state-of-art deep active learning algorithms in unbalanced vision classification settings generated from popular datasets.

When Are Linear Stochastic Bandits Attackable?

Huazheng Wang · Haifeng Xu · Hongning Wang

We study adversarial attacks on linear stochastic bandits: by manipulating the rewards, an adversary aims to control the behaviour of the bandit algorithm. Perhaps surprisingly, we first show that some attack goals can never be achieved. This is in a sharp contrast to context-free stochastic bandits, and is intrinsically due to the correlation among arms in linear stochastic bandits. Motivated by this finding, this paper studies the attackability of a $k$-armed linear bandit environment. We first provide a complete necessity and sufficiency characterization of attackability based on the geometry of the arms' context vectors. We then propose a two-stage attack method against LinUCB and Robust Phase Elimination. The method first asserts whether the given environment is attackable; and if yes, it poisons the rewards to force the algorithm to pull a target arm linear times using only a sublinear cost. Numerical experiments further validate the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the proposed attack method.

UniRank: Unimodal Bandit Algorithms for Online Ranking

Camille-Sovanneary GAUTHIER · Romaric Gaudel · Elisa Fromont

We tackle, in the multiple-play bandit setting, the online ranking problem of assigning L items to K predefined positions on a web page in order to maximize the number of user clicks. We propose a generic algorithm, UniRank, that tackles state-of-the-art click models. The regret bound of this algorithm is a direct consequence of the pseudo-unimodality property of the bandit setting with respect to a graph where nodes are ordered sets of indistinguishable items. The main contribution of UniRank is its O(L/∆ logT) regret for T consecutive assignments, where ∆ relates to the reward-gap between two items. This regret bound is based on the usually implicit condition that two items may not have the same attractiveness. Experiments against state-of-the-art learning algorithms specialized or not for different click models, show that our method has better regret performance than other generic algorithms on real life and synthetic datasets.

Correlation Clustering via Strong Triadic Closure Labeling: Fast Approximation Algorithms and Practical Lower Bounds

Nate Veldt

Correlation clustering is a widely studied framework for clustering based on pairwise similarity and dissimilarity scores, but its best approximation algorithms rely on impractical linear programming relaxations. We present faster approximation algorithms that avoid these relaxations, for two well-studied special cases: cluster editing and cluster deletion. We accomplish this by drawing new connections to edge labeling problems related to the principle of strong triadic closure. This leads to faster and more practical linear programming algorithms, as well as extremely scalable combinatorial techniques, including the first combinatorial approximation algorithm for cluster deletion. In practice, our algorithms produce approximate solutions that nearly match the best algorithms in quality, while scaling to problems that are orders of magnitude larger.

Interactive Correlation Clustering with Existential Cluster Constraints

Rico Angell · Nicholas Monath · Nishant Yadav · Andrew McCallum

We consider the problem of clustering with user feedback. Existing methods express constraints about the input data points, most commonly through must-link and cannot-link constraints on data point pairs. In this paper, we introduce existential cluster constraints: a new form of feedback where users indicate the features of desired clusters. Specifically, users make statements about the existence of a cluster having (and not having) particular features. Our approach has multiple advantages: (1) constraints on clusters can express user intent more efficiently than point pairs; (2) in cases where the users' mental model is of the desired clusters, it is more natural for users to express cluster-wise preferences; (3) it functions even when privacy restrictions prohibit users from seeing raw data. In addition to introducing existential cluster constraints, we provide an inference algorithm for incorporating our constraints into the output clustering. Finally, we demonstrate empirically that our proposed framework facilitates more accurate clustering with dramatically fewer user feedback inputs.

Simultaneous Graph Signal Clustering and Graph Learning

Abdullah Karaaslanli · Selin Aviyente

Graph learning (GL) aims to infer the topology of an unknown graph from a set of observations on its nodes, i.e., graph signals. While most of the existing GL approaches focus on homogeneous datasets, in many real world applications, data is heterogeneous, where graph signals are clustered and each cluster is associated with a different graph. In this paper, we address the problem of learning multiple graphs from heterogeneous data by formulating an optimization problem for joint graph signal clustering and graph topology inference. In particular, our approach extends spectral clustering by partitioning the graph signals not only based on their pairwise similarities but also their smoothness with respect to the graphs associated with the clusters. The proposed method also learns the representative graph for each cluster using the smoothness of the graph signals with respect to the graph topology. The resulting optimization problem is solved with an efficient block-coordinate descent algorithm and results on simulated and real data indicate the effectiveness of the proposed method.

Bregman Power k-Means for Clustering Exponential Family Data

Adithya D Vellal · Saptarshi Chakraborty · Jason Xu

Recent progress in center-based clustering algorithms combats poor local minima by implicit annealing through a family of generalized means. These methods are variations of Lloyd's celebrated k-means algorithm, and are most appropriate for spherical clusters such as those arising from Gaussian data. In this paper, we bridge these new algorithmic advances to classical work on hard clustering under Bregman divergences, which enjoy a bijection to exponential family distributions and are thus well-suited for clustering objects arising from a breadth of data generating mechanisms. The elegant properties of Bregman divergences allow us to maintain closed form updates in a simple and transparent algorithm, and moreover lead to new theoretical arguments for establishing finite sample bounds that relax the bounded support assumption made in the existing state of the art. Additionally, we consider thorough empirical analyses on simulated experiments and a case study on rainfall data, finding that the proposed method outperforms existing peer methods in a variety of non-Gaussian data settings.

SpaceMAP: Visualizing High-Dimensional Data by Space Expansion

Xinrui Zu · Qian Tao

Dimensionality reduction (DR) of high-dimensional data is of theoretical and practical interest in machine learning. However, there exist intriguing, non-intuitive discrepancies between the geometry of high- and low-dimensional space. We look into such discrepancies and propose a novel visualization method called Space-based Manifold Approximation and Projection (SpaceMAP). Our method establishes an analytical transformation on distance metrics between spaces to address the ``crowding problem" in DR. With the proposed equivalent extended distance (EED), we are able to match the capacity of high- and low-dimensional space in a principled manner. To handle complex data with different manifold properties, we propose hierarchical manifold approximation to model the similarity function in a data-specific manner. We evaluated SpaceMAP on a range of synthetic and real datasets with varying manifold properties, and demonstrated its excellent performance in comparison with classical and state-of-the-art DR methods. In particular, the concept of space expansion provides a generic framework for understanding nonlinear DR methods including the popular t-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding (t-SNE) and Uniform Manifold Approximation and Projection

Unsupervised Ground Metric Learning Using Wasserstein Singular Vectors

Geert-Jan Huizing · Laura Cantini · Gabriel Peyré

Defining meaningful distances between samples in a dataset is a fundamental problem in machine learning. Optimal Transport (OT) lifts a distance between features (the "ground metric") to a geometrically meaningful distance between samples. However, there is usually no straightforward choice of ground metric. Supervised ground metric learning approaches exist but require labeled data. In absence of labels, only ad-hoc ground metrics remain. Unsupervised ground metric learning is thus a fundamental problem to enable data-driven applications of OT. In this paper, we propose for the first time a canonical answer by simultaneously computing an OT distance between samples and between features of a dataset. These distance matrices emerge naturally as positive singular vectors of the function mapping ground metrics to OT distances. We provide criteria to ensure the existence and uniqueness of these singular vectors. We then introduce scalable computational methods to approximate them in high-dimensional settings, using stochastic approximation and entropic regularization. Finally, we showcase Wasserstein Singular Vectors on a single-cell RNA-sequencing dataset.

Understanding Doubly Stochastic Clustering

Tianjiao Ding · Derek Lim · Rene Vidal · Benjamin Haeffele

The problem of projecting a matrix onto the space of \emph{doubly stochastic} matrices finds several applications in machine learning. For example, in spectral clustering, it has been shown that forming the normalized Laplacian matrix from a data affinity matrix has close connections to projecting it onto the set of doubly stochastic matrices. However, the analysis of why this projection improves clustering has been limited. In this paper we present theoretical conditions on the given affinity matrix under which its doubly stochastic projection is an ideal affinity matrix (i.e., it has no false connections between clusters, and is well-connected within each cluster). In particular, we show that a necessary and sufficient condition for a projected affinity matrix to be ideal reduces to a set of conditions on the input affinity that decompose along each cluster. Further, in the \emph{subspace clustering} problem, where each cluster is defined by a linear subspace, we provide geometric conditions on the underlying subspaces which guarantee correct clustering via a continuous version of the problem. This allows us to explain theoretically the remarkable performance of a recently proposed doubly stochastic subspace clustering method.

Faster Fundamental Graph Algorithms via Learned Predictions

Justin Chen · Sandeep Silwal · Ali Vakilian · Fred Zhang

We consider the question of speeding up classic graph algorithms with machine-learned predictions. In this model, algorithms are furnished with extra advice learned from past or similar instances. Given the additional information, we aim to improve upon the traditional worst-case run-time guarantees. Our contributions are the following:(i) We give a faster algorithm for minimum-weight bipartite matching via learned duals, improving the recent result by Dinitz, Im, Lavastida, Moseley and Vassilvitskii (NeurIPS, 2021);(ii) We extend the learned dual approach to the single-source shortest path problem (with negative edge lengths), achieving an almost linear runtime given sufficiently accurate predictions which improves upon the classic fastest algorithm due to Goldberg (SIAM J. Comput., 1995);(iii) We provide a general reduction-based framework for learning-based graph algorithms, leading to new algorithms for degree-constrained subgraph and minimum-cost 0-1 flow, based on reductions to bipartite matching and the shortest path problem.Finally, we give a set of general learnability theorems, showing that the predictions required by our algorithms can be efficiently learned in a PAC fashion.

Practical Almost-Linear-Time Approximation Algorithms for Hybrid and Overlapping Graph Clustering

Lorenzo Orecchia · Konstantinos Ameranis · Charalampos Tsourakakis · Kunal Talwar

Detecting communities in real-world networks and clustering similarity graphs are major data mining tasks with a wide range of applications in graph mining, collaborative filtering, and bioinformatics. In many such applications, overwhelming empirical evidence suggests that communities and clusters are naturally overlapping, i.e., the boundary of a cluster may contain both edges across clusters and nodes that are shared with other clusters, calling for novel hybrid graph partitioning algorithms (HGP). While almost-linear-time approximation algorithms are known for edge-boundary-based graph partitioning, little progress has been made on fast algorithms for HGP, even in the special case of vertex-boundary-based graph partitioning. In this work, we introduce a frame-work based on two novel clustering objectives, which naturally extend the well-studied notion of conductance to clusters with hybrid vertex-and edge-boundary structure. Our main algorithmic contributions are almost-linear-time algorithms O(log n)-approximation algorithms for both these objectives. To this end, we show that the cut-matching framework of (Khandekar et al., 2014) can be significantly extended to incorporate hybrid partitions. Crucially, we implement our approximation algorithm to produce both hybrid partitions and optimality certificates for large graphs, easily scaling to tens of millions of edges, and test our implementation on real-world datasets against other competitive baselines.

Fair and Fast k-Center Clustering for Data Summarization

Haris Angelidakis · Adam Kurpisz · Leon Sering · Rico Zenklusen

We consider two key issues faced by many clustering methods when used for data summarization, namely (a) an unfair representation of "demographic groups'' and (b) distorted summarizations, where data points in the summary represent subsets of the original data of vastly different sizes. Previous work made important steps towards handling separately each of these two issues in the context of the fundamental k-Center clustering objective through the study of fast algorithms for natural models that address them.We show that it is possible to effectively address both (a) and (b) simultaneously by presenting a clustering procedure that works for a canonical combined model and(i) is fast, both in theory and practice,(ii) exhibits a worst-case constant-factor guarantee, and (iii) gives promising computational results showing that there can be significant benefits in addressing both issues together instead of sequentially.

Online and Consistent Correlation Clustering

Vincent Cohen-Addad · Silvio Lattanzi · Andreas Maggiori · Nikos Parotsidis

In the correlation clustering problem the input is a signed graph where the sign indicates whether each pair of points should be placed in the same cluster or not. The goal of the problem is to compute a clustering which minimizes the number of disagreements with such recommendation. Thanks to its many practical applications, correlation clustering is a fundamental unsupervised learning problem and has been extensively studied in many different settings. In this paper we study the problem in the classic online setting with recourse; The vertices of the graphs arrive in an online manner and the goal is to maintain an approximate clustering while minimizing the number of times each vertex changes cluster. Our main contribution is an algorithm that achieves logarithmic recourse per vertex in the worst case. We also complement this result with a tight lower bound. Finally we show experimentally that our algorithm achieves better performances than state-of-the-art algorithms on real world data.

Generalized Leverage Scores: Geometric Interpretation and Applications

Bruno Ordozgoiti · Antonis Matakos · Aristides Gionis

In problems involving matrix computations, the concept of leverage has found a large number of applications. In particular, leverage scores, which relate the columns of a matrix to the subspaces spanned by its leading singular vectors, are helpful in revealing column subsets to approximately factorize a matrix with quality guarantees. As such, they provide a solid foundation for a variety of machine-learning methods. In this paper we extend the definition of leverage scores to relate the columns of a matrix to arbitrary subsets of singular vectors. We establish a precise connection between column and singular-vector subsets, by relating the concepts of leverage scores and principal angles between subspaces. We employ this result to design approximation algorithms with provable guarantees for two well-known problems: generalized column subset selection and sparse canonical correlation analysis. We run numerical experiments to provide further insight on the proposed methods. The novel bounds we derive improve our understanding of fundamental concepts in matrix approximations. In addition, our insights may serve as building blocks for further contributions.

Adapting k-means Algorithms for Outliers

Christoph Grunau · Vaclav Rozhon

This paper shows how to adapt several simple and classical sampling-based algorithms for the k-means problem to the setting with outliers. Recently, Bhaskara et al. (NeurIPS 2019) showed how to adapt the classical k-means++ algorithm to the setting with outliers. However, their algorithm needs to output O(log(k)·z) outliers, where z is the number of true outliers, to match the O(log k)-approximation guarantee of k-means++. In this paper, we build on their ideas and show how to adapt several sequential and distributed k-means algorithms to the setting with outliers, but with substantially stronger theoretical guarantees: our algorithms output (1 + ε)z outliers while achieving an O(1/ε)-approximation to the objective function. In the sequential world, we achieve this by adapting a recent algorithm of Lattanzi and Sohler (ICML 2019). In the distributed setting, we adapt a simple algorithm of Guha et al. (IEEE Trans. Know. and Data Engineering 2003) and the popular k-means‖ of Bahmani et al. (PVLDB2012). A theoretical application of our techniques is an algorithm with running time O(nk^2/z) that achieves an O(1)-approximation to the objective function while outputting O(z) outliers, assuming k << z << n. This is complemented with a matching lower bound of Ω(nk^2/z) for this problem in the oracle model.

Accelerated, Optimal and Parallel: Some results on model-based stochastic optimization

Karan Chadha · Gary Cheng · John Duchi

The Approximate-Proximal Point (APROX) family of model-based stochastic optimization algorithms improve over standard stochastic gradient methods, as they are robust to step size choices, adaptive to problem difficulty, converge on a broader range of problems than stochastic gradientmethods, and converge very fast on interpolation problems, all while retaining nice minibatching properties~\cite{AsiDu19siopt,AsiChChDu20}. In this paper, we propose an acceleration scheme for the APROX family and provide non-asymptotic convergence guarantees, which are order-optimal in all problem-dependent constants and provide even larger minibatching speedups. For interpolation problems where the objective satisfies additional growth conditions, we show that our algorithm achieves linear convergence rates for a wide range of stepsizes. In this setting, we also prove matching lower bounds, identifying new fundamental constants and showing the optimality of the APROX family. We corroborate our theoretical results with empirical testing to demonstrate the gains accurate modeling, acceleration, and minibatching provide.

Online Algorithms with Multiple Predictions

Keerti Anand · Rong Ge · Amit Kumar · Debmalya Panigrahi

This paper studies online algorithms augmented with {\em multiple} machine-learned predictions. We give a generic algorithmic framework for online covering problems with multiple predictions that obtains an online solution that is competitive against the performance of the {\em best} solution obtained from the predictions. Our algorithm incorporates the use of predictions in the classic potential-based analysis of online algorithms. We apply our algorithmic framework to solve classical problems such as online set cover, (weighted) caching, and online facility location in the multiple predictions setting.

Parsimonious Learning-Augmented Caching

Sungjin Im · Ravi Kumar · Aditya Petety · Manish Purohit

Learning-augmented algorithms---in which, traditional algorithms are augmented with machine-learned predictions---have emerged as a framework to go beyond worst-case analysis. The overarching goal is to design algorithms that perform near-optimally when the predictions are accurate yet retain certain worst-case guarantees irrespective of the accuracy of the predictions. This framework has been successfully applied to online problems such as caching where the predictions can be used to alleviate uncertainties. In this paper we introduce and study the setting in which the learning-augmented algorithm can utilize the predictions parsimoniously. We consider the caching problem---which has been extensively studied in the learning-augmented setting---and show that one can achieve quantitatively similar results but only using a \emph{sublinear} number of predictions.

RUMs from Head-to-Head Contests

Matteo Almanza · Flavio Chierichetti · Ravi Kumar · Alessandro Panconesi · Andrew Tomkins

Random utility models (RUMs) encode the likelihood that a particular item will be selected from a slate of competing items. RUMs are well-studied objects in both discrete choice theory and, more recently, in the machine learning community, as they encode a fairly broad notion of rational user behavior. In this paper, we focus on slates of size two representing head-to-head contests. Given a tournament matrix $M$ such that $M_{i,j}$ is the probability that item $j$ will be selected from $\{i, j\}$, we consider the problem of finding the RUM that most closely reproduces $M$. For this problem we obtain a polynomial-time algorithm returning a RUM that approximately minimizes the average error over the pairs.Our experiments show that RUMs can {\em perfectly} represent many of the tournament matrices that have been considered in the literature; in fact, the maximum average error induced by RUMs on the matrices we considered is negligible ($\approx 0.001$). We also show that RUMs are competitive, on prediction tasks, with previous approaches.

Quant-BnB: A Scalable Branch-and-Bound Method for Optimal Decision Trees with Continuous Features

Rahul Mazumder · Xiang Meng · Haoyue Wang

Decision trees are one of the most useful and popular methods in the machine learning toolbox. In this paper, we consider the problem of learning optimal decision trees, a combinatorial optimization problem that is challenging to solve at scale. A common approach in the literature is to use greedy heuristics, which may not be optimal. Recently there has been significant interest in learning optimal decision trees using various approaches (e.g., based on integer programming, dynamic programming)---to achieve computational scalability, most of these approaches focus on classification tasks with binary features. In this paper, we present a new discrete optimization method based on branch-and-bound (BnB) to obtain optimal decision trees. Different from existing customized approaches, we consider both regression and classification tasks with continuous features. The basic idea underlying our approach is to split the search space based on the quantiles of the feature distribution---leading to upper and lower bounds for the underlying optimization problem along the BnB iterations. Our proposed algorithm Quant-BnB shows significant speedups compared to existing approaches for shallow optimal trees on various real datasets.

Robustness in Multi-Objective Submodular Optimization: a Quantile Approach

Cedric Malherbe · Kevin Scaman

The optimization of multi-objective submodular systems appears in a wide variety of applications. However, there are currently very few techniques which are able to provide a robust allocation to such systems. In this work, we propose to design and analyse novel algorithms for the robust allocation of submodular systems through lens of quantile maximization. We start by observing that identifying an exact solution for this problem is computationally intractable. To tackle this issue, we propose a proxy for the quantile function using a softmax formulation, and show that this proxy is well suited to submodular optimization. Based on this relaxation, we propose a novel and simple algorithm called SOFTSAT. Theoretical properties are provided for this algorithm as well as novel approximation guarantees. Finally, we provide numerical experiments showing the efficiency of our algorithm with regards to state-of-the-art methods in a test bed of real-world applications, and show that SOFTSAT is particularly robust and well-suited to online scenarios.

Streaming Algorithm for Monotone k-Submodular Maximization with Cardinality Constraints

Alina Ene · Huy Nguyen

Maximizing a monotone k-submodular function subject to cardinality constraints is a general model for several applications ranging from influence maximization with multiple products to sensor placement with multiple sensor types and online ad allocation. Due to the large problem scale in many applications and the online nature of ad allocation, a need arises for algorithms that process elements in a streaming fashion and possibly make online decisions. In this work, we develop a new streaming algorithm for maximizing a monotone k-submodular function subject to a per-coordinate cardinality constraint attaining an approximation guarantee close to the state of the art guarantee in the offline setting. Though not typical for streaming algorithms, our streaming algorithm also readily applies to the online setting with free disposal. Our algorithm is combinatorial and enjoys fast running time and small number of function evaluations. Furthermore, its guarantee improves as the cardinality constraints get larger, which is especially suited for the large scale applications. For the special case of maximizing a submodular function with large budgets, our combinatorial algorithm matches the guarantee of the state-of-the-art continuous algorithm, which requires significantly more time and function evaluations.

Adaptive Accelerated (Extra-)Gradient Methods with Variance Reduction

Zijian Liu · Ta Duy Nguyen · Alina Ene · Huy Nguyen

In this paper, we study the finite-sum convex optimization problem focusing on the general convex case. Recently, the study of variance reduced (VR) methods and their accelerated variants has made exciting progress. However, the step size used in the existing VR algorithms typically depends on the smoothness parameter, which is often unknown and requires tuning in practice. To address this problem, we propose two novel adaptive VR algorithms: \textit{Adaptive Variance Reduced Accelerated Extra-Gradient} (AdaVRAE) and\textit{ Adaptive Variance Reduced Accelerated Gradient} (AdaVRAG). Our algorithms do not require knowledge of the smoothness parameter. AdaVRAE uses $\mathcal{O}\left(n\log\log n+\sqrt{\frac{n\beta}{\epsilon}}\right)$ and AdaVRAG uses $\mathcal{O}\left(n\log\log n+\sqrt{\frac{n\beta\log\beta}{\epsilon}}\right)$ gradient evaluations to attain an $\mathcal{O}(\epsilon)$-suboptimal solution, where $n$ is the number of functions in the finite sum and $\beta$ is the smoothness parameter. This result matches the best-known convergence rate of non-adaptive VR methods and it improves upon the convergence of the state of the art adaptive VR method, AdaSVRG. We demonstrate the superior performance of our algorithms comparedwith previous methods in experiments on real-world datasets.

Adaptive Second Order Coresets for Data-efficient Machine Learning

Omead Pooladzandi · David Davini · Baharan Mirzasoleiman

Training machine learning models on massive datasets incurs substantialcomputational costs. To alleviate such costs, there has been a sustained effort to develop data-efficient training methods that can carefully select subsets of the training examples that generalize on par with the full training data. However, existing methods are limited in providing theoretical guarantees for the quality of the models trained on the extracted subsets, and may perform poorly in practice. We propose AdaCore, a method that leverages the geometry of the data to extract subsets of the training examples for efficient machine learning. The key idea behind our method is to dynamically approximate the curvature of the loss function via an exponentially-averaged estimate of the Hessian to select weighted subsets (coresets) that provide a close approximation of the full gradient preconditioned with the Hessian. We prove rigorous guarantees for the convergence of various first and second-order methods applied to the subsets chosen by AdaCore. Our extensive experiments show that AdaCore extracts coresets with higher quality compared to baselines and speeds up training of convex and non-convex machine learning models, such as logistic regression and neural networks, by over 2.9x over the full data and 4.5x over random subsets.

Nesterov Accelerated Shuffling Gradient Method for Convex Optimization

Trang Tran · Katya Scheinberg · Lam Nguyen

In this paper, we propose Nesterov Accelerated Shuffling Gradient (NASG), a new algorithm for the convex finite-sum minimization problems. Our method integrates the traditional Nesterov's acceleration momentum with different shuffling sampling schemes. We show that our algorithm has an improved rate of $\Ocal(1/T)$ using unified shuffling schemes, where $T$ is the number of epochs. This rate is better than that of any other shuffling gradient methods in convex regime. Our convergence analysis does not require an assumption on bounded domain or a bounded gradient condition. For randomized shuffling schemes, we improve the convergence bound further. When employing some initial condition, we show that our method converges faster near the small neighborhood of the solution. Numerical simulations demonstrate the efficiency of our algorithm.

Efficient Low Rank Convex Bounds for Pairwise Discrete Graphical Models

Valentin Durante · George Katsirelos · Thomas Schiex

In this paper, we extend a Burer-Monteiro style method to compute low rank Semi-Definite Programming (SDP) bounds for the MAP problem on discrete graphical models with an arbitrary number of states and arbitrary pairwise potentials. We consider both a penalized constraint approach and a dedicated Block Coordinate Descent (BCD) approach which avoids large penalty coefficients in the cost matrix. We show our algorithm is decreasing. Experiments show that the BCD approach compares favorably to the penalized approach and to usual linear bounds relying on convergent message passing approaches.

Deletion Robust Submodular Maximization over Matroids

PAUL DUETTING · Federico Fusco · Silvio Lattanzi · Ashkan Norouzi-Fard · Morteza Zadimoghaddam

Maximizing a monotone submodular function is a fundamental task in machine learning. In this paper we study the deletion robust version of the problem under the classic matroids constraint. Here the goal is to extract a small size summary of the dataset that contains a high value independent set even after an adversary deleted some elements. We present constant-factor approximation algorithms, whose space complexity depends on the rank $k$ of the matroid and the number $d$ of deleted elements. In the centralized setting we present a $(3.582+O(\varepsilon))$-approximation algorithm with summary size $O(k + \frac{d}{\eps^2}\log \frac{k}{\eps})$. In the streaming setting we provide a $(5.582+O(\varepsilon))$-approximation algorithm with summary size and memory $O(k + \frac{d}{\eps^2}\log \frac{k}{\eps})$. We complement our theoretical results with an in-depth experimental analysis showing the effectiveness of our algorithms on real-world datasets.

