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Authors:Aryeh Kontorovich

Abstract:We revisit the classic problem of aggregating binary advice from conditionally independent experts, also known as the Naive Bayes setting. Our quantity of interest is the error probability of the optimal decision rule. In the symmetric case (sensitivity = specificity), reasonably tight bounds on the optimal error probability are known. In the general asymmetric case, we are not aware of any nontrivial estimates on this quantity. Our contribution consists of sharp upper and lower bounds on the optimal error probability in the general case, which recover and sharpen the best known results in the symmetric special case. Since this amounts to estimating the total variation distance between two product distributions, our results also have bearing on this important and challenging problem.

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Abstract:We present novel bounds for estimating discrete probability distributions under the $\ell_\infty$ norm. These are nearly optimal in various precise senses, including a kind of instance-optimality. Our data-dependent convergence guarantees for the maximum likelihood estimator significantly improve upon the currently known results. A variety of techniques are utilized and innovated upon, including Chernoff-type inequalities and empirical Bernstein bounds. We illustrate our results in synthetic and real-world experiments. Finally, we apply our proposed framework to a basic selective inference problem, where we estimate the most frequent probabilities in a sample.

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Abstract:The existence of adversarial examples points to a basic weakness of deep neural networks. One of the most effective defenses against such examples, adversarial training, entails training models with some degree of robustness, usually at the expense of a degraded natural accuracy. Most adversarial training methods aim to learn a model that finds, for each class, a common decision boundary encompassing both the clean and perturbed examples. In this work, we take a fundamentally different approach by treating the perturbed examples of each class as a separate class to be learned, effectively splitting each class into two classes: "clean" and "adversarial." This split doubles the number of classes to be learned, but at the same time considerably simplifies the decision boundaries. We provide a theoretical plausibility argument that sheds some light on the conditions under which our approach can be expected to be beneficial. Likewise, we empirically demonstrate that our method learns robust models while attaining optimal or near-optimal natural accuracy, e.g., on CIFAR-10 we obtain near-optimal natural accuracy of $95.01\%$ alongside significant robustness across multiple tasks. The ability to achieve such near-optimal natural accuracy, while maintaining a significant level of robustness, makes our method applicable to real-world applications where natural accuracy is at a premium. As a whole, our main contribution is a general method that confers a significant level of robustness upon classifiers with only minor or negligible degradation of their natural accuracy.

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Abstract:We study distribution-free nonparametric regression following a notion of average smoothness initiated by Ashlagi et al. (2021), which measures the "effective" smoothness of a function with respect to an arbitrary unknown underlying distribution. While the recent work of Hanneke et al. (2023) established tight uniform convergence bounds for average-smooth functions in the realizable case and provided a computationally efficient realizable learning algorithm, both of these results currently lack analogs in the general agnostic (i.e. noisy) case. In this work, we fully close these gaps. First, we provide a distribution-free uniform convergence bound for average-smoothness classes in the agnostic setting. Second, we match the derived sample complexity with a computationally efficient agnostic learning algorithm. Our results, which are stated in terms of the intrinsic geometry of the data and hold over any totally bounded metric space, show that the guarantees recently obtained for realizable learning of average-smooth functions transfer to the agnostic setting. At the heart of our proof, we establish the uniform convergence rate of a function class in terms of its bracketing entropy, which may be of independent interest.

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Abstract:We generalize the notion of average Lipschitz smoothness proposed by Ashlagi et al. (COLT 2021) by extending it to H\"older smoothness. This measure of the ``effective smoothness'' of a function is sensitive to the underlying distribution and can be dramatically smaller than its classic ``worst-case'' H\"older constant. We prove nearly tight upper and lower risk bounds in terms of the average H\"older smoothness, establishing the minimax rate in the realizable regression setting up to log factors; this was not previously known even in the special case of average Lipschitz smoothness. From an algorithmic perspective, since our notion of average smoothness is defined with respect to the unknown sampling distribution, the learner does not have an explicit representation of the function class, hence is unable to execute ERM. Nevertheless, we provide a learning algorithm that achieves the (nearly) optimal learning rate. Our results hold in any totally bounded metric space, and are stated in terms of its intrinsic geometry. Overall, our results show that the classic worst-case notion of H\"older smoothness can be essentially replaced by its average, yielding considerably sharper guarantees.

