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Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract:The traditional viewpoint on Sparse Mixture of Experts (MoE) models is that instead of training a single large expert, which is computationally expensive, we can train many small experts. The hope is that if the total parameter count of the small experts equals that of the singular large expert, then we retain the representation power of the large expert while gaining computational tractability and promoting expert specialization. The recently introduced Soft MoE replaces the Sparse MoE's discrete routing mechanism with a differentiable gating function that smoothly mixes tokens. While this smooth gating function successfully mitigates the various training instabilities associated with Sparse MoE, it is unclear whether it induces implicit biases that affect Soft MoE's representation power or potential for expert specialization. We prove that Soft MoE with a single arbitrarily powerful expert cannot represent simple convex functions. This justifies that Soft MoE's success cannot be explained by the traditional viewpoint of many small experts collectively mimicking the representation power of a single large expert, and that multiple experts are actually necessary to achieve good representation power (even for a fixed total parameter count). Continuing along this line of investigation, we introduce a notion of expert specialization for Soft MoE, and while varying the number of experts yet fixing the total parameter count, we consider the following (computationally intractable) task. Given any input, how can we discover the expert subset that is specialized to predict this input's label? We empirically show that when there are many small experts, the architecture is implicitly biased in a fashion that allows us to efficiently approximate the specialized expert subset. Our method can be easily implemented to potentially reduce computation during inference.

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Abstract:We consider the hybrid reinforcement learning setting where the agent has access to both offline data and online interactive access. While Reinforcement Learning (RL) research typically assumes offline data contains complete action, reward and transition information, datasets with only state information (also known as observation-only datasets) are more general, abundant and practical. This motivates our study of the hybrid RL with observation-only offline dataset framework. While the task of competing with the best policy "covered" by the offline data can be solved if a reset model of the environment is provided (i.e., one that can be reset to any state), we show evidence of hardness when only given the weaker trace model (i.e., one can only reset to the initial states and must produce full traces through the environment), without further assumption of admissibility of the offline data. Under the admissibility assumptions -- that the offline data could actually be produced by the policy class we consider -- we propose the first algorithm in the trace model setting that provably matches the performance of algorithms that leverage a reset model. We also perform proof-of-concept experiments that suggest the effectiveness of our algorithm in practice.

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Abstract:Learning from human preference data has emerged as the dominant paradigm for fine-tuning large language models (LLMs). The two most common families of techniques -- online reinforcement learning (RL) such as Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) and offline contrastive methods such as Direct Preference Optimization (DPO) -- were positioned as equivalent in prior work due to the fact that both have to start from the same offline preference dataset. To further expand our theoretical understanding of the similarities and differences between online and offline techniques for preference fine-tuning, we conduct a rigorous analysis through the lens of dataset coverage, a concept that captures how the training data covers the test distribution and is widely used in RL. We prove that a global coverage condition is both necessary and sufficient for offline contrastive methods to converge to the optimal policy, but a weaker partial coverage condition suffices for online RL methods. This separation provides one explanation of why online RL methods can perform better than offline methods, especially when the offline preference data is not diverse enough. Finally, motivated by our preceding theoretical observations, we derive a hybrid preference optimization (HyPO) algorithm that uses offline data for contrastive-based preference optimization and online data for KL regularization. Theoretically and empirically, we demonstrate that HyPO is more performant than its pure offline counterpart DPO, while still preserving its computation and memory efficiency.

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Abstract:Is it possible to understand or imitate a policy maker's rationale by looking at past decisions they made? We formalize this question as the problem of learning social welfare functions belonging to the well-studied family of power mean functions. We focus on two learning tasks; in the first, the input is vectors of utilities of an action (decision or policy) for individuals in a group and their associated social welfare as judged by a policy maker, whereas in the second, the input is pairwise comparisons between the welfares associated with a given pair of utility vectors. We show that power mean functions are learnable with polynomial sample complexity in both cases, even if the comparisons are social welfare information is noisy. Finally, we design practical algorithms for these tasks and evaluate their performance.

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Abstract:Vision tasks are characterized by the properties of locality and translation invariance. The superior performance of convolutional neural networks (CNNs) on these tasks is widely attributed to the inductive bias of locality and weight sharing baked into their architecture. Existing attempts to quantify the statistical benefits of these biases in CNNs over locally connected convolutional neural networks (LCNs) and fully connected neural networks (FCNs) fall into one of the following categories: either they disregard the optimizer and only provide uniform convergence upper bounds with no separating lower bounds, or they consider simplistic tasks that do not truly mirror the locality and translation invariance as found in real-world vision tasks. To address these deficiencies, we introduce the Dynamic Signal Distribution (DSD) classification task that models an image as consisting of $k$ patches, each of dimension $d$, and the label is determined by a $d$-sparse signal vector that can freely appear in any one of the $k$ patches. On this task, for any orthogonally equivariant algorithm like gradient descent, we prove that CNNs require $\tilde{O}(k+d)$ samples, whereas LCNs require $\Omega(kd)$ samples, establishing the statistical advantages of weight sharing in translation invariant tasks. Furthermore, LCNs need $\tilde{O}(k(k+d))$ samples, compared to $\Omega(k^2d)$ samples for FCNs, showcasing the benefits of locality in local tasks. Additionally, we develop information theoretic tools for analyzing randomized algorithms, which may be of interest for statistical research.