The Combinatorial Brain Surgeon: Pruning Weights That Cancel One Another in Neural Networks

Xin Yu · Thiago Serra · Srikumar Ramalingam · Shandian Zhe

Neural networks tend to achieve better accuracy with training if they are larger — even if the resulting models are overparameterized. Nevertheless, carefully removing such excess of parameters before, during, or after training may also produce models with similar or even improved accuracy. In many cases, that can be curiously achieved by heuristics as simple as removing a percentage of the weights with the smallest absolute value — even though absolute value is not a perfect proxy for weight relevance. With the premise that obtaining significantly better performance from pruning depends on accounting for the combined effect of removing multiple weights, we revisit one of the classic approaches for impact-based pruning: the Optimal Brain Surgeon (OBS). We propose a tractable heuristic for solving the combinatorial extension of OBS, in which we select weights for simultaneous removal, and we combine it with a single-pass systematic update of unpruned weights. Our selection method outperforms other methods for high sparsity, and the single-pass weight update is also advantageous if applied after those methods.

Instance Dependent Regret Analysis of Kernelized Bandits

Shubhanshu Shekhar · Tara Javidi

We study the problem of designing an adaptive strategy for querying a noisy zeroth-order-oracle to efficiently learn about the optimizer of an unknown function $f$. To make the problem tractable, we assume that $f$ lies in the reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS) associated with a known kernel $K$, with its norm bounded by $M<\infty$. Prior results, working in a \emph{minimax framework}, have characterized the worst-case~(over all functions in the problem class) limits on regret achievable by \emph{any} algorithm, and have constructed algorithms with matching~(modulo polylogarithmic factors) worst-case performance for the Matern family of kernels. These results suffer from two drawbacks. First, the minimax lower bound gives limited information about the limits of regret achievable by commonly used algorithms on a specific problem instance $f$. Second, the existing upper bound analysis fails to adapt to easier problem instances within the function class. Our work takes steps to address both these issues. First, we derive \emph{instance-dependent} regret lower bounds for algorithms with uniformly~(over the function class) vanishing normalized cumulative regret. Our result, valid for several practically relevant kernelized bandits algorithms, such as, GP-UCB, GP-TS and SupKernelUCB, identifies a fundamental complexity measure associated with every problem instance. We then address the second issue, by proposing a new minimax near-optimal algorithm that also adapts to easier problem instances.

Proximal and Federated Random Reshuffling

Konstantin Mishchenko · Ahmed Khaled · Peter Richtarik

Random Reshuffling (RR), also known as Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) without replacement, is a popular and theoretically grounded method for finite-sum minimization. We propose two new algorithms: Proximal and Federated Random Reshuffling (ProxRR and FedRR). The first algorithm, ProxRR, solves composite finite-sum minimization problems in which the objective is the sum of a (potentially non-smooth) convex regularizer and an average of $n$ smooth objectives. ProxRR evaluates the proximal operator once per epoch only. When the proximal operator is expensive to compute, this small difference makes ProxRR up to $n$ times faster than algorithms that evaluate the proximal operator in every iteration, such as proximal (stochastic) gradient descent. We give examples of practical optimization tasks where the proximal operator is difficult to compute and ProxRR has a clear advantage. One such task is federated or distributed optimization, where the evaluation of the proximal operator corresponds to communication across the network. We obtain our second algorithm, FedRR, as a special case of ProxRR applied to federated optimization, and prove it has a smaller communication footprint than either distributed gradient descent or Local SGD. Our theory covers both constant and decreasing stepsizes, and allows for importance resampling schemes that can improve conditioning, which may be of independent interest. Our theory covers both convex and nonconvex regimes. Finally, we corroborate our results with experiments on real data sets.

Federated Learning with Partial Model Personalization

Krishna Pillutla · Kshitiz Malik · Abdel-rahman Mohamed · Michael Rabbat · Maziar Sanjabi · Lin Xiao

We consider two federated learning algorithms for training partially personalized models, where the shared and personal parameters are updated either simultaneously or alternately on the devices. Both algorithms have been proposed in the literature, but their convergence properties are not fully understood, especially for the alternating variant. We provide convergence analyses of both algorithms in the general nonconvex setting with partial participation and delineate the regime where one dominates the other. Our experiments on real-world image, text, and speech datasets demonstrate that (a) partial personalization can obtain most of the benefits of full model personalization with a small fraction of personal parameters, and, (b) the alternating update algorithm outperforms the simultaneous update algorithm by a small but consistent margin.

A Stochastic Multi-Rate Control Framework For Modeling Distributed Optimization Algorithms

xinwei zhang · Mingyi Hong · Sairaj Dhople · Nicola Elia

In modern machine learning systems, distributed algorithms are deployed across applications to ensure data privacy and optimal utilization of computational resources. This work offers a fresh perspective to model, analyze, and design distributed optimization algorithms through the lens of stochastic multi-rate feedback control. We show that a substantial class of distributed algorithms---including popular Gradient Tracking for decentralized learning, and FedPD and Scaffold for federated learning---can be modeled as a certain discrete-time stochastic feedback-control system, possibly with multiple sampling rates. This key observation allows us to develop a generic framework to analyze the convergence of the entire algorithm class. It also enables one to easily add desirable features such as differential privacy guarantees, or to deal with practical settings such as partial agent participation, communication compression, and imperfect communication in algorithm design and analysis.

Tackling Data Heterogeneity: A New Unified Framework for Decentralized SGD with Sample-induced Topology

Yan Huang · Ying Sun · Zehan Zhu · Changzhi Yan · Jinming Xu

We develop a general framework unifying several gradient-based stochastic optimization methods for empirical risk minimization problems both in centralized and distributed scenarios. The framework hinges on the introduction of an augmented graph consisting of nodes modeling the samples and edges modeling both the inter-device communication and intra-device stochastic gradient computation. By designing properly the topology of the augmented graph, we are able to recover as special cases the renowned Local-SGD and DSGD algorithms, and provide a unified perspective for variance-reduction (VR) and gradient-tracking (GT) methods such as SAGA, Local-SVRG and GT-SAGA. We also provide a unified convergence analysis for smooth and (strongly) convex objectives relying on a proper structured Lyapunov function, and the obtained rate can recover the best known results for many existing algorithms. The rate results further reveal that VR and GT methods can effectively eliminate data heterogeneity within and across devices, respectively, enabling the exact convergence of the algorithm to the optimal solution. Numerical experiments confirm the findings in this paper.

Iterative Double Sketching for Faster Least-Squares Optimization

Rui Wang · Yanyan Ouyang · Wangli Xu

This work is concerned with the overdetermined linear least-squares problem for large scale data. We generalize the iterative Hessian sketching (IHS) algorithm and propose a new sketching framework named iterative double sketching (IDS) which uses approximations for both the gradient and the Hessian in each iteration. To understand the behavior of the IDS algorithm and choose the optimal hyperparameters, we derive the exact limit of the conditional prediction error of the IDS algorithm in the setting of Gaussian sketching. Guided by this theoretical result, we propose an efficient IDS algorithm via a new class of sequentially related sketching matrices. We give a non-asymptotic analysis of this efficient IDS algorithm which shows that the proposed algorithm achieves the state-of-the-art trade-off between accuracy and efficiency.

Learning to Cut by Looking Ahead: Cutting Plane Selection via Imitation Learning

Max Paulus · Giulia Zarpellon · Andreas Krause · Laurent Charlin · Chris Maddison

Cutting planes are essential for solving mixed-integer linear problems (MILPs), because they facilitate bound improvements on the optimal solution value. For selecting cuts, modern solvers rely on manually designed heuristics that are tuned to gauge the potential effectiveness of cuts. We show that a greedy selection rule explicitly looking ahead to select cuts that yield the best bound improvement delivers strong decisions for cut selection -- but is too expensive to be deployed in practice. In response, we propose a new neural architecture (NeuralCut) for imitation learning on the lookahead expert. Our model outperforms standard baselines for cut selection on several synthetic MILP benchmarks. Experiments on a realistic B&C solver further validate our approach, and exhibit the potential of learning methods in this setting.

A Regret Minimization Approach to Multi-Agent Control

Udaya Ghai · Udari Madhuhshani · Naomi Leonard · Elad Hazan

We study the problem of multi-agent control of a dynamical system with known dynamics and adversarial disturbances. Our study focuses on optimal control without centralized precomputed policies, but rather with adaptive control policies for the different agents that are only equipped with a stabilizing controller. We give a reduction from any (standard) regret minimizing control method to a distributed algorithm. The reduction guarantees that the resulting distributed algorithm has low regret relative to the optimal precomputed joint policy. Our methodology involves generalizing online convex optimization to a multi-agent setting and applying recent tools from nonstochastic control derived for a single agent. We empirically evaluate our method on a model of an overactuated aircraft. We show that the distributed method is robust to failure and to adversarial perturbations in the dynamics.

Multi-slots Online Matching with High Entropy


Online matching with diversity and fairness pursuit, a common building block in the recommendation and advertising, can be modeled as constrained convex programming with high entropy. While most existing approaches are based on the ``single slot'' assumption (i.e., assigning one item per iteration), they cannot be directly applied to cases with multiple slots, e.g., stock-aware top-N recommendation and advertising at multiple places. Particularly, the gradient computation and resource allocation are both challenging under this setting due to the absence of a closed-form solution. To overcome these obstacles, we develop a novel algorithm named Online subGradient descent for Multi-slots Allocation (OG-MA). It uses an efficient pooling algorithm to compute closed-form of the gradient then performs a roulette swapping for allocation, yielding a sub-linear regret with linear cost per iteration. Extensive experiments on synthetic and industrial data sets demonstrate that OG-MA is a fast and promising method for multi-slots online matching.

Decision-Focused Learning: Through the Lens of Learning to Rank

Jayanta Mandi · Víctor Bucarey · Maxime Mulamba Ke Tchomba · Tias Guns

In the last years decision-focused learning framework, also known as predict-and-optimize, have received increasing attention. In this setting, the predictions of a machine learning model are used as estimated cost coefficients in the objective function of a discrete combinatorial optimization problem for decision making. Decision-focused learning proposes to train the ML models, often neural network models, by directly optimizing the quality of decisions made by the optimization solvers. Based on a recent work that proposed a noise contrastive estimation loss over a subset of the solution space, we observe that decision-focusedlearning can more generally be seen as a learning-to-rank problem, where the goal is to learn an objective function that ranks the feasible points correctly. This observation is independent of the optimization method used and of the form of the objective function. We develop pointwise, pairwise and listwise ranking loss functions, which can be differentiated in closed form given a subset of solutions. We empirically investigate the quality of our generic methods compared to existing decision-focused learning approaches with competitive results. Furthermore, controlling the subset of solutions allows controlling the runtime considerably, with limited effect on regret.

Lightweight Projective Derivative Codes for Compressed Asynchronous Gradient Descent

Pedro Soto · Ilia Ilmer · Haibin Guan · Jun Li

Coded distributed computation has become common practice for performing gradient descent on large datasets to mitigate stragglers and other faults. This paper proposes a novel algorithm that encodes the partial derivatives themselves and furthermore optimizes the codes by performing lossy compression on the derivative codewords by maximizing the information contained in the codewords while minimizing the information between the codewords. The utility of this application of coding theory is a geometrical consequence of the observed fact in optimization research that noise is tolerable, sometimes even helpful, in gradient descent based learning algorithms since it helps avoid overfitting and local minima. This stands in contrast with much current conventional work on distributed coded computation which focuses on recovering all of the data from the workers. A second further contribution is that the low-weight nature of the coding scheme allows for asynchronous gradient updates since the code can be iteratively decoded; i.e., a worker's task can immediately be updated into the larger gradient. The directional derivative is always a linear function of the direction vectors; thus, our framework is robust since it can apply linear coding techniques to general machine learning frameworks such as deep neural networks.

Compressed-VFL: Communication-Efficient Learning with Vertically Partitioned Data

Timothy Castiglia · Anirban Das · Shiqiang Wang · Stacy Patterson

We propose Compressed Vertical Federated Learning (C-VFL) for communication-efficient training on vertically partitioned data. In C-VFL, a server and multiple parties collaboratively train a model on their respective features utilizing several local iterations and sharing compressed intermediate results periodically. Our work provides the first theoretical analysis of the effect message compression has on distributed training over vertically partitioned data. We prove convergence of non-convex objectives at a rate of $O(\frac{1}{\sqrt{T}})$ when the compression error is bounded over the course of training. We provide specific requirements for convergence with common compression techniques, such as quantization and top-$k$ sparsification. Finally, we experimentally show compression can reduce communication by over $90\%$ without a significant decrease in accuracy over VFL without compression.

Least Squares Estimation using Sketched Data with Heteroskedastic Errors

Sokbae Lee · Serena Ng

Researchers may perform regressions using a sketch of data of size m instead of the full sample of size n for a variety of reasons. This paper considers the case when the regression errors do not have constant variance and heteroskedasticity robust standard errors would normally be needed for test statistics to provide accurate inference. We show that estimates using data sketched by random projections will behave 'as if' the errors were homoskedastic. Estimation by random sampling would not have this property. The result arises because the sketched estimates in the case of random projections can be expressed as degenerate U-statistics, and under certain conditions, these statistics are asymptotically normal with homoskedastic variance. We verify that the conditions hold not only in the case of least squares regression when the covariates are exogenous, but also in instrumental variables estimation when the covariates are endogenous. The result implies that inference can be simpler than the full sample case if the sketching scheme is appropriately chosen.

Debiaser Beware: Pitfalls of Centering Regularized Transport Maps

Aram-Alexandre Pooladian · Marco Cuturi · Jonathan Niles-Weed

Estimating optimal transport (OT) maps (a.k.a. Monge maps) between two measures P and Q is a problem fraught with computational and statistical challenges. A promising approach lies in using the dual potential functions obtained when solving an entropy-regularized OT problem between samples Pn and Qn, which can be used to recover an approximately optimal map. The negentropy penalization in that scheme introduces, however, an estimation bias that grows with the regularization strength. A well-known remedy to debias such estimates, which has gained wide popularity among practitioners of regularized OT, is to center them, by subtracting auxiliary problems involving Pn and itself, as well as Qn and itself. We do prove that, under favorable conditions on P and Q, debiasing can yield better approximations to the Monge map. However, and perhaps surprisingly, we present a few cases in which debiasing is provably detrimental in a statistical sense, notably when the regularization strength is large or the number of samples is small. These claims are validated experimentally on synthetic and real datasets, and should reopen the debate on whether debiasing is needed when using entropic OT.

Bregman Proximal Langevin Monte Carlo via Bregman--Moreau Envelopes

Tim Tsz-Kit Lau · Han Liu

We propose efficient Langevin Monte Carlo algorithms for sampling distributions with nonsmooth convex composite potentials, which is the sum of a continuously differentiable function and a possibly nonsmooth function. We devise such algorithms leveraging recent advances in convex analysis and optimization methods involving Bregman divergences, namely the Bregman--Moreau envelopes and the Bregman proximity operators, and in the Langevin Monte Carlo algorithms reminiscent of mirror descent. The proposed algorithms extend existing Langevin Monte Carlo algorithms in two aspects---the ability to sample nonsmooth distributions with mirror descent-like algorithms, and the use of the more general Bregman--Moreau envelope in place of the Moreau envelope as a smooth approximation of the nonsmooth part of the potential. A particular case of the proposed scheme is reminiscent of the Bregman proximal gradient algorithm. The efficiency of the proposed methodology is illustrated with various sampling tasks at which existing Langevin Monte Carlo methods are known to perform poorly.

Active Nearest Neighbor Regression Through Delaunay Refinement

Alexander Kravberg · Giovanni Luca Marchetti · Vladislav Polianskii · Anastasiia Varava · Florian T. Pokorny · Danica Kragic

We introduce an algorithm for active function approximation based on nearest neighbor regression. Our Active Nearest Neighbor Regressor (ANNR) relies on the Voronoi-Delaunay framework from computational geometry to subdivide the space into cells with constant estimated function value and select novel query points in a way that takes the geometry of the function graph into account. We consider the recent state-of-the-art active function approximator called DEFER, which is based on incremental rectangular partitioning of the space, as the main baseline. The ANNR addresses a number of limitations that arise from the space subdivision strategy used in DEFER. We provide a computationally efficient implementation of our method, as well as theoretical halting guarantees. Empirical results show that ANNR outperforms the baseline for both closed-form functions and real-world examples, such as gravitational wave parameter inference and exploration of the latent space of a generative model.

A Convergence Theory for SVGD in the Population Limit under Talagrand's Inequality T1

Adil Salim · Lukang Sun · Peter Richtarik

Stein Variational Gradient Descent (SVGD) is an algorithm for sampling from a target density which is known up to a multiplicative constant. Although SVGD is a popular algorithm in practice, its theoretical study is limited to a few recent works. We study the convergence of SVGD in the population limit, (i.e., with an infinite number of particles) to sample from a non-logconcave target distribution satisfying Talagrand's inequality T1. We first establish the convergence of the algorithm. Then, we establish a dimension-dependent complexity bound in terms of the Kernelized Stein Discrepancy (KSD). Unlike existing works, we do not assume that the KSD is bounded along the trajectory of the algorithm. Our approach relies on interpreting SVGD as a gradient descent over a space of probability measures.

ProgFed: Effective, Communication, and Computation Efficient Federated Learning by Progressive Training

Hui-Po Wang · Sebastian Stich · Yang He · Mario Fritz

Federated learning is a powerful distributed learning scheme that allows numerous edge devices to collaboratively train a model without sharing their data. However, training is resource-intensive for edge devices, and limited network bandwidth is often the main bottleneck. Prior work often overcomes the constraints by condensing the models or messages into compact formats, e.g., by gradient compression or distillation. In contrast, we propose ProgFed, the first progressive training framework for efficient and effective federated learning. It inherently reduces computation and two-way communication costs while maintaining the strong performance of the final models. We theoretically prove that ProgFed converges at the same asymptotic rate as standard training on full models. Extensive results on a broad range of architectures, including CNNs (VGG, ResNet, ConvNets) and U-nets, and diverse tasks from simple classification to medical image segmentation show that our highly effective training approach saves up to $20\%$ computation and up to $63\%$ communication costs for converged models. As our approach is also complimentary to prior work on compression, we can achieve a wide range of trade-offs by combining these techniques, showing reduced communication of up to $50\times$ at only $0.1\%$ loss in utility. Code is available at

Federated Learning with Label Distribution Skew via Logits Calibration

Jie Zhang · Zhiqi Li · Bo Li · Jianghe Xu · Shuang Wu · Shouhong Ding · Chao Wu

Traditional federated optimization methods perform poorly with heterogeneous data (i.e.\ , accuracy reduction), especially for highly skewed data. In this paper, we investigate the label distribution skew in FL, where the distribution of labels varies across clients. First, we investigate the label distribution skew from a statistical view. We demonstrate both theoretically and empirically that previous methods based on softmax cross-entropy are not suitable, which can result in local models heavily overfitting to minority classes and missing classes. Additionally, we theoretically introduce a deviation bound to measure the deviation of the gradient after local update. At last, we propose FedLC (\textbf{Fed}erated learning via \textbf{L}ogits \textbf{C}alibration), which calibrates the logits before softmax cross-entropy according to the probability of occurrence of each class. FedLC applies a fine-grained calibrated cross-entropy loss to local update by adding a pairwise label margin. Extensive experiments on federated datasets and real-world datasets demonstrate that FedLC leads to a more accurate global model and much improved performance. Furthermore, integrating other FL methods into our approach can further enhance the performance of the global model.

Adaptive Random Walk Gradient Descent for Decentralized Optimization

Tao Sun · Dongsheng Li · Bao Wang

In this paper, we study the adaptive step size random walk gradient descent with momentum for decentralized optimization, in which the training samples are drawn dependently with each other. We establish theoretical convergence rates of the adaptive step size random walk gradient descent with momentum for both convex and nonconvex settings. In particular, we prove that adaptive random walk algorithms perform as well as the non-adaptive method for dependent data in general cases but achieve acceleration when the stochastic gradients are “sparse”. Moreover, we study the zeroth-order version of adaptive random walk gradient descent and provide corresponding convergence results. All assumptions used in this paper are mild and general, making our results applicable to many machine learning problems.

POET: Training Neural Networks on Tiny Devices with Integrated Rematerialization and Paging

Shishir G. Patil · Paras Jain · Prabal Dutta · Ion Stoica · Joseph E Gonzalez

Fine-tuning models on edge devices like mobile phones would enable privacy-preserving personalization over sensitive data. However, edge training has historically been limited to relatively small models with simple architectures because training is both memory and energy intensive. We present POET, an algorithm to enable training large neural networks on memory-scarce battery-operated edge devices. POET jointly optimizes the integrated search search spaces of rematerialization and paging, two algorithms to reduce the memory consumption of backpropagation. Given a memory budget and a run-time constraint, we formulate a mixed-integer linear program (MILP) for energy-optimal training. Our approach enables training significantly larger models on embedded devices while reducing energy consumption while not modifying mathematical correctness of backpropagation. We demonstrate that it is possible to fine-tune both ResNet-18 and BERT within the memory constraints of a Cortex-M class embedded device while outperforming current edge training methods in energy efficiency. POET is an open-source project available at

Secure Distributed Training at Scale

Eduard Gorbunov · Alexander Borzunov · Michael Diskin · Max Ryabinin

Many areas of deep learning benefit from using increasingly larger neural networks trained on public data, as is the case for pre-trained models for NLP and computer vision. Training such models requires a lot of computational resources (e.g., HPC clusters) that are not available to small research groups and independent researchers. One way to address it is for several smaller groups to pool their computational resources together and train a model that benefits all participants. Unfortunately, in this case, any participant can jeopardize the entire training run by sending incorrect updates, deliberately or by mistake. Training in presence of such peers requires specialized distributed training algorithms with Byzantine tolerance. These algorithms often sacrifice efficiency by introducing redundant communication or passing all updates through a trusted server, making it infeasible to apply them to large-scale deep learning, where models can have billions of parameters. In this work, we propose a novel protocol for secure (Byzantine-tolerant) decentralized training that emphasizes communication efficiency.

ASAP.SGD: Instance-based Adaptiveness to Staleness in Asynchronous SGD

Karl Bäckström · Marina Papatriantafilou · Philippas Tsigas

Concurrent algorithmic implementations of Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) give rise to critical questions for compute-intensive Machine Learning (ML). Asynchrony implies speedup in some contexts, and challenges in others, as stale updates may lead to slower, or non-converging executions. While previous works showed asynchrony-adaptiveness can improve stability and speedup by reducing the step size for stale updates according to static rules, there is no one-size-fits-all adaptation rule, since the optimal strategy depends on several factors. We introduce (i)~$\mathtt{ASAP.SGD}$, an analytical framework capturing necessary and desired properties of staleness-adaptive step size functions and (ii)~\textsc{tail}-$\tau$, a method for utilizing key properties of the \emph{execution instance}, generating a tailored strategy that not only dampens the impact of stale updates, but also leverages fresh ones. We recover convergence bounds for adaptiveness functions satisfying the $\mathtt{ASAP.SGD}$ conditions for general, convex and non-convex problems, and establish novel bounds for ones satisfying the Polyak-Lojasiewicz property. We evaluate \textsc{tail}-$\tau$ with representative \emph{AsyncSGD} concurrent algorithms, for Deep Learning problems, showing \textsc{tail}-$\tau$ is a vital complement to \emph{AsyncSGD}, with (i)~persistent speedup in wall-clock convergence time in the parallelism spectrum, (ii)~considerably lower risk of non-convergence, as well as (iii)~precision levels for which original SGD implementations fail.

Anarchic Federated Learning

Haibo Yang · Xin Zhang · Prashant Khanduri · Jia Liu

Present-day federated learning (FL) systems deployed over edge networks consists of a large number of workers with high degrees of heterogeneity in data and/or computing capabilities, which call for flexible worker participation in terms of timing, effort, data heterogeneity, etc. To satisfy the need for flexible worker participation, we consider a new FL paradigm called ``Anarchic Federated Learning'' (AFL) in this paper. In stark contrast to conventional FL models, each worker in AFL has the freedom to choose i) when to participate in FL, and ii) the number of local steps to perform in each round based on its current situation (e.g., battery level, communication channels, privacy concerns). However, such chaotic worker behaviors in AFL impose many new open questions in algorithm design. In particular, it remains unclear whether one could develop convergent AFL training algorithms, and if yes, under what conditions and how fast the achievable convergence speed is. Toward this end, we propose two Anarchic Federated Averaging (AFA) algorithms with two-sided learning rates for both cross-device and cross-silo settings, which are named AFA-CD and AFA-CS, respectively. Somewhat surprisingly, we show that, under mild anarchic assumptions, both AFL algorithms achieve the best known convergence rate as the state-of-the-art algorithms for conventional FL. Moreover, they retain the highly desirable {\em linear speedup effect} with respect of both the number of workers and local steps in the new AFL paradigm. We validate the proposed algorithms with extensive experiments on real-world datasets.

Virtual Homogeneity Learning: Defending against Data Heterogeneity in Federated Learning

Zhenheng Tang · Yonggang Zhang · Shaohuai Shi · Xin He · Bo Han · Xiaowen Chu

In federated learning (FL), model performance typically suffers from client drift induced by data heterogeneity, and mainstream works focus on correcting client drift. We propose a different approach named virtual homogeneity learning (VHL) to directly ``rectify'' the data heterogeneity. In particular, VHL conducts FL with a virtual homogeneous dataset crafted to satisfy two conditions: containing \emph{no} private information and being separable. The virtual dataset can be generated from pure noise shared across clients, aiming to calibrate the features from the heterogeneous clients. Theoretically, we prove that VHL can achieve provable generalization performance on the natural distribution. Empirically, we demonstrate that VHL endows FL with drastically improved convergence speed and generalization performance. VHL is the first attempt towards using a virtual dataset to address data heterogeneity, offering new and effective means to FL.

