Get our free extension to see links to code for papers anywhere online!Free add-on: code for papers everywhere!Free add-on: See code for papers anywhere!

Abstract:We initiate the study of the truthfulness of calibration measures in sequential prediction. A calibration measure is said to be truthful if the forecaster (approximately) minimizes the expected penalty by predicting the conditional expectation of the next outcome, given the prior distribution of outcomes. Truthfulness is an important property of calibration measures, ensuring that the forecaster is not incentivized to exploit the system with deliberate poor forecasts. This makes it an essential desideratum for calibration measures, alongside typical requirements, such as soundness and completeness. We conduct a taxonomy of existing calibration measures and their truthfulness. Perhaps surprisingly, we find that all of them are far from being truthful. That is, under existing calibration measures, there are simple distributions on which a polylogarithmic (or even zero) penalty is achievable, while truthful prediction leads to a polynomial penalty. Our main contribution is the introduction of a new calibration measure termed the Subsampled Smooth Calibration Error (SSCE) under which truthful prediction is optimal up to a constant multiplicative factor.

Via

Abstract:We study a variant of Collaborative PAC Learning, in which we aim to learn an accurate classifier for each of the $n$ data distributions, while minimizing the number of samples drawn from them in total. Unlike in the usual collaborative learning setup, it is not assumed that there exists a single classifier that is simultaneously accurate for all distributions. We show that, when the data distributions satisfy a weaker realizability assumption, sample-efficient learning is still feasible. We give a learning algorithm based on Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) on a natural augmentation of the hypothesis class, and the analysis relies on an upper bound on the VC dimension of this augmented class. In terms of the computational efficiency, we show that ERM on the augmented hypothesis class is NP-hard, which gives evidence against the existence of computationally efficient learners in general. On the positive side, for two special cases, we give learners that are both sample- and computationally-efficient.

Via

Abstract:We study a sequential binary prediction setting where the forecaster is evaluated in terms of the calibration distance, which is defined as the $L_1$ distance between the predicted values and the set of predictions that are perfectly calibrated in hindsight. This is analogous to a calibration measure recently proposed by B{\l}asiok, Gopalan, Hu and Nakkiran (STOC 2023) for the offline setting. The calibration distance is a natural and intuitive measure of deviation from perfect calibration, and satisfies a Lipschitz continuity property which does not hold for many popular calibration measures, such as the $L_1$ calibration error and its variants. We prove that there is a forecasting algorithm that achieves an $O(\sqrt{T})$ calibration distance in expectation on an adversarially chosen sequence of $T$ binary outcomes. At the core of this upper bound is a structural result showing that the calibration distance is accurately approximated by the lower calibration distance, which is a continuous relaxation of the former. We then show that an $O(\sqrt{T})$ lower calibration distance can be achieved via a simple minimax argument and a reduction to online learning on a Lipschitz class. On the lower bound side, an $\Omega(T^{1/3})$ calibration distance is shown to be unavoidable, even when the adversary outputs a sequence of independent random bits, and has an additional ability to early stop (i.e., to stop producing random bits and output the same bit in the remaining steps). Interestingly, without this early stopping, the forecaster can achieve a much smaller calibration distance of $\mathrm{polylog}(T)$.

Via

Abstract:We study the problem of recovering Gaussian data under adversarial corruptions when the noises are low-rank and the corruptions are on the coordinate level. Concretely, we assume that the Gaussian noises lie in an unknown $k$-dimensional subspace $U \subseteq \mathbb{R}^d$, and $s$ randomly chosen coordinates of each data point fall into the control of an adversary. This setting models the scenario of learning from high-dimensional yet structured data that are transmitted through a highly-noisy channel, so that the data points are unlikely to be entirely clean. Our main result is an efficient algorithm that, when $ks^2 = O(d)$, recovers every single data point up to a nearly-optimal $\ell_1$ error of $\tilde O(ks/d)$ in expectation. At the core of our proof is a new analysis of the well-known Basis Pursuit (BP) method for recovering a sparse signal, which is known to succeed under additional assumptions (e.g., incoherence or the restricted isometry property) on the underlying subspace $U$. In contrast, we present a novel approach via studying a natural combinatorial problem and show that, over the randomness in the support of the sparse signal, a high-probability error bound is possible even if the subspace $U$ is arbitrary.

Via

Figures and Tables:

Abstract:We revisit the problem of learning mixtures of spherical Gaussians. Given samples from mixture $\frac{1}{k}\sum_{j=1}^{k}\mathcal{N}(\mu_j, I_d)$, the goal is to estimate the means $\mu_1, \mu_2, \ldots, \mu_k \in \mathbb{R}^d$ up to a small error. The hardness of this learning problem can be measured by the separation $\Delta$ defined as the minimum distance between all pairs of means. Regev and Vijayaraghavan (2017) showed that with $\Delta = \Omega(\sqrt{\log k})$ separation, the means can be learned using $\mathrm{poly}(k, d)$ samples, whereas super-polynomially many samples are required if $\Delta = o(\sqrt{\log k})$ and $d = \Omega(\log k)$. This leaves open the low-dimensional regime where $d = o(\log k)$. In this work, we give an algorithm that efficiently learns the means in $d = O(\log k/\log\log k)$ dimensions under separation $d/\sqrt{\log k}$ (modulo doubly logarithmic factors). This separation is strictly smaller than $\sqrt{\log k}$, and is also shown to be necessary. Along with the results of Regev and Vijayaraghavan (2017), our work almost pins down the critical separation threshold at which efficient parameter learning becomes possible for spherical Gaussian mixtures. More generally, our algorithm runs in time $\mathrm{poly}(k)\cdot f(d, \Delta, \epsilon)$, and is thus fixed-parameter tractable in parameters $d$, $\Delta$ and $\epsilon$. Our approach is based on estimating the Fourier transform of the mixture at carefully chosen frequencies, and both the algorithm and its analysis are simple and elementary. Our positive results can be easily extended to learning mixtures of non-Gaussian distributions, under a mild condition on the Fourier spectrum of the distribution.

