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Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri, Yutao Zhong

We present a study of surrogate losses and algorithms for the general problem of learning to defer with multiple experts. We first introduce a new family of surrogate losses specifically tailored for the multiple-expert setting, where the prediction and deferral functions are learned simultaneously. We then prove that these surrogate losses benefit from strong $H$-consistency bounds. We illustrate the application of our analysis through several examples of practical surrogate losses, for which we give explicit guarantees. These loss functions readily lead to the design of new learning to defer algorithms based on their minimization. While the main focus of this work is a theoretical analysis, we also report the results of several experiments on SVHN and CIFAR-10 datasets.

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Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri, Yutao Zhong

We study the key framework of learning with abstention in the multi-class classification setting. In this setting, the learner can choose to abstain from making a prediction with some pre-defined cost. We present a series of new theoretical and algorithmic results for this learning problem in the predictor-rejector framework. We introduce several new families of surrogate losses for which we prove strong non-asymptotic and hypothesis set-specific consistency guarantees, thereby resolving positively two existing open questions. These guarantees provide upper bounds on the estimation error of the abstention loss function in terms of that of the surrogate loss. We analyze both a single-stage setting where the predictor and rejector are learned simultaneously and a two-stage setting crucial in applications, where the predictor is learned in a first stage using a standard surrogate loss such as cross-entropy. These guarantees suggest new multi-class abstention algorithms based on minimizing these surrogate losses. We also report the results of extensive experiments comparing these algorithms to the current state-of-the-art algorithms on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100 and SVHN datasets. Our results demonstrate empirically the benefit of our new surrogate losses and show the remarkable performance of our broadly applicable two-stage abstention algorithm.

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Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri, Yutao Zhong

Learning with abstention is a key scenario where the learner can abstain from making a prediction at some cost. In this paper, we analyze the score-based formulation of learning with abstention in the multi-class classification setting. We introduce new families of surrogate losses for the abstention loss function, which include the state-of-the-art surrogate losses in the single-stage setting and a novel family of loss functions in the two-stage setting. We prove strong non-asymptotic and hypothesis set-specific consistency guarantees for these surrogate losses, which upper-bound the estimation error of the abstention loss function in terms of the estimation error of the surrogate loss. Our bounds can help compare different score-based surrogates and guide the design of novel abstention algorithms by minimizing the proposed surrogate losses. We experimentally evaluate our new algorithms on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and SVHN datasets and the practical significance of our new surrogate losses and two-stage abstention algorithms. Our results also show that the relative performance of the state-of-the-art score-based surrogate losses can vary across datasets.

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Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri, Yutao Zhong

We introduce a novel framework of ranking with abstention, where the learner can abstain from making prediction at some limited cost $c$. We present a extensive theoretical analysis of this framework including a series of $H$-consistency bounds for both the family of linear functions and that of neural networks with one hidden-layer. These theoretical guarantees are the state-of-the-art consistency guarantees in the literature, which are upper bounds on the target loss estimation error of a predictor in a hypothesis set $H$, expressed in terms of the surrogate loss estimation error of that predictor. We further argue that our proposed abstention methods are important when using common equicontinuous hypothesis sets in practice. We report the results of experiments illustrating the effectiveness of ranking with abstention.

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Raef Bassily, Corinna Cortes, Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri

In many applications, the labeled data at the learner's disposal is subject to privacy constraints and is relatively limited. To derive a more accurate predictor for the target domain, it is often beneficial to leverage publicly available labeled data from an alternative domain, somewhat close to the target domain. This is the modern problem of supervised domain adaptation from a public source to a private target domain. We present two $(\epsilon, \delta)$-differentially private adaptation algorithms for supervised adaptation, for which we make use of a general optimization problem, recently shown to benefit from favorable theoretical learning guarantees. Our first algorithm is designed for regression with linear predictors and shown to solve a convex optimization problem. Our second algorithm is a more general solution for loss functions that may be non-convex but Lipschitz and smooth. While our main objective is a theoretical analysis, we also report the results of several experiments first demonstrating that the non-private versions of our algorithms outperform adaptation baselines and next showing that, for larger values of the target sample size or $\epsilon$, the performance of our private algorithms remains close to that of the non-private formulation.

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Pranjal Awasthi, Corinna Cortes, Mehryar Mohri

We study a problem of best-effort adaptation motivated by several applications and considerations, which consists of determining an accurate predictor for a target domain, for which a moderate amount of labeled samples are available, while leveraging information from another domain for which substantially more labeled samples are at one's disposal. We present a new and general discrepancy-based theoretical analysis of sample reweighting methods, including bounds holding uniformly over the weights. We show how these bounds can guide the design of learning algorithms that we discuss in detail. We further show that our learning guarantees and algorithms provide improved solutions for standard domain adaptation problems, for which few labeled data or none are available from the target domain. We finally report the results of a series of experiments demonstrating the effectiveness of our best-effort adaptation and domain adaptation algorithms, as well as comparisons with several baselines. We also discuss how our analysis can benefit the design of principled solutions for fine-tuning.

