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Abstract:A simple and intuitive method for feature selection consists of choosing the feature subset that maximizes a nonparametric measure of dependence between the response and the features. A popular proposal from the literature uses the Hilbert-Schmidt Independence Criterion (HSIC) as the nonparametric dependence measure. The rationale behind this approach to feature selection is that important features will exhibit a high dependence with the response and their inclusion in the set of selected features will increase the HSIC. Through counterexamples, we demonstrate that this rationale is flawed and that feature selection via HSIC maximization can miss critical features.

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Authors:Feng Ruan

Abstract:In nonsmooth, nonconvex stochastic optimization, understanding the uniform convergence of subdifferential mappings is crucial for analyzing stationary points of sample average approximations of risk as they approach the population risk. Yet, characterizing this convergence remains a fundamental challenge. This work introduces a novel perspective by connecting the uniform convergence of subdifferential mappings to that of subgradient mappings as empirical risk converges to the population risk. We prove that, for stochastic weakly-convex objectives, and within any open set, a uniform bound on the convergence of subgradients -- chosen arbitrarily from the corresponding subdifferential sets -- translates to a uniform bound on the convergence of the subdifferential sets itself, measured by the Hausdorff metric. Using this technique, we derive uniform convergence rates for subdifferential sets of stochastic convex-composite objectives. Our results do not rely on key distributional assumptions in the literature, which require the population and finite sample subdifferentials to be continuous in the Hausdorff metric, yet still provide tight convergence rates. These guarantees lead to new insights into the nonsmooth landscapes of such objectives within finite samples.

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Abstract:We present a nonparametric construction for deep learning compatible modern Hopfield models and utilize this framework to debut an efficient variant. Our key contribution stems from interpreting the memory storage and retrieval processes in modern Hopfield models as a nonparametric regression problem subject to a set of query-memory pairs. Crucially, our framework not only recovers the known results from the original dense modern Hopfield model but also fills the void in the literature regarding efficient modern Hopfield models, by introducing \textit{sparse-structured} modern Hopfield models with sub-quadratic complexity. We establish that this sparse model inherits the appealing theoretical properties of its dense analogue -- connection with transformer attention, fixed point convergence and exponential memory capacity -- even without knowing details of the Hopfield energy function. Additionally, we showcase the versatility of our framework by constructing a family of modern Hopfield models as extensions, including linear, random masked, top-$K$ and positive random feature modern Hopfield models. Empirically, we validate the efficacy of our framework in both synthetic and realistic settings.

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Abstract:Since ChatGPT was introduced in November 2022, embedding (nearly) unnoticeable statistical signals into text generated by large language models (LLMs), also known as watermarking, has been used as a principled approach to provable detection of LLM-generated text from its human-written counterpart. In this paper, we introduce a general and flexible framework for reasoning about the statistical efficiency of watermarks and designing powerful detection rules. Inspired by the hypothesis testing formulation of watermark detection, our framework starts by selecting a pivotal statistic of the text and a secret key -- provided by the LLM to the verifier -- to enable controlling the false positive rate (the error of mistakenly detecting human-written text as LLM-generated). Next, this framework allows one to evaluate the power of watermark detection rules by obtaining a closed-form expression of the asymptotic false negative rate (the error of incorrectly classifying LLM-generated text as human-written). Our framework further reduces the problem of determining the optimal detection rule to solving a minimax optimization program. We apply this framework to two representative watermarks -- one of which has been internally implemented at OpenAI -- and obtain several findings that can be instrumental in guiding the practice of implementing watermarks. In particular, we derive optimal detection rules for these watermarks under our framework. These theoretically derived detection rules are demonstrated to be competitive and sometimes enjoy a higher power than existing detection approaches through numerical experiments.

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Abstract:We consider kernels of the form $(x,x') \mapsto \phi(\|x-x'\|^2_\Sigma)$ parametrized by $\Sigma$. For such kernels, we study a variant of the kernel ridge regression problem which simultaneously optimizes the prediction function and the parameter $\Sigma$ of the reproducing kernel Hilbert space. The eigenspace of the $\Sigma$ learned from this kernel ridge regression problem can inform us which directions in covariate space are important for prediction. Assuming that the covariates have nonzero explanatory power for the response only through a low dimensional subspace (central mean subspace), we find that the global minimizer of the finite sample kernel learning objective is also low rank with high probability. More precisely, the rank of the minimizing $\Sigma$ is with high probability bounded by the dimension of the central mean subspace. This phenomenon is interesting because the low rankness property is achieved without using any explicit regularization of $\Sigma$, e.g., nuclear norm penalization. Our theory makes correspondence between the observed phenomenon and the notion of low rank set identifiability from the optimization literature. The low rankness property of the finite sample solutions exists because the population kernel learning objective grows "sharply" when moving away from its minimizers in any direction perpendicular to the central mean subspace.