Global Optimization Networks

Sen Zhao · Erez Louidor · Maya Gupta

We consider the problem of estimating a good maximizer of a black-box function given noisy examples. We propose to fit a new type of function called a global optimization network (GON), defined as any composition of an invertible function and a unimodal function, whose unique global maximizer can be inferred in $\mathcal{O}(D)$ time, and used as the estimate. As an example way to construct GON functions, and interesting in its own right, we give new results for specifying multi-dimensional unimodal functions using lattice models with linear inequality constraints. We extend to \emph{conditional} GONs that find a global maximizer conditioned on specified inputs of other dimensions. Experiments show the GON maximizers are statistically significantly better predictions than those produced by convex fits, GPR, or DNNs, and form more reasonable predictions for real-world problems.

Generalized Federated Learning via Sharpness Aware Minimization

Zhe Qu · Xingyu Li · Rui Duan · Yao Liu · Bo Tang · Zhuo Lu

Federated Learning (FL) is a promising framework for performing privacy-preserving, distributed learning with a set of clients. However, the data distribution among clients often exhibits non-IID, i.e., distribution shift, which makes efficient optimization difficult. To tackle this problem, many FL algorithms focus on mitigating the effects of data heterogeneity across clients by increasing the performance of the global model. However, almost all algorithms leverage Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) to be the local optimizer, which is easy to make the global model fall into a sharp valley and increase a large deviation of parts of local clients. Therefore, in this paper, we revisit the solutions to the distribution shift problem in FL with a focus on local learning generality. To this end, we propose a general, effective algorithm, \texttt{FedSAM}, based on Sharpness Aware Minimization (SAM) local optimizer, and develop a momentum FL algorithm to bridge local and global models, \texttt{MoFedSAM}. Theoretically, we show the convergence analysis of these two algorithms and demonstrate the generalization bound of \texttt{FedSAM}. Empirically, our proposed algorithms substantially outperform existing FL studies and significantly decrease the learning deviation.

Delay-Adaptive Step-sizes for Asynchronous Learning

Xuyang Wu · Sindri Magnusson · Hamid Reza Feyzmahdavian · Mikael Johansson

In scalable machine learning systems, model training is often parallelized over multiple nodes that run without tight synchronization. Most analysis results for the related asynchronous algorithms use an upper bound on the information delays in the system to determine learning rates. Not only are such bounds hard to obtain in advance, but they also result in unnecessarily slow convergence. In this paper, we show that it is possible to use learning rates that depend on the actual time-varying delays in the system. We develop general convergence results for delay-adaptive asynchronous iterations and specialize these to proximal incremental gradient descent and block coordinate descent algorithms. For each of these methods, we demonstrate how delays can be measured on-line, present delay-adaptive step-size policies, and illustrate their theoretical and practical advantages over the state-of-the-art.

FedScale: Benchmarking Model and System Performance of Federated Learning at Scale

Fan Lai · Yinwei Dai · Sanjay Singapuram · Jiachen Liu · Xiangfeng Zhu · Harsha Madhyastha · Mosharaf Chowdhury

We present FedScale, a federated learning (FL) benchmarking suite with realistic datasets and a scalable runtime to enable reproducible FL research. FedScale datasets encompass a wide range of critical FL tasks, ranging from image classification and object detection to language modeling and speech recognition. Each dataset comes with a unified evaluation protocol using real-world data splits and evaluation metrics. To reproduce realistic FL behavior, FedScale contains a scalable and extensible runtime. It provides high-level APIs to implement FL algorithms, deploy them at scale across diverse hardware and software backends, and evaluate them at scale, all with minimal developer efforts. We combine the two to perform systematic benchmarking experiments and highlight potential opportunities for heterogeneity-aware co-optimizations in FL. FedScale is open-source and actively maintained by contributors from different institutions at We welcome feedback and contributions from the community.

Learning Augmented Binary Search Trees

Honghao Lin · Tian Luo · David Woodruff

A treap is a classic randomized binary search tree data structure that is easy to implement and supports O(log n) expected time access. However, classic treaps do not take advantage of the input distribution or patterns in the input. Given recent advances in algorithms with predictions, we propose pairing treaps with machine advice to form a learning-augmented treap. We are the first to propose a learning-augmented data structure that supports binary search tree operations such as range-query and successor functionalities. With the assumption that we have access to advice from a frequency estimation oracle, we assign learned priorities to the nodes to better improve the treap's structure. We theoretically analyze the learning-augmented treap's performance under various input distributions and show that under those circumstances, our learning-augmented treap has stronger guarantees than classic treaps and other classic tree-based data structures. Further, we experimentally evaluate our learned treap on synthetic datasets and demonstrate a performance advantage over other search tree data structures. We also present experiments on real world datasets with known frequency estimation oracles and show improvements as well.

Communication-efficient Distributed Learning for Large Batch Optimization

Rui Liu · Barzan Mozafari

Many communication-efficient methods have been proposed for distributed learning, whereby gradient compression is used to reduce the communication cost. However, given recent advances in large batch optimization (e.g., large batch SGD and its variant LARS with layerwise adaptive learning rates), the compute power of each machine is being fully utilized. This means, in modern distributed learning, the per-machine computation cost is no longer negligible compared to the communication cost. In this paper, we propose new gradient compression methods for large batch optimization, JointSpar and its variant JointSpar-LARS with layerwise adaptive learning rates, that jointly reduce both the computation and the communication cost. To achieve this, we take advantage of the redundancy in the gradient computation, unlike the existing methods compute all coordinates of the gradient vector, even if some coordinates are later dropped for communication efficiency. JointSpar and its variant further reduce the training time by avoiding the wasted computation on dropped coordinates. While computationally more efficient, we prove that JointSpar and its variant also maintain the same convergence rates as their respective baseline methods. Extensive experiments show that, by reducing the time per iteration, our methods converge faster than state-of-the-art compression methods in terms of wall-clock time.

Born-Infeld (BI) for AI: Energy-Conserving Descent (ECD) for Optimization

Giuseppe Bruno De Luca · Eva Silverstein

We introduce a novel framework for optimization based on energy-conserving Hamiltonian dynamics in a strongly mixing (chaotic) regime and establish its key properties analytically and numerically. The prototype is a discretization of Born-Infeld dynamics, with a squared relativistic speed limit depending on the objective function. This class of frictionless, energy-conserving optimizers proceeds unobstructed until slowing naturally near the minimal loss, which dominates the phase space volume of the system. Building from studies of chaotic systems such as dynamical billiards, we formulate a specific algorithm with good performance on machine learning and PDE-solving tasks, including generalization. It cannot stop at a high local minimum, an advantage in non-convex loss functions, and proceeds faster than GD+momentum in shallow valleys.

A Simple Guard for Learned Optimizers

Isabeau Prémont-Schwarz · Jaroslav Vítků · Jan Feyereisl

If the trend of learned components eventually outperforming their hand-crafted version continues, learned optimizers will eventually outperform hand-crafted optimizers like SGD or Adam. Even if learned optimizers (L2Os) eventually outpace hand-crafted ones in practice however, they are still not provably convergent and might fail out of distribution. These are the questions addressed here. Currently, learned optimizers frequently outperform generic hand-crafted optimizers (such as gradient descent) at the beginning of learning but they generally plateau after some time while the generic algorithms continue to make progress and often overtake the learned algorithm as Aesop’s tortoise which overtakes the hare. L2Os also still have a difficult time generalizing out of distribution. \cite{heatonsafeguarded2020} proposed Safeguarded L2O (GL2O) which can take a learned optimizer and safeguard it with a generic learning algorithm so that by conditionally switching between the two, the resulting algorithm is provably convergent. We propose a new class of Safeguarded L2O, called Loss-Guarded L2O (LGL2O), which is both conceptually simpler and computationally less expensive. The guarding mechanism decides solely based on the expected future loss value of both optimizers. Furthermore, we show theoretical proof of LGL2O's convergence guarantee and empirical results comparing to GL2O and other baselines showing that it combines the best of both L2O and SGD and that in practice converges much better than GL2O.

An Exact Symbolic Reduction of Linear Smart Predict+Optimize to Mixed Integer Linear Programming

Jihwan Jeong · Parth Jaggi · Andrew Butler · Scott Sanner

Predictive models are traditionally optimized independently of their use in downstream decision-based optimization. The `smart, predict then optimize' (SPO) framework addresses this shortcoming by optimizing predictive models in order to \emph{minimize} the final downstream decision loss. To date, several local first-order methods and convex approximations have been proposed. These methods have proven to be effective in practice, however, it remains generally unclear as to how close these local solutions are to global optimality. In this paper, we cast the SPO problem as a bi-level program and apply Symbolic Variable Elimination (SVE) to analytically solve the lower optimization. The resulting program can then be formulated as a mixed-integer linear program (MILP) which is solved to global optimality using standard off-the-shelf solvers. To our knowledge, our framework is the first to provide a globally optimal solution to the linear SPO problem. Experimental results comparing with state-of-the-art local SPO solvers show that the globally optimal solution obtains up to \emph{two orders of magnitude reduction} in decision regret.

Multi-Level Branched Regularization for Federated Learning

Jinkyu Kim · Geeho Kim · Bohyung Han

A critical challenge of federated learning is data heterogeneity and imbalance across clients, which leads to inconsistency between local networks and unstable convergence of global models.To alleviate the limitations, we propose a novel architectural regularization technique that constructs multiple auxiliary branches in each local model by grafting local and global subnetworks at several different levels and that learns the representations of the main pathway in the local model congruent to the auxiliary hybrid pathways via online knowledge distillation.The proposed technique is effective to robustify the global model even in the non-iid setting and is applicable to various federated learning frameworks conveniently without incurring extra communication costs. We perform comprehensive empirical studies and demonstrate remarkable performance gains in terms of accuracy and efficiency compared to existing methods.The source code is available at our project page.

Gaussian Process Uniform Error Bounds with Unknown Hyperparameters for Safety-Critical Applications

Alexandre Capone · Armin Lederer · Sandra Hirche

Gaussian processes have become a promising tool for various safety-critical settings, since the posterior variance can be used to directly estimate the model error and quantify risk. However, state-of-the-art techniques for safety-critical settings hinge on the assumption that the kernel hyperparameters are known, which does not apply in general. To mitigate this, we introduce robust Gaussian process uniform error bounds in settings with unknown hyperparameters. Our approach computes a confidence region in the space of hyperparameters, which enables us to obtain a probabilistic upper bound for the model error of a Gaussian process with arbitrary hyperparameters. We do not require to know any bounds for the hyperparameters a priori, which is an assumption commonly found in related work. Instead, we are able to derive bounds from data in an intuitive fashion. We additionally employ the proposed technique to derive performance guarantees for a class of learning-based control problems. Experiments show that the bound performs significantly better than vanilla and fully Bayesian Gaussian processes.

Input Dependent Sparse Gaussian Processes

Bahram Jafrasteh · Carlos Villacampa-Calvo · Daniel Hernandez-Lobato

Gaussian Processes (GPs) are non-parametric models that provide accurate uncertainty estimates. Nevertheless, they have a cubic cost in the number of data instances $N$. To overcome this, sparse GP approximations are used, in which a set of $M \ll N$ inducing points is introduced. The location of the inducing points is learned by considering them parameters of an approximate posterior distribution $q$. Sparse GPs, combined with stochastic variational inference for inferring $q$ have a cost per iteration in $\mathcal{O}(M^3)$. Critically, the inducing points determine the flexibility of the model and they are often located in regions where the latent function changes. A limitation is, however, that in some tasks a large number of inducing points may be required to obtain good results. To alleviate this, we propose here to amortize the computation of the inducing points locations, as well as the parameters of $q$. For this, we use a neural network that receives a data instance as an input and outputs the corresponding inducing points locations and the parameters of $q$. We evaluate our method in several experiments, showing that it performs similar or better than other state-of-the-art sparse variational GPs. However, in our method the number of inducing points is reduced drastically since they depend on the input data. This makes our method scale to larger datasets and have faster training and prediction times.

AutoIP: A United Framework to Integrate Physics into Gaussian Processes

Da Long · Zheng Wang · Aditi Krishnapriyan · Robert Kirby · Shandian Zhe · Michael Mahoney

Physical modeling is critical for many modern science and engineering applications. From a data science or machine learning perspective, where more domain-agnostic, data-driven models are pervasive, physical knowledge — often expressed as differential equations — is valuable in that it is complementary to data, and it can potentially help overcome issues such as data sparsity, noise, and inaccuracy. In this work, we propose a simple, yet powerful and general framework — AutoIP, for Automatically Incorporating Physics — that can integrate all kinds of differential equations into Gaussian Processes (GPs) to enhance prediction accuracy and uncertainty quantification. These equations can be linear or nonlinear, spatial, temporal, or spatio-temporal, complete or incomplete with unknown source terms, and so on. Based on kernel differentiation, we construct a GP prior to sample the values of the target function, equation related derivatives, and latent source functions, which are all jointly from a multivariate Gaussian distribution. The sampled values are fed to two likelihoods: one to fit the observations, and the other to conform to the equation. We use the whitening method to evade the strong dependency between the sampled function values and kernel parameters, and we develop a stochastic variational learning algorithm. AutoIP shows improvement upon vanilla GPs in both simulation and several real-world applications, even using rough, incomplete equations.

Stochastic Deep Networks with Linear Competing Units for Model-Agnostic Meta-Learning

Konstantinos Kalais · Sotirios Chatzis

This work addresses meta-learning (ML) by considering deep networks with stochastic local winner-takes-all (LWTA) activations. This type of network units results in sparse representations from each model layer, as the units are organized into blocks where only one unit generates a non-zero output. The main operating principle of the introduced units rely on stochastic principles, as the network performs posterior sampling over competing units to select the winner. Therefore, the proposed networks are explicitly designed to extract input data representations of sparse stochastic nature, as opposed to the currently standard deterministic representation paradigm. Our approach produces state-of-the-art predictive accuracy on few-shot image classification and regression experiments, as well as reduced predictive error on an active learning setting; these improvements come with an immensely reduced computational cost. Code is available at:

Nonparametric Factor Trajectory Learning for Dynamic Tensor Decomposition

Zheng Wang · Shandian Zhe

Tensor decomposition is a fundamental framework to analyze data that can be represented by multi-dimensional arrays. In practice, tensor data are often accompanied with temporal information, namely the time points when the entry values were generated. This information implies abundant, complex temporal variation patterns. However, current methods always assume the factor representations of the entities in each tensor mode are static, and never consider their temporal evolution. To fill this gap, we propose NONparametric FActor Trajectory learning for dynamic tensor decomposition (NONFAT). We place Gaussian process (GP) priors in the frequency domain and conduct inverse Fourier transform via Gauss-Laguerre quadrature to sample the trajectory functions. In this way, we can overcome data sparsity and obtain robust trajectory estimates across long time horizons. Given the trajectory values at specific time points, we use a second-level GP to sample the entry values and to capture the temporal relationship between the entities. For efficient and scalable inference, we leverage the matrix Gaussian structure in the model, introduce a matrix Gaussian posterior, and develop a nested sparse variational learning algorithm. We have shown the advantage of our method in several real-world applications.

Nonparametric Embeddings of Sparse High-Order Interaction Events

Zheng Wang · Yiming Xu · Conor Tillinghast · Shibo Li · Akil Narayan · Shandian Zhe

High-order interaction events are common in real-world applications. Learning embeddings that encode the complex relationships of the participants from these events is of great importance in knowledge mining and predictive tasks. Despite the success of existing approaches, e.g. Poisson tensor factorization, they ignore the sparse structure underlying the data, namely the occurred interactions are far less than the possible interactions among all the participants. In this paper, we propose Nonparametric Embeddings of Sparse High-order interaction events (NESH). We hybridize a sparse hypergraph (tensor) process and a matrix Gaussian process to capture both the asymptotic structural sparsity within the interactions and nonlinear temporal relationships between the participants. We prove strong asymptotic bounds (including both a lower and an upper bound ) of the sparse ratio, which reveals the asymptotic properties of the sampled structure. We use batch-normalization, stick-breaking construction and sparse variational GP approximations to develop an efficient, scalable model inference algorithm. We demonstrate the advantage of our approach in several real-world applications.

Adapting the Linearised Laplace Model Evidence for Modern Deep Learning

Javier Antorán · David Janz · James Allingham · Erik Daxberger · Riccardo Barbano · Eric Nalisnick · Jose Miguel Hernandez-Lobato

The linearised Laplace method for estimating model uncertainty has received renewed attention in the Bayesian deep learning community. The method provides reliable error bars and admits a closed-form expression for the model evidence, allowing for scalable selection of model hyperparameters. In this work, we examine the assumptions behind this method, particularly in conjunction with model selection.We show that these interact poorly with some now-standard tools of deep learning--stochastic approximation methods and normalisation layers--and make recommendations for how to better adapt this classic method to the modern setting.We provide theoretical support for our recommendations and validate them empirically on MLPs, classic CNNs, residual networks with and without normalisation layers, generative autoencoders and transformers.

NOMU: Neural Optimization-based Model Uncertainty

Jakob Heiss · Jakob Weissteiner · Hanna Wutte · Sven Seuken · Josef Teichmann

We study methods for estimating model uncertainty for neural networks (NNs) in regression. To isolate the effect of model uncertainty, we focus on a noiseless setting with scarce training data. We introduce five important desiderata regarding model uncertainty that any method should satisfy. However, we find that established benchmarks often fail to reliably capture some of these desiderata, even those that are required by Bayesian theory. To address this, we introduce a new approach for capturing model uncertainty for NNs, which we call Neural Optimization-based Model Uncertainty (NOMU). The main idea of NOMU is to design a network architecture consisting of two connected sub-NNs, one for model prediction and one for model uncertainty, and to train it using a carefully-designed loss function. Importantly, our design enforces that NOMU satisfies our five desiderata. Due to its modular architecture, NOMU can provide model uncertainty for any given (previously trained) NN if given access to its training data. We evaluate NOMU in various regressions tasks and noiseless Bayesian optimization (BO) with costly evaluations. In regression, NOMU performs at least as well as state-of-the-art methods. In BO, NOMU even outperforms all considered benchmarks.

Outstanding Paper
Bayesian Model Selection, the Marginal Likelihood, and Generalization

Sanae Lotfi · Pavel Izmailov · Gregory Benton · Micah Goldblum · Andrew Wilson

How do we compare between hypotheses that are entirely consistent with observations? The marginal likelihood (aka Bayesian evidence), which represents the probability of generating our observations from a prior, provides a distinctive approach to this foundational question, automatically encoding Occam's razor. Although it has been observed that the marginal likelihood can overfit and is sensitive to prior assumptions, its limitations for hyperparameter learning and discrete model comparison have not been thoroughly investigated. We first revisit the appealing properties of the marginal likelihood for learning constraints and hypothesis testing. We then highlight the conceptual and practical issues in using the marginal likelihood as a proxy for generalization. Namely, we show how marginal likelihood can be negatively correlated with generalization, with implications for neural architecture search, and can lead to both underfitting and overfitting in hyperparameter learning. We provide a partial remedy through a conditional marginal likelihood, which we show is more aligned with generalization, and practically valuable for large-scale hyperparameter learning, such as in deep kernel learning.

Revisiting the Effects of Stochasticity for Hamiltonian Samplers

Giulio Franzese · Dimitrios Milios · Maurizio Filippone · Pietro Michiardi

We revisit the theoretical properties of Hamiltonian stochastic differential equations (SDES) for Bayesian posterior sampling, and we study the two types of errors that arise from numerical SDE simulation: the discretization error and the error due to noisy gradient estimates in the context of data subsampling. Our main result is a novel analysis for the effect of mini-batches through the lens of differential operator splitting, revising previous literature results. The stochastic component of a Hamiltonian SDE is decoupled from the gradient noise, for which we make no normality assumptions.This leads to the identification of a convergence bottleneck: when considering mini-batches, the best achievable error rate is $\mathcal{O}(\eta^2)$, with $\eta$ being the integrator step size.Our theoretical results are supported by an empirical study on a variety of regression and classification tasks for Bayesian neural networks.

Scaling Structured Inference with Randomization

Yao Fu · John Cunningham · Mirella Lapata

Deep discrete structured models have seen considerable progress recently, but traditional inference using dynamic programming (DP) typically works with a small number of states (less than hundreds), which severely limits model capacity. At the same time, across machine learning, there is a recent trend of using randomized truncation techniques to accelerate computations involving large sums. Here, we propose a family of randomized dynamic programming (RDP) algorithms for scaling structured models to tens of thousands of latent states. Our method is widely applicable to classical DP-based inference (partition, marginal, reparameterization, entropy) and different graph structures (chains, trees, and more general hypergraphs). It is also compatible with automatic differentiation: it can be integrated with neural networks seamlessly and learned with gradient-based optimizers. Our core technique approximates the sum-product by restricting and reweighting DP on a small subset of nodes, which reduces computation by orders of magnitude. We further achieve low bias and variance via Rao-Blackwellization and importance sampling. Experiments over different graphs demonstrate the accuracy and efficiency of our approach. Furthermore, when using RDP for training a structured variational autoencoder with a scaled inference network, we achieve better test likelihood than baselines and successfully prevent posterior collapse.

Discrete Tree Flows via Tree-Structured Permutations

Mai Elkady · Jim Lim · David I. Inouye

While normalizing flows for continuous data have been extensively researched, flows for discrete data have only recently been explored. These prior models, however, suffer from limitations that are distinct from those of continuous flows. Most notably, discrete flow-based models cannot be straightforwardly optimized with conventional deep learning methods because gradients of discrete functions are undefined or zero. Previous works approximate pseudo-gradients of the discrete functions but do not solve the problem on a fundamental level. In addition to that, backpropagation can be computationally burdensome compared to alternative discrete algorithms such as decision tree algorithms. Our approach seeks to reduce computational burden and remove the need for pseudo-gradients by developing a discrete flow based on decision trees---building upon the success of efficient tree-based methods for classification and regression for discrete data. We first define a tree-structured permutation (TSP) that compactly encodes a permutation of discrete data where the inverse is easy to compute; thus, we can efficiently compute the density value and sample new data. We then propose a decision tree algorithm to build TSPs that learns the tree structure and permutations at each node via novel criteria. We empirically demonstrate the feasibility of our method on multiple datasets.

Calibrated and Sharp Uncertainties in Deep Learning via Density Estimation

Volodymyr Kuleshov · Shachi Deshpande

Accurate probabilistic predictions can be characterized by two properties—calibration and sharpness. However, standard maximum likelihood training yields models that are poorly calibrated and thus inaccurate—a 90% confidence interval typically does not contain the true outcome 90% of the time. This paper argues that calibration is important in practice and is easy to maintain by performing low-dimensional density estimation. We introduce a simple training procedure based on recalibration that yields calibrated models without sacrificing overall performance; unlike previous approaches, ours ensures the most general property of distribution calibration and applies to any model, including neural networks. We formally prove the correctness of our procedure assuming that we can estimate densities in low dimensions and we establish uniform convergence bounds. Our results yield empirical performance improvements on linear and deep Bayesian models and suggest that calibration should be increasingly leveraged across machine learning.

Outstanding Paper
The Importance of Non-Markovianity in Maximum State Entropy Exploration

Mirco Mutti · Riccardo De Santi · Marcello Restelli

In the maximum state entropy exploration framework, an agent interacts with a reward-free environment to learn a policy that maximizes the entropy of the expected state visitations it is inducing. Hazan et al. (2019) noted that the class of Markovian stochastic policies is sufficient for the maximum state entropy objective, and exploiting non-Markovianity is generally considered pointless in this setting. In this paper, we argue that non-Markovianity is instead paramount for maximum state entropy exploration in a finite-sample regime. Especially, we recast the objective to target the expected entropy of the induced state visitations in a single trial. Then, we show that the class of non-Markovian deterministic policies is sufficient for the introduced objective, while Markovian policies suffer non-zero regret in general. However, we prove that the problem of finding an optimal non-Markovian policy is NP-hard. Despite this negative result, we discuss avenues to address the problem in a tractable way and how non-Markovian exploration could benefit the sample efficiency of online reinforcement learning in future works.

Continuous Control with Action Quantization from Demonstrations

Robert Dadashi · Léonard Hussenot · Damien Vincent · Sertan Girgin · Anton Raichuk · Matthieu Geist · Olivier Pietquin

In this paper, we propose a novel Reinforcement Learning (RL) framework for problems with continuous action spaces: Action Quantization from Demonstrations (AQuaDem). The proposed approach consists in learning a discretization of continuous action spaces from human demonstrations. This discretization returns a set of plausible actions (in light of the demonstrations) for each input state, thus capturing the priors of the demonstrator and their multimodal behavior. By discretizing the action space, any discrete action deep RL technique can be readily applied to the continuous control problem. Experiments show that the proposed approach outperforms state-of-the-art methods such as SAC in the RL setup, and GAIL in the Imitation Learning setup. We provide a website with interactive videos: and make the code available:

Plan Your Target and Learn Your Skills: Transferable State-Only Imitation Learning via Decoupled Policy Optimization

Minghuan Liu · Zhengbang Zhu · Yuzheng Zhuang · Weinan Zhang · Jianye Hao · Yong Yu · Jun Wang

Recent progress in state-only imitation learning extends the scope of applicability of imitation learning to real-world settings by relieving the need for observing expert actions.However, existing solutions only learn to extract a state-to-action mapping policy from the data, without considering how the expert plans to the target. This hinders the ability to leverage demonstrations and limits the flexibility of the policy.In this paper, we introduce Decoupled Policy Optimization (DePO), which explicitly decouples the policy as a high-level state planner and an inverse dynamics model. With embedded decoupled policy gradient and generative adversarial training, DePO enables knowledge transfer to different action spaces or state transition dynamics, and can generalize the planner to out-of-demonstration state regions.Our in-depth experimental analysis shows the effectiveness of DePO on learning a generalized target state planner while achieving the best imitation performance. We demonstrate the appealing usage of DePO for transferring across different tasks by pre-training, and the potential for co-training agents with various skills.

