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Abstract:Optimization of convex functions under stochastic zeroth-order feedback has been a major and challenging question in online learning. In this work, we consider the problem of optimizing second-order smooth and strongly convex functions where the algorithm is only accessible to noisy evaluations of the objective function it queries. We provide the first tight characterization for the rate of the minimax simple regret by developing matching upper and lower bounds. We propose an algorithm that features a combination of a bootstrapping stage and a mirror-descent stage. Our main technical innovation consists of a sharp characterization for the spherical-sampling gradient estimator under higher-order smoothness conditions, which allows the algorithm to optimally balance the bias-variance tradeoff, and a new iterative method for the bootstrapping stage, which maintains the performance for unbounded Hessian.

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Authors:Charles Lu, Baihe Huang, Sai Praneeth Karimireddy, Praneeth Vepakomma, Michael Jordan, Ramesh Raskar

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Abstract:Acquiring high-quality training data is essential for current machine learning models. Data markets provide a way to increase the supply of data, particularly in data-scarce domains such as healthcare, by incentivizing potential data sellers to join the market. A major challenge for a data buyer in such a market is selecting the most valuable data points from a data seller. Unlike prior work in data valuation, which assumes centralized data access, we propose a federated approach to the data selection problem that is inspired by linear experimental design. Our proposed data selection method achieves lower prediction error without requiring labeled validation data and can be optimized in a fast and federated procedure. The key insight of our work is that a method that directly estimates the benefit of acquiring data for test set prediction is particularly compatible with a decentralized market setting.

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Abstract:We study statistical watermarking by formulating it as a hypothesis testing problem, a general framework which subsumes all previous statistical watermarking methods. Key to our formulation is a coupling of the output tokens and the rejection region, realized by pseudo-random generators in practice, that allows non-trivial trade-off between the Type I error and Type II error. We characterize the Uniformly Most Powerful (UMP) watermark in this context. In the most common scenario where the output is a sequence of $n$ tokens, we establish matching upper and lower bounds on the number of i.i.d. tokens required to guarantee small Type I and Type II errors. Our rate scales as $\Theta(h^{-1} \log (1/h))$ with respect to the average entropy per token $h$ and thus greatly improves the $O(h^{-2})$ rate in the previous works. For scenarios where the detector lacks knowledge of the model's distribution, we introduce the concept of model-agnostic watermarking and establish the minimax bounds for the resultant increase in Type II error. Moreover, we formulate the robust watermarking problem where user is allowed to perform a class of perturbation on the generated texts, and characterize the optimal type II error of robust UMP tests via a linear programming problem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first systematic statistical treatment on the watermarking problem with near-optimal rates in the i.i.d. setting, and might be of interest for future works.

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Abstract:We study the representation complexity of model-based and model-free reinforcement learning (RL) in the context of circuit complexity. We prove theoretically that there exists a broad class of MDPs such that their underlying transition and reward functions can be represented by constant depth circuits with polynomial size, while the optimal $Q$-function suffers an exponential circuit complexity in constant-depth circuits. By drawing attention to the approximation errors and building connections to complexity theory, our theory provides unique insights into why model-based algorithms usually enjoy better sample complexity than model-free algorithms from a novel representation complexity perspective: in some cases, the ground-truth rule (model) of the environment is simple to represent, while other quantities, such as $Q$-function, appear complex. We empirically corroborate our theory by comparing the approximation error of the transition kernel, reward function, and optimal $Q$-function in various Mujoco environments, which demonstrates that the approximation errors of the transition kernel and reward function are consistently lower than those of the optimal $Q$-function. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first to study the circuit complexity of RL, which also provides a rigorous framework for future research.

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Abstract:In stochastic zeroth-order optimization, a problem of practical relevance is understanding how to fully exploit the local geometry of the underlying objective function. We consider a fundamental setting in which the objective function is quadratic, and provide the first tight characterization of the optimal Hessian-dependent sample complexity. Our contribution is twofold. First, from an information-theoretic point of view, we prove tight lower bounds on Hessian-dependent complexities by introducing a concept called energy allocation, which captures the interaction between the searching algorithm and the geometry of objective functions. A matching upper bound is obtained by solving the optimal energy spectrum. Then, algorithmically, we show the existence of a Hessian-independent algorithm that universally achieves the asymptotic optimal sample complexities for all Hessian instances. The optimal sample complexities achieved by our algorithm remain valid for heavy-tailed noise distributions, which are enabled by a truncation method.