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Abstract:Despite the rising popularity of saliency-based explanations, the research community remains at an impasse, facing doubts concerning their purpose, efficacy, and tendency to contradict each other. Seeking to unite the community's efforts around common goals, several recent works have proposed evaluation metrics. In this paper, we critically examine two sets of metrics: the ERASER metrics (comprehensiveness and sufficiency) and the EVAL-X metrics, focusing our inquiry on natural language processing. First, we show that we can inflate a model's comprehensiveness and sufficiency scores dramatically without altering its predictions or explanations on in-distribution test inputs. Our strategy exploits the tendency for extracted explanations and their complements to be "out-of-support" relative to each other and in-distribution inputs. Next, we demonstrate that the EVAL-X metrics can be inflated arbitrarily by a simple method that encodes the label, even though EVAL-X is precisely motivated to address such exploits. Our results raise doubts about the ability of current metrics to guide explainability research, underscoring the need for a broader reassessment of what precisely these metrics are intended to capture.

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Abstract:We consider robust empirical risk minimization (ERM), where model parameters are chosen to minimize the worst-case empirical loss when each data point varies over a given convex uncertainty set. In some simple cases, such problems can be expressed in an analytical form. In general the problem can be made tractable via dualization, which turns a min-max problem into a min-min problem. Dualization requires expertise and is tedious and error-prone. We demonstrate how CVXPY can be used to automate this dualization procedure in a user-friendly manner. Our framework allows practitioners to specify and solve robust ERM problems with a general class of convex losses, capturing many standard regression and classification problems. Users can easily specify any complex uncertainty set that is representable via disciplined convex programming (DCP) constraints.

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Authors:Shivani Chiranjeevi, Mojdeh Sadaati, Zi K Deng, Jayanth Koushik, Talukder Z Jubery, Daren Mueller, Matthew E O Neal, Nirav Merchant, Aarti Singh, Asheesh K Singh(+3 more)

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Abstract:Insect-pests significantly impact global agricultural productivity and quality. Effective management involves identifying the full insect community, including beneficial insects and harmful pests, to develop and implement integrated pest management strategies. Automated identification of insects under real-world conditions presents several challenges, including differentiating similar-looking species, intra-species dissimilarity and inter-species similarity, several life cycle stages, camouflage, diverse imaging conditions, and variability in insect orientation. A deep-learning model, InsectNet, is proposed to address these challenges. InsectNet is endowed with five key features: (a) utilization of a large dataset of insect images collected through citizen science; (b) label-free self-supervised learning for large models; (c) improving prediction accuracy for species with a small sample size; (d) enhancing model trustworthiness; and (e) democratizing access through streamlined MLOps. This approach allows accurate identification (>96% accuracy) of over 2500 insect species, including pollinator (e.g., butterflies, bees), parasitoid (e.g., some wasps and flies), predator species (e.g., lady beetles, mantises, dragonflies) and harmful pest species (e.g., armyworms, cutworms, grasshoppers, stink bugs). InsectNet can identify invasive species, provide fine-grained insect species identification, and work effectively in challenging backgrounds. It also can abstain from making predictions when uncertain, facilitating seamless human intervention and making it a practical and trustworthy tool. InsectNet can guide citizen science data collection, especially for invasive species where early detection is crucial. Similar approaches may transform other agricultural challenges like disease detection and underscore the importance of data collection, particularly through citizen science efforts..

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Abstract:In recommender system or crowdsourcing applications of online learning, a human's preferences or abilities are often a function of the algorithm's recent actions. Motivated by this, a significant line of work has formalized settings where an action's loss is a function of the number of times that action was recently played in the prior $m$ timesteps, where $m$ corresponds to a bound on human memory capacity. To more faithfully capture decay of human memory with time, we introduce the Weighted Tallying Bandit (WTB), which generalizes this setting by requiring that an action's loss is a function of a \emph{weighted} summation of the number of times that arm was played in the last $m$ timesteps. This WTB setting is intractable without further assumption. So we study it under Repeated Exposure Optimality (REO), a condition motivated by the literature on human physiology, which requires the existence of an action that when repetitively played will eventually yield smaller loss than any other sequence of actions. We study the minimization of the complete policy regret (CPR), which is the strongest notion of regret, in WTB under REO. Since $m$ is typically unknown, we assume we only have access to an upper bound $M$ on $m$. We show that for problems with $K$ actions and horizon $T$, a simple modification of the successive elimination algorithm has $O \left( \sqrt{KT} + (m+M)K \right)$ CPR. Interestingly, upto an additive (in lieu of mutliplicative) factor in $(m+M)K$, this recovers the classical guarantee for the simpler stochastic multi-armed bandit with traditional regret. We additionally show that in our setting, any algorithm will suffer additive CPR of $\Omega \left( mK + M \right)$, demonstrating our result is nearly optimal. Our algorithm is computationally efficient, and we experimentally demonstrate its practicality and superiority over natural baselines.

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Abstract:In continuum-armed bandit problems where the underlying function resides in a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS), namely, the kernelised bandit problems, an important open problem remains of how well learning algorithms can adapt if the regularity of the associated kernel function is unknown. In this work, we study adaptivity to the regularity of translation-invariant kernels, which is characterized by the decay rate of the Fourier transformation of the kernel, in the bandit setting. We derive an adaptivity lower bound, proving that it is impossible to simultaneously achieve optimal cumulative regret in a pair of RKHSs with different regularities. To verify the tightness of this lower bound, we show that an existing bandit model selection algorithm applied with minimax non-adaptive kernelised bandit algorithms matches the lower bound in dependence of $T$, the total number of steps, except for log factors. By filling in the regret bounds for adaptivity between RKHSs, we connect the statistical difficulty for adaptivity in continuum-armed bandits in three fundamental types of function spaces: RKHS, Sobolev space, and H\"older space.

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