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AdaBoost is not an Optimal Weak to Strong Learner

Mikael Møller Høgsgaard · Kasper Green Larsen · Martin Ritzert

Meeting Room 316 A-C


AdaBoost is a classic boosting algorithm for combining multiple inaccurate classifiers produced by a weak learner, to produce a strong learner with arbitrarily high accuracy when given enough training data. Determining the optimal number of samples necessary to obtain a given accuracy of the strong learner, is a basic learning theoretic question. Larsen and Ritzert (NeurIPS'22) recently presented the first provably optimal weak-to-strong learner. However, their algorithm is somewhat complicated and it remains an intriguing question whether the prototypical boosting algorithm AdaBoost also makes optimal use of training samples. In this work, we answer this question in the negative. Concretely, we show that the sample complexity of AdaBoost, and other classic variations thereof, are sub-optimal by at least one logarithmic factor in the desired accuracy of the strong learner.

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