Inverse Contextual Bandits: Learning How Behavior Evolves over Time

Alihan Hüyük · Daniel Jarrett · Mihaela van der Schaar

Understanding a decision-maker's priorities by observing their behavior is critical for transparency and accountability in decision processes—such as in healthcare. Though conventional approaches to policy learning almost invariably assume stationarity in behavior, this is hardly true in practice: Medical practice is constantly evolving as clinical professionals fine-tune their knowledge over time. For instance, as the medical community's understanding of organ transplantations has progressed over the years, a pertinent question is: How have actual organ allocation policies been evolving? To give an answer, we desire a policy learning method that provides interpretable representations of decision-making, in particular capturing an agent's non-stationary knowledge of the world, as well as operating in an offline manner. First, we model the evolving behavior of decision-makers in terms of contextual bandits, and formalize the problem of Inverse Contextual Bandits ("ICB"). Second, we propose two concrete algorithms as solutions, learning parametric and non-parametric representations of an agent's behavior. Finally, using both real and simulated data for liver transplantations, we illustrate the applicability and explainability of our method, as well as benchmarking and validating the accuracy of our algorithms.

Balancing Sample Efficiency and Suboptimality in Inverse Reinforcement Learning

Angelo Damiani · Giorgio Manganini · Alberto Maria Metelli · Marcello Restelli

We propose a novel formulation for the Inverse Reinforcement Learning (IRL) problem, which jointly accounts for the compatibility with the expert behavior of the identified reward and its effectiveness for the subsequent forward learning phase. Albeit quite natural, especially when the final goal is apprenticeship learning (learning policies from an expert), this aspect has been completely overlooked by IRL approaches so far.We propose a new model-free IRL method that is remarkably able to autonomously find a trade-off between the error induced on the learned policy when potentially choosing a sub-optimal reward, and the estimation error caused by using finite samples in the forward learning phase, which can be controlled by explicitly optimizing also the discount factor of the related learning problem. The approach is based on a min-max formulation for the robust selection of the reward parameters and the discount factor so that the distance between the expert's policy and the learned policy is minimized in the successive forward learning task when a finite and possibly small number of samples is available.Differently from the majority of other IRL techniques, our approach does not involve any planning or forward Reinforcement Learning problems to be solved. After presenting the formulation, we provide a numerical scheme for the optimization, and we show its effectiveness on an illustrative numerical case.

Towards Uniformly Superhuman Autonomy via Subdominance Minimization

Brian Ziebart · Sanjiban Choudhury · Xinyan Yan · Paul Vernaza

Prevalent imitation learning methods seek to produce behavior that matches or exceeds average human performance. This often prevents achieving expert-level or superhuman performance when identifying the better demonstrations to imitate is difficult. We instead assume demonstrations are of varying quality and seek to induce behavior that is unambiguously better (i.e., Pareto dominant or minimally subdominant) than all human demonstrations. Our minimum subdominance inverse optimal control training objective is primarily defined by high quality demonstrations; lower quality demonstrations, which are more easily dominated, are effectively ignored instead of degrading imitation. With increasing probability, our approach produces superhuman behavior incurring lower cost than demonstrations on the demonstrator’s unknown cost function—even if that cost function differs for each demonstration. We apply our approach on a computer cursor pointing task, producing behavior that is 78% superhuman, while minimizing demonstration suboptimality provides 50% superhuman behavior—and only 72% even after selective data cleaning.

Causal Imitation Learning under Temporally Correlated Noise

Gokul Swamy · Sanjiban Choudhury · James Bagnell · Steven Wu

We develop algorithms for imitation learning from policy data that was corrupted by temporally correlated noise in expert actions. When noise affects multiple timesteps of recorded data, it can manifest as spurious correlations between states and actions that a learner might latch on to, leading to poor policy performance. To break up these spurious correlations, we apply modern variants of the instrumental variable regression (IVR) technique of econometrics, enabling us to recover the underlying policy without requiring access to an interactive expert. In particular, we present two techniques, one of a generative-modeling flavor (DoubIL) that can utilize access to a simulator, and one of a game-theoretic flavor (ResiduIL) that can be run entirely offline. We find both of our algorithms compare favorably to behavioral cloning on simulated control tasks.

Interactive Inverse Reinforcement Learning for Cooperative Games

Thomas Kleine Buening · Anne-Marie George · Christos Dimitrakakis

We study the problem of designing autonomous agents that can learn to cooperate effectively with a potentially suboptimal partner while having no access to the joint reward function. This problem is modeled as a cooperative episodic two-agent Markov decision process. We assume control over only the first of the two agents in a Stackelberg formulation of the game, where the second agent is acting so as to maximise expected utility given the first agent's policy. How should the first agent act in order to learn the joint reward function as quickly as possible and so that the joint policy is as close to optimal as possible? We analyse how knowledge about the reward function can be gained in this interactive two-agent scenario. We show that when the learning agent's policies have a significant effect on the transition function, the reward function can be learned efficiently.

A Hierarchical Bayesian Approach to Inverse Reinforcement Learning with Symbolic Reward Machines

Weichao Zhou · Wenchao Li

A misspecified reward can degrade sample efficiency and induce undesired behaviors in reinforcement learning (RL) problems. We propose symbolic reward machines for incorporating high-level task knowledge when specifying the reward signals. Symbolic reward machines augment existing reward machine formalism by allowing transitions to carry predicates and symbolic reward outputs. This formalism lends itself well to inverse reinforcement learning, whereby the key challenge is determining appropriate assignments to the symbolic values from a few expert demonstrations. We propose a hierarchical Bayesian approach for inferring the most likely assignments such that the concretized reward machine can discriminate expert demonstrated trajectories from other trajectories with high accuracy. Experimental results show that learned reward machines can significantly improve training efficiency for complex RL tasks and generalize well across different task environment configurations.

Robust Imitation Learning against Variations in Environment Dynamics

Jongseong Chae · Seungyul Han · Whiyoung Jung · MYUNG-SIK CHO · Sungho Choi · Youngchul Sung

In this paper, we propose a robust imitation learning (IL) framework that improves the robustness of IL when environment dynamics are perturbed. The existing IL framework trained in a single environment can catastrophically fail with perturbations in environment dynamics because it does not capture the situation that underlying environment dynamics can be changed. Our framework effectively deals with environments with varying dynamics by imitating multiple experts in sampled environment dynamics to enhance the robustness in general variations in environment dynamics. In order to robustly imitate the multiple sample experts, we minimize the risk with respect to the Jensen-Shannon divergence between the agent's policy and each of the sample experts. Numerical results show that our algorithm significantly improves robustness against dynamics perturbations compared to conventional IL baselines.

Discriminator-Weighted Offline Imitation Learning from Suboptimal Demonstrations

Haoran Xu · Xianyuan Zhan · Honglei Yin · Huiling qin

We study the problem of offline Imitation Learning (IL) where an agent aims to learn an optimal expert behavior policy without additional online environment interactions. Instead, the agent is provided with a supplementary offline dataset from suboptimal behaviors. Prior works that address this problem either require that expert data occupies the majority proportion of the offline dataset, or need to learn a reward function and perform offline reinforcement learning (RL) afterwards. In this paper, we aim to address the problem without additional steps of reward learning and offline RL training for the case when demonstrations contain a large proportion of suboptimal data. Built upon behavioral cloning (BC), we introduce an additional discriminator to distinguish expert and non-expert data. We propose a cooperation framework to boost the learning of both tasks, Based on this framework, we design a new IL algorithm, where the outputs of the discriminator serve as the weights of the BC loss. Experimental results show that our proposed algorithm achieves higher returns and faster training speed compared to baseline algorithms.

Learning from Demonstration: Provably Efficient Adversarial Policy Imitation with Linear Function Approximation

ZHIHAN LIU · Yufeng Zhang · Zuyue Fu · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang

In generative adversarial imitation learning (GAIL), the agent aims to learn a policy from an expert demonstration so that its performance cannot be discriminated from the expert policy on a certain predefined reward set. In this paper, we study GAIL in both online and offline settings with linear function approximation, where both the transition and reward function are linear in the feature maps. Besides the expert demonstration, in the online setting the agent can interact with the environment, while in the offline setting the agent only accesses an additional dataset collected by a prior. For online GAIL, we propose an optimistic generative adversarial policy imitation algorithm (OGAPI) and prove that OGAPI achieves $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{H^4d^3K}+\sqrt{H^3d^2K^2/N_1})$ regret. Here $N_1$ represents the number of trajectories of the expert demonstration, $d$ is the feature dimension, and $K$ is the number of episodes. For offline GAIL, we propose a pessimistic generative adversarial policy imitation algorithm (PGAPI). We also obtain the optimality gap of PGAPI, achieving the minimax lower bound in the utilization of the additional dataset. Assuming sufficient coverage on the additional dataset, we show that PGAPI achieves $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{H^4d^2/K}+\sqrt{H^4d^3/N_2}+\sqrt{H^3d^2/N_1})$ optimality gap. Here $N_2$ represents the number of trajectories of the additional dataset with sufficient coverage.

The Unsurprising Effectiveness of Pre-Trained Vision Models for Control

Simone Parisi · Aravind Rajeswaran · Senthil Purushwalkam · Abhinav Gupta

Recent years have seen the emergence of pre-trained representations as a powerful abstraction for AI applications in computer vision, natural language, and speech. However, policy learning for control is still dominated by a tabula-rasa learning paradigm, with visuo-motor policies often trained from scratch using data from deployment environments. In this context, we revisit and study the role of pre-trained visual representations for control, and in particular representations trained on large-scale computer vision datasets. Through extensive empirical evaluation in diverse control domains (Habitat, DeepMind Control, Adroit, Franka Kitchen), we isolate and study the importance of different representation training methods, data augmentations, and feature hierarchies. Overall, we find that pre-trained visual representations can be competitive or even better than ground-truth state representations to train control policies. This is in spite of using only out-of-domain data from standard vision datasets, without any in-domain data from the deployment environments.

COLA: Consistent Learning with Opponent-Learning Awareness

Timon Willi · Alistair Letcher · Johannes Treutlein · Jakob Foerster

Learning in general-sum games is unstable and frequently leads to socially undesirable (Pareto-dominated) outcomes. To mitigate this, Learning with Opponent-Learning Awareness (LOLA) introduced opponent shaping to this setting, by accounting for each agent's influence on their opponents' anticipated learning steps. However, the original LOLA formulation (and follow-up work) is inconsistent because LOLA models other agents as naive learners rather than LOLA agents.In previous work, this inconsistency was suggested as a cause of LOLA's failure to preserve stable fixed points (SFPs). First, we formalize consistency and show that higher-order LOLA (HOLA) solves LOLA's inconsistency problem if it converges. Second, we correct a claim made in the literature by Schäfer and Anandkumar (2019), proving that Competitive Gradient Descent (CGD) does not recover HOLA as a series expansion (and fails to solve the consistency problem).Third, we propose a new method called Consistent LOLA (COLA), which learns update functions that are consistent under mutual opponent shaping. It requires no more than second-order derivatives and learns consistent update functions even when HOLA fails to converge. However, we also prove that even consistent update functions do not preserve SFPs, contradicting the hypothesis that this shortcoming is caused by LOLA's inconsistency.Finally, in an empirical evaluation on a set of general-sum games, we find that COLA finds prosocial solutions and that it converges under a wider range of learning rates than HOLA and LOLA. We support the latter finding with a theoretical result for a simple game.

A Self-Play Posterior Sampling Algorithm for Zero-Sum Markov Games

Wei Xiong · Han Zhong · Chengshuai Shi · Cong Shen · Tong Zhang

Existing studies on provably efficient algorithms for Markov games (MGs) almost exclusively build on the ``optimism in the face of uncertainty'' (OFU) principle. This work focuses on a distinct approach of posterior sampling, which is celebrated in many bandits and reinforcement learning settings but remains under-explored for MGs. Specifically, for episodic two-player zero-sum MGs, a novel posterior sampling algorithm is developed with \emph{general} function approximation. Theoretical analysis demonstrates that the posterior sampling algorithm admits a $\sqrt{T}$-regret bound for problems with a low multi-agent decoupling coefficient, which is a new complexity measure for MGs, where $T$ denotes the number of episodes. When specializing to linear MGs, the obtained regret bound matches the state-of-the-art results. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first provably efficient posterior sampling algorithm for MGs with frequentist regret guarantees, which extends the toolbox for MGs and promotes the broad applicability of posterior sampling.

A Framework for Learning to Request Rich and Contextually Useful Information from Humans

Khanh Nguyen · Yonatan Bisk · Hal Daumé III

When deployed, AI agents will encounter problems that are beyond their autonomous problem-solving capabilities. Leveraging human assistance can help agents overcome their inherent limitations and robustly cope with unfamiliar situations. We present a general interactive framework that enables an agent to request and interpret rich, contextually useful information from an assistant that has knowledge about the task and the environment. We demonstrate the practicality of our framework on a simulated human-assisted navigation problem. Aided with an assistance-requesting policy learned by our method, a navigation agent achieves up to a 7× improvement in success rate on tasks that take place in previously unseen environments, compared to fully autonomous behavior. We show that the agent can take advantage of different types of information depending on the context, and analyze the benefits and challenges of learning the assistance-requesting policy when the assistant can recursively decompose tasks into subtasks.

Learning Stochastic Shortest Path with Linear Function Approximation

Yifei Min · Jiafan He · Tianhao Wang · Quanquan Gu

We study the stochastic shortest path (SSP) problem in reinforcement learning with linear function approximation, where the transition kernel is represented as a linear mixture of unknown models. We call this class of SSP problems as linear mixture SSPs. We propose a novel algorithm with Hoeffding-type confidence sets for learning the linear mixture SSP, which can attain an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(d B_{\star}^{1.5}\sqrt{K/c_{\min}})$ regret. Here $K$ is the number of episodes, $d$ is the dimension of the feature mapping in the mixture model, $B_{\star}$ bounds the expected cumulative cost of the optimal policy, and $c_{\min}>0$ is the lower bound of the cost function.Our algorithm also applies to the case when $c_{\min} = 0$, and an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(K^{2/3})$ regret is guaranteed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first algorithm with a sublinear regret guarantee for learning linear mixture SSP. Moreover, we design a refined Bernstein-type confidence set and propose an improved algorithm, which provably achieves an $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(d B_{\star}\sqrt{K/c_{\min}})$ regret.In complement to the regret upper bounds, we also prove a lower bound of $\Omega(dB_{\star} \sqrt{K})$. Hence, our improved algorithm matches the lower bound up to a $1/\sqrt{c_{\min}}$ factor and poly-logarithmic factors, achieving a near-optimal regret guarantee.

Difference Advantage Estimation for Multi-Agent Policy Gradients

yueheng li · Guangming Xie · Zongqing Lu

Multi-agent policy gradient methods in centralized training with decentralized execution recently witnessed many progresses. During centralized training, multi-agent credit assignment is crucial, which can substantially promote learning performance. However, explicit multi-agent credit assignment in multi-agent policy gradient methods still receives less attention. In this paper, we investigate multi-agent credit assignment induced by reward shaping and provide a theoretical understanding in terms of its credit assignment and policy bias. Based on this, we propose an exponentially weighted advantage estimator, which is analogous to GAE, to enable multi-agent credit assignment while allowing the tradeoff with policy bias. Empirical results show that our approach can successfully perform effective multi-agent credit assignment, and thus substantially outperforms other advantage estimators.

Plan Better Amid Conservatism: Offline Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning with Actor Rectification

Ling Pan · Longbo Huang · Tengyu Ma · Huazhe Xu

Conservatism has led to significant progress in offline reinforcement learning (RL) where an agent learns from pre-collected datasets. However, as many real-world scenarios involve interaction among multiple agents, it is important to resolve offline RL in the multi-agent setting. Given the recent success of transferring online RL algorithms to the multi-agent setting, one may expect that offline RL algorithms will also transfer to multi-agent settings directly. Surprisingly, we empirically observe that conservative offline RL algorithms do not work well in the multi-agent setting---the performance degrades significantly with an increasing number of agents. Towards mitigating the degradation, we identify a key issue that non-concavity of the value function makes the policy gradient improvements prone to local optima. Multiple agents exacerbate the problem severely, since the suboptimal policy by any agent can lead to uncoordinated global failure. Following this intuition, we propose a simple yet effective method, Offline Multi-Agent RL with Actor Rectification (OMAR), which combines the first-order policy gradients and zeroth-order optimization methods to better optimize the conservative value functions over the actor parameters. Despite the simplicity, OMAR achieves state-of-the-art results in a variety of multi-agent control tasks.

Pessimistic Minimax Value Iteration: Provably Efficient Equilibrium Learning from Offline Datasets

Han Zhong · Wei Xiong · Jiyuan Tan · Liwei Wang · Tong Zhang · Zhaoran Wang · Zhuoran Yang

We study episodic two-player zero-sum Markov games (MGs) in the offline setting, where the goal is to find an approximate Nash equilibrium (NE) policy pair based on a dataset collected a priori. When the dataset does not have uniform coverage over all policy pairs, finding an approximate NE involves challenges in three aspects: (i) distributional shift between the behavior policy and the optimal policy, (ii) function approximation to handle large state space, and (iii) minimax optimization for equilibrium solving. We propose a pessimism-based algorithm, dubbed as pessimistic minimax value iteration (PMVI), which overcomes the distributional shift by constructing pessimistic estimates of the value functions for both players and outputs a policy pair by solving a correlated coarse equilibrium based on the two value functions. Furthermore, we establish a data-dependent upper bound on the suboptimality which recovers a sublinear rate without the assumption on uniform coverage of the dataset. We also prove an information-theoretical lower bound, which shows our upper bound is nearly minimax optimal, which suggests that the data-dependent term is intrinsic. Our theoretical results also highlight a notion of ``relative uncertainty'', which characterizes the necessary and sufficient condition for achieving sample efficiency in offline MGs. To the best of our knowledge, we provide the first nearly minimax optimal result for offline MGs with function approximation.

Learning Bellman Complete Representations for Offline Policy Evaluation

Jonathan Chang · Kaiwen Wang · Nathan Kallus · Wen Sun

We study representation learning for Offline Reinforcement Learning (RL), focusing on the important task of Offline Policy Evaluation (OPE). Recent work shows that, in contrast to supervised learning, realizability of the Q-function is not enough for learning it. Two sufficient conditions for sample-efficient OPE are Bellman completeness and coverage. Prior work often assumes that representations satisfying these conditions are given, with results being mostly theoretical in nature. In this work, we propose BCRL, which directly learns from data an approximately linear Bellman complete representation with good coverage. With this learned representation, we perform OPE using Least Square Policy Evaluation (LSPE) with linear functions in our learned representation. We present an end-to-end theoretical analysis, showing that our two-stage algorithm enjoys polynomial sample complexity provided some representation in the rich class considered is linear Bellman complete. Empirically, we extensively evaluate our algorithm on challenging, image-based continuous control tasks from the Deepmind Control Suite. We show our representation enables better OPE compared to previous representation learning methods developed for off-policy RL (e.g., CURL, SPR). BCRL achieve competitive OPE error with the state-of-the-art method Fitted Q-Evaluation (FQE), and beats FQE when evaluating beyond the initial state distribution. Our ablations show that both linear Bellman complete and coverage components of our method are crucial.

Doubly Robust Distributionally Robust Off-Policy Evaluation and Learning

Nathan Kallus · Xiaojie Mao · Kaiwen Wang · Zhengyuan Zhou

Off-policy evaluation and learning (OPE/L) use offline observational data to make better decisions, which is crucial in applications where online experimentation is limited. However, depending entirely on logged data, OPE/L is sensitive to environment distribution shifts --- discrepancies between the data-generating environment and that where policies are deployed. Si et al., (2020) proposed distributionally robust OPE/L (DROPE/L) to address this, but the proposal relies on inverse-propensity weighting, whose estimation error and regret will deteriorate if propensities are nonparametrically estimated and whose variance is suboptimal even if not. For standard, non-robust, OPE/L, this is solved by doubly robust (DR) methods, but they do not naturally extend to the more complex DROPE/L, which involves a worst-case expectation. In this paper, we propose the first DR algorithms for DROPE/L with KL-divergence uncertainty sets. For evaluation, we propose Localized Doubly Robust DROPE (LDR$^2$OPE) and show that it achieves semiparametric efficiency under weak product rates conditions. Thanks to a localization technique, LDR$^2$OPE only requires fitting a small number of regressions, just like DR methods for standard OPE. For learning, we propose Continuum Doubly Robust DROPL (CDR$^2$OPL) and show that, under a product rate condition involving a continuum of regressions, it enjoys a fast regret rate of $O(N^{-1/2})$ even when unknown propensities are nonparametrically estimated. We empirically validate our algorithms in simulations and further extend our results to general $f$-divergence uncertainty sets.

A Simple Reward-free Approach to Constrained Reinforcement Learning

Sobhan Miryoosefi · Chi Jin

In constrained reinforcement learning (RL), a learning agent seeks to not only optimize the overall reward but also satisfy the additional safety, diversity, or budget constraints. Consequently, existing constrained RL solutions require several new algorithmic ingredients that are notably different from standard RL. On the other hand, reward-free RL is independently developed in the unconstrained literature, which learns the transition dynamics without using the reward information, and thus naturally capable of addressing RL with multiple objectives under the common dynamics. This paper bridges reward-free RL and constrained RL. Particularly, we propose a simple meta-algorithm such that given any reward-free RL oracle, the approachability and constrained RL problems can be directly solved with negligible overheads in sample complexity. Utilizing the existing reward-free RL solvers, our framework provides sharp sample complexity results for constrained RL in the tabular MDP setting, matching the best existing results up to a factor of horizon dependence; our framework directly extends to a setting of tabular two-player Markov games, and gives a new result for constrained RL with linear function approximation.

Versatile Offline Imitation from Observations and Examples via Regularized State-Occupancy Matching

Jason Yecheng Ma · Andrew Shen · Dinesh Jayaraman · Osbert Bastani

We propose State Matching Offline DIstribution Correction Estimation (SMODICE), a novel and versatile regression-based offline imitation learning algorithm derived via state-occupancy matching. We show that the SMODICE objective admits a simple optimization procedure through an application of Fenchel duality and an analytic solution in tabular MDPs. Without requiring access to expert actions, SMODICE can be effectively applied to three offline IL settings: (i) imitation from observations (IfO), (ii) IfO with dynamics or morphologically mismatched expert, and (iii) example-based reinforcement learning, which we show can be formulated as a state-occupancy matching problem. We extensively evaluate SMODICE on both gridworld environments as well as on high-dimensional offline benchmarks. Our results demonstrate that SMODICE is effective for all three problem settings and significantly outperforms prior state-of-art.

Temporal Difference Learning for Model Predictive Control

Nicklas Hansen · Hao Su · Xiaolong Wang

Data-driven model predictive control has two key advantages over model-free methods: a potential for improved sample efficiency through model learning, and better performance as computational budget for planning increases. However, it is both costly to plan over long horizons and challenging to obtain an accurate model of the environment. In this work, we combine the strengths of model-free and model-based methods. We use a learned task-oriented latent dynamics model for local trajectory optimization over a short horizon, and use a learned terminal value function to estimate long-term return, both of which are learned jointly by temporal difference learning. Our method, TD-MPC, achieves superior sample efficiency and asymptotic performance over prior work on both state and image-based continuous control tasks from DMControl and Meta-World. Code and videos are available at

Model Selection in Batch Policy Optimization

Jonathan Lee · George Tucker · Ofir Nachum · Bo Dai

We study the problem of model selection in batch policy optimization: given a fixed, partial-feedback dataset and M model classes, learn a policy with performance that is competitive with the policy derived from the best model class. We formalize the problem in the contextual bandit setting with linear model classes by identifying three sources of error that any model selection algorithm should optimally trade-off in order to be competitive: (1) approximation error, (2) statistical complexity, and (3) coverage. The first two sources are common in model selection for supervised learning, where optimally trading off these two is well-studied. In contrast, the third source is unique to batch policy optimization and is due to dataset shift inherent to the setting. We first show that no batch policy optimization algorithm can achieve a guarantee addressing all three simultaneously, revealing a stark contrast between difficulties in batch policy optimization and the positive results available in supervised learning. Despite this negative result, we show that relaxing any one of the three error sources enables the design of algorithms achieving near-oracle inequalities for the remaining two. We conclude with experiments demonstrating the efficacy of these algorithms.

Outstanding Paper Runner Up
Adversarially Trained Actor Critic for Offline Reinforcement Learning

Ching-An Cheng · Tengyang Xie · Nan Jiang · Alekh Agarwal

We propose Adversarially Trained Actor Critic (ATAC), a new model-free algorithm for offline reinforcement learning (RL) under insufficient data coverage, based on the concept of relative pessimism. ATAC is designed as a two-player Stackelberg game framing of offline RL: A policy actor competes against an adversarially trained value critic, who finds data-consistent scenarios where the actor is inferior to the data-collection behavior policy. We prove that, when the actor attains no regret in the two-player game, running ATAC produces a policy that provably 1) outperforms the behavior policy over a wide range of hyperparameters that control the degree of pessimism, and 2) competes with the best policy covered by data with appropriately chosen hyperparameters. Compared with existing works, notably our framework offers both theoretical guarantees for general function approximation and a deep RL implementation scalable to complex environments and large datasets. In the D4RL benchmark, ATAC consistently outperforms state-of-the-art offline RL algorithms on a range of continuous control tasks.

Optimal Estimation of Policy Gradient via Double Fitted Iteration

Chengzhuo Ni · Ruiqi Zhang · Xiang Ji · Xuezhou Zhang · Mengdi Wang

Policy gradient (PG) estimation becomes a challenge when we are not allowed to sample with the target policy but only have access to a dataset generated by some unknown behavior policy. Conventional methods for off-policy PG estimation often suffer from either significant bias or exponentially large variance. In this paper, we propose the double Fitted PG estimation (FPG) algorithm. FPG can work with an arbitrary policy parameterization, assuming access to a Bellman-complete value function class. In the case of linear value function approximation, we provide a tight finite-sample upper bound on policy gradient estimation error, that is governed by the amount of distribution mismatch measured in feature space. We also establish the asymptotic normality of FPG estimation error with a precise covariance characterization, which is further shown to be statistically optimal with a matching Cramer-Rao lower bound. Empirically, we evaluate the performance of FPG on both policy gradient estimation and policy optimization, using either softmax tabular or ReLU policy networks. Under various metrics, our results show that FPG significantly outperforms existing off-policy PG estimation methods based on importance sampling and variance reduction techniques.

