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Yiping Wang, Yifang Chen, Wendan Yan, Kevin Jamieson, Simon Shaolei Du

In recent years, data selection has emerged as a core issue for large-scale visual-language model pretraining, especially on noisy web-curated datasets. One widely adopted strategy assigns quality scores such as CLIP similarity for each sample and retains the data pairs with the highest scores. However, these approaches are agnostic of data distribution and always fail to select the most informative samples. To solve this problem, we propose a simple yet theoretically principled metric named Variance Alignment Score (VAS), which has the form $\langle \Sigma_{\text{test}}, \Sigma_i\rangle$. Here, $\Sigma_{\text{test}}$ represents the target (cross-)covariance matrix we aim to align, potentially based on prior knowledge, while $\Sigma_i$ denotes the tensor product of single or multi-modal representations for the $i$-th sample. We further design a new data selection method that maximizes the total VAS. We provide theoretical analysis in a simplified setting to demonstrate the theoretical advantage of VAS over random or other existing data selection. Experimentally, applying VAS and CLIP scores together can outperform baselines by a margin of $1.3\%$ average on 38 evaluation sets for noisy dataset DataComp and $2.5\%$ on VTAB for high-quality dataset CC12M. Additionally, our ablation study also shows visual features are better than text for calculating VAS, and the related classical experimental design methods may fail under this context.

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Gantavya Bhatt, Yifang Chen, Arnav M. Das, Jifan Zhang, Sang T. Truong, Stephen Mussmann, Yinglun Zhu, Jeffrey Bilmes, Simon S. Du, Kevin Jamieson, Jordan T. Ash, Robert D. Nowak

Supervised finetuning (SFT) on instruction datasets has played a crucial role in achieving the remarkable zero-shot generalization capabilities observed in modern large language models (LLMs). However, the annotation efforts required to produce high quality responses for instructions are becoming prohibitively expensive, especially as the number of tasks spanned by instruction datasets continues to increase. Active learning is effective in identifying useful subsets of samples to annotate from an unlabeled pool, but its high computational cost remains a barrier to its widespread applicability in the context of LLMs. To mitigate the annotation cost of SFT and circumvent the computational bottlenecks of active learning, we propose using experimental design. Experimental design techniques select the most informative samples to label, and typically maximize some notion of uncertainty and/or diversity. In our work, we implement a framework that evaluates several existing and novel experimental design techniques and find that these methods consistently yield significant gains in label efficiency with little computational overhead. On generative tasks, our methods achieve the same generalization performance with only $50\%$ of annotation cost required by random sampling.

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Romain Camilleri, Andrew Wagenmaker, Jamie Morgenstern, Lalit Jain, Kevin Jamieson

In critical machine learning applications, ensuring fairness is essential to avoid perpetuating social inequities. In this work, we address the challenges of reducing bias and improving accuracy in data-scarce environments, where the cost of collecting labeled data prohibits the use of large, labeled datasets. In such settings, active learning promises to maximize marginal accuracy gains of small amounts of labeled data. However, existing applications of active learning for fairness fail to deliver on this, typically requiring large labeled datasets, or failing to ensure the desired fairness tolerance is met on the population distribution. To address such limitations, we introduce an innovative active learning framework that combines an exploration procedure inspired by posterior sampling with a fair classification subroutine. We demonstrate that this framework performs effectively in very data-scarce regimes, maximizing accuracy while satisfying fairness constraints with high probability. We evaluate our proposed approach using well-established real-world benchmark datasets and compare it against state-of-the-art methods, demonstrating its effectiveness in producing fair models, and improvement over existing methods.

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Artin Tajdini, Lalit Jain, Kevin Jamieson

We consider maximizing a monotonic, submodular set function $f: 2^{[n]} \rightarrow [0,1]$ under stochastic bandit feedback. Specifically, $f$ is unknown to the learner but at each time $t=1,\dots,T$ the learner chooses a set $S_t \subset [n]$ with $|S_t| \leq k$ and receives reward $f(S_t) + \eta_t$ where $\eta_t$ is mean-zero sub-Gaussian noise. The objective is to minimize the learner's regret over $T$ times with respect to ($1-e^{-1}$)-approximation of maximum $f(S_*)$ with $|S_*| = k$, obtained through greedy maximization of $f$. To date, the best regret bound in the literature scales as $k n^{1/3} T^{2/3}$. And by trivially treating every set as a unique arm one deduces that $\sqrt{ {n \choose k} T }$ is also achievable. In this work, we establish the first minimax lower bound for this setting that scales like $\mathcal{O}(\min_{i \le k}(in^{1/3}T^{2/3} + \sqrt{n^{k-i}T}))$. Moreover, we propose an algorithm that is capable of matching the lower bound regret.

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Arnab Maiti, Ross Boczar, Kevin Jamieson, Lillian J. Ratliff

We study the sample complexity of identifying the pure strategy Nash equilibrium (PSNE) in a two-player zero-sum matrix game with noise. Formally, we are given a stochastic model where any learner can sample an entry $(i,j)$ of the input matrix $A\in[-1,1]^{n\times m}$ and observe $A_{i,j}+\eta$ where $\eta$ is a zero-mean 1-sub-Gaussian noise. The aim of the learner is to identify the PSNE of $A$, whenever it exists, with high probability while taking as few samples as possible. Zhou et al. (2017) presents an instance-dependent sample complexity lower bound that depends only on the entries in the row and column in which the PSNE lies. We design a near-optimal algorithm whose sample complexity matches the lower bound, up to log factors. The problem of identifying the PSNE also generalizes the problem of pure exploration in stochastic multi-armed bandits and dueling bandits, and our result matches the optimal bounds, up to log factors, in both the settings.