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Authors:Olivier Bousquet, Haim Kaplan, Aryeh Kontorovich, Yishay Mansour, Shay Moran, Menachem Sadigurschi, Uri Stemmer

Abstract:We construct a universally Bayes consistent learning rule that satisfies differential privacy (DP). We first handle the setting of binary classification and then extend our rule to the more general setting of density estimation (with respect to the total variation metric). The existence of a universally consistent DP learner reveals a stark difference with the distribution-free PAC model. Indeed, in the latter DP learning is extremely limited: even one-dimensional linear classifiers are not privately learnable in this stringent model. Our result thus demonstrates that by allowing the learning rate to depend on the target distribution, one can circumvent the above-mentioned impossibility result and in fact, learn \emph{arbitrary} distributions by a single DP algorithm. As an application, we prove that any VC class can be privately learned in a semi-supervised setting with a near-optimal \emph{labeled} sample complexity of $\tilde{O}(d/\varepsilon)$ labeled examples (and with an unlabeled sample complexity that can depend on the target distribution).

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Abstract:We propose an efficient algorithm for learning mappings between two metric spaces, $\X$ and $\Y$. Our procedure is strongly Bayes-consistent whenever $\X$ and $\Y$ are topologically separable and $\Y$ is "bounded in expectation" (our term; the separability assumption can be somewhat weakened). At this level of generality, ours is the first such learnability result for unbounded loss in the agnostic setting. Our technique is based on metric medoids (a variant of Fr\'echet means) and presents a significant departure from existing methods, which, as we demonstrate, fail to achieve Bayes-consistency on general instance- and label-space metrics. Our proofs introduce the technique of {\em semi-stable compression}, which may be of independent interest.

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Abstract:The vast majority of the work on adaptive data analysis focuses on the case where the samples in the dataset are independent. Several approaches and tools have been successfully applied in this context, such as differential privacy, max-information, compression arguments, and more. The situation is far less well-understood without the independence assumption. We embark on a systematic study of the possibilities of adaptive data analysis with correlated observations. First, we show that, in some cases, differential privacy guarantees generalization even when there are dependencies within the sample, which we quantify using a notion we call Gibbs-dependence. We complement this result with a tight negative example. Second, we show that the connection between transcript-compression and adaptive data analysis can be extended to the non-iid setting.

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Abstract:We study the problem of density estimation for a random vector ${\boldsymbol X}$ in $\mathbb R^d$ with probability density $f(\boldsymbol x)$. For a spanning tree $T$ defined on the vertex set $\{1,\dots ,d\}$, the tree density $f_{T}$ is a product of bivariate conditional densities. The optimal spanning tree $T^*$ is the spanning tree $T$, for which the Kullback-Leibler divergence of $f$ and $f_{T}$ is the smallest. From i.i.d. data we identify the optimal tree $T^*$ and computationally efficiently construct a tree density estimate $f_n$ such that, without any regularity conditions on the density $f$, one has that $\lim_{n\to \infty} \int |f_n(\boldsymbol x)-f_{T^*}(\boldsymbol x)|d\boldsymbol x=0$ a.s. For Lipschitz continuous $f$ with bounded support, $\mathbb E\{ \int |f_n(\boldsymbol x)-f_{T^*}(\boldsymbol x)|d\boldsymbol x\}=O(n^{-1/4})$.

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Abstract:We provide improved estimates on the fat-shattering dimension of the $k$-fold maximum of real-valued function classes. The latter consists of all ways of choosing $k$ functions, one from each of the $k$ classes, and computing their pointwise maximum. The bound is stated in terms of the fat-shattering dimensions of the component classes. For linear and affine function classes, we provide a considerably sharper upper bound and a matching lower bound, achieving, in particular, an optimal dependence on $k$. Along the way, we point out and correct a number of erroneous claims in the literature.

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