Provably Efficient Offline Reinforcement Learning for Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes

Hongyi Guo · Qi Cai · Yufeng Zhang · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang

We study offline reinforcement learning (RL) for partially observable Markov decision processes (POMDPs) with possibly infinite state and observation spaces. Under the undercompleteness assumption, the optimal policy in such POMDPs are characterized by a class of finite-memory Bellman operators. In the offline setting, estimating these operators directly is challenging due to (i) the large observation space and (ii) insufficient coverage of the offline dataset. To tackle these challenges, we propose a novel algorithm that constructs confidence regions for these Bellman operators via offline estimation of their RKHS embeddings, and returns the final policy via pessimistic planning within the confidence regions. We prove that the proposed algorithm attains an (\epsilon)-optimal policy using an offline dataset containing (\tilde\cO(1 / \epsilon^2)) episodes, provided that the behavior policy has good coverage over the optimal trajectory. To our best knowledge, our algorithm is the first provably sample efficient offline algorithm for POMDPs without uniform coverage assumptions.

Off-Policy Fitted Q-Evaluation with Differentiable Function Approximators: Z-Estimation and Inference Theory

Ruiqi Zhang · Xuezhou Zhang · Chengzhuo Ni · Mengdi Wang

Off-Policy Evaluation (OPE) serves as one of the cornerstones in Reinforcement Learning (RL). Fitted Q Evaluation (FQE) with various function approximators, especially deep neural networks, has gained practical success. While statistical analysis has proved FQE to be minimax-optimal with tabular, linear and several nonparametric function families, its practical performance with more general function approximator is less theoretically understood. We focus on FQE with general \textit{differentiable function approximators}, making our theory applicable to neural function approximations. We approach this problem using the Z-estimation theory and establish the following results: The FQE estimation error is asymptotically normal with explicit variance determined jointly by the tangent space of the function class at the ground truth, the reward structure, and the distribution shift due to off-policy learning; The finite-sample FQE error bound is dominated by the same variance term, and it can also be bounded by function class-dependent divergence, which measures how the off-policy distribution shift intertwines with the function approximator. In addition, we study bootstrapping FQE estimators for error distribution inference and estimating confidence intervals, accompanied by a Cramer-Rao lower bound that matches our upper bounds. The Z-estimation analysis provides a generalizable theoretical framework for studying off-policy estimation in RL and provides sharp statistical theory for FQE with differentiable function approximators.

Lagrangian Method for Q-Function Learning (with Applications to Machine Translation)

Huang Bojun

This paper discusses a new approach to the fundamental problem of learning optimal Q-functions. In this approach, optimal Q-functions are formulated as saddle points of a nonlinear Lagrangian function derived from the classic Bellman optimality equation. The paper shows that the Lagrangian enjoys strong duality, in spite of its nonlinearity, which paves the way to a general Lagrangian method to Q-function learning. As a demonstration, the paper develops an imitation learning algorithm based on the duality theory, and applies the algorithm to a state-of-the-art machine translation benchmark. The paper then turns to demonstrate a symmetry breaking phenomenon regarding the optimality of the Lagrangian saddle points, which justifies a largely overlooked direction in developing the Lagrangian method.

On the Role of Discount Factor in Offline Reinforcement Learning

Hao Hu · yiqin yang · Qianchuan Zhao · Chongjie Zhang

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) enables effective learning from previously collected data without exploration, which shows great promise in real-world applications when exploration is expensive or even infeasible. The discount factor, $\gamma$, plays a vital role in improving online RL sample efficiency and estimation accuracy, but the role of the discount factor in offline RL is not well explored. This paper examines two distinct effects of $\gamma$ in offline RL with theoretical analysis, namely the regularization effect and the pessimism effect. On the one hand, $\gamma$ is a regulator to trade-off optimality with sample efficiency upon existing offline techniques. On the other hand, lower guidance $\gamma$ can also be seen as a way of pessimism where we optimize the policy's performance in the worst possible models. We empirically verify the above theoretical observation with tabular MDPs and standard D4RL tasks. The results show that the discount factor plays an essential role in the performance of offline RL algorithms, both under small data regimes upon existing offline methods and in large data regimes without other conservative methods.

EAT-C: Environment-Adversarial sub-Task Curriculum for Efficient Reinforcement Learning

Shuang Ao · Tianyi Zhou · Jing Jiang · Guodong Long · Xuan Song · Chengqi Zhang

Reinforcement learning (RL) is inefficient on long-horizon tasks due to sparse rewards and its policy can be fragile to slightly perturbed environments. We address these challenges via a curriculum of tasks with coupled environments, generated by two policies trained jointly with RL: (1) a co-operative planning policy recursively decomposing a hard task into a coarse-to-fine sub-task tree; and (2) an adversarial policy modifying the environment in each sub-task. They are complementary to acquire more informative feedback for RL: (1) provides dense reward of easier sub-tasks while (2) modifies sub-tasks' environments to be more challenging and diverse. Conversely, they are trained by RL's dense feedback on sub-tasks so their generated curriculum keeps adaptive to RL's progress. The sub-task tree enables an easy-to-hard curriculum for every policy: its top-down construction gradually increases sub-tasks the planner needs to generate, while the adversarial training between the environment and RL follows a bottom-up traversal that starts from a dense sequence of easier sub-tasks allowing more frequent environment changes. We compare EAT-C with RL/planning targeting similar problems and methods with environment generators or adversarial agents. Extensive experiments on diverse tasks demonstrate the advantages of our method on improving RL's efficiency and generalization.

Tell me why! Explanations support learning relational and causal structure

Andrew Lampinen · Nicholas Roy · Ishita Dasgupta · Stephanie Chan · Allison Tam · James McClelland · Chen Yan · Adam Santoro · Neil Rabinowitz · Jane Wang · Feilx Hill

Inferring the abstract relational and causal structure of the world is a major challenge for reinforcement-learning (RL) agents. For humans, language—particularly in the form of explanations—plays a considerable role in overcoming this challenge. Here, we show that language can play a similar role for deep RL agents in complex environments. While agents typically struggle to acquire relational and causal knowledge, augmenting their experience by training them to predict language descriptions and explanations can overcome these limitations. We show that language can help agents learn challenging relational tasks, and examine which aspects of language contribute to its benefits. We then show that explanations can help agents to infer not only relational but also causal structure. Language can shape the way that agents to generalize out-of-distribution from ambiguous, causally-confounded training, and explanations even allow agents to learn to perform experimental interventions to identify causal relationships. Our results suggest that language description and explanation may be powerful tools for improving agent learning and generalization.

Koopman Q-learning: Offline Reinforcement Learning via Symmetries of Dynamics

Matthias Weissenbacher · Samrath Sinha · Animesh Garg · Yoshinobu Kawahara

Offline reinforcement learning leverages large datasets to train policies without interactions with the environment. The learned policies may then be deployed in real-world settings where interactions are costly or dangerous. Current algorithms over-fit to the training dataset and as a consequence perform poorly when deployed to out-of-distribution generalizations of the environment. We aim to address these limitations by learning a Koopman latent representation which allows us to infer symmetries of the system's underlying dynamic. The latter is then utilized to extend the otherwise static offline dataset during training; this constitutes a novel data augmentation framework which reflects the system's dynamic and is thus to be interpreted as an exploration of the environments phase space. To obtain the symmetries we employ Koopman theory in which nonlinear dynamics are represented in terms of a linear operator acting on the space of measurement functions of the system. We provide novel theoretical results on the existence and nature of symmetries relevant for control systems such as reinforcement learning settings. Moreover, we empirically evaluate our method on several benchmark offline reinforcement learning tasks and datasets including D4RL, Metaworld and Robosuite and find that by using our framework we consistently improve the state-of-the-art of model-free Q-learning methods.

Generalised Policy Improvement with Geometric Policy Composition

Shantanu Thakoor · Mark Rowland · Diana Borsa · Will Dabney · Remi Munos · Andre Barreto

We introduce a method for policy improvement that interpolates between the greedy approach of value-based reinforcement learning (RL) and the full planning approach typical of model-based RL. The new method builds on the concept of a geometric horizon model (GHM, also known as a \gamma-model), which models the discounted state-visitation distribution of a given policy. We show that we can evaluate any non-Markov policy that switches between a set of base Markov policies with fixed probability by a careful composition of the base policy GHMs, without any additional learning. We can then apply generalised policy improvement (GPI) to collections of such non-Markov policies to obtain a new Markov policy that will in general outperform its precursors. We provide a thorough theoretical analysis of this approach, develop applications to transfer and standard RL, and empirically demonstrate its effectiveness over standard GPI on a challenging deep RL continuous control task. We also provide an analysis of GHM training methods, proving a novel convergence result regarding previously proposed methods and showing how to train these models stably in deep RL settings.

Offline Meta-Reinforcement Learning with Online Self-Supervision

Vitchyr Pong · Ashvin Nair · Laura Smith · Catherine Huang · Sergey Levine

Meta-reinforcement learning (RL) methods can meta-train policies that adapt to new tasks with orders of magnitude less data than standard RL, but meta-training itself is costly and time-consuming. If we can meta-train on offline data, then we can reuse the same static dataset, labeled once with rewards for different tasks, to meta-train policies that adapt to a variety of new tasks at meta-test time. Although this capability would make meta-RL a practical tool for real-world use, offline meta-RL presents additional challenges beyond online meta-RL or standard offline RL settings. Meta-RL learns an exploration strategy that collects data for adapting, and also meta-trains a policy that quickly adapts to data from a new task. Since this policy was meta-trained on a fixed, offline dataset, it might behave unpredictably when adapting to data collected by the learned exploration strategy, which differs systematically from the offline data and thus induces distributional shift. We propose a hybrid offline meta-RL algorithm, which uses offline data with rewards to meta-train an adaptive policy, and then collects additional unsupervised online data, without any reward labels to bridge this distribution shift. By not requiring reward labels for online collection, this data can be much cheaper to collect. We compare our method to prior work on offline meta-RL on simulated robot locomotion and manipulation tasks and find that using additional unsupervised online data collection leads to a dramatic improvement in the adaptive capabilities of the meta-trained policies, matching the performance of fully online meta-RL on a range of challenging domains that require generalization to new tasks.

Divergence-Regularized Multi-Agent Actor-Critic

Kefan Su · Zongqing Lu

Entropy regularization is a popular method in reinforcement learning (RL). Although it has many advantages, it alters the RL objective and makes the converged policy deviate from the optimal policy of the original Markov Decision Process (MDP). Though divergence regularization has been proposed to settle this problem, it cannot be trivially applied to cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL). In this paper, we investigate divergence regularization in cooperative MARL and propose a novel off-policy cooperative MARL framework, divergence-regularized multi-agent actor-critic (DMAC). Theoretically, we derive the update rule of DMAC which is naturally off-policy, guarantees the monotonic policy improvement and convergence in both the original MDP and the divergence-regularized MDP, and is not biased by the regularization. We also give a bound of the discrepancy between the converged policy and the optimal policy in the original MDP. DMAC is a flexible framework and can be combined with many existing MARL algorithms. Empirically, we evaluate DMAC in a didactic stochastic game and StarCraft Multi-Agent Challenge and show that DMAC substantially improves the performance of existing MARL algorithms.

Understanding Policy Gradient Algorithms: A Sensitivity-Based Approach

Shuang Wu · Ling Shi · Jun Wang · Guangjian Tian

The REINFORCE algorithm \cite{williams1992simple} is popular in policy gradient (PG) for solving reinforcement learning (RL) problems. Meanwhile, the theoretical form of PG is from~\cite{sutton1999policy}. Although both formulae prescribe PG, their precise connections are not yet illustrated. Recently, \citeauthor{nota2020policy} (\citeyear{nota2020policy}) have found that the ambiguity causes implementation errors. Motivated by the ambiguity and implementation incorrectness, we study PG from a perturbation perspective. In particular, we derive PG in a unified framework, precisely clarify the relation between PG implementation and theory, and echos back the findings by \citeauthor{nota2020policy}. Diving into factors contributing to empirical successes of the existing erroneous implementations, we find that small approximation error and the experience replay mechanism play critical roles.

Off-Policy Reinforcement Learning with Delayed Rewards

Beining Han · Zhizhou Ren · Zuofan Wu · Yuan Zhou · Jian Peng

We study deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms with delayed rewards. In many real-world tasks, instant rewards are often not readily accessible or even defined immediately after the agent performs actions. In this work, we first formally define the environment with delayed rewards and discuss the challenges raised due to the non-Markovian nature of such environments. Then, we introduce a general off-policy RL framework with a new Q-function formulation that can handle the delayed rewards with theoretical convergence guarantees. For practical tasks with high dimensional state spaces, we further introduce the HC-decomposition rule of the Q-function in our framework which naturally leads to an approximation scheme that helps boost the training efficiency and stability. We finally conduct extensive experiments to demonstrate the superior performance of our algorithms over the existing work and their variants.

Direct Behavior Specification via Constrained Reinforcement Learning

Julien Roy · Roger Girgis · Joshua Romoff · Pierre-Luc Bacon · Christopher Pal

The standard formulation of Reinforcement Learning lacks a practical way of specifying what are admissible and forbidden behaviors. Most often, practitioners go about the task of behavior specification by manually engineering the reward function, a counter-intuitive process that requires several iterations and is prone to reward hacking by the agent. In this work, we argue that constrained RL, which has almost exclusively been used for safe RL, also has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of work spent for reward specification in applied RL projects. To this end, we propose to specify behavioral preferences in the CMDP framework and to use Lagrangian methods to automatically weigh each of these behavioral constraints. Specifically, we investigate how CMDPs can be adapted to solve goal-based tasks while adhering to several constraints simultaneously. We evaluate this framework on a set of continuous control tasks relevant to the application of Reinforcement Learning for NPC design in video games.

Large Batch Experience Replay

Thibault Lahire · Matthieu Geist · Emmanuel Rachelson

Several algorithms have been proposed to sample non-uniformly the replay buffer of deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) agents to speed-up learning, but very few theoretical foundations of these sampling schemes have been provided. Among others, Prioritized Experience Replay appears as a hyperparameter sensitive heuristic, even though it can provide good performance. In this work, we cast the replay buffer sampling problem as an importance sampling one for estimating the gradient. This allows deriving the theoretically optimal sampling distribution, yielding the best theoretical convergence speed.Elaborating on the knowledge of the ideal sampling scheme, we exhibit new theoretical foundations of Prioritized Experience Replay. The optimal sampling distribution being intractable, we make several approximations providing good results in practice and introduce, among others, LaBER (Large Batch Experience Replay), an easy-to-code and efficient method for sampling the replay buffer. LaBER, which can be combined with Deep Q-Networks, distributional RL agents or actor-critic methods, yields improved performance over a diverse range of Atari games and PyBullet environments, compared to the base agent it is implemented on and to other prioritization schemes.

Evolving Curricula with Regret-Based Environment Design

Jack Parker-Holder · Minqi Jiang · Michael Dennis · Mikayel Samvelyan · Jakob Foerster · Edward Grefenstette · Tim Rocktäschel

Training generally-capable agents with reinforcement learning (RL) remains a significant challenge. A promising avenue for improving the robustness of RL agents is through the use of curricula. One such class of methods frames environment design as a game between a student and a teacher, using regret-based objectives to produce environment instantiations (or levels) at the frontier of the student agent's capabilities. These methods benefit from theoretical robustness guarantees at equilibrium, yet they often struggle to find effective levels in challenging design spaces in practice. By contrast, evolutionary approaches incrementally alter environment complexity, resulting in potentially open-ended learning, but often rely on domain-specific heuristics and vast amounts of computational resources. This work proposes harnessing the power of evolution in a principled, regret-based curriculum. Our approach, which we call Adversarially Compounding Complexity by Editing Levels (ACCEL), seeks to constantly produce levels at the frontier of an agent's capabilities, resulting in curricula that start simple but become increasingly complex. ACCEL maintains the theoretical benefits of prior regret-based methods, while providing significant empirical gains in a diverse set of environments. An interactive version of this paper is available at

Robust Deep Reinforcement Learning through Bootstrapped Opportunistic Curriculum

Junlin Wu · Yevgeniy Vorobeychik

Despite considerable advances in deep reinforcement learning, it has been shown to be highly vulnerable to adversarial perturbations to state observations. Recent efforts that have attempted to improve adversarial robustness of reinforcement learning can nevertheless tolerate only very small perturbations, and remain fragile as perturbation size increases. We propose Bootstrapped Opportunistic Adversarial Curriculum Learning (BCL), a novel flexible adversarial curriculum learning framework for robust reinforcement learning. Our framework combines two ideas: conservatively bootstrapping each curriculum phase with highest quality solutions obtained from multiple runs of the previous phase, and opportunistically skipping forward in the curriculum. In our experiments we show that the proposed BCL framework enables dramatic improvements in robustness of learned policies to adversarial perturbations. The greatest improvement is for Pong, where our framework yields robustness to perturbations of up to 25/255; in contrast, the best existing approach can only tolerate adversarial noise up to 5/255. Our code is available at:

Transformers are Meta-Reinforcement Learners

Luckeciano Melo

The transformer architecture and variants presented a remarkable success across many machine learning tasks in recent years. This success is intrinsically related to the capability of handling long sequences and the presence of context-dependent weights from the attention mechanism. We argue that these capabilities suit the central role of a Meta-Reinforcement Learning algorithm. Indeed, a meta-RL agent needs to infer the task from a sequence of trajectories. Furthermore, it requires a fast adaptation strategy to adapt its policy for a new task - which can be achieved using the self-attention mechanism. In this work, we present TrMRL (Transformers for Meta-Reinforcement Learning), a meta-RL agent that mimics the memory reinstatement mechanism using the transformer architecture. It associates the recent past of working memories to build an episodic memory recursively through the transformer layers. We show that the self-attention computes a consensus representation that minimizes the Bayes Risk at each layer and provides meaningful features to compute the best actions. We conducted experiments in high-dimensional continuous control environments for locomotion and dexterous manipulation. Results show that TrMRL presents comparable or superior asymptotic performance, sample efficiency, and out-of-distribution generalization compared to the baselines in these environments.

Reducing Variance in Temporal-Difference Value Estimation via Ensemble of Deep Networks

Litian Liang · Yaosheng Xu · Stephen Mcaleer · Dailin Hu · Alexander Ihler · Pieter Abbeel · Roy Fox

In temporal-difference reinforcement learning algorithms, variance in value estimation can cause instability and overestimation of the maximal target value. Many algorithms have been proposed to reduce overestimation, including several recent ensemble methods, however none have shown success in sample-efficient learning through addressing estimation variance as the root cause of overestimation. In this paper, we propose MeanQ, a simple ensemble method that estimates target values as ensemble means. Despite its simplicity, MeanQ shows remarkable sample efficiency in experiments on the Atari Learning Environment benchmark. Importantly, we find that an ensemble of size 5 sufficiently reduces estimation variance to obviate the lagging target network, eliminating it as a source of bias and further gaining sample efficiency. We justify intuitively and empirically the design choices in MeanQ, including the necessity of independent experience sampling. On a set of 26 benchmark Atari environments, MeanQ outperforms all tested baselines, including the best available baseline, SUNRISE, at 100K interaction steps in 16/26 environments, and by 68% on average. MeanQ also outperforms Rainbow DQN at 500K steps in 21/26 environments, and by 49% on average, and achieves average human-level performance using 200K (±100K) interaction steps. Our implementation is available at

Constrained Variational Policy Optimization for Safe Reinforcement Learning

Zuxin Liu · Zhepeng Cen · Vladislav Isenbaev · Wei Liu · Steven Wu · Bo Li · Ding Zhao

Safe reinforcement learning (RL) aims to learn policies that satisfy certain constraints before deploying them to safety-critical applications.Previous primal-dual style approaches suffer from instability issues and lack optimality guarantees. This paper overcomes the issues from the perspective of probabilistic inference. We introduce a novel Expectation-Maximization approach to naturally incorporate constraints during the policy learning: 1) a provable optimal non-parametric variational distribution could be computed in closed form after a convex optimization (E-step); 2) the policy parameter is improved within the trust region based on the optimal variational distribution (M-step).The proposed algorithm decomposes the safe RL problem into a convex optimization phase and a supervised learning phase, which yields a more stable training performance.A wide range of experiments on continuous robotic tasks shows that the proposed method achieves significantly better constraint satisfaction performance and better sample efficiency than baselines.The code is available at

On the Hidden Biases of Policy Mirror Ascent in Continuous Action Spaces

Amrit Singh Bedi · Souradip Chakraborty · Anjaly Parayil · Brian Sadler · Pratap Tokekar · Alec Koppel

We focus on parameterized policy search for reinforcement learning over continuous action spaces. Typically, one assumes the score function associated with a policy is bounded, which {fails to hold even for Gaussian policies. } To properly address this issue, one must introduce an exploration tolerance parameter to quantify the region in which it is bounded. Doing so incurs a persistent bias that appears in the attenuation rate of the expected policy gradient norm, which is inversely proportional to the radius of the action space. To mitigate this hidden bias, heavy-tailed policy parameterizations may be used, which exhibit a bounded score function, but doing so can cause instability in algorithmic updates. To address these issues, in this work, we study the convergence of policy gradient algorithms under heavy-tailed parameterizations, which we propose to stabilize with a combination of mirror ascent-type updates and gradient tracking. Our main theoretical contribution is the establishment that this scheme converges with constant batch sizes, whereas prior works require these parameters to respectively shrink to null or grow to infinity. Experimentally, this scheme under a heavy-tailed policy parameterization yields improved reward accumulation across a variety of settings as compared with standard benchmarks.

Asking for Knowledge (AFK): Training RL Agents to Query External Knowledge Using Language

Iou-Jen Liu · Xingdi Yuan · Marc-Alexandre Côté · Pierre-Yves Oudeyer · Alex Schwing

To solve difficult tasks, humans ask questions to acquire knowledge from external sources. In contrast, classical reinforcement learning agents lack such an ability and often resort to exploratory behavior. This is exacerbated as few present-day environments support querying for knowledge. In order to study how agents can be taught to query external knowledge via language, we first introduce two new environments: the grid-world-based Q-BabyAI and the text-based Q-TextWorld. In addition to physical interactions, an agent can query an external knowledge source specialized for these environments to gather information. Second, we propose the `Asking for Knowledge’ (AFK) agent, which learns to generate language commands to query for meaningful knowledge that helps solve the tasks. AFK leverages a non-parametric memory, a pointer mechanism and an episodic exploration bonus to tackle (1) irrelevant information, (2) a large query language space, (3) delayed reward for making meaningful queries. Extensive experiments demonstrate that the AFK agent outperforms recent baselines on the challenging Q-BabyAI and Q-TextWorld environments.

Addressing Optimism Bias in Sequence Modeling for Reinforcement Learning

Adam Villaflor · Zhe Huang · Swapnil Pande · John Dolan · Jeff Schneider

Impressive results in natural language processing (NLP) based on the Transformer neural network architecture have inspired researchers to explore viewing offline reinforcement learning (RL) as a generic sequence modeling problem. Recent works based on this paradigm have achieved state-of-the-art results in several of the mostly deterministic offline Atari and D4RL benchmarks. However, because these methods jointly model the states and actions as a single sequencing problem, they struggle to disentangle the effects of the policy and world dynamics on the return. Thus, in adversarial or stochastic environments, these methods lead to overly optimistic behavior that can be dangerous in safety-critical systems like autonomous driving. In this work, we propose a method that addresses this optimism bias by explicitly disentangling the policy and world models, which allows us at test time to search for policies that are robust to multiple possible futures in the environment. We demonstrate our method’s superior performance on a variety of autonomous driving tasks in simulation.

An Analytical Update Rule for General Policy Optimization

Hepeng Li · Nicholas Clavette · Haibo He

We present an analytical policy update rule that is independent of parametric function approximators. The policy update rule is suitable for optimizing general stochastic policies and has a monotonic improvement guarantee. It is derived from a closed-form solution to trust-region optimization using calculus of variation, following a new theoretical result that tightens existing bounds for policy improvement using trust-region methods. The update rule builds a connection between policy search methods and value function methods. Moreover, off-policy reinforcement learning algorithms can be derived from the update rule since it does not need to compute integration over on-policy states. In addition, the update rule extends immediately to cooperative multi-agent systems when policy updates are performed by one agent at a time.

Making Linear MDPs Practical via Contrastive Representation Learning

Tianjun Zhang · Tongzheng Ren · Mengjiao Yang · Joseph E Gonzalez · Dale Schuurmans · Bo Dai

It is common to address the curse of dimensionality in Markov decision processes (MDPs) by exploiting low-rank representations. This motivates much of the recent theoretical study on linear MDPs. However, most approaches require a given representation under unrealistic assumptions about the normalization of the decomposition or introduce unresolved computational challenges in practice.Instead, we consider an alternative definition of linear MDPs that automatically ensures normalization while allowing efficient representation learning via contrastive estimation. The framework also admits confidence-adjusted index algorithms, enabling an efficient and principled approach to incorporating optimism or pessimism in the face of uncertainty. To the best of our knowledge, this provides the first practical representation learning method for linear MDPs that achieves both strong theoretical guarantees and empirical performance. Theoretically, we prove that the proposed algorithm is sample efficient in both the online and offline settings. Empirically, we demonstrate superior performance over existing state-of-the-art model-based and model-free algorithms on several benchmarks.