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Zhaoqi Li, Kevin Jamieson, Lalit Jain

Given a set of arms $\mathcal{Z}\subset \mathbb{R}^d$ and an unknown parameter vector $\theta_\ast\in\mathbb{R}^d$, the pure exploration linear bandit problem aims to return $\arg\max_{z\in \mathcal{Z}} z^{\top}\theta_{\ast}$, with high probability through noisy measurements of $x^{\top}\theta_{\ast}$ with $x\in \mathcal{X}\subset \mathbb{R}^d$. Existing (asymptotically) optimal methods require either a) potentially costly projections for each arm $z\in \mathcal{Z}$ or b) explicitly maintaining a subset of $\mathcal{Z}$ under consideration at each time. This complexity is at odds with the popular and simple Thompson Sampling algorithm for regret minimization, which just requires access to a posterior sampling and argmax oracle, and does not need to enumerate $\mathcal{Z}$ at any point. Unfortunately, Thompson sampling is known to be sub-optimal for pure exploration. In this work, we pose a natural question: is there an algorithm that can explore optimally and only needs the same computational primitives as Thompson Sampling? We answer the question in the affirmative. We provide an algorithm that leverages only sampling and argmax oracles and achieves an exponential convergence rate, with the exponent being the optimal among all possible allocations asymptotically. In addition, we show that our algorithm can be easily implemented and performs as well empirically as existing asymptotically optimal methods.

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Shuai Li, Azarakhsh Keipour, Kevin Jamieson, Nicolas Hudson, Sicong Szhao, Charles Swan, Kostas Bekris

Automating warehouse operations can reduce logistics overhead costs, ultimately driving down the final price for consumers, increasing the speed of delivery, and enhancing the resiliency to market fluctuations. This extended abstract showcases a large-scale package manipulation from unstructured piles in Amazon Robotics' Robot Induction (Robin) fleet, which is used for picking and singulating up to 6 million packages per day and so far has manipulated over 2 billion packages. It describes the various heuristic methods developed over time and their successor, which utilizes a pick success predictor trained on real production data. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this work is the first large-scale deployment of learned pick quality estimation methods in a real production system.

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Zhihan Xiong, Romain Camilleri, Maryam Fazel, Lalit Jain, Kevin Jamieson

We investigate the fixed-budget best-arm identification (BAI) problem for linear bandits in a potentially non-stationary environment. Given a finite arm set $\mathcal{X}\subset\mathbb{R}^d$, a fixed budget $T$, and an unpredictable sequence of parameters $\left\lbrace\theta_t\right\rbrace_{t=1}^{T}$, an algorithm will aim to correctly identify the best arm $x^* := \arg\max_{x\in\mathcal{X}}x^\top\sum_{t=1}^{T}\theta_t$ with probability as high as possible. Prior work has addressed the stationary setting where $\theta_t = \theta_1$ for all $t$ and demonstrated that the error probability decreases as $\exp(-T /\rho^*)$ for a problem-dependent constant $\rho^*$. But in many real-world $A/B/n$ multivariate testing scenarios that motivate our work, the environment is non-stationary and an algorithm expecting a stationary setting can easily fail. For robust identification, it is well-known that if arms are chosen randomly and non-adaptively from a G-optimal design over $\mathcal{X}$ at each time then the error probability decreases as $\exp(-T\Delta^2_{(1)}/d)$, where $\Delta_{(1)} = \min_{x \neq x^*} (x^* - x)^\top \frac{1}{T}\sum_{t=1}^T \theta_t$. As there exist environments where $\Delta_{(1)}^2/ d \ll 1/ \rho^*$, we are motivated to propose a novel algorithm $\mathsf{P1}$-$\mathsf{RAGE}$ that aims to obtain the best of both worlds: robustness to non-stationarity and fast rates of identification in benign settings. We characterize the error probability of $\mathsf{P1}$-$\mathsf{RAGE}$ and demonstrate empirically that the algorithm indeed never performs worse than G-optimal design but compares favorably to the best algorithms in the stationary setting.

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Arnab Maiti, Kevin Jamieson, Lillian J. Ratliff

This paper considers a variant of zero-sum matrix games where at each timestep the row player chooses row $i$, the column player chooses column $j$, and the row player receives a noisy reward with mean $A_{i,j}$. The objective of the row player is to accumulate as much reward as possible, even against an adversarial column player. If the row player uses the EXP3 strategy, an algorithm known for obtaining $\sqrt{T}$ regret against an arbitrary sequence of rewards, it is immediate that the row player also achieves $\sqrt{T}$ regret relative to the Nash equilibrium in this game setting. However, partly motivated by the fact that the EXP3 strategy is myopic to the structure of the game, O'Donoghue et al. (2021) proposed a UCB-style algorithm that leverages the game structure and demonstrated that this algorithm greatly outperforms EXP3 empirically. While they showed that this UCB-style algorithm achieved $\sqrt{T}$ regret, in this paper we ask if there exists an algorithm that provably achieves $\text{polylog}(T)$ regret against any adversary, analogous to results from stochastic bandits. We propose a novel algorithm that answers this question in the affirmative for the simple $2 \times 2$ setting, providing the first instance-dependent guarantees for games in the regret setting. Our algorithm overcomes two major hurdles: 1) obtaining logarithmic regret even though the Nash equilibrium is estimable only at a $1/\sqrt{T}$ rate, and 2) designing row-player strategies that guarantee that either the adversary provides information about the Nash equilibrium, or the row player incurs negative regret. Moreover, in the full information case we address the general $n \times m$ case where the first hurdle is still relevant. Finally, we show that EXP3 and the UCB-based algorithm necessarily cannot perform better than $\sqrt{T}$.

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