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Abstract:For a federated learning model to perform well, it is crucial to have a diverse and representative dataset. However, the data contributors may only be concerned with the performance on a specific subset of the population, which may not reflect the diversity of the wider population. This creates a tension between the principal (the FL platform designer) who cares about global performance and the agents (the data collectors) who care about local performance. In this work, we formulate this tension as a game between the principal and multiple agents, and focus on the linear experiment design problem to formally study their interaction. We show that the statistical criterion used to quantify the diversity of the data, as well as the choice of the federated learning algorithm used, has a significant effect on the resulting equilibrium. We leverage this to design simple optimal federated learning mechanisms that encourage data collectors to contribute data representative of the global population, thereby maximizing global performance.

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Abstract:Sample-efficiency guarantees for offline reinforcement learning (RL) often rely on strong assumptions on both the function classes (e.g., Bellman-completeness) and the data coverage (e.g., all-policy concentrability). Despite the recent efforts on relaxing these assumptions, existing works are only able to relax one of the two factors, leaving the strong assumption on the other factor intact. As an important open problem, can we achieve sample-efficient offline RL with weak assumptions on both factors? In this paper we answer the question in the positive. We analyze a simple algorithm based on the primal-dual formulation of MDPs, where the dual variables (discounted occupancy) are modeled using a density-ratio function against offline data. With proper regularization, we show that the algorithm enjoys polynomial sample complexity, under only realizability and single-policy concentrability. We also provide alternative analyses based on different assumptions to shed light on the nature of primal-dual algorithms for offline RL.

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Abstract:This paper considers two-player zero-sum finite-horizon Markov games with simultaneous moves. The study focuses on the challenging settings where the value function or the model is parameterized by general function classes. Provably efficient algorithms for both decoupled and {coordinated} settings are developed. In the {decoupled} setting where the agent controls a single player and plays against an arbitrary opponent, we propose a new model-free algorithm. The sample complexity is governed by the Minimax Eluder dimension -- a new dimension of the function class in Markov games. As a special case, this method improves the state-of-the-art algorithm by a $\sqrt{d}$ factor in the regret when the reward function and transition kernel are parameterized with $d$-dimensional linear features. In the {coordinated} setting where both players are controlled by the agent, we propose a model-based algorithm and a model-free algorithm. In the model-based algorithm, we prove that sample complexity can be bounded by a generalization of Witness rank to Markov games. The model-free algorithm enjoys a $\sqrt{K}$-regret upper bound where $K$ is the number of episodes. Our algorithms are based on new techniques of alternate optimism.

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Abstract:Deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) powered by neural net approximation of the Q function has had enormous empirical success. While the theory of RL has traditionally focused on linear function approximation (or eluder dimension) approaches, little is known about nonlinear RL with neural net approximations of the Q functions. This is the focus of this work, where we study function approximation with two-layer neural networks (considering both ReLU and polynomial activation functions). Our first result is a computationally and statistically efficient algorithm in the generative model setting under completeness for two-layer neural networks. Our second result considers this setting but under only realizability of the neural net function class. Here, assuming deterministic dynamics, the sample complexity scales linearly in the algebraic dimension. In all cases, our results significantly improve upon what can be attained with linear (or eluder dimension) methods.

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Abstract:Bandit problems with linear or concave reward have been extensively studied, but relatively few works have studied bandits with non-concave reward. This work considers a large family of bandit problems where the unknown underlying reward function is non-concave, including the low-rank generalized linear bandit problems and two-layer neural network with polynomial activation bandit problem. For the low-rank generalized linear bandit problem, we provide a minimax-optimal algorithm in the dimension, refuting both conjectures in [LMT21, JWWN19]. Our algorithms are based on a unified zeroth-order optimization paradigm that applies in great generality and attains optimal rates in several structured polynomial settings (in the dimension). We further demonstrate the applicability of our algorithms in RL in the generative model setting, resulting in improved sample complexity over prior approaches. Finally, we show that the standard optimistic algorithms (e.g., UCB) are sub-optimal by dimension factors. In the neural net setting (with polynomial activation functions) with noiseless reward, we provide a bandit algorithm with sample complexity equal to the intrinsic algebraic dimension. Again, we show that optimistic approaches have worse sample complexity, polynomial in the extrinsic dimension (which could be exponentially worse in the polynomial degree).

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