Flow-based Recurrent Belief State Learning for POMDPs

Xiaoyu Chen · Yao Mu · Ping Luo · Shengbo Li · Jianyu Chen

Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (POMDP) provides a principled and generic framework to model real world sequential decision making processes but yet remains unsolved, especially for high dimensional continuous space and unknown models. The main challenge lies in how to accurately obtain the belief state, which is the probability distribution over the unobservable environment states given historical information. Accurately calculating this belief state is a precondition for obtaining an optimal policy of POMDPs. Recent advances in deep learning techniques show great potential to learn good belief states. However, existing methods can only learn approximated distribution with limited flexibility. In this paper, we introduce the \textbf{F}l\textbf{O}w-based \textbf{R}ecurrent \textbf{BE}lief \textbf{S}tate model (FORBES), which incorporates normalizing flows into the variational inference to learn general continuous belief states for POMDPs. Furthermore, we show that the learned belief states can be plugged into downstream RL algorithms to improve performance. In experiments, we show that our methods successfully capture the complex belief states that enable multi-modal predictions as well as high quality reconstructions, and results on challenging visual-motor control tasks show that our method achieves superior performance and sample efficiency.

A Parametric Class of Approximate Gradient Updates for Policy Optimization

Ramki Gummadi · Saurabh Kumar · Junfeng Wen · Dale Schuurmans

Approaches to policy optimization have been motivated from diverse principles, based on how the parametric model is interpreted (e.g. value versus policy representation) or how the learning objective is formulated, yet they share a common goal of maximizing expected return. To better capture the commonalities and identify key differences between policy optimization methods, we develop a unified perspective that re-expresses the underlying updates in terms of a limited choice of gradient form and scaling function. In particular, we identify a parameterized space of approximate gradient updates for policy optimization that is highly structured, yet covers both classical and recent examples, including PPO. As a result, we obtain novel yet well motivated updates that generalize existing algorithms in a way that can deliver benefits both in terms of convergence speed and final result quality. An experimental investigation demonstrates that the additional degrees of freedom provided in the parameterized family of updates can be leveraged to obtain non-trivial improvements both in synthetic domains and on popular deep RL benchmarks.

Retrieval-Augmented Reinforcement Learning

Anirudh Goyal · Abe Friesen Friesen · Andrea Banino · Theophane Weber · Nan Rosemary Ke · Adrià Puigdomenech Badia · Arthur Guez · Mehdi Mirza · Peter Humphreys · Ksenia Konyushkova · Michal Valko · Simon Osindero · Timothy Lillicrap · Nicolas Heess · Charles Blundell

Most deep reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms distill experience into parametric behavior policies or value functions via gradient updates. While effective, this approach has several disadvantages: (1) it is computationally expensive, (2) it can take many updates to integrate experiences into the parametric model, (3) experiences that are not fully integrated do not appropriately influence the agent's behavior, and (4) behavior is limited by the capacity of the model. In this paper we explore an alternative paradigm in which we train a network to map a dataset of past experiences to optimal behavior. Specifically, we augment an RL agent with a retrieval process (parameterized as a neural network) that has direct access to a dataset of experiences. This dataset can come from the agent's past experiences, expert demonstrations, or any other relevant source. The retrieval process is trained to retrieve information from the dataset that may be useful in the current context, to help the agent achieve its goal faster and more efficiently. The proposed method facilitates learning agents that at test time can condition their behavior on the entire dataset and not only the current state, or current trajectory. We integrate our method into two different RL agents: an offline DQN agent and an online R2D2 agent. In offline multi-task problems, we show that the retrieval-augmented DQN agent avoids task interference and learns faster than the baseline DQN agent. On Atari, we show that retrieval-augmented R2D2 learns significantly faster than the baseline R2D2 agent and achieves higher scores. We run extensive ablations to measure the contributions of the components of our proposed method.

Robust Policy Learning over Multiple Uncertainty Sets

Annie Xie · Shagun Sodhani · Chelsea Finn · Joelle Pineau · Amy Zhang

Reinforcement learning (RL) agents need to be robust to variations in safety-critical environments. While system identification methods provide a way to infer the variation from online experience, they can fail in settings where fast identification is not possible. Another dominant approach is robust RL which produces a policy that can handle worst-case scenarios, but these methods are generally designed to achieve robustness to a single uncertainty set that must be specified at train time. Towards a more general solution, we formulate the multi-set robustness problem to learn a policy robust to different perturbation sets. We then design an algorithm that enjoys the benefits of both system identification and robust RL: it reduces uncertainty where possible given a few interactions, but can still act robustly with respect to the remaining uncertainty. On a diverse set of control tasks, our approach demonstrates improved worst-case performance on new environments compared to prior methods based on system identification and on robust RL alone.

Policy Diagnosis via Measuring Role Diversity in Cooperative Multi-agent RL

Siyi Hu · Chuanlong Xie · Xiaodan Liang · Xiaojun Chang

Cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) is making rapid progress for solving tasks in a grid world and real-world scenarios, in which agents are given different attributes and goals, resulting in different behavior through the whole multi-agent task. In this study, we quantify the agent's behavior difference and build its relationship with the policy performance via {\bf Role Diversity}, a metric to measure the characteristics of MARL tasks. We define role diversity from three perspectives: action-based, trajectory-based, and contribution-based to fully measure a multi-agent task. Through theoretical analysis, we find that the error bound in MARL can be decomposed into three parts that have a strong relation to the role diversity. The decomposed factors can significantly impact policy optimization in three popular directions including parameter sharing, communication mechanism, and credit assignment. The main experimental platforms are based on {\bf Multiagent Particle Environment (MPE) }and {\bf The StarCraft Multi-Agent Challenge (SMAC)}. Extensive experiments clearly show that role diversity can serve as a robust measurement for the characteristics of a multi-agent cooperation task and help diagnose whether the policy fits the current multi-agent system for better policy performance.

Learning Dynamics and Generalization in Deep Reinforcement Learning

Clare Lyle · Mark Rowland · Will Dabney · Marta Kwiatkowska · Yarin Gal

Solving a reinforcement learning (RL) problem poses two competing challenges: fitting a potentially discontinuous value function, and generalizing well to new observations. In this paper, we analyze the learning dynamics of temporal difference algorithms to gain novel insight into the tension between these two objectives.We show theoretically that temporal difference learning encourages agents to fit non-smooth components of the value function early in training, and at the same time induces the second-order effect of discouraging generalization.We corroborate these findings in deep RL agents trained on a range of environments, finding that neural networks trained using temporal difference algorithms on dense reward tasks exhibit weaker generalization between states than randomly initialized networks and networks trained with policy gradient methods.Finally, we investigate how post-training policy distillation may avoid this pitfall, and show that this approach improves generalization to novel environments in the ProcGen suite and improves robustness to input perturbations.

From Dirichlet to Rubin: Optimistic Exploration in RL without Bonuses

Daniil Tiapkin · Denis Belomestny · Eric Moulines · Alexey Naumov · Sergey Samsonov · Yunhao Tang · Michal Valko · Pierre Menard

We propose the Bayes-UCBVI algorithm for reinforcement learning in tabular, stage-dependent, episodic Markov decision process: a natural extension of the Bayes-UCB algorithm by Kaufmann et al. 2012 for multi-armed bandits. Our method uses the quantile of a Q-value function posterior as upper confidence bound on the optimal Q-value function. For Bayes-UCBVI, we prove a regret bound of order $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{H^3SAT})$ where $H$ is the length of one episode, $S$ is the number of states, $A$ the number of actions, $T$ the number of episodes, that matches the lower-bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{H^3SAT})$ up to poly-$\log$ terms in $H,S,A,T$ for a large enough $T$. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first algorithm that obtains an optimal dependence on the horizon $H$ (and $S$) \textit{without the need of an involved Bernstein-like bonus or noise.} Crucial to our analysis is a new fine-grained anti-concentration bound for a weighted Dirichlet sum that can be of independent interest. We then explain how Bayes-UCBVI can be easily extended beyond the tabular setting, exhibiting a strong link between our algorithm and Bayesian bootstrap (Rubin,1981).

Why Should I Trust You, Bellman? The Bellman Error is a Poor Replacement for Value Error

Scott Fujimoto · David Meger · Doina Precup · Ofir Nachum · Shixiang Gu

In this work, we study the use of the Bellman equation as a surrogate objective for value prediction accuracy. While the Bellman equation is uniquely solved by the true value function over all state-action pairs, we find that the Bellman error (the difference between both sides of the equation) is a poor proxy for the accuracy of the value function. In particular, we show that (1) due to cancellations from both sides of the Bellman equation, the magnitude of the Bellman error is only weakly related to the distance to the true value function, even when considering all state-action pairs, and (2) in the finite data regime, the Bellman equation can be satisfied exactly by infinitely many suboptimal solutions. This means that the Bellman error can be minimized without improving the accuracy of the value function. We demonstrate these phenomena through a series of propositions, illustrative toy examples, and empirical analysis in standard benchmark domains.

EqR: Equivariant Representations for Data-Efficient Reinforcement Learning

Arnab Kumar Mondal · Vineet Jain · Kaleem Siddiqi · Siamak Ravanbakhsh

We study a variety of notions of equivariance as an inductive bias in Reinforcement Learning (RL). In particular, we propose new mechanisms for learning representations that are equivariant to both the agent’s action, as well as symmetry transformations of the state-action pairs. Whereas prior work on exploiting symmetries in deep RL can only incorporate predefined linear transformations, our approach allows non-linear symmetry transformations of state-action pairs to be learned from the data. This is achieved through 1) equivariant Lie algebraic parameterization of state and action encodings, 2) equivariant latent transition models, and 3) the incorporation of symmetry-based losses. We demonstrate the advantages of our method, which we call Equivariant representations for RL (EqR), for Atari games in a data-efficient setting limited to 100K steps of interactions with the environment.

Imitation Learning by Estimating Expertise of Demonstrators

Mark Beliaev · Andy Shih · Stefano Ermon · Dorsa Sadigh · Ramtin Pedarsani

Many existing imitation learning datasets are collected from multiple demonstrators, each with different expertise at different parts of the environment. Yet, standard imitation learning algorithms typically treat all demonstrators as homogeneous, regardless of their expertise, absorbing the weaknesses of any suboptimal demonstrators. In this work, we show that unsupervised learning over demonstrator expertise can lead to a consistent boost in the performance of imitation learning algorithms. We develop and optimize a joint model over a learned policy and expertise levels of the demonstrators. This enables our model to learn from the optimal behavior and filter out the suboptimal behavior of each demonstrator. Our model learns a single policy that can outperform even the best demonstrator, and can be used to estimate the expertise of any demonstrator at any state. We illustrate our findings on real-robotic continuous control tasks from Robomimic and discrete environments such as MiniGrid and chess, out-performing competing methods in 21 out of 23 settings, with an average of 7% and up to 60% improvement in terms of the final reward.

Cliff Diving: Exploring Reward Surfaces in Reinforcement Learning Environments

Ryan Sullivan · Jordan Terry · Benjamin Black · John P Dickerson

Visualizing optimization landscapes has resulted in many fundamental insights in numeric optimization, specifically regarding novel improvements to optimization techniques. However, visualizations of the objective that reinforcement learning optimizes (the "reward surface") have only ever been generated for a small number of narrow contexts. This work presents reward surfaces and related visualizations of 27 of the most widely used reinforcement learning environments in Gym for the first time. We also explore reward surfaces in the policy gradient direction and show for the first time that many popular reinforcement learning environments have frequent "cliffs" (sudden large drops in expected reward). We demonstrate that A2C often "dives off" these cliffs into low reward regions of the parameter space while PPO avoids them, confirming a popular intuition for PPO's improved performance over previous methods. We additionally introduce a highly extensible library that allows researchers to easily generate these visualizations in the future. Our findings provide new intuition to explain the successes and failures of modern RL methods, and our visualizations concretely characterize several failure modes of reinforcement learning agents in novel ways.

Off-Policy Evaluation for Large Action Spaces via Embeddings

Yuta Saito · Thorsten Joachims

Off-policy evaluation (OPE) in contextual bandits has seen rapid adoption in real-world systems, since it enables offline evaluation of new policies using only historic log data. Unfortunately, when the number of actions is large, existing OPE estimators -- most of which are based on inverse propensity score weighting -- degrade severely and can suffer from extreme bias and variance. This foils the use of OPE in many applications from recommender systems to language models. To overcome this issue, we propose a new OPE estimator that leverages marginalized importance weights when action embeddings provide structure in the action space. We characterize the bias, variance, and mean squared error of the proposed estimator and analyze the conditions under which the action embedding provides statistical benefits over conventional estimators. In addition to the theoretical analysis, we find that the empirical performance improvement can be substantial, enabling reliable OPE even when existing estimators collapse due to a large number of actions.

Online Decision Transformer

Qinqing Zheng · Amy Zhang · Aditya Grover

Recent work has shown that offline reinforcement learning (RL) can be formulated as a sequence modeling problem~\cite{chen2021decision, janner2021offline} and solved via approaches similar to large-scale language modeling. However, any practical instantiation of RL also involves an online component, where policies pretrained on passive offline datasets are finetuned via task-specific interactions with the environment. We propose Online Decision Transformers (ODT), an RL algorithm based on sequence modeling that blends offline pretraining with online finetuning in a unified framework. Our framework uses sequence-level entropy regularizers in conjunction with autoregressive modeling objectives for sample-efficient exploration and finetuning. Empirically, we show that ODT is competitive with the state-of-the-art in absolute performance on the D4RL benchmark but shows much more significant gains during the finetuning procedure.

Learning-based Optimisation of Particle Accelerators Under Partial Observability Without Real-World Training

Jan Kaiser · Oliver Stein · Annika Eichler

In recent work, it has been shown that reinforcement learning (RL) is capable of solving a variety of problems at sometimes super-human performance levels. But despite continued advances in the field, applying RL to complex real-world control and optimisation problems has proven difficult. In this contribution, we demonstrate how to successfully apply RL to the optimisation of a highly complex real-world machine – specifically a linear particle accelerator – in an only partially observable setting and without requiring training on the real machine. Our method outperforms conventional optimisation algorithms in both the achieved result and time taken as well as already achieving close to human-level performance. We expect that such automation of machine optimisation will push the limits of operability, increase machine availability and lead to a paradigm shift in how such machines are operated, ultimately facilitating advances in a variety of fields, such as science and medicine among many others.

How to Leverage Unlabeled Data in Offline Reinforcement Learning

Tianhe (Kevin) Yu · Aviral Kumar · Yevgen Chebotar · Karol Hausman · Chelsea Finn · Sergey Levine

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) can learn control policies from static datasets but, like standard RL methods, it requires reward annotations for every transition. In many cases, labeling large datasets with rewards may be costly, especially if those rewards must be provided by human labelers, while collecting diverse unlabeled data might be comparatively inexpensive. How can we best leverage such unlabeled data in offline RL? One natural solution is to learn a reward function from the labeled data and use it to label the unlabeled data. In this paper, we find that, perhaps surprisingly, a much simpler method that simply applies zero rewards to unlabeled data leads to effective data sharing both in theory and in practice, without learning any reward model at all. While this approach might seem strange (and incorrect) at first, we provide extensive theoretical and empirical analysis that illustrates how it trades off reward bias, sample complexity and distributional shift, often leading to good results. We characterize conditions under which this simple strategy is effective, and further show that extending it with a simple reweighting approach can further alleviate the bias introduced by using incorrect reward labels. Our empirical evaluation confirms these findings in simulated robotic locomotion, navigation, and manipulation settings.

Bisimulation Makes Analogies in Goal-Conditioned Reinforcement Learning

Philippe Hansen-Estruch · Amy Zhang · Ashvin Nair · Patrick Yin · Sergey Levine

Building generalizable goal-conditioned agents from rich observations is a key to reinforcement learning (RL) solving real world problems. Traditionally in goal-conditioned RL, an agent is provided with the exact goal they intend to reach. However, it is often not realistic to know the configuration of the goal before performing a task. A more scalable framework would allow us to provide the agent with an example of an analogous task, and have the agent then infer what the goal should be for its current state. We propose a new form of state abstraction called goal-conditioned bisimulation that captures functional equivariance, allowing for the reuse of skills to achieve new goals. We learn this representation using a metric form of this abstraction, and show its ability to generalize to new goals in real world manipulation tasks. Further, we prove that this learned representation is sufficient not only for goal-conditioned tasks, but is amenable to any downstream task described by a state-only reward function.

A Psychological Theory of Explainability

Scott Cheng-Hsin Yang · Nils Erik Tomas Folke · Patrick Shafto

The goal of explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) is to generate human-interpretable explanations, but there are no computationally precise theories of how humans interpret AI generated explanations. The lack of theory means that validation of XAI must be done empirically, on a case-by-case basis, which prevents systematic theory-building in XAI. We propose a psychological theory of how humans draw conclusions from saliency maps, the most common form of XAI explanation, which for the first time allows for precise prediction of explainee inference conditioned on explanation. Our theory posits that absent explanation humans expect the AI to make similar decisions to themselves, and that they interpret an explanation by comparison to the explanations they themselves would give. Comparison is formalized via Shepard's universal law of generalization in a similarity space, a classic theory from cognitive science. A pre-registered user study on AI image classifications with saliency map explanations demonstrate that our theory quantitatively matches participants' predictions of the AI.

Task-aware Privacy Preservation for Multi-dimensional Data

Jiangnan Cheng · Ao Tang · Sandeep Chinchali

Local differential privacy (LDP) can be adopted to anonymize richer user data attributes that will be input to sophisticated machine learning (ML) tasks. However, today's LDP approaches are largely task-agnostic and often lead to severe performance loss -- they simply inject noise to all data attributes according to a given privacy budget, regardless of what features are most relevant for the ultimate task. In this paper, we address how to significantly improve the ultimate task performance with multi-dimensional user data by considering a task-aware privacy preservation problem. The key idea is to use an encoder-decoder framework to learn (and anonymize) a task-relevant latent representation of user data. We obtain an analytical near-optimal solution for the linear setting with mean-squared error (MSE) task loss. We also provide an approximate solution through a gradient-based learning algorithm for general nonlinear cases. Extensive experiments demonstrate that our task-aware approach significantly improves ultimate task accuracy compared to standard benchmark LDP approaches with the same level of privacy guarantee.

Strategic Representation

Vineet Nair · Ganesh Ghalme · Inbal Talgam-Cohen · Nir Rosenfeld

Humans have come to rely on machines for reducing excessive information to manageable representations. But this reliance can be abused -- strategic machines might craft representations that manipulate their users. How can a user make good choices based on strategic representations? We formalize this as a learning problem, and pursue algorithms for decision-making that are robust to manipulation.In our main setting of interest, the system represents attributes of an item to the user, who then decides whether or not to consume. We model this interaction through the lens of strategic classification (Hardt et al. 2016), reversed: the user, who learns, plays first; and the system, which responds, plays second. The system must respond with representations that reveal `nothing but the truth' but need not reveal the entire truth. Thus, the user faces the problem of learning set functionsunder strategic subset selection, which presents distinct algorithmic and statistical challenges. Our main result is a learning algorithm that minimizes error despite strategic representations, and our theoretical analysis sheds light on the trade-off between learning effort and susceptibility to manipulation.

Outstanding Paper
Causal Conceptions of Fairness and their Consequences

Hamed Nilforoshan · Johann Gaebler · Ravi Shroff · Sharad Goel

Recent work highlights the role of causality in designing equitable decision-making algorithms. It is not immediately clear, however, how existing causal conceptions of fairness relate to one another, or what the consequences are of using these definitions as design principles. Here, we first assemble and categorize popular causal definitions of algorithmic fairness into two broad families: (1) those that constrain the effects of decisions on counterfactual disparities; and (2) those that constrain the effects of legally protected characteristics, like race and gender, on decisions. We then show, analytically and empirically, that both families of definitions \emph{almost always}---in a measure theoretic sense---result in strongly Pareto dominated decision policies, meaning there is an alternative, unconstrained policy favored by every stakeholder with preferences drawn from a large, natural class. For example, in the case of college admissions decisions, policies constrained to satisfy causal fairness definitions would be disfavored by every stakeholder with neutral or positive preferences for both academic preparedness and diversity.Indeed, under a prominent definition of causal fairness, we prove the resulting policies require admitting all students with the same probability, regardless of academic qualifications or group membership. Our results highlight formal limitations and potential adverse consequences of common mathematical notions of causal fairness.

Fairness with Adaptive Weights

Junyi Chai · Xiaoqian Wang

Fairness is now an important issue in machine learning. There are arising concerns that automated decision-making systems reflect real-world biases. Although a wide range of fairness-related methods have been proposed in recent years, the under-representation problem has been less studied. Due to the uneven distribution of samples from different populations, machine learning models tend to be biased against minority groups when trained by minimizing the average empirical risk across all samples. In this paper, we propose a novel adaptive reweighing method to address representation bias. The goal of our method is to achieve group-level balance among different demographic groups by learning adaptive weights for each sample. Our approach emphasizes more on error-prone samples in prediction and enhances adequate representation of minority groups for fairness. We derive a closed-form solution for adaptive weight assignment and propose an efficient algorithm with theoretical convergence guarantees. We theoretically analyze the fairness of our model and empirically verify that our method strikes a balance between fairness and accuracy. In experiments, our method achieves comparable or better performance than state-of-the-art methods in both classification and regression tasks. Furthermore, our method exhibits robustness to label noise on various benchmark datasets.

Understanding Instance-Level Impact of Fairness Constraints

Jialu Wang · Xin Eric Wang · Yang Liu

A variety of fairness constraints have been proposed in the literature to mitigate group-level statistical bias. Their impacts have been largely evaluated for different groups of populations corresponding to a set of sensitive attributes, such as race or gender. Nonetheless, the community has not observed sufficient explorations for how imposing fairness constraints fare at an instance level. Building on the concept of influence function, a measure that characterizes the impact of a training example on the target model and its predictive performance, this work studies the influence of training examples when fairness constraints are imposed. We find out that under certain assumptions, the influence function with respect to fairness constraints can be decomposed into a kernelized combination of training examples. One promising application of the proposed fairness influence function is to identify suspicious training examples that may cause model discrimination by ranking their influence scores. We demonstrate with extensive experiments that training on a subset of weighty data examples leads to lower fairness violations with a trade-off of accuracy.

Achieving Fairness at No Utility Cost via Data Reweighing with Influence

Peizhao Li · Hongfu Liu

With the fast development of algorithmic governance, fairness has become a compulsory property for machine learning models to suppress unintentional discrimination. In this paper, we focus on the pre-processing aspect for achieving fairness, and propose a data reweighing approach that only adjusts the weight for samples in the training phase. Different from most previous reweighing methods which usually assign a uniform weight for each (sub)group, we granularly model the influence of each training sample with regard to fairness-related quantity and predictive utility, and compute individual weights based on influence under the constraints from both fairness and utility. Experimental results reveal that previous methods achieve fairness at a non-negligible cost of utility, while as a significant advantage, our approach can empirically release the tradeoff and obtain cost-free fairness for equal opportunity. We demonstrate the cost-free fairness through vanilla classifiers and standard training processes, compared to baseline methods on multiple real-world tabular datasets. Code available at

Mitigating Gender Bias in Face Recognition using the von Mises-Fisher Mixture Model

Jean-Rémy Conti · Nathan NOIRY · Stephan Clemencon · Vincent Despiegel · Stéphane Gentric

In spite of the high performance and reliability of deep learning algorithms in a wide range of everyday applications, many investigations tend to show that a lot of models exhibit biases, discriminating against specific subgroups of the population (e.g. gender, ethnicity). This urges the practitioner to develop fair systems with a uniform/comparable performance across sensitive groups. In this work, we investigate the gender bias of deep Face Recognition networks. In order to measure this bias, we introduce two new metrics, BFAR and BFRR, that better reflect the inherent deployment needs of Face Recognition systems. Motivated by geometric considerations, we mitigate gender bias through a new post-processing methodology which transforms the deep embeddings of a pre-trained model to give more representation power to discriminated subgroups. It consists in training a shallow neural network by minimizing a Fair von Mises-Fisher loss whose hyperparameters account for the intra-class variance of each gender. Interestingly, we empirically observe that these hyperparameters are correlated with our fairness metrics. In fact, extensive numerical experiments on a variety of datasets show that a careful selection significantly reduces gender bias.

Selective Regression under Fairness Criteria

Abhin Shah · Yuheng Bu · Joshua Lee · Subhro Das · Rameswar Panda · Prasanna Sattigeri · Gregory Wornell

Selective regression allows abstention from prediction if the confidence to make an accurate prediction is not sufficient. In general, by allowing a reject option, one expects the performance of a regression model to increase at the cost of reducing coverage (i.e., by predicting on fewer samples). However, as we show, in some cases, the performance of a minority subgroup can decrease while we reduce the coverage, and thus selective regression can magnify disparities between different sensitive subgroups. Motivated by these disparities, we propose new fairness criteria for selective regression requiring the performance of every subgroup to improve with a decrease in coverage. We prove that if a feature representation satisfies the \textit{sufficiency} criterion or is \textit{calibrated for mean and variance}, then the proposed fairness criteria is met. Further, we introduce two approaches to mitigate the performance disparity across subgroups: (a) by regularizing an upper bound of conditional mutual information under a Gaussian assumption and (b) by regularizing a contrastive loss for conditional mean and conditional variance prediction. The effectiveness of these approaches is demonstrated on synthetic and real-world datasets.

Input-agnostic Certified Group Fairness via Gaussian Parameter Smoothing

Jiayin Jin · Zeru Zhang · Yang Zhou · Lingfei Wu

Only recently, researchers attempt to provide classification algorithms with provable group fairness guarantees. Most of these algorithms suffer from harassment caused by the requirement that the training and deployment data follow the same distribution. This paper proposes an input-agnostic certified group fairness algorithm, FairSmooth, for improving the fairness of classification models while maintaining the remarkable prediction accuracy. A Gaussian parameter smoothing method is developed to transform base classifiers into their smooth versions. An optimal individual smooth classifier is learnt for each group with only the data regarding the group and an overall smooth classifier for all groups is generated by averaging the parameters of all the individual smooth ones. By leveraging the theory of nonlinear functional analysis, the smooth classifiers are reformulated as output functions of a Nemytskii operator. Theoretical analysis is conducted to derive that the Nemytskii operator is smooth and induces a Frechet differentiable smooth manifold. We theoretically demonstrate that the smooth manifold has a global Lipschitz constant that is independent of the domain of the input data, which derives the input-agnostic certified group fairness.