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Anqi Mao, Mehryar Mohri, Yutao Zhong

Cross-entropy is a widely used loss function in applications. It coincides with the logistic loss applied to the outputs of a neural network, when the softmax is used. But, what guarantees can we rely on when using cross-entropy as a surrogate loss? We present a theoretical analysis of a broad family of losses, comp-sum losses, that includes cross-entropy (or logistic loss), generalized cross-entropy, the mean absolute error and other loss cross-entropy-like functions. We give the first $H$-consistency bounds for these loss functions. These are non-asymptotic guarantees that upper bound the zero-one loss estimation error in terms of the estimation error of a surrogate loss, for the specific hypothesis set $H$ used. We further show that our bounds are tight. These bounds depend on quantities called minimizability gaps, which only depend on the loss function and the hypothesis set. To make them more explicit, we give a specific analysis of these gaps for comp-sum losses. We also introduce a new family of loss functions, smooth adversarial comp-sum losses, derived from their comp-sum counterparts by adding in a related smooth term. We show that these loss functions are beneficial in the adversarial setting by proving that they admit $H$-consistency bounds. This leads to new adversarial robustness algorithms that consist of minimizing a regularized smooth adversarial comp-sum loss. While our main purpose is a theoretical analysis, we also present an extensive empirical analysis comparing comp-sum losses. We further report the results of a series of experiments demonstrating that our adversarial robustness algorithms outperform the current state-of-the-art, while also achieving a superior non-adversarial accuracy.

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Christoph Dann, Yishay Mansour, Mehryar Mohri, Jon Schneider, Balasubramanian Sivan

Blackwell's celebrated approachability theory provides a general framework for a variety of learning problems, including regret minimization. However, Blackwell's proof and implicit algorithm measure approachability using the $\ell_2$ (Euclidean) distance. We argue that in many applications such as regret minimization, it is more useful to study approachability under other distance metrics, most commonly the $\ell_\infty$-metric. But, the time and space complexity of the algorithms designed for $\ell_\infty$-approachability depend on the dimension of the space of the vectorial payoffs, which is often prohibitively large. Thus, we present a framework for converting high-dimensional $\ell_\infty$-approachability problems to low-dimensional pseudonorm approachability problems, thereby resolving such issues. We first show that the $\ell_\infty$-distance between the average payoff and the approachability set can be equivalently defined as a pseudodistance between a lower-dimensional average vector payoff and a new convex set we define. Next, we develop an algorithmic theory of pseudonorm approachability, analogous to previous work on approachability for $\ell_2$ and other norms, showing that it can be achieved via online linear optimization (OLO) over a convex set given by the Fenchel dual of the unit pseudonorm ball. We then use that to show, modulo mild normalization assumptions, that there exists an $\ell_\infty$-approachability algorithm whose convergence is independent of the dimension of the original vectorial payoff. We further show that that algorithm admits a polynomial-time complexity, assuming that the original $\ell_\infty$-distance can be computed efficiently. We also give an $\ell_\infty$-approachability algorithm whose convergence is logarithmic in that dimension using an FTRL algorithm with a maximum-entropy regularizer.

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Christoph Dann, Mehryar Mohri, Tong Zhang, Julian Zimmert

Thompson Sampling is one of the most effective methods for contextual bandits and has been generalized to posterior sampling for certain MDP settings. However, existing posterior sampling methods for reinforcement learning are limited by being model-based or lack worst-case theoretical guarantees beyond linear MDPs. This paper proposes a new model-free formulation of posterior sampling that applies to more general episodic reinforcement learning problems with theoretical guarantees. We introduce novel proof techniques to show that under suitable conditions, the worst-case regret of our posterior sampling method matches the best known results of optimization based methods. In the linear MDP setting with dimension, the regret of our algorithm scales linearly with the dimension as compared to a quadratic dependence of the existing posterior sampling-based exploration algorithms.

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Raef Bassily, Mehryar Mohri, Ananda Theertha Suresh

A key problem in a variety of applications is that of domain adaptation from a public source domain, for which a relatively large amount of labeled data with no privacy constraints is at one's disposal, to a private target domain, for which a private sample is available with very few or no labeled data. In regression problems with no privacy constraints on the source or target data, a discrepancy minimization algorithm based on several theoretical guarantees was shown to outperform a number of other adaptation algorithm baselines. Building on that approach, we design differentially private discrepancy-based algorithms for adaptation from a source domain with public labeled data to a target domain with unlabeled private data. The design and analysis of our private algorithms critically hinge upon several key properties we prove for a smooth approximation of the weighted discrepancy, such as its smoothness with respect to the $\ell_1$-norm and the sensitivity of its gradient. Our solutions are based on private variants of Frank-Wolfe and Mirror-Descent algorithms. We show that our adaptation algorithms benefit from strong generalization and privacy guarantees and report the results of experiments demonstrating their effectiveness.

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