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INRIA Saclay

Authors:Antoine Scheid, Aymeric Capitaine, Etienne Boursier, Eric Moulines, Michael I Jordan, Alain Durmus

Abstract:In economic theory, the concept of externality refers to any indirect effect resulting from an interaction between players that affects the social welfare. Most of the models within which externality has been studied assume that agents have perfect knowledge of their environment and preferences. This is a major hindrance to the practical implementation of many proposed solutions. To address this issue, we consider a two-player bandit setting where the actions of one of the players affect the other player and we extend the Coase theorem [Coase, 1960]. This result shows that the optimal approach for maximizing the social welfare in the presence of externality is to establish property rights, i.e., enable transfers and bargaining between the players. Our work removes the classical assumption that bargainers possess perfect knowledge of the underlying game. We first demonstrate that in the absence of property rights, the social welfare breaks down. We then design a policy for the players which allows them to learn a bargaining strategy which maximizes the total welfare, recovering the Coase theorem under uncertainty.

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Authors:Antoine Scheid, Daniil Tiapkin, Etienne Boursier, Aymeric Capitaine, El Mahdi El Mhamdi, Eric Moulines, Michael I. Jordan, Alain Durmus

Abstract:This work considers a repeated principal-agent bandit game, where the principal can only interact with her environment through the agent. The principal and the agent have misaligned objectives and the choice of action is only left to the agent. However, the principal can influence the agent's decisions by offering incentives which add up to his rewards. The principal aims to iteratively learn an incentive policy to maximize her own total utility. This framework extends usual bandit problems and is motivated by several practical applications, such as healthcare or ecological taxation, where traditionally used mechanism design theories often overlook the learning aspect of the problem. We present nearly optimal (with respect to a horizon $T$) learning algorithms for the principal's regret in both multi-armed and linear contextual settings. Finally, we support our theoretical guarantees through numerical experiments.

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Abstract:Training neural networks with first order optimisation methods is at the core of the empirical success of deep learning. The scale of initialisation is a crucial factor, as small initialisations are generally associated to a feature learning regime, for which gradient descent is implicitly biased towards simple solutions. This work provides a general and quantitative description of the early alignment phase, originally introduced by Maennel et al. (2018) . For small initialisation and one hidden ReLU layer networks, the early stage of the training dynamics leads to an alignment of the neurons towards key directions. This alignment induces a sparse representation of the network, which is directly related to the implicit bias of gradient flow at convergence. This sparsity inducing alignment however comes at the expense of difficulties in minimising the training objective: we also provide a simple data example for which overparameterised networks fail to converge towards global minima and only converge to a spurious stationary point instead.

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Abstract:Entropy maximization and free energy minimization are general physical principles for modeling the dynamics of various physical systems. Notable examples include modeling decision-making within the brain using the free-energy principle, optimizing the accuracy-complexity trade-off when accessing hidden variables with the information bottleneck principle (Tishby et al., 2000), and navigation in random environments using information maximization (Vergassola et al., 2007). Built on this principle, we propose a new class of bandit algorithms that maximize an approximation to the information of a key variable within the system. To this end, we develop an approximated analytical physics-based representation of an entropy to forecast the information gain of each action and greedily choose the one with the largest information gain. This method yields strong performances in classical bandit settings. Motivated by its empirical success, we prove its asymptotic optimality for the two-armed bandit problem with Gaussian rewards. Owing to its ability to encompass the system's properties in a global physical functional, this approach can be efficiently adapted to more complex bandit settings, calling for further investigation of information maximization approaches for multi-armed bandit problems.