Generalized Strategic Classification and the Case of Aligned Incentives

Sagi Levanon · Nir Rosenfeld

Strategic classification studies learning in settings where self-interested users can strategically modify their features to obtain favorable predictive outcomes. A key working assumption, however, is that “favorable” always means “positive”; this may be appropriate in some applications (e.g., loan approval), but reduces to a fairly narrow view of what user interests can be. In this work we argue for a broader perspective on what accounts for strategic user behavior, and propose and study a flexible model of generalized strategic classification. Our generalized model subsumes most current models but includes other novel settings; among these, we identify and target one intriguing sub-class of problems in which the interests of users and the system are aligned. This setting reveals a surprising fact: that standard max-margin losses are ill-suited for strategic inputs. Returning to our fully generalized model, we propose a novel max-margin framework for strategic learning that is practical and effective, and which we analyze theoretically. We conclude with a set of experiments that empirically demonstrate the utility of our approach.

Improving Screening Processes via Calibrated Subset Selection

Luke Lequn Wang · Thorsten Joachims · Manuel Gomez-Rodriguez

Many selection processes such as finding patients qualifying for a medical trial or retrieval pipelines in search engines consist of multiple stages, where an initial screening stage focuses the resources on shortlisting the most promising candidates. In this paper, we investigate what guarantees a screening classifier can provide, independently of whether it is constructed manually or trained. We find that current solutions do not enjoy distribution-free theoretical guarantees and we show that, in general, even for a perfectly calibrated classifier, there always exist specific pools of candidates for which its shortlist is suboptimal. Then, we develop a distribution-free screening algorithm---called Calibrated Subsect Selection (CSS)---that, given any classifier and some amount of calibration data, finds near-optimal shortlists of candidates that contain a desired number of qualified candidates in expectation. Moreover, we show that a variant of CSS that calibrates a given classifier multiple times across specific groups can create shortlists with provable diversity guarantees. Experiments on US Census survey data validate our theoretical results and show that the shortlists provided by our algorithm are superior to those provided by several competitive baselines.

On the Convergence of the Shapley Value in Parametric Bayesian Learning Games

Lucas Agussurja · Xinyi Xu · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low

Measuring contributions is a classical problem in cooperative game theory where the Shapley value is the most well-known solution concept. In this paper, we establish the convergence property of the Shapley value in parametric Bayesian learning games where players perform a Bayesian inference using their combined data, and the posterior-prior KL divergence is used as the characteristic function. We show that for any two players, under some regularity conditions, their difference in Shapley value converges in probability to the difference in Shapley value of a limiting game whose characteristic function is proportional to the log-determinant of the joint Fisher information. As an application, we present an online collaborative learning framework that is asymptotically Shapley-fair. Our result enables this to be achieved without any costly computations of posterior-prior KL divergences. Only a consistent estimator of the Fisher information is needed. Theeffectiveness of our framework is demonstrated with experiments using real-world data.

Data-SUITE: Data-centric identification of in-distribution incongruous examples

Nabeel Seedat · Jonathan Crabbé · Mihaela van der Schaar

Systematic quantification of data quality is critical for consistent model performance. Prior works have focused on out-of-distribution data. Instead, we tackle an understudied yet equally important problem of characterizing incongruous regions of in-distribution (ID) data, which may arise from feature space heterogeneity. To this end, we propose a paradigm shift with Data-SUITE: a data-centric AI framework to identify these regions, independent of a task-specific model. Data-SUITE leverages copula modeling, representation learning, and conformal prediction to build feature-wise confidence interval estimators based on a set of training instances. These estimators can be used to evaluate the congruence of test instances with respect to the training set, to answer two practically useful questions: (1) which test instances will be reliably predicted by a model trained with the training instances? and (2) can we identify incongruous regions of the feature space so that data owners understand the data's limitations or guide future data collection? We empirically validate Data-SUITE's performance and coverage guarantees and demonstrate on cross-site medical data, biased data, and data with concept drift, that Data-SUITE best identifies ID regions where a downstream model may be reliable (independent of said model). We also illustrate how these identified regions can provide insights into datasets and highlight their limitations.

Counterfactual Prediction for Outcome-Oriented Treatments

Hao Zou · Bo Li · Jiangang Han · Shuiping Chen · Xuetao Ding · Peng Cui

Large amounts of efforts have been devoted into learning counterfactual treatment outcome under various settings, including binary/continuous/multiple treatments. Most of these literature aims to minimize the estimation error of counterfactual outcome for the whole treatment space. However, in most scenarios when the counterfactual prediction model is utilized to assist decision-making, people are only concerned with the small fraction of treatments that can potentially induce superior outcome (i.e. outcome-oriented treatments). This gap of objective is even more severe when the number of possible treatments is large, for example under the continuous treatment setting. To overcome it, we establish a new objective of optimizing counterfactual prediction on outcome-oriented treatments, propose a novel Outcome-Oriented Sample Re-weighting (OOSR) method to make the predictive model concentrate more on outcome-oriented treatments, and theoretically analyze that our method can improve treatment selection towards the optimal one. Extensive experimental results on both synthetic datasets and semi-synthetic datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our method.

Optimal Algorithms for Mean Estimation under Local Differential Privacy

Hilal Asi · Vitaly Feldman · Kunal Talwar

We study the problem of mean estimation of $\ell_2$-bounded vectors under the constraint of local differential privacy. While the literature has a variety of algorithms that achieve the (asymptotic) optimal rates for this problem, the performance of these algorithms in practice can vary significantly due to varying (and often large) hidden constants. In this work, we investigate the question of designing the randomizer with the smallest variance. We show that PrivUnit (Bhowmick et al. 2018) with optimized parameters achieves the optimal variance among a large family of natural randomizers. To prove this result, we establish some properties of local randomizers, and use symmetrization arguments that allow us to write the optimal randomizer as the optimizer of a certain linear program. These structural results, which should extend to other problems, then allow us to show that the optimal randomizer belongs to the PrivUnit family. We also develop a new variant of PrivUnit based on the Gaussian distribution which is more amenable to mathematical analysis and enjoys the same optimality guarantees. This allows us to establish several useful properties on the exact constants of the optimal error as well as to numerically estimate these constants.

First-Order Regret in Reinforcement Learning with Linear Function Approximation: A Robust Estimation Approach

Andrew Wagenmaker · Yifang Chen · Max Simchowitz · Simon Du · Kevin Jamieson

Obtaining first-order regret bounds---regret bounds scaling not as the worst-case but with some measure of the performance of the optimal policy on a given instance---is a core question in sequential decision-making. While such bounds exist in many settings, they have proven elusive in reinforcement learning with large state spaces. In this work we address this gap, and show that it is possible to obtain regret scaling as $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{d^3 H^3 \cdot V_1^\star \cdot K} + d^{3.5}H^3\log K )$ in reinforcement learning with large state spaces, namely the linear MDP setting. Here $V_1^\star$ is the value of the optimal policy and $K$ is the number of episodes. We demonstrate that existing techniques based on least squares estimation are insufficient to obtain this result, and instead develop a novel robust self-normalized concentration bound based on the robust Catoni mean estimator, which may be of independent interest.

Generic Coreset for Scalable Learning of Monotonic Kernels: Logistic Regression, Sigmoid and more

Elad Tolochinksy · Ibrahim Jubran · Dan Feldman

Coreset (or core-set) is a small weighted \emph{subset} $Q$ of an input set $P$ with respect to a given \emph{monotonic} function $f:\mathbb{R}\to\mathbb{R}$ that \emph{provably} approximates its fitting loss $\sum_{p\in P}f(p\cdot x)$ to \emph{any} given $x\in\mathbb{R}^d$. Using $Q$ we can obtain an approximation of $x^*$ that minimizes this loss, by running \emph{existing} optimization algorithms on $Q$. In this work we provide: (i) A lower bound which proves that there are sets with no coresets smaller than $n=|P|$ for general monotonic loss functions. (ii) A proof that, with an additional common regularization term and under a natural assumption that holds e.g. for logistic regression and the sigmoid activation functions, a small coreset exists for \emph{any} input $P$. (iii) A generic coreset construction algorithm that computes such a small coreset $Q$ in $O(nd+n\log n)$ time, and (iv) Experimental results with open-source code which demonstrate that our coresets are effective and are much smaller in practice than predicted in theory.

Shuffle Private Linear Contextual Bandits

Sayak Ray Chowdhury · Xingyu Zhou

Differential privacy (DP) has been recently introduced to linear contextual bandits to formally address the privacy concerns in its associated personalized services to participating users (e.g., recommendations).Prior work largely focus on two trust models of DP -- the central model, where a central server is responsible for protecting users’ sensitive data, and the (stronger) local model, where information needs to be protected directly on users' side. However, there remains a fundamental gap in the utility achieved by learning algorithms under these two privacy models, e.g., if all users are \emph{unique} within a learning horizon $T$, $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{T})$ regret in the central model as compared to $\widetilde{O}(T^{3/4})$ regret in the local model. In this work, we aim to achieve a stronger model of trust than the central model, while suffering a smaller regret than the local model by considering recently popular \emph{shuffle} model of privacy. We propose a general algorithmic framework for linear contextual bandits under the shuffle trust model, where there exists a trusted shuffler -- in between users and the central server-- that randomly permutes a batch of users data before sending those to the server. We then instantiate this framework with two specific shuffle protocols -- one relying on privacy amplification of local mechanisms, and another incorporating a protocol for summing vectors and matrices of bounded norms. We prove that both these instantiations lead to regret guarantees that significantly improve on that of the local model, and can potentially be of the order $\widetilde{O}(T^{3/5})$ if all users are unique. We also verify this regret behavior with simulations on synthetic data. Finally, under the practical scenario of non-unique users, we show that the regret of our shuffle private algorithm scale as $\widetilde{O}(T^{2/3})$, which \emph{matches} what the central model could achieve in this case.

Pessimistic Q-Learning for Offline Reinforcement Learning: Towards Optimal Sample Complexity

Laixi Shi · Gen Li · Yuting Wei · Yuxin Chen · Yuejie Chi

Offline or batch reinforcement learning seeks to learn a near-optimal policy using history data without active exploration of the environment. To counter the insufficient coverage and sample scarcity of many offline datasets, the principle of pessimism has been recently introduced to mitigate high bias of the estimated values. While pessimistic variants of model-based algorithms (e.g., value iteration with lower confidence bounds) have been theoretically investigated, their model-free counterparts --- which do not require explicit model estimation --- have not been adequately studied, especially in terms of sample efficiency. To address this inadequacy, we study a pessimistic variant of Q-learning in the context of finite-horizon Markov decision processes, and characterize its sample complexity under the single-policy concentrability assumption which does not require the full coverage of the state-action space. In addition, a variance-reduced pessimistic Q-learning algorithm is proposed to achieve near-optimal sample complexity. Altogether, this work highlights the efficiency of model-free algorithms in offline RL when used in conjunction with pessimism and variance reduction.

Reward-Free RL is No Harder Than Reward-Aware RL in Linear Markov Decision Processes

Andrew Wagenmaker · Yifang Chen · Max Simchowitz · Simon Du · Kevin Jamieson

Reward-free reinforcement learning (RL) considers the setting where the agent does not have access to a reward function during exploration, but must propose a near-optimal policy for an arbitrary reward function revealed only after exploring. In the the tabular setting, it is well known that this is a more difficult problem than reward-aware (PAC) RL---where the agent has access to the reward function during exploration---with optimal sample complexities in the two settings differing by a factor of $|\mathcal{S}|$, the size of the state space. We show that this separation does not exist in the setting of linear MDPs. We first develop a computationally efficient algorithm for reward-free RL in a $d$-dimensional linear MDP with sample complexity scaling as $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(d^2 H^5/\epsilon^2)$. We then show a lower bound with matching dimension-dependence of $\Omega(d^2 H^2/\epsilon^2)$, which holds for the reward-aware RL setting. To our knowledge, our approach is the first computationally efficient algorithm to achieve optimal $d$ dependence in linear MDPs, even in the single-reward PAC setting. Our algorithm relies on a novel procedure which efficiently traverses a linear MDP, collecting samples in any given ``feature direction'', and enjoys a sample complexity scaling optimally in the (linear MDP equivalent of the) maximal state visitation probability. We show that this exploration procedure can also be applied to solve the problem of obtaining ``well-conditioned'' covariates in linear MDPs.

Label Ranking through Nonparametric Regression

Dimitris Fotakis · Alkis Kalavasis · Eleni Psaroudaki

Label Ranking (LR) corresponds to the problem of learning a hypothesis that maps features to rankings over a finite set of labels. We adopt a nonparametric regression approach to LR and obtain theoretical performance guarantees for this fundamental practical problem. We introduce a generative model for Label Ranking, in noiseless and noisy nonparametric regression settings, and provide sample complexity bounds for learning algorithms in both cases. In the noiseless setting, we study the LR problem with full rankings and provide computationally efficient algorithms using decision trees and random forests in the high-dimensional regime. In the noisy setting, we consider the more general cases of LR with incomplete and partial rankings from a statistical viewpoint and obtain sample complexity bounds using the One-Versus-One approach of multiclass classification. Finally, we complement our theoretical contributions with experiments, aiming to understand how the input regression noise affects the observed output.

Sample-Efficient Reinforcement Learning with loglog(T) Switching Cost

Dan Qiao · Ming Yin · Ming Min · Yu-Xiang Wang

We study the problem of reinforcement learning (RL) with low (policy) switching cost — a problem well-motivated by real-life RL applications in which deployments of new policies are costly and the number of policy updates must be low. In this paper, we propose a new algorithm based on stage-wise exploration and adaptive policy elimination that achieves a regret of $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{H^4S^2AT})$ while requiring a switching cost of $O(HSA \log\log T)$. This is an exponential improvement over the best-known switching cost $O(H^2SA\log T)$ among existing methods with $\widetilde{O}(\mathrm{poly}(H,S,A)\sqrt{T})$ regret. In the above, $S,A$ denotes the number of states and actions in an $H$-horizon episodic Markov Decision Process model with unknown transitions, and $T$ is the number of steps. As a byproduct of our new techniques, we also derive a reward-free exploration algorithm with a switching cost of $O(HSA)$. Furthermore, we prove a pair of information-theoretical lower bounds which say that (1) Any no-regret algorithm must have a switching cost of $\Omega(HSA)$; (2) Any $\widetilde{O}(\sqrt{T})$ regret algorithm must incur a switching cost of $\Omega(HSA\log\log T)$. Both our algorithms are thus optimal in their switching costs.

A Simple Unified Framework for High Dimensional Bandit Problems

Wenjie Li · Adarsh Barik · Jean Honorio

Stochastic high dimensional bandit problems with low dimensional structures are useful in different applications such as online advertising and drug discovery. In this work, we propose a simple unified algorithm for such problems and present a general analysis framework for the regret upper bound of our algorithm. We show that under some mild unified assumptions, our algorithm can be applied to different high-dimensional bandit problems. Our framework utilizes the low dimensional structure to guide the parameter estimation in the problem, therefore our algorithm achieves the comparable regret bounds in the LASSO bandit as a sanity check, as well as novel bounds that depend logarithmically on dimensions in the low-rank matrix bandit, the group sparse matrix bandit, and in a new problem: the multi-agent LASSO bandit.

A Reduction from Linear Contextual Bandits Lower Bounds to Estimations Lower Bounds

Jiahao He · Jiheng Zhang · Rachel Q. Zhang

Linear contextual bandits and their variants are usually solved using algorithms guided by parameter estimation. Cauchy-Schwartz inequality established that estimation errors dominate algorithm regrets, and thus, accurate estimators suffice to guarantee algorithms with low regrets. In this paper, we complete the reverse direction by establishing the necessity. In particular, we provide a generic transformation from algorithms for linear contextual bandits to estimators for linear models, and show that algorithm regrets dominate estimation errors of their induced estimators, i.e., low-regret algorithms must imply accurate estimators. Moreover, our analysis reduces the regret lower bound to an estimation error, bridging the lower bound analysis in linear contextual bandit problems and linear regression.

Branching Reinforcement Learning

Yihan Du · Wei Chen

In this paper, we propose a novel Branching Reinforcement Learning (Branching RL) model, and investigate both Regret Minimization (RM) and Reward-Free Exploration (RFE) metrics for this model. Unlike standard RL where the trajectory of each episode is a single $H$-step path, branching RL allows an agent to take multiple base actions in a state such that transitions branch out to multiple successor states correspondingly, and thus it generates a tree-structured trajectory. This model finds important applications in hierarchical recommendation systems and online advertising. For branching RL, we establish new Bellman equations and key lemmas, i.e., branching value difference lemma and branching law of total variance, and also bound the total variance by only $O(H^2)$ under an exponentially-large trajectory. For RM and RFE metrics, we propose computationally efficient algorithms BranchVI and BranchRFE, respectively, and derive nearly matching upper and lower bounds. Our regret and sample complexity results are polynomial in all problem parameters despite exponentially-large trajectories.

Fast rates for noisy interpolation require rethinking the effect of inductive bias

Konstantin Donhauser · Nicolò Ruggeri · Stefan Stojanovic · Fanny Yang

Good generalization performance on high-dimensional data crucially hinges on a simple structure of the ground truth and a corresponding strong inductive bias of the estimator. Even though this intuition is valid for regularized models, in this paper we caution against a strong inductive bias for interpolation in the presence of noise: While a stronger inductive bias encourages a simpler structure that is more aligned with the ground truth, it also increases the detrimental effect of noise. Specifically, for both linear regression and classification with a sparse ground truth, we prove that minimum $\ell_p$-norm and maximum $\ell_p$-margin interpolators achieve fast polynomial rates close to order $1/n$ for $p > 1$ compared to a logarithmic rate for $p = 1$. Finally, we provide preliminary experimental evidence that this trade-off may also play a crucial role in understanding non-linear interpolating models used in practice.

Near-Optimal Algorithms for Autonomous Exploration and Multi-Goal Stochastic Shortest Path

Haoyuan Cai · Tengyu Ma · Simon Du

We revisit the incremental autonomous exploration problem proposed by Lim and Auer (2012). In this setting, the agent aims to learn a set of near-optimal goal-conditioned policies to reach the $L$-controllable states: states that are incrementally reachable from an initial state $s_0$ within $L$ steps in expectation. We introduce a new algorithm with stronger sample complexity bounds than existing ones. Furthermore, we also prove the first lower bound for the autonomous exploration problem. In particular, the lower bound implies that our proposed algorithm, Value-Aware Autonomous Exploration, is nearly minimax-optimal when the number of $L$-controllable states grows polynomially with respect to $L$. Key in our algorithm design is a connection between autonomous exploration and multi-goal stochastic shortest path, a new problem that naturally generalizes the classical stochastic shortest path problem. This new problem and its connection to autonomous exploration can be of independent interest.

Federated Reinforcement Learning: Linear Speedup Under Markovian Sampling

sajad khodadadian · PRANAY SHARMA · Gauri Joshi · Siva Maguluri

Since reinforcement learning algorithms are notoriously data-intensive, the task of sampling observations from the environment is usually split across multiple agents. However, transferring these observations from the agents to a central location can be prohibitively expensive in terms of the communication cost, and it can also compromise the privacy of each agent's local behavior policy. In this paper, we consider a federated reinforcement learning framework where multiple agents collaboratively learn a global model, without sharing their individual data and policies. Each agent maintains a local copy of the model and updates it using locally sampled data. Although having N agents enables the sampling of N times more data, it is not clear if it leads to proportional convergence speedup. We propose federated versions of on-policy TD, off-policy TD and Q-learning, and analyze their convergence. For all these algorithms, to the best of our knowledge, we are the first to consider Markovian noise and multiple local updates, and prove a linear convergence speedup with respect to the number of agents. To obtain these results, we show that federated TD and Q-learning are special cases of a general framework for federated stochastic approximation with Markovian noise, and we leverage this framework to provide a unified convergence analysis that applies to all the algorithms.

Entropic Gromov-Wasserstein between Gaussian Distributions

Khang Le · Dung Le · Huy Nguyen · · Tung Pham · Nhat Ho

We study the entropic Gromov-Wasserstein and its unbalanced version between (unbalanced) Gaussian distributions with different dimensions. When the metric is the inner product, which we refer to as inner product Gromov-Wasserstein (IGW), we demonstrate that the optimal transportation plans of entropic IGW and its unbalanced variant are (unbalanced) Gaussian distributions. Via an application of von Neumann's trace inequality, we obtain closed-form expressions for the entropic IGW between these Gaussian distributions. Finally, we consider an entropic inner product Gromov-Wasserstein barycenter of multiple Gaussian distributions. We prove that the barycenter is a Gaussian distribution when the entropic regularization parameter is small. We further derive a closed-form expression for the covariance matrix of the barycenter.

No-Regret Learning in Partially-Informed Auctions

Wenshuo Guo · Michael Jordan · Ellen Vitercik

Auctions with partially-revealed information about items are broadly employed in real-world applications, but the underlying mechanisms have limited theoretical support. In this work, we study a machine learning formulation of these types of mechanisms, presenting algorithms that are no-regret from the buyer's perspective. Specifically, a buyer who wishes to maximize his utility interacts repeatedly with a platform over a series of $T$ rounds. In each round, a new item is drawn from an unknown distribution and the platform publishes a price together with incomplete, ``masked'' information about the item. The buyer then decides whether to purchase the item. We formalize this problem as an online learning task where the goal is to have low regret with respect to a myopic oracle that has perfect knowledge of the distribution over items and the seller's masking function. When the distribution over items is known to the buyer and the mask is a SimHash function mapping $\R^d$ to $\{0,1\}^{\ell}$, our algorithm has regret $\tilde \cO((Td\ell)^{\nicefrac{1}{2}})$. In a fully agnostic setting when the mask is an arbitrary function mapping to a set of size $n$ and the prices are stochastic, our algorithm has regret $\tilde \cO((Tn)^{\nicefrac{1}{2}})$.

On Last-Iterate Convergence Beyond Zero-Sum Games

Ioannis Anagnostides · Ioannis Panageas · Gabriele Farina · Tuomas Sandholm

Most existing results about last-iterate convergence of learning dynamics are limited to two-player zero-sum games, and only apply under rigid assumptions about what dynamics the players follow. In this paper we provide new results and techniques that apply to broader families of games and learning dynamics. First, we show that in a class of games that includes constant-sum polymatrix and strategically zero-sum games, the trajectories of dynamics such as optimistic mirror descent (OMD) exhibit a boundedness property, which holds even when players employ different algorithms and prediction mechanisms. This property enables us to obtain $O(1/\sqrt{T})$ rates and optimal $O(1)$ regret bounds. Our analysis also reveals a surprising property: OMD either reaches arbitrarily close to a Nash equilibrium or it outperforms the robust price of anarchy in efficiency. Moreover, for potential games we establish convergence to an $\epsilon$-equilibrium after $O(1/\epsilon^2)$ iterations for mirror descent under a broad class of regularizers, as well as optimal $O(1)$ regret bounds for OMD variants. Our framework also extends to near-potential games, and unifies known analyses for distributed learning in Fisher's market model. Finally, we analyze the convergence, efficiency, and robustness of optimistic gradient descent (OGD) in general-sum continuous games.

Kernelized Multiplicative Weights for 0/1-Polyhedral Games: Bridging the Gap Between Learning in Extensive-Form and Normal-Form Games

Gabriele Farina · Chung-Wei Lee · Haipeng Luo · Christian Kroer

While extensive-form games (EFGs) can be converted into normal-form games (NFGs), doing so comes at the cost of an exponential blowup of the strategy space. So, progress on NFGs and EFGs has historically followed separate tracks, with the EFG community often having to catch up with advances (\eg last-iterate convergence and predictive regret bounds) from the larger NFG community. In this paper we show that the Optimistic Multiplicative Weights Update (OMWU) algorithm---the premier learning algorithm for NFGs---can be simulated on the normal-form equivalent of an EFG in linear time per iteration in the game tree size using a kernel trick. The resulting algorithm, \emph{Kernelized OMWU (KOMWU)}, applies more broadly to all convex games whose strategy space is a polytope with 0/1 integral vertices, as long as the kernel can be evaluated efficiently. In the particular case of EFGs, KOMWU closes several standing gaps between NFG and EFG learning, by enabling direct, black-box transfer to EFGs of desirable properties of learning dynamics that were so far known to be achievable only in NFGs. Specifically, KOMWU gives the first algorithm that guarantees at the same time last-iterate convergence, lower dependence on the size of the game tree than all prior algorithms, and $\tilde{\bigOh}(1)$ regret when followed by all players.

Fictitious Play and Best-Response Dynamics in Identical Interest and Zero-Sum Stochastic Games

Lucas Baudin · Rida Laraki

This paper proposes an extension of a popular decentralized discrete-time learning procedure when repeating a static game called fictitious play (FP) (Brown, 1951; Robinson, 1951) to a dynamic model called discounted stochastic game (Shapley, 1953). Our family of discrete-time FP procedures is proven to converge to the set of stationary Nash equilibria in identical interest discounted stochastic games. This extends similar convergence results for static games (Monderer & Shapley, 1996a). We then analyze the continuous-time counterpart of our FP procedures, which include as a particular case the best-response dynamic introduced and studied by Leslie et al. (2020) in the context of zero-sum stochastic games. We prove the converge of this dynamics to stationary Nash equilibria in identical-interest and zero-sum discounted stochastic games. Thanks to stochastic approximations, we can infer from the continuous-time convergence some discrete time results such as the convergence to stationary equilibria in zero-sum and team stochastic games (Holler, 2020).

On the Convergence of Inexact Predictor-Corrector Methods for Linear Programming

Gregory Dexter · Agniva Chowdhury · Haim Avron · Petros Drineas

Interior point methods (IPMs) are a common approach for solving linear programs (LPs) with strong theoretical guarantees and solid empirical performance. The time complexity of these methods is dominated by the cost of solving a linear system of equations at each iteration. In common applications of linear programming, particularly in machine learning and scientific computing, the size of this linear system can become prohibitively large, requiring the use of iterative solvers, which provide an approximate solution to the linear system. However, approximately solving the linear system at each iteration of an IPM invalidates the theoretical guarantees of common IPM analyses. To remedy this, we theoretically and empirically analyze (slightly modified) predictor-corrector IPMs when using approximate linear solvers: our approach guarantees that, when certain conditions are satisfied, the number of IPM iterations does not increase and that the final solution remains feasible. We also provide practical instantiations of approximate linear solvers that satisfy these conditions for special classes of constraint matrices using randomized linear algebra.

