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Abstract:Data-driven algorithm design automatically adapts algorithms to specific application domains, achieving better performance. In the context of parameterized algorithms, this approach involves tuning the algorithm parameters using problem instances drawn from the problem distribution of the target application domain. While empirical evidence supports the effectiveness of data-driven algorithm design, providing theoretical guarantees for several parameterized families remains challenging. This is due to the intricate behaviors of their corresponding utility functions, which typically admit piece-wise and discontinuity structures. In this work, we present refined frameworks for providing learning guarantees for parameterized data-driven algorithm design problems in both distributional and online learning settings. For the distributional learning setting, we introduce the Pfaffian GJ framework, an extension of the classical GJ framework, capable of providing learning guarantees for function classes for which the computation involves Pfaffian functions. Unlike the GJ framework, which is limited to function classes with computation characterized by rational functions, our proposed framework can deal with function classes involving Pfaffian functions, which are much more general and widely applicable. We then show that for many parameterized algorithms of interest, their utility function possesses a refined piece-wise structure, which automatically translates to learning guarantees using our proposed framework. For the online learning setting, we provide a new tool for verifying dispersion property of a sequence of loss functions. This sufficient condition allows no-regret learning for sequences of piece-wise structured loss functions where the piece-wise structure involves Pfaffian transition boundaries.

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Abstract:Overcoming the impact of selfish behavior of rational players in multiagent systems is a fundamental problem in game theory. Without any intervention from a central agent, strategic users take actions in order to maximize their personal utility, which can lead to extremely inefficient overall system performance, often indicated by a high Price of Anarchy. Recent work (Lin et al. 2021) investigated and formalized yet another undesirable behavior of rational agents, that of avoiding freely available information about the game for selfish reasons, leading to worse social outcomes. A central planner can significantly mitigate these issues by injecting a subsidy to reduce certain costs associated with the system and obtain net gains in the system performance. Crucially, the planner needs to determine how to allocate this subsidy effectively. We formally show that designing subsidies that perfectly optimize the social good, in terms of minimizing the Price of Anarchy or preventing the information avoidance behavior, is computationally hard under standard complexity theoretic assumptions. On the positive side, we show that we can learn provably good values of subsidy in repeated games coming from the same domain. This data-driven subsidy design approach avoids solving computationally hard problems for unseen games by learning over polynomially many games. We also show that optimal subsidy can be learned with no-regret given an online sequence of games, under mild assumptions on the cost matrix. Our study focuses on two distinct games: a Bayesian extension of the well-studied fair cost-sharing game, and a component maintenance game with engineering applications.

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Abstract:Computational efficiency is a major bottleneck in using classic graph-based approaches for semi-supervised learning on datasets with a large number of unlabeled examples. Known techniques to improve efficiency typically involve an approximation of the graph regularization objective, but suffer two major drawbacks - first the graph is assumed to be known or constructed with heuristic hyperparameter values, second they do not provide a principled approximation guarantee for learning over the full unlabeled dataset. Building on recent work on learning graphs for semi-supervised learning from multiple datasets for problems from the same domain, and leveraging techniques for fast approximations for solving linear systems in the graph Laplacian matrix, we propose algorithms that overcome both the above limitations. We show a formal separation in the learning-theoretic complexity of sparse and dense graph families. We further show how to approximately learn the best graphs from the sparse families efficiently using the conjugate gradient method. Our approach can also be used to learn the graph efficiently online with sub-linear regret, under mild smoothness assumptions. Our online learning results are stated generally, and may be useful for approximate and efficient parameter tuning in other problems. We implement our approach and demonstrate significant ($\sim$10-100x) speedups over prior work on semi-supervised learning with learned graphs on benchmark datasets.

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Abstract:Machine learning algorithms are often used in environments which are not captured accurately even by the most carefully obtained training data, either due to the possibility of `adversarial' test-time attacks, or on account of `natural' distribution shift. For test-time attacks, we introduce and analyze a novel robust reliability guarantee, which requires a learner to output predictions along with a reliability radius $\eta$, with the meaning that its prediction is guaranteed to be correct as long as the adversary has not perturbed the test point farther than a distance $\eta$. We provide learners that are optimal in the sense that they always output the best possible reliability radius on any test point, and we characterize the reliable region, i.e. the set of points where a given reliability radius is attainable. We additionally analyze reliable learners under distribution shift, where the test points may come from an arbitrary distribution Q different from the training distribution P. For both cases, we bound the probability mass of the reliable region for several interesting examples, for linear separators under nearly log-concave and s-concave distributions, as well as for smooth boundary classifiers under smooth probability distributions.

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Abstract:An important unresolved challenge in the theory of regularization is to set the regularization coefficients of popular techniques like the ElasticNet with general provable guarantees. We consider the problem of tuning the regularization parameters of Ridge regression, LASSO, and the ElasticNet across multiple problem instances, a setting that encompasses both cross-validation and multi-task hyperparameter optimization. We obtain a novel structural result for the ElasticNet which characterizes the loss as a function of the tuning parameters as a piecewise-rational function with algebraic boundaries. We use this to bound the structural complexity of the regularized loss functions and show generalization guarantees for tuning the ElasticNet regression coefficients in the statistical setting. We also consider the more challenging online learning setting, where we show vanishing average expected regret relative to the optimal parameter pair. We further extend our results to tuning classification algorithms obtained by thresholding regression fits regularized by Ridge, LASSO, or ElasticNet. Our results are the first general learning-theoretic guarantees for this important class of problems that avoid strong assumptions on the data distribution. Furthermore, our guarantees hold for both validation and popular information criterion objectives.