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Abstract:Multiplayer bandits have recently been extensively studied because of their application to cognitive radio networks. While the literature mostly considers synchronous players, radio networks (e.g. for IoT) tend to have asynchronous devices. This motivates the harder, asynchronous multiplayer bandits problem, which was first tackled with an explore-then-commit (ETC) algorithm (see Dakdouk, 2022), with a regret upper-bound in $\mathcal{O}(T^{\frac{2}{3}})$. Before even considering decentralization, understanding the centralized case was still a challenge as it was unknown whether getting a regret smaller than $\Omega(T^{\frac{2}{3}})$ was possible. We answer positively this question, as a natural extension of UCB exhibits a $\mathcal{O}(\sqrt{T\log(T)})$ minimax regret. More importantly, we introduce Cautious Greedy, a centralized algorithm that yields constant instance-dependent regret if the optimal policy assigns at least one player on each arm (a situation that is proved to occur when arm means are close enough). Otherwise, its regret increases as the sum of $\log(T)$ over some sub-optimality gaps. We provide lower bounds showing that Cautious Greedy is optimal in the data-dependent terms. Therefore, we set up a strong baseline for asynchronous multiplayer bandits and suggest that learning the optimal policy in this problem might be easier than thought, at least with centralization.

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Abstract:Controlling the parameters' norm often yields good generalisation when training neural networks. Beyond simple intuitions, the relation between parameters' norm and obtained estimators theoretically remains misunderstood. For one hidden ReLU layer networks with unidimensional data, this work shows the minimal parameters' norm required to represent a function is given by the total variation of its second derivative, weighted by a $\sqrt{1+x^2}$ factor. As a comparison, this $\sqrt{1+x^2}$ weighting disappears when the norm of the bias terms are ignored. This additional weighting is of crucial importance, since it is shown in this work to enforce uniqueness and sparsity (in number of kinks) of the minimal norm interpolator. On the other hand, omitting the bias' norm allows for non-sparse solutions. Penalising the bias terms in the regularisation, either explicitly or implicitly, thus leads to sparse estimators. This sparsity might take part in the good generalisation of neural networks that is empirically observed.

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Abstract:Due to its empirical success on few shot classification and reinforcement learning, meta-learning recently received a lot of interest. Meta-learning leverages data from previous tasks to quickly learn a new task, despite limited data. In particular, model agnostic methods look for initialisation points from which gradient descent quickly adapts to any new task. Although it has been empirically suggested that such methods learn a good shared representation during training, there is no strong theoretical evidence of such behavior. More importantly, it is unclear whether these methods truly are model agnostic, i.e., whether they still learn a shared structure despite architecture misspecifications. To fill this gap, this work shows in the limit of an infinite number of tasks that first order ANIL with a linear two-layer network architecture successfully learns a linear shared representation. Moreover, this result holds despite misspecifications: having a large width with respect to the hidden dimension of the shared representation does not harm the algorithm performance. The learnt parameters then allow to get a small test loss after a single gradient step on any new task. Overall this illustrates how well model agnostic methods can adapt to any (unknown) model structure.

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Abstract:Due mostly to its application to cognitive radio networks, multiplayer bandits gained a lot of interest in the last decade. A considerable progress has been made on its theoretical aspect. However, the current algorithms are far from applicable and many obstacles remain between these theoretical results and a possible implementation of multiplayer bandits algorithms in real cognitive radio networks. This survey contextualizes and organizes the rich multiplayer bandits literature. In light of the existing works, some clear directions for future research appear. We believe that a further study of these different directions might lead to theoretical algorithms adapted to real-world situations.

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Abstract:The training of neural networks by gradient descent methods is a cornerstone of the deep learning revolution. Yet, despite some recent progress, a complete theory explaining its success is still missing. This article presents, for orthogonal input vectors, a precise description of the gradient flow dynamics of training one-hidden layer ReLU neural networks for the mean squared error at small initialisation. In this setting, despite non-convexity, we show that the gradient flow converges to zero loss and characterise its implicit bias towards minimum variation norm. Furthermore, some interesting phenomena are highlighted: a quantitative description of the initial alignment phenomenon and a proof that the process follows a specific saddle to saddle dynamics.

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Abstract:Multi-task learning leverages structural similarities between multiple tasks to learn despite very few samples. Motivated by the recent success of neural networks applied to data-scarce tasks, we consider a linear low-dimensional shared representation model. Despite an extensive literature, existing theoretical results either guarantee weak estimation rates or require a large number of samples per task. This work provides the first estimation error bound for the trace norm regularized estimator when the number of samples per task is small. The advantages of trace norm regularization for learning data-scarce tasks extend to meta-learning and are confirmed empirically on synthetic datasets.

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