Nested Bandits

Matthieu Martin · Panayotis Mertikopoulos · Thibaud J Rahier · Houssam Zenati

In many online decision processes, the optimizing agent is called to choose between large numbers of alternatives with many inherent similarities; in turn, these similarities imply closely correlated losses that may confound standard discrete choice models and bandit algorithms. We study this question in the context of nested bandits, a class of adversarial multi-armed bandit problems where the learner seeks to minimize their regret in the presence of a large number of distinct alternatives with a hierarchy of embedded (non-combinatorial) similarities. In this setting, optimal algorithms based on the exponential weights blueprint (like Hedge, EXP3, and their variants) may incur significant regret because they tend to spend excessive amounts of time exploring irrelevant alternatives with similar, suboptimal costs. To account for this, we propose a nested exponential weights (NEW) algorithm that performs a layered exploration of the learner's set of alternatives based on a nested, step-by-step selection method. In so doing, we obtain a series of tight bounds for the learner's regret showing that online learning problems with a high degree of similarity between alternatives can be resolved efficiently, without a red bus / blue bus paradox occurring.

Information Discrepancy in Strategic Learning

Yahav Bechavod · Chara Podimata · Steven Wu · Juba Ziani

We initiate the study of the effects of non-transparency in decision rules on individuals' ability to improve in strategic learning settings. Inspired by real-life settings, such as loan approvals and college admissions, we remove the assumption typically made in the strategic learning literature, that the decision rule is fully known to individuals, and focus instead on settings where it is inaccessible. In their lack of knowledge, individuals try to infer this rule by learning from their peers (e.g., friends and acquaintances who previously applied for a loan), naturally forming groups in the population, each with possibly different type and level of information regarding the decision rule. We show that, in equilibrium, the principal's decision rule optimizing welfare across sub-populations may cause a strong negative externality: the true quality of some of the groups can actually deteriorate. On the positive side, we show that, in many natural cases, optimal improvement can be guaranteed simultaneously for all sub-populations. We further introduce a measure we term information overlap proxy, and demonstrate its usefulness in characterizing the disparity in improvements across sub-populations. Finally, we identify a natural condition under which improvement can be guaranteed for all sub-populations while maintaining high predictive accuracy. We complement our theoretical analysis with experiments on real-world datasets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luca Carminati · Federico Cacciamani · Marco Ciccone · Nicola Gatti

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

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

Sonja Kraiczy · Edith Elkind

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

Selling Data To a Machine Learner: Pricing via Costly Signaling

Junjie Chen · Minming Li · Haifeng Xu

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

Hardness and Algorithms for Robust and Sparse Optimization

Eric Price · Sandeep Silwal · Samson Zhou

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

A Convergent and Dimension-Independent Min-Max Optimization Algorithm

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

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

Stochastic Continuous Submodular Maximization: Boosting via Non-oblivious Function

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

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

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

Jungbin Kim · Insoon Yang

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

The Complexity of k-Means Clustering when Little is Known

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

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

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

Kyriakos Axiotis ·

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

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

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

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

Nearly Optimal Catoni’s M-estimator for Infinite Variance

Sujay Bhatt · Guanhua Fang · Ping Li · Gennady Samorodnitsky

In this paper, we extend the remarkable M-estimator of Catoni~\citep{Cat12} to situations where the variance is infinite. In particular, given a sequence of i.i.d random variables~$\{X_i\}_{i=1}^n$ from distribution~$\mathcal{D}$ over~$\mathbb{R}$ with mean~$\mu$, 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~$\varepsilon \in (0,1]$ \[ \mathbb{E}_{X_1 \sim \mathcal{D}} \Big| X_1 - \mu \Big|^{1+\varepsilon} \leq \upsilon_{\varepsilon}. \] The extension is non-trivial owing to the difficulty in characterizing the roots of certain polynomials of degree smaller than~$2$. The proposed estimator has the same order of magnitude and the same asymptotic constant as in~\citet{Cat12}, but for the case of bounded moments. We further propose a version of the estimator that does not require even the knowledge of~$\upsilon_{\varepsilon}$, but adapts the moment bound in a data-driven manner. Finally, to illustrate the usefulness of the derived non-asymptotic confidence bounds, we consider an application in multi-armed bandits and propose best arm identification algorithms, in the fixed confidence setting, that outperform the state of the art.

Strategies for Safe Multi-Armed Bandits with Logarithmic Regret and Risk

Tianrui Chen · Aditya Gangrade · Venkatesh Saligrama

We investigate a natural but surprisingly unstudied approach to the multi-armed bandit problem under safety risk constraints. Each arm is associated with an unknown law on safety risks and rewards, and the learner's goal is to maximise reward whilst not playing unsafe arms, as determined by a given threshold on the mean risk.We formulate a pseudo-regret for this setting that enforces this safety constraint in a per-round way by softly penalising any violation, regardless of the gain in reward due to the same. This has practical relevance to scenarios such as clinical trials, where one must maintain safety for each round rather than in an aggregated sense.We describe doubly optimistic strategies for this scenario, which maintain optimistic indices for both safety risk and reward. We show that schema based on both frequentist and Bayesian indices satisfy tight gap-dependent logarithmic regret bounds, and further that these play unsafe arms only logarithmically many times in total. This theoretical analysis is complemented by simulation studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the proposed schema, and probing the domains in which their use is appropriate.

Local Linear Convergence of Douglas-Rachford for Linear Programming: a Probabilistic Analysis

Oisin Faust · Hamza Fawzi

Douglas-Rachford splitting/ADMM (henceforth DRS) is a very popular algorithm for solving convex optimisation problems to low or moderate accuracy, and in particular for solving large-scale linear programs. Despite recent progress, obtaining highly accurate solutions to linear programs with DRS remains elusive. In this paper we analyze the local linear convergence rate $r$ of the DRS method for random linear programs, and give explicit and tight bounds on $r$. We show that $1-r^2$ is typically of the order of $m^{-1}(n-m)^{-1}$, where $n$ is the number of variables and $m$ is the number of constraints.This provides a quantitative explanation for the very slow convergence of DRS/ADMM on random LPs. The proof of our result relies on an established characterisation of the linear rate of convergence as the cosine of the Friedrichs angle between two subspaces associated to the problem. We also show that the cosecant of this angle can be interpreted as a condition number for the LP.The proof of our result relies on a characterization of the linear rate of convergence as the cosine of the Friedrichs angle between two subspaces associated to the problem. We also show that the cosecant of this angle can be interpreted as a condition number for the LP.

Contextual Information-Directed Sampling

Botao Hao · Tor Lattimore · Chao Qin

Information-directed sampling (IDS) has recently demonstrated its potential as a data-efficient reinforcement learning algorithm. However, it is still unclear what is the right form of information ratio to optimize when contextual information is available. We investigate the IDS design through two contextual bandit problems: contextual bandits with graph feedback and sparse linear contextual bandits. We provably demonstrate the advantage of \emph{contextual IDS} over \emph{conditional IDS} and emphasize the importance of considering the context distribution. The main message is that an intelligent agent should invest more on the actions that are beneficial for the future unseen contexts while the conditional IDS can be myopic. We further propose a computationally-efficient version of contextual IDS based on Actor-Critic and evaluate it empirically on a neural network contextual bandit.

Breaking the $\sqrt{T}$ Barrier: Instance-Independent Logarithmic Regret in Stochastic Contextual Linear Bandits

Avishek Ghosh · Abishek Sankararaman

We prove an instance independent (poly) logarithmic regret for stochastic contextual bandits with linear payoff. Previously, in \cite{chu2011contextual}, a lower bound of $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{T})$ is shown for the contextual linear bandit problem with arbitrary (adversarily chosen) contexts. In this paper, we show that stochastic contexts indeed help to reduce the regret from $\sqrt{T}$ to $\polylog(T)$. We propose Low Regret Stochastic Contextual Bandits (\texttt{LR-SCB}), which takes advantage of the stochastic contexts and performs parameter estimation (in $\ell_2$ norm) and regret minimization simultaneously. \texttt{LR-SCB} works in epochs, where the parameter estimation of the previous epoch is used to reduce the regret of the current epoch. The (poly) logarithmic regret of \texttt{LR-SCB} stems from two crucial facts: (a) the application of a norm adaptive algorithm to exploit the parameter estimation and (b) an analysis of the shifted linear contextual bandit algorithm, showing that shifting results in increasing regret. We have also shown experimentally that stochastic contexts indeed incurs a regret that scales with $\polylog(T)$.

Universal and data-adaptive algorithms for model selection in linear contextual bandits

Vidya Muthukumar · Akshay Krishnamurthy

Model selection in contextual bandits is an important complementary problem to regret minimization with respect to a fixed model class. We consider the simplest non-trivial instance of model-selection: distinguishing a simple multi-armed bandit problem from a linear contextual bandit problem. Even in this instance, current state-of-the-art methods explore in a suboptimal manner and require strong "feature-diversity" conditions. In this paper, we introduce new algorithms that a) explore in a data-adaptive manner, and b) provide model selection guarantees of the form O(d^{\alpha} T^{1 - \alpha}) with no feature diversity conditions whatsoever, where d denotes the dimension of the linear model and T denotes the total number of rounds. The first algorithm enjoys a "best-of-both-worlds" property, recovering two prior results that hold under distinct distributional assumptions, simultaneously. The second removes distributional assumptions altogether, expanding the scope for tractable model selection. Our approach extends to model selection among nested linear contextual bandits under some additional assumptions.

Regret Minimization with Performative Feedback

Meena Jagadeesan · Tijana Zrnic · Celestine Mendler-Dünner

In performative prediction, the deployment of a predictive model triggers a shift in the data distribution. As these shifts are typically unknown ahead of time, the learner needs to deploy a model to get feedback about the distribution it induces. We study the problem of finding near-optimal models under performativity while maintaining low regret. On the surface, this problem might seem equivalent to a bandit problem. However, it exhibits a fundamentally richer feedback structure that we refer to as performative feedback: after every deployment, the learner receives samples from the shifted distribution rather than bandit feedback about the reward. Our main contribution is regret bounds that scale only with the complexity of the distribution shifts and not that of the reward function. The key algorithmic idea is careful exploration of the distribution shifts that informs a novel construction of confidence bounds on the risk of unexplored models. The construction only relies on smoothness of the shifts and does not assume convexity. More broadly, our work establishes a conceptual approach for leveraging tools from the bandits literature for the purpose of regret minimization with performative feedback.

A Simple yet Universal Strategy for Online Convex Optimization

Lijun Zhang · Guanghui Wang · Jinfeng Yi · Tianbao Yang

Recently, several universal methods have been proposed for online convex optimization, and attain minimax rates for multiple types of convex functions simultaneously. However, they need to design and optimize one surrogate loss for each type of functions, making it difficult to exploit the structure of the problem and utilize existing algorithms. In this paper, we propose a simple strategy for universal online convex optimization, which avoids these limitations. The key idea is to construct a set of experts to process the original online functions, and deploy a meta-algorithm over the linearized losses to aggregate predictions from experts. Specifically, the meta-algorithm is required to yield a second-order bound with excess losses, so that it can leverage strong convexity and exponential concavity to control the meta-regret. In this way, our strategy inherits the theoretical guarantee of any expert designed for strongly convex functions and exponentially concave functions, up to a double logarithmic factor. As a result, we can plug in off-the-shelf online solvers as black-box experts to deliver problem-dependent regret bounds. For general convex functions, it maintains the minimax optimality and also achieves a small-loss bound.

Deep Hierarchy in Bandits

Joey Hong · Branislav Kveton · Sumeet Katariya · Manzil Zaheer · Mohammad Ghavamzadeh

Mean rewards of actions are often correlated. The form of these correlations may be complex and unknown a priori, such as the preferences of users for recommended products and their categories. To maximize statistical efficiency, it is important to leverage these correlations when learning. We formulate a bandit variant of this problem where the correlations of mean action rewards are represented by a hierarchical Bayesian model with latent variables. Since the hierarchy can have multiple layers, we call it deep. We propose a hierarchical Thompson sampling algorithm (HierTS) for this problem and show how to implement it efficiently for Gaussian hierarchies. The efficient implementation is possible due to a novel exact hierarchical representation of the posterior, which itself is of independent interest. We use this exact posterior to analyze the Bayes regret of HierTS. Our regret bounds reflect the structure of the problem, that the regret decreases with more informative priors, and can be recast to highlight reduced dependence on the number of actions. We confirm these theoretical findings empirically, in both synthetic and real-world experiments.

Distributionally-Aware Kernelized Bandit Problems for Risk Aversion

Sho Takemori

The kernelized bandit problem is a theoretically justified framework and has solid applications to various fields. Recently, there is a growing interest in generalizing the problem to the optimization of risk-averse metrics such as Conditional Value-at-Risk (CVaR) or Mean-Variance (MV).However, due to the model assumption, most existing methods need explicit design of environment random variables and can incur large regret because of possible high dimensionality of them.To address the issues, in this paper, we model environments using a family of the output distributions (or more precisely, probability kernel) and Kernel Mean Embeddings (KME), and provide novel UCB-type algorithms for CVaR and MV.Moreover, we provide algorithm-independent lower bounds for CVaR in the case of Mat\'ern kernels, and propose a nearly optimal algorithm.Furthermore, we empirically verify our theoretical result in synthetic environments, and demonstrate that our proposed method significantly outperforms a baseline in many cases.

Asymptotically-Optimal Gaussian Bandits with Side Observations

Alexia Atsidakou · Orestis Papadigenopoulos · Constantine Caramanis · Sujay Sanghavi · Sanjay Shakkottai

We study the problem of Gaussian bandits with general side information, as first introduced by Wu, Szepesv\'{a}ri, and Gy\"{o}rgy. In this setting, the play of an arm reveals information about other arms, according to an arbitrary {\em a priori} known {\em side information} matrix: each element of this matrix encodes the fidelity of the information that the row" arm reveals about thecolumn" arm. In the case of Gaussian noise, this model subsumes standard bandits, full-feedback, and graph-structured feedback as special cases. In this work, we first construct an LP-based asymptotic instance-dependent lower bound on the regret. The LP optimizes the cost (regret) required to reliably estimate the suboptimality gap of each arm. This LP lower bound motivates our main contribution: the first known asymptotically optimal algorithm for this general setting.

Learning from a Learning User for Optimal Recommendations

Fan Yao · Chuanhao Li · Denis Nekipelov · Hongning Wang · Haifeng Xu

In real-world recommendation problems, especially those with a formidably large item space, users have to gradually learn to estimate the utility of any fresh recommendations from their experience about previously consumed items. This in turn affects their interaction dynamics with the system and can invalidate previous algorithms built on the omniscient user assumption. In this paper, we formalize a model to capture such ''learning users'' and design an efficient system-side learning solution, coined Noise-Robust Active Ellipsoid Search (RAES), to confront the challenges brought by the non-stationary feedback from such a learning user. Interestingly, we prove that the regret of RAES deteriorates gracefully as the convergence rate of user learning becomes worse, until reaching linear regret when the user's learning fails to converge. Experiments on synthetic datasets demonstrate the strength of RAES for such a contemporaneous system-user learning problem. Our study provides a novel perspective on modeling the feedback loop in recommendation problems.

Thresholded Lasso Bandit

Kaito Ariu · Kenshi Abe · Alexandre Proutiere

In this paper, we revisit the regret minimization problem in sparse stochastic contextual linear bandits, where feature vectors may be of large dimension $d$, but where the reward function depends on a few, say $s_0\ll d$, of these features only. We present Thresholded Lasso bandit, an algorithm that (i) estimates the vector defining the reward function as well as its sparse support, i.e., significant feature elements, using the Lasso framework with thresholding, and (ii) selects an arm greedily according to this estimate projected on its support. The algorithm does not require prior knowledge of the sparsity index $s_0$ and can be parameter-free under some symmetric assumptions. For this simple algorithm, we establish non-asymptotic regret upper bounds scaling as $\mathcal{O}( \log d + \sqrt{T} )$ in general, and as $\mathcal{O}( \log d + \log T)$ under the so-called margin condition (a probabilistic condition on the separation of the arm rewards). The regret of previous algorithms scales as $\mathcal{O}( \log d + \sqrt{T \log (d T)})$ and $\mathcal{O}( \log T \log d)$ in the two settings, respectively. Through numerical experiments, we confirm that our algorithm outperforms existing methods.

Versatile Dueling Bandits: Best-of-both World Analyses for Learning from Relative Preferences

Aadirupa Saha · Pierre Gaillard

We study the problem of $K$-armed dueling bandit for both stochastic and adversarial environments, where the goal of the learner is to aggregate information through relative preferences of pair of decision points queried in an online sequential manner. We first propose a novel reduction from any (general) dueling bandits to multi-armed bandits which allows us to improve many existing results in dueling bandits. In particular, \emph{we give the first best-of-both world result for the dueling bandits regret minimization problem}---a unified framework that is guaranteed to perform optimally for both stochastic and adversarial preferences simultaneously. Moreover, our algorithm is also the first to achieve an optimal $O(\sum_{i = 1}^K \frac{\log T}{\Delta_i})$ regret bound against the Condorcet-winner benchmark, which scales optimally both in terms of the arm-size $K$ and the instance-specific suboptimality gaps $\{\Delta_i\}_{i = 1}^K$. This resolves the long standing problem of designing an instancewise gap-dependent order optimal regret algorithm for dueling bandits (with matching lower bounds up to small constant factors). We further justify the robustness of our proposed algorithm by proving its optimal regret rate under adversarially corrupted preferences---this outperforms the existing state-of-the-art corrupted dueling results by a large margin. In summary, we believe our reduction idea will find a broader scope in solving a diverse class of dueling bandits setting, which are otherwise studied separately from multi-armed bandits with often more complex solutions and worse guarantees. The efficacy of our proposed algorithms are empirically corroborated against state-of-the art dueling bandit methods.

Decentralized Online Convex Optimization in Networked Systems

Yiheng Lin · Judy Gan · Guannan Qu · Yash Kanoria · Adam Wierman

We study the problem of networked online convex optimization, where each agent individually decides on an action at every time step and agents cooperatively seek to minimize the total global cost over a finite horizon. The global cost is made up of three types of local costs: convex node costs, temporal interaction costs, and spatial interaction costs. In deciding their individual action at each time, an agent has access to predictions of local cost functions for the next $k$ time steps in an $r$-hop neighborhood. Our work proposes a novel online algorithm, Localized Predictive Control (LPC), which generalizes predictive control to multi-agent systems. We show that LPC achieves a competitive ratio of $1 + \tilde{O}(\rho_T^k) + \tilde{O}(\rho_S^r)$ in an adversarial setting, where $\rho_T$ and $\rho_S$ are constants in $(0, 1)$ that increase with the relative strength of temporal and spatial interaction costs, respectively. This is the first competitive ratio bound on decentralized predictive control for networked online convex optimization. Further, we show that the dependence on $k$ and $r$ in our results is near optimal by lower bounding the competitive ratio of any decentralized online algorithm.

Efficient Reinforcement Learning in Block MDPs: A Model-free Representation Learning approach

Xuezhou Zhang · Yuda Song · Masatoshi Uehara · Mengdi Wang · Alekh Agarwal · Wen Sun

We present BRIEE, an algorithm for efficient reinforcement learning in Markov Decision Processes with block-structured dynamics (i.e., Block MDPs), where rich observations are generated from a set of unknown latent states. BRIEE interleaves latent states discovery, exploration, and exploitation together, and can provably learn a near-optimal policy with sample complexityscaling polynomially in the number of latent states, actions, and the time horizon, with no dependence on the size of the potentially infinite observation space.Empirically, we show that BRIEE is more sample efficient than the state-of-art Block MDP algorithm HOMER and other empirical RL baselines on challenging rich-observation combination lock problems which require deep exploration.

Sketching Algorithms and Lower Bounds for Ridge Regression

Praneeth Kacham · David Woodruff

We give a sketching-based iterative algorithm that computes a $1+\varepsilon$ approximate solution for the ridge regression problem $\min_x \|Ax-b\|_2^2 +\lambda\|x\|_2^2$ where $A \in R^{n \times d}$ with $d \ge n$. Our algorithm, for a constant number of iterations (requiring a constant number of passes over the input), improves upon earlier work (Chowdhury et al.) by requiring that the sketching matrix only has a weaker Approximate Matrix Multiplication (AMM) guarantee that depends on $\varepsilon$, along with a constant subspace embedding guarantee. The earlier work instead requires that the sketching matrix has a subspace embedding guarantee that depends on $\varepsilon$. For example, to produce a $1+\varepsilon$ approximate solution in $1$ iteration, which requires $2$ passes over the input, our algorithm requires the OSNAP embedding to have $m= O(n\sigma^2/\lambda\varepsilon)$ rows with a sparsity parameter $s = O(\log(n))$, whereas the earlier algorithm of Chowdhury et al. with the same number of rows of OSNAP requires a sparsity $s = O(\sqrt{\sigma^2/\lambda\varepsilon} \cdot \log(n))$, where $\sigma = \opnorm{A}$ is the spectral norm of the matrix $A$. We also show that this algorithm can be used to give faster algorithms for kernel ridge regression. Finally, we show that the sketch size required for our algorithm is essentially optimal for a natural framework of algorithms for ridge regression by proving lower bounds on oblivious sketching matrices for AMM. The sketch size lower bounds for AMM may be of independent interest.

On Improving Model-Free Algorithms for Decentralized Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Weichao Mao · Lin Yang · Kaiqing Zhang · Tamer Basar

Multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) algorithms often suffer from an exponential sample complexity dependence on the number of agents, a phenomenon known as \emph{the curse of multiagents}. We address this challenge by investigating sample-efficient model-free algorithms in \emph{decentralized} MARL, and aim to improve existing algorithms along this line. For learning (coarse) correlated equilibria in general-sum Markov games, we propose \emph{stage-based} V-learning algorithms that significantly simplify the algorithmic design and analysis of recent works, and circumvent a rather complicated no-\emph{weighted}-regret bandit subroutine. For learning Nash equilibria in Markov potential games, we propose an independent policy gradient algorithm with a decentralized momentum-based variance reduction technique. All our algorithms are decentralized in that each agent can make decisions based on only its local information. Neither communication nor centralized coordination is required during learning, leading to a natural generalization to a large number of agents. Finally, we provide numerical simulations to corroborate our theoretical findings.

Utility Theory for Sequential Decision Making

Mehran Shakerinava · Siamak Ravanbakhsh

The von Neumann-Morgenstern (VNM) utility theorem shows that under certain axioms of rationality, decision-making is reduced to maximizing the expectation of some utility function. We extend these axioms to increasingly structured sequential decision making settings and identify the structure of the corresponding utility functions. In particular, we show that memoryless preferences lead to a utility in the form of a per transition reward and multiplicative factor on the future return. This result motivates a generalization of Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) with this structure on the agent's returns, which we call Affine-Reward MDPs. A stronger constraint on preferences is needed to recover the commonly used cumulative sum of scalar rewards in MDPs. A yet stronger constraint simplifies the utility function for goal-seeking agents in the form of a difference in some function of states that we call potential functions. Our necessary and sufficient conditions demystify the reward hypothesis that underlies the design of rational agents in reinforcement learning by adding an axiom to the VNM rationality axioms and motivates new directions for AI research involving sequential decision making.

Online Learning with Knapsacks: the Best of Both Worlds

Matteo Castiglioni · Andrea Celli · Christian Kroer

We study online learning problems in which a decision maker wants to maximize their expected reward without violating a finite set of $m$ resource constraints. By casting the learning process over a suitably defined space of strategy mixtures, we recover strong duality on a Lagrangian relaxation of the underlying optimization problem, even for general settings with non-convex reward and resource-consumption functions. Then, we provide the first best-of-both-worlds type framework for this setting, with no-regret guarantees both under stochastic and adversarial inputs. Our framework yields the same regret guarantees of prior work in the stochastic case. On the other hand, when budgets grow at least linearly in the time horizon, it allows us to provide a constant competitive ratio in the adversarial case, which improves over the $O(m \log T)$ competitive ratio of Immorlica et al. [FOCS'19]. Moreover, our framework allows the decision maker to handle non-convex reward and cost functions. We provide two game-theoretic applications of our framework to give further evidence of its flexibility.

Optimal Clustering with Noisy Queries via Multi-Armed Bandit

Jinghui Xia · Zengfeng Huang

Motivated by many applications, we study clustering with a faulty oracle. In this problem, there are $n$ items belonging to $k$ unknown clusters, and the algorithm is allowed to ask the oracle whether two items belong to the same cluster or not. However, the answer from the oracle is correct only with probability $\frac{1}{2}+\frac{\delta}{2}$. The goal is to recover the hidden clusters with minimum number of noisy queries. Previous works have shown that the problem can be solved with $O(\frac{nk\log n}{\delta^2} + \text{poly}(k,\frac{1}{\delta}, \log n))$ queries, while $\Omega(\frac{nk}{\delta^2})$ queries is known to be necessary. So, for any values of $k$ and $\delta$, there is still a non-trivial gap between upper and lower bounds. In this work, we obtain the first matching upper and lower bounds for a wide range of parameters. In particular, a new polynomial time algorithm with $O(\frac{n(k+\log n)}{\delta^2} + \text{poly}(k,\frac{1}{\delta}, \log n))$ queries is proposed. Moreover, we prove a new lower bound of $\Omega(\frac{n\log n}{\delta^2})$, which, combined with the existing $\Omega(\frac{nk}{\delta^2})$ bound, matches our upper bound up to an additive $\text{poly}(k,\frac{1}{\delta},\log n)$ term. To obtain the new results, our main ingredient is an interesting connection between our problem and multi-armed bandit, which might provide useful insights for other similar problems.