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Authors:Guru Guruganesh, Yoav Kolumbus, Jon Schneider, Inbal Talgam-Cohen, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Joshua R. Wang, S. Matthew Weinberg

Abstract:Many real-life contractual relations differ completely from the clean, static model at the heart of principal-agent theory. Typically, they involve repeated strategic interactions of the principal and agent, taking place under uncertainty and over time. While appealing in theory, players seldom use complex dynamic strategies in practice, often preferring to circumvent complexity and approach uncertainty through learning. We initiate the study of repeated contracts with a learning agent, focusing on agents who achieve no-regret outcomes. Optimizing against a no-regret agent is a known open problem in general games; we achieve an optimal solution to this problem for a canonical contract setting, in which the agent's choice among multiple actions leads to success/failure. The solution has a surprisingly simple structure: for some $\alpha > 0$, initially offer the agent a linear contract with scalar $\alpha$, then switch to offering a linear contract with scalar $0$. This switch causes the agent to ``free-fall'' through their action space and during this time provides the principal with non-zero reward at zero cost. Despite apparent exploitation of the agent, this dynamic contract can leave \emph{both} players better off compared to the best static contract. Our results generalize beyond success/failure, to arbitrary non-linear contracts which the principal rescales dynamically. Finally, we quantify the dependence of our results on knowledge of the time horizon, and are the first to address this consideration in the study of strategizing against learning agents.

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Authors:Iosif Sakos, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Georgios Piliouras

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Abstract:A wide array of modern machine learning applications - from adversarial models to multi-agent reinforcement learning - can be formulated as non-cooperative games whose Nash equilibria represent the system's desired operational states. Despite having a highly non-convex loss landscape, many cases of interest possess a latent convex structure that could potentially be leveraged to yield convergence to equilibrium. Driven by this observation, our paper proposes a flexible first-order method that successfully exploits such "hidden structures" and achieves convergence under minimal assumptions for the transformation connecting the players' control variables to the game's latent, convex-structured layer. The proposed method - which we call preconditioned hidden gradient descent (PHGD) - hinges on a judiciously chosen gradient preconditioning scheme related to natural gradient methods. Importantly, we make no separability assumptions for the game's hidden structure, and we provide explicit convergence rate guarantees for both deterministic and stochastic environments.

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Authors:Francisca Vasconcelos, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Georgios Piliouras, Michael I. Jordan

Abstract:Recent developments in domains such as non-local games, quantum interactive proofs, and quantum generative adversarial networks have renewed interest in quantum game theory and, specifically, quantum zero-sum games. Central to classical game theory is the efficient algorithmic computation of Nash equilibria, which represent optimal strategies for both players. In 2008, Jain and Watrous proposed the first classical algorithm for computing equilibria in quantum zero-sum games using the Matrix Multiplicative Weight Updates (MMWU) method to achieve a convergence rate of $\mathcal{O}(d/\epsilon^2)$ iterations to $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria in the $4^d$-dimensional spectraplex. In this work, we propose a hierarchy of quantum optimization algorithms that generalize MMWU via an extra-gradient mechanism. Notably, within this proposed hierarchy, we introduce the Optimistic Matrix Multiplicative Weights Update (OMMWU) algorithm and establish its average-iterate convergence complexity as $\mathcal{O}(d/\epsilon)$ iterations to $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria. This quadratic speed-up relative to Jain and Watrous' original algorithm sets a new benchmark for computing $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria in quantum zero-sum games.

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Authors:Yang Cai, Michael I. Jordan, Tianyi Lin, Argyris Oikonomou, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis

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Abstract:Numerous applications in machine learning and data analytics can be formulated as equilibrium computation over Riemannian manifolds. Despite the extensive investigation of their Euclidean counterparts, the performance of Riemannian gradient-based algorithms remain opaque and poorly understood. We revisit the original scheme of Riemannian gradient descent (RGD) and analyze it under a geodesic monotonicity assumption, which includes the well-studied geodesically convex-concave min-max optimization problem as a special case. Our main contribution is to show that, despite the phenomenon of distance distortion, the RGD scheme, with a step size that is agnostic to the manifold's curvature, achieves a curvature-independent and linear last-iterate convergence rate in the geodesically strongly monotone setting. To the best of our knowledge, the possibility of curvature-independent rates and/or last-iterate convergence in the Riemannian setting has not been considered before.

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Abstract:For min-max optimization and variational inequalities problems (VIP) encountered in diverse machine learning tasks, Stochastic Extragradient (SEG) and Stochastic Gradient Descent Ascent (SGDA) have emerged as preeminent algorithms. Constant step-size variants of SEG/SGDA have gained popularity, with appealing benefits such as easy tuning and rapid forgiveness of initial conditions, but their convergence behaviors are more complicated even in rudimentary bilinear models. Our work endeavors to elucidate and quantify the probabilistic structures intrinsic to these algorithms. By recasting the constant step-size SEG/SGDA as time-homogeneous Markov Chains, we establish a first-of-its-kind Law of Large Numbers and a Central Limit Theorem, demonstrating that the average iterate is asymptotically normal with a unique invariant distribution for an extensive range of monotone and non-monotone VIPs. Specializing to convex-concave min-max optimization, we characterize the relationship between the step-size and the induced bias with respect to the Von-Neumann's value. Finally, we establish that Richardson-Romberg extrapolation can improve proximity of the average iterate to the global solution for VIPs. Our probabilistic analysis, underpinned by experiments corroborating our theoretical discoveries, harnesses techniques from optimization, Markov chains, and operator theory.

