Neural approaches for combinatorial optimization (CO) equip a learning mechanism to discover powerful heuristics for solving complex real-world problems. While neural approaches capable of high-quality solutions in a single shot are emerging, state-of-the-art approaches are often unable to take full advantage of the solving time available to them. In contrast, hand-crafted heuristics perform highly effective search well and exploit the computation time given to them, but contain heuristics that are difficult to adapt to a dataset being solved. With the goal of providing a powerful search procedure to neural CO approaches, we propose simulation-guided beam search (SGBS), which examines candidate solutions within a fixed-width tree search that both a neural net-learned policy and a simulation (rollout) identify as promising. We further hybridize SGBS with efficient active search (EAS), where SGBS enhances the quality of solutions backpropagated in EAS, and EAS improves the quality of the policy used in SGBS. We evaluate our methods on well-known CO benchmarks and show that SGBS significantly improves the quality of the solutions found under reasonable runtime assumptions.
Machine Learning (ML) can help solve combinatorial optimization (CO) problems better. A popular approach is to use a neural net to compute on the parameters of a given CO problem and extract useful information that guides the search for good solutions. Many CO problems of practical importance can be specified in a matrix form of parameters quantifying the relationship between two groups of items. There is currently no neural net model, however, that takes in such matrix-style relationship data as an input. Consequently, these types of CO problems have been out of reach for ML engineers. In this paper, we introduce Matrix Encoding Network (MatNet) and show how conveniently it takes in and processes parameters of such complex CO problems. Using an end-to-end model based on MatNet, we solve asymmetric traveling salesman (ATSP) and flexible flow shop (FFSP) problems as the earliest neural approach. In particular, for a class of FFSP we have tested MatNet on, we demonstrate a far superior empirical performance to any methods (neural or not) known to date.
This paper introduces SelfMatch, a semi-supervised learning method that combines the power of contrastive self-supervised learning and consistency regularization. SelfMatch consists of two stages: (1) self-supervised pre-training based on contrastive learning and (2) semi-supervised fine-tuning based on augmentation consistency regularization. We empirically demonstrate that SelfMatch achieves the state-of-the-art results on standard benchmark datasets such as CIFAR-10 and SVHN. For example, for CIFAR-10 with 40 labeled examples, SelfMatch achieves 93.19% accuracy that outperforms the strong previous methods such as MixMatch (52.46%), UDA (70.95%), ReMixMatch (80.9%), and FixMatch (86.19%). We note that SelfMatch can close the gap between supervised learning (95.87%) and semi-supervised learning (93.19%) by using only a few labels for each class.
In neural combinatorial optimization (CO), reinforcement learning (RL) can turn a deep neural net into a fast, powerful heuristic solver of NP-hard problems. This approach has a great potential in practical applications because it allows near-optimal solutions to be found without expert guides armed with substantial domain knowledge. We introduce Policy Optimization with Multiple Optima (POMO), an end-to-end approach for building such a heuristic solver. POMO is applicable to a wide range of CO problems. It is designed to exploit the symmetries in the representation of a CO solution. POMO uses a modified REINFORCE algorithm that forces diverse rollouts towards all optimal solutions. Empirically, the low-variance baseline of POMO makes RL training fast and stable, and it is more resistant to local minima compared to previous approaches. We also introduce a new augmentation-based inference method, which accompanies POMO nicely. We demonstrate the effectiveness of POMO by solving three popular NP-hard problems, namely, traveling salesman (TSP), capacitated vehicle routing (CVRP), and 0-1 knapsack (KP). For all three, our solver based on POMO shows a significant improvement in performance over all recent learned heuristics. In particular, we achieve the optimality gap of 0.14% with TSP100 while reducing inference time by more than an order of magnitude.