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Abstract:Maximum margin binary classification is one of the most fundamental algorithms in machine learning, yet the role of featurization maps and the high-dimensional asymptotics of the misclassification error for non-Gaussian features are still poorly understood. We consider settings in which we observe binary labels $y_i$ and either $d$-dimensional covariates ${\boldsymbol z}_i$ that are mapped to a $p$-dimension space via a randomized featurization map ${\boldsymbol \phi}:\mathbb{R}^d \to\mathbb{R}^p$, or $p$-dimensional features of non-Gaussian independent entries. In this context, we study two fundamental questions: $(i)$ At what overparametrization ratio $p/n$ do the data become linearly separable? $(ii)$ What is the generalization error of the max-margin classifier? Working in the high-dimensional regime in which the number of features $p$, the number of samples $n$ and the input dimension $d$ (in the nonlinear featurization setting) diverge, with ratios of order one, we prove a universality result establishing that the asymptotic behavior is completely determined by the expected covariance of feature vectors and by the covariance between features and labels. In particular, the overparametrization threshold and generalization error can be computed within a simpler Gaussian model. The main technical challenge lies in the fact that max-margin is not the maximizer (or minimizer) of an empirical average, but the maximizer of a minimum over the samples. We address this by representing the classifier as an average over support vectors. Crucially, we find that in high dimensions, the support vector count is proportional to the number of samples, which ultimately yields universality.

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Authors:Xuelin Yang, Louis Abraham, Sejin Kim, Petr Smirnov, Feng Ruan, Benjamin Haibe-Kains, Robert Tibshirani

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Abstract:The Cox proportional hazards model is a canonical method in survival analysis for prediction of the life expectancy of a patient given clinical or genetic covariates -- it is a linear model in its original form. In recent years, several methods have been proposed to generalize the Cox model to neural networks, but none of these are both numerically correct and computationally efficient. We propose FastCPH, a new method that runs in linear time and supports both the standard Breslow and Efron methods for tied events. We also demonstrate the performance of FastCPH combined with LassoNet, a neural network that provides interpretability through feature sparsity, on survival datasets. The final procedure is efficient, selects useful covariates and outperforms existing CoxPH approaches.

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Abstract:We describe an implicit sparsity-inducing mechanism based on minimization over a family of kernels: \begin{equation*} \min_{\beta, f}~\widehat{\mathbb{E}}[L(Y, f(\beta^{1/q} \odot X)] + \lambda_n \|f\|_{\mathcal{H}_q}^2~~\text{subject to}~~\beta \ge 0, \end{equation*} where $L$ is the loss, $\odot$ is coordinate-wise multiplication and $\mathcal{H}_q$ is the reproducing kernel Hilbert space based on the kernel $k_q(x, x') = h(\|x-x'\|_q^q)$, where $\|\cdot\|_q$ is the $\ell_q$ norm. Using gradient descent to optimize this objective with respect to $\beta$ leads to exactly sparse stationary points with high probability. The sparsity is achieved without using any of the well-known explicit sparsification techniques such as penalization (e.g., $\ell_1$), early stopping or post-processing (e.g., clipping). As an application, we use this sparsity-inducing mechanism to build algorithms consistent for feature selection.

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Abstract:Kernel-based feature selection is an important tool in nonparametric statistics. Despite many practical applications of kernel-based feature selection, there is little statistical theory available to support the method. A core challenge is the objective function of the optimization problems used to define kernel-based feature selection are nonconvex. The literature has only studied the statistical properties of the \emph{global optima}, which is a mismatch, given that the gradient-based algorithms available for nonconvex optimization are only able to guarantee convergence to local minima. Studying the full landscape associated with kernel-based methods, we show that feature selection objectives using the Laplace kernel (and other $\ell_1$ kernels) come with statistical guarantees that other kernels, including the ubiquitous Gaussian kernel (or other $\ell_2$ kernels) do not possess. Based on a sharp characterization of the gradient of the objective function, we show that $\ell_1$ kernels eliminate unfavorable stationary points that appear when using an $\ell_2$ kernel. Armed with this insight, we establish statistical guarantees for $\ell_1$ kernel-based feature selection which do not require reaching the global minima. In particular, we establish model-selection consistency of $\ell_1$-kernel-based feature selection in recovering main effects and hierarchical interactions in the nonparametric setting with $n \sim \log p$ samples.

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Abstract:We study two-sided matching markets in which one side of the market (the players) does not have a priori knowledge about its preferences for the other side (the arms) and is required to learn its preferences from experience. Also, we assume the players have no direct means of communication. This model extends the standard stochastic multi-armed bandit framework to a decentralized multiple player setting with competition. We introduce a new algorithm for this setting that, over a time horizon $T$, attains $\mathcal{O}(\log(T))$ stable regret when preferences of the arms over players are shared, and $\mathcal{O}(\log(T)^2)$ regret when there are no assumptions on the preferences on either side.

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