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Abstract:Multi-agent learning is intrinsically harder, more unstable and unpredictable than single agent optimization. For this reason, numerous specialized heuristics and techniques have been designed towards the goal of achieving convergence to equilibria in self-play. One such celebrated approach is the use of dynamically adaptive learning rates. Although such techniques are known to allow for improved convergence guarantees in small games, it has been much harder to analyze them in more relevant settings with large populations of agents. These settings are particularly hard as recent work has established that learning with fixed rates will become chaotic given large enough populations.In this work, we show that chaos persists in large population congestion games despite using adaptive learning rates even for the ubiquitous Multiplicative Weight Updates algorithm, even in the presence of only two strategies. At a technical level, due to the non-autonomous nature of the system, our approach goes beyond conventional period-three techniques Li-Yorke by studying fundamental properties of the dynamics including invariant sets, volume expansion and turbulent sets. We complement our theoretical insights with experiments showcasing that slight variations to system parameters lead to a wide variety of unpredictable behaviors.

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Authors:Angeliki Giannou, Kyriakos Lotidis, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis

Abstract:Learning in stochastic games is a notoriously difficult problem because, in addition to each other's strategic decisions, the players must also contend with the fact that the game itself evolves over time, possibly in a very complicated manner. Because of this, the convergence properties of popular learning algorithms - like policy gradient and its variants - are poorly understood, except in specific classes of games (such as potential or two-player, zero-sum games). In view of this, we examine the long-run behavior of policy gradient methods with respect to Nash equilibrium policies that are second-order stationary (SOS) in a sense similar to the type of sufficiency conditions used in optimization. Our first result is that SOS policies are locally attracting with high probability, and we show that policy gradient trajectories with gradient estimates provided by the REINFORCE algorithm achieve an $\mathcal{O}(1/\sqrt{n})$ distance-squared convergence rate if the method's step-size is chosen appropriately. Subsequently, specializing to the class of deterministic Nash policies, we show that this rate can be improved dramatically and, in fact, policy gradient methods converge within a finite number of iterations in that case.

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Authors:Fivos Kalogiannis, Ioannis Anagnostides, Ioannis Panageas, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Vaggos Chatziafratis, Stelios Stavroulakis

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Abstract:Computing Nash equilibrium policies is a central problem in multi-agent reinforcement learning that has received extensive attention both in theory and in practice. However, provable guarantees have been thus far either limited to fully competitive or cooperative scenarios or impose strong assumptions that are difficult to meet in most practical applications. In this work, we depart from those prior results by investigating infinite-horizon \emph{adversarial team Markov games}, a natural and well-motivated class of games in which a team of identically-interested players -- in the absence of any explicit coordination or communication -- is competing against an adversarial player. This setting allows for a unifying treatment of zero-sum Markov games and Markov potential games, and serves as a step to model more realistic strategic interactions that feature both competing and cooperative interests. Our main contribution is the first algorithm for computing stationary $\epsilon$-approximate Nash equilibria in adversarial team Markov games with computational complexity that is polynomial in all the natural parameters of the game, as well as $1/\epsilon$. The proposed algorithm is particularly natural and practical, and it is based on performing independent policy gradient steps for each player in the team, in tandem with best responses from the side of the adversary; in turn, the policy for the adversary is then obtained by solving a carefully constructed linear program. Our analysis leverages non-standard techniques to establish the KKT optimality conditions for a nonlinear program with nonconvex constraints, thereby leading to a natural interpretation of the induced Lagrange multipliers. Along the way, we significantly extend an important characterization of optimal policies in adversarial (normal-form) team games due to Von Stengel and Koller (GEB `97).

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Abstract:From optimal transport to robust dimensionality reduction, a plethora of machine learning applications can be cast into the min-max optimization problems over Riemannian manifolds. Though many min-max algorithms have been analyzed in the Euclidean setting, it has proved elusive to translate these results to the Riemannian case. Zhang et al. [2022] have recently shown that geodesic convex concave Riemannian problems always admit saddle-point solutions. Inspired by this result, we study whether a performance gap between Riemannian and optimal Euclidean space convex-concave algorithms is necessary. We answer this question in the negative-we prove that the Riemannian corrected extragradient (RCEG) method achieves last-iterate convergence at a linear rate in the geodesically strongly-convex-concave case, matching the Euclidean result. Our results also extend to the stochastic or non-smooth case where RCEG and Riemanian gradient ascent descent (RGDA) achieve near-optimal convergence rates up to factors depending on curvature of the manifold.

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Abstract:We consider the well-studied problem of learning intersections of halfspaces under the Gaussian distribution in the challenging \emph{agnostic learning} model. Recent work of Diakonikolas et al. (2021) shows that any Statistical Query (SQ) algorithm for agnostically learning the class of intersections of $k$ halfspaces over $\mathbb{R}^n$ to constant excess error either must make queries of tolerance at most $n^{-\tilde{\Omega}(\sqrt{\log k})}$ or must make $2^{n^{\Omega(1)}}$ queries. We strengthen this result by improving the tolerance requirement to $n^{-\tilde{\Omega}(\log k)}$. This lower bound is essentially best possible since an SQ algorithm of Klivans et al. (2008) agnostically learns this class to any constant excess error using $n^{O(\log k)}$ queries of tolerance $n^{-O(\log k)}$. We prove two variants of our lower bound, each of which combines ingredients from Diakonikolas et al. (2021) with (an extension of) a different earlier approach for agnostic SQ lower bounds for the Boolean setting due to Dachman-Soled et al. (2014). Our approach also yields lower bounds for agnostically SQ learning the class of "convex subspace juntas" (studied by Vempala, 2010) and the class of sets with bounded Gaussian surface area; all of these lower bounds are nearly optimal since they essentially match known upper bounds from Klivans et al. (2008).

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