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Abstract:In this research note, we revisit the bandits with expert advice problem. Under a restricted feedback model, we prove a lower bound of order $\sqrt{K T \ln(N/K)}$ for the worst-case regret, where $K$ is the number of actions, $N>K$ the number of experts, and $T$ the time horizon. This matches a previously known upper bound of the same order and improves upon the best available lower bound of $\sqrt{K T (\ln N) / (\ln K)}$. For the standard feedback model, we prove a new instance-based upper bound that depends on the agreement between the experts and provides a logarithmic improvement compared to prior results.

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Authors:Marco Bressan, Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi, Emmanuel Esposito, Yishay Mansour, Shay Moran, Maximilian Thiessen

Abstract:Can a deep neural network be approximated by a small decision tree based on simple features? This question and its variants are behind the growing demand for machine learning models that are *interpretable* by humans. In this work we study such questions by introducing *interpretable approximations*, a notion that captures the idea of approximating a target concept $c$ by a small aggregation of concepts from some base class $\mathcal{H}$. In particular, we consider the approximation of a binary concept $c$ by decision trees based on a simple class $\mathcal{H}$ (e.g., of bounded VC dimension), and use the tree depth as a measure of complexity. Our primary contribution is the following remarkable trichotomy. For any given pair of $\mathcal{H}$ and $c$, exactly one of these cases holds: (i) $c$ cannot be approximated by $\mathcal{H}$ with arbitrary accuracy; (ii) $c$ can be approximated by $\mathcal{H}$ with arbitrary accuracy, but there exists no universal rate that bounds the complexity of the approximations as a function of the accuracy; or (iii) there exists a constant $\kappa$ that depends only on $\mathcal{H}$ and $c$ such that, for *any* data distribution and *any* desired accuracy level, $c$ can be approximated by $\mathcal{H}$ with a complexity not exceeding $\kappa$. This taxonomy stands in stark contrast to the landscape of supervised classification, which offers a complex array of distribution-free and universally learnable scenarios. We show that, in the case of interpretable approximations, even a slightly nontrivial a-priori guarantee on the complexity of approximations implies approximations with constant (distribution-free and accuracy-free) complexity. We extend our trichotomy to classes $\mathcal{H}$ of unbounded VC dimension and give characterizations of interpretability based on the algebra generated by $\mathcal{H}$.

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Abstract:We study stochastic linear bandits where, in each round, the learner receives a set of actions (i.e., feature vectors), from which it chooses an element and obtains a stochastic reward. The expected reward is a fixed but unknown linear function of the chosen action. We study sparse regret bounds, that depend on the number $S$ of non-zero coefficients in the linear reward function. Previous works focused on the case where $S$ is known, or the action sets satisfy additional assumptions. In this work, we obtain the first sparse regret bounds that hold when $S$ is unknown and the action sets are adversarially generated. Our techniques combine online to confidence set conversions with a novel randomized model selection approach over a hierarchy of nested confidence sets. When $S$ is known, our analysis recovers state-of-the-art bounds for adversarial action sets. We also show that a variant of our approach, using Exp3 to dynamically select the confidence sets, can be used to improve the empirical performance of stochastic linear bandits while enjoying a regret bound with optimal dependence on the time horizon.

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Abstract:In online bilateral trade, a platform posts prices to incoming pairs of buyers and sellers that have private valuations for a certain good. If the price is lower than the buyers' valuation and higher than the sellers' valuation, then a trade takes place. Previous work focused on the platform perspective, with the goal of setting prices maximizing the gain from trade (the sum of sellers' and buyers' utilities). Gain from trade is, however, potentially unfair to traders, as they may receive highly uneven shares of the total utility. In this work we enforce fairness by rewarding the platform with the fair gain from trade, defined as the minimum between sellers' and buyers' utilities. After showing that any no-regret learning algorithm designed to maximize the sum of the utilities may fail badly with fair gain from trade, we present our main contribution: a complete characterization of the regret regimes for fair gain from trade when, after each interaction, the platform only learns whether each trader accepted the current price. Specifically, we prove the following regret bounds: $\Theta(\ln T)$ in the deterministic setting, $\Omega(T)$ in the stochastic setting, and $\tilde{\Theta}(T^{2/3})$ in the stochastic setting when sellers' and buyers' valuations are independent of each other. We conclude by providing tight regret bounds when, after each interaction, the platform is allowed to observe the true traders' valuations.