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Abstract:Data-driven algorithm configuration is a promising, learning-based approach for beyond worst-case analysis of algorithms with tunable parameters. An important open problem is the design of efficient data-driven algorithms for algorithm families with more than one parameter. In this work we provide algorithms for efficient (output-polynomial) multidimensional parameter tuning, i.e. for families with a small constant number of parameters, for three very different combinatorial problems -- linkage-based clustering, dynamic programming for sequence alignment, and auction design for two-part tariff schemes. We extend the single-parameter clustering algorithm of Balcan et al. 2020 arXiv:1907.00533 to multiple parameters and to the sequence alignment problem by proposing an execution graph which compactly represents all the states the algorithm could attain for all possible parameter values. A key problem-specific challenge is to efficiently compute how the partition of the parameter space (into regions with unique algorithmic states) changes with a single algorithmic step. We give algorithms which improve on the runtime of previously best known results for linkage-based clustering, sequence alignment and two-part tariff pricing.

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Abstract:Data poisoning attacks, in which an adversary corrupts a training set with the goal of inducing specific desired mistakes, have raised substantial concern: even just the possibility of such an attack can make a user no longer trust the results of a learning system. In this work, we show how to achieve strong robustness guarantees in the face of such attacks across multiple axes. We provide robustly-reliable predictions, in which the predicted label is guaranteed to be correct so long as the adversary has not exceeded a given corruption budget, even in the presence of instance targeted attacks, where the adversary knows the test example in advance and aims to cause a specific failure on that example. Our guarantees are substantially stronger than those in prior approaches, which were only able to provide certificates that the prediction of the learning algorithm does not change, as opposed to certifying that the prediction is correct, as we are able to achieve in our work. Remarkably, we provide a complete characterization of learnability in this setting, in particular, nearly-tight matching upper and lower bounds on the region that can be certified, as well as efficient algorithms for computing this region given an ERM oracle. Moreover, for the case of linear separators over logconcave distributions, we provide efficient truly polynomial time algorithms (i.e., non-oracle algorithms) for such robustly-reliable predictions. We also extend these results to the active setting where the algorithm adaptively asks for labels of specific informative examples, and the difficulty is that the adversary might even be adaptive to this interaction, as well as to the agnostic learning setting where there is no perfect classifier even over the uncorrupted data.

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Abstract:We analyze the meta-learning of the initialization and step-size of learning algorithms for piecewise-Lipschitz functions, a non-convex setting with applications to both machine learning and algorithms. Starting from recent regret bounds for the exponential forecaster on losses with dispersed discontinuities, we generalize them to be initialization-dependent and then use this result to propose a practical meta-learning procedure that learns both the initialization and the step-size of the algorithm from multiple online learning tasks. Asymptotically, we guarantee that the average regret across tasks scales with a natural notion of task-similarity that measures the amount of overlap between near-optimal regions of different tasks. Finally, we instantiate the method and its guarantee in two important settings: robust meta-learning and multi-task data-driven algorithm design.

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Abstract:We consider a novel data driven approach for designing learning algorithms that can effectively learn with only a small number of labeled examples. This is crucial for modern machine learning applications where labels are scarce or expensive to obtain. We focus on graph-based techniques, where the unlabeled examples are connected in a graph under the implicit assumption that similar nodes likely have similar labels. Over the past decades, several elegant graph-based semi-supervised and active learning algorithms for how to infer the labels of the unlabeled examples given the graph and a few labeled examples have been proposed. However, the problem of how to create the graph (which impacts the practical usefulness of these methods significantly) has been relegated to domain-specific art and heuristics and no general principles have been proposed. In this work we present a novel data driven approach for learning the graph and provide strong formal guarantees in both the distributional and online learning formalizations. We show how to leverage problem instances coming from an underlying problem domain to learn the graph hyperparameters from commonly used parametric families of graphs that perform well on new instances coming from the same domain. We obtain low regret and efficient algorithms in the online setting, and generalization guarantees in the distributional setting. We also show how to combine several very different similarity metrics and learn multiple hyperparameters, providing general techniques to apply to large classes of problems. We expect some of the tools and techniques we develop along the way to be of interest beyond semi-supervised and active learning, for data driven algorithms for combinatorial problems more generally.

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Abstract:We prove that classifiers with the ability to abstain are provably more powerful than those that cannot against an adversary that can perturb datapoints by arbitrary amounts in random directions. Specifically, we show that no matter how well-behaved the natural data is, any classifier that cannot abstain will be defeated by such an adversary. However, by allowing abstention, we give a parameterized algorithm with provably good performance against such an adversary when classes are reasonably well-separated and the data dimension is high. We further use a data-driven method to set our algorithm parameters to optimize over the accuracy vs. abstention trade-off with strong theoretical guarantees. Our theory has direct applications to the technique of contrastive learning, where we empirically demonstrate the ability of our algorithms to obtain high robust accuracy with only small amounts of abstention in both supervised and self-supervised settings.

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