Via

Figures and Tables:

Abstract:The authors recently gave an $n^{O(\log\log n)}$ time membership query algorithm for properly learning decision trees under the uniform distribution (Blanc et al., 2021). The previous fastest algorithm for this problem ran in $n^{O(\log n)}$ time, a consequence of Ehrenfeucht and Haussler (1989)'s classic algorithm for the distribution-free setting. In this article we highlight the natural open problem of obtaining a polynomial-time algorithm, discuss possible avenues towards obtaining it, and state intermediate milestones that we believe are of independent interest.

Via

Figures and Tables:

Abstract:We give an $n^{O(\log\log n)}$-time membership query algorithm for properly and agnostically learning decision trees under the uniform distribution over $\{\pm 1\}^n$. Even in the realizable setting, the previous fastest runtime was $n^{O(\log n)}$, a consequence of a classic algorithm of Ehrenfeucht and Haussler. Our algorithm shares similarities with practical heuristics for learning decision trees, which we augment with additional ideas to circumvent known lower bounds against these heuristics. To analyze our algorithm, we prove a new structural result for decision trees that strengthens a theorem of O'Donnell, Saks, Schramm, and Servedio. While the OSSS theorem says that every decision tree has an influential variable, we show how every decision tree can be "pruned" so that every variable in the resulting tree is influential.

Via

Abstract:Greedy decision tree learning heuristics are mainstays of machine learning practice, but theoretical justification for their empirical success remains elusive. In fact, it has long been known that there are simple target functions for which they fail badly (Kearns and Mansour, STOC 1996). Recent work of Brutzkus, Daniely, and Malach (COLT 2020) considered the smoothed analysis model as a possible avenue towards resolving this disconnect. Within the smoothed setting and for targets $f$ that are $k$-juntas, they showed that these heuristics successfully learn $f$ with depth-$k$ decision tree hypotheses. They conjectured that the same guarantee holds more generally for targets that are depth-$k$ decision trees. We provide a counterexample to this conjecture: we construct targets that are depth-$k$ decision trees and show that even in the smoothed setting, these heuristics build trees of depth $2^{\Omega(k)}$ before achieving high accuracy. We also show that the guarantees of Brutzkus et al. cannot extend to the agnostic setting: there are targets that are very close to $k$-juntas, for which these heuristics build trees of depth $2^{\Omega(k)}$ before achieving high accuracy.

Via

Figures and Tables:

Abstract:We study the selective learning problem introduced by Qiao and Valiant (2019), in which the learner observes $n$ labeled data points one at a time. At a time of its choosing, the learner selects a window length $w$ and a model $\hat\ell$ from the model class $\mathcal{L}$, and then labels the next $w$ data points using $\hat\ell$. The excess risk incurred by the learner is defined as the difference between the average loss of $\hat\ell$ over those $w$ data points and the smallest possible average loss among all models in $\mathcal{L}$ over those $w$ data points. We give an improved algorithm, termed the hybrid exponential weights algorithm, that achieves an expected excess risk of $O((\log\log|\mathcal{L}| + \log\log n)/\log n)$. This result gives a doubly exponential improvement in the dependence on $|\mathcal{L}|$ over the best known bound of $O(\sqrt{|\mathcal{L}|/\log n})$. We complement the positive result with an almost matching lower bound, which suggests the worst-case optimality of the algorithm. We also study a more restrictive family of learning algorithms that are bounded-recall in the sense that when a prediction window of length $w$ is chosen, the learner's decision only depends on the most recent $w$ data points. We analyze an exponential weights variant of the ERM algorithm in Qiao and Valiant (2019). This new algorithm achieves an expected excess risk of $O(\sqrt{\log |\mathcal{L}|/\log n})$, which is shown to be nearly optimal among all bounded-recall learners. Our analysis builds on a generalized version of the selective mean prediction problem in Drucker (2013); Qiao and Valiant (2019), which may be of independent interest.

Via

Figures and Tables:

Abstract:We consider an online binary prediction setting where a forecaster observes a sequence of $T$ bits one by one. Before each bit is revealed, the forecaster predicts the probability that the bit is $1$. The forecaster is called well-calibrated if for each $p \in [0, 1]$, among the $n_p$ bits for which the forecaster predicts probability $p$, the actual number of ones, $m_p$, is indeed equal to $p \cdot n_p$. The calibration error, defined as $\sum_p |m_p - p n_p|$, quantifies the extent to which the forecaster deviates from being well-calibrated. It has long been known that an $O(T^{2/3})$ calibration error is achievable even when the bits are chosen adversarially, and possibly based on the previous predictions. However, little is known on the lower bound side, except an $\Omega(\sqrt{T})$ bound that follows from the trivial example of independent fair coin flips. In this paper, we prove an $\Omega(T^{0.528})$ bound on the calibration error, which is the first super-$\sqrt{T}$ lower bound for this setting to the best of our knowledge. The technical contributions of our work include two lower bound techniques, early stopping and sidestepping, which circumvent the obstacles that have previously hindered strong calibration lower bounds. We also propose an abstraction of the prediction setting, termed the Sign-Preservation game, which may be of independent interest. This game has a much smaller state space than the full prediction setting and allows simpler analyses. The $\Omega(T^{0.528})$ lower bound follows from a general reduction theorem that translates lower bounds on the game value of Sign-Preservation into lower bounds on the calibration error.

Via