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Abstract:This work addresses the mediator feedback problem, a bandit game where the decision set consists of a number of policies, each associated with a probability distribution over a common space of outcomes. Upon choosing a policy, the learner observes an outcome sampled from its distribution and incurs the loss assigned to this outcome in the present round. We introduce the policy set capacity as an information-theoretic measure for the complexity of the policy set. Adopting the classical EXP4 algorithm, we provide new regret bounds depending on the policy set capacity in both the adversarial and the stochastic settings. For a selection of policy set families, we prove nearly-matching lower bounds, scaling similarly with the capacity. We also consider the case when the policies' distributions can vary between rounds, thus addressing the related bandits with expert advice problem, which we improve upon its prior results. Additionally, we prove a lower bound showing that exploiting the similarity between the policies is not possible in general under linear bandit feedback. Finally, for a full-information variant, we provide a regret bound scaling with the information radius of the policy set.

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Abstract:We study best-of-both-worlds algorithms for $K$-armed linear contextual bandits. Our algorithms deliver near-optimal regret bounds in both the adversarial and stochastic regimes, without prior knowledge about the environment. In the stochastic regime, we achieve the polylogarithmic rate $\frac{(dK)^2\mathrm{poly}\log(dKT)}{\Delta_{\min}}$, where $\Delta_{\min}$ is the minimum suboptimality gap over the $d$-dimensional context space. In the adversarial regime, we obtain either the first-order $\widetilde{O}(dK\sqrt{L^*})$ bound, or the second-order $\widetilde{O}(dK\sqrt{\Lambda^*})$ bound, where $L^*$ is the cumulative loss of the best action and $\Lambda^*$ is a notion of the cumulative second moment for the losses incurred by the algorithm. Moreover, we develop an algorithm based on FTRL with Shannon entropy regularizer that does not require the knowledge of the inverse of the covariance matrix, and achieves a polylogarithmic regret in the stochastic regime while obtaining $\widetilde{O}\big(dK\sqrt{T}\big)$ regret bounds in the adversarial regime.

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Abstract:Many online decision-making problems correspond to maximizing a sequence of submodular functions. In this work, we introduce sum-max functions, a subclass of monotone submodular functions capturing several interesting problems, including best-of-$K$-bandits, combinatorial bandits, and the bandit versions on facility location, $M$-medians, and hitting sets. We show that all functions in this class satisfy a key property that we call pseudo-concavity. This allows us to prove $\big(1 - \frac{1}{e}\big)$-regret bounds for bandit feedback in the nonstochastic setting of the order of $\sqrt{MKT}$ (ignoring log factors), where $T$ is the time horizon and $M$ is a cardinality constraint. This bound, attained by a simple and efficient algorithm, significantly improves on the $\widetilde{O}\big(T^{2/3}\big)$ regret bound for online monotone submodular maximization with bandit feedback.

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Abstract:We study multitask online learning in a setting where agents can only exchange information with their neighbors on an arbitrary communication network. We introduce $\texttt{MT-CO}_2\texttt{OL}$, a decentralized algorithm for this setting whose regret depends on the interplay between the task similarities and the network structure. Our analysis shows that the regret of $\texttt{MT-CO}_2\texttt{OL}$ is never worse (up to constants) than the bound obtained when agents do not share information. On the other hand, our bounds significantly improve when neighboring agents operate on similar tasks. In addition, we prove that our algorithm can be made differentially private with a negligible impact on the regret when the losses are linear. Finally, we provide experimental support for our theory.

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Abstract:Online learning methods yield sequential regret bounds under minimal assumptions and provide in-expectation risk bounds for statistical learning. However, despite the apparent advantage of online guarantees over their statistical counterparts, recent findings indicate that in many important cases, regret bounds may not guarantee tight high-probability risk bounds in the statistical setting. In this work we show that online to batch conversions applied to general online learning algorithms can bypass this limitation. Via a general second-order correction to the loss function defining the regret, we obtain nearly optimal high-probability risk bounds for several classical statistical estimation problems, such as discrete distribution estimation, linear regression, logistic regression, and conditional density estimation. Our analysis relies on the fact that many online learning algorithms are improper, as they are not restricted to use predictors from a given reference class. The improper nature of our estimators enables significant improvements in the dependencies on various problem parameters. Finally, we discuss some computational advantages of our sequential algorithms over their existing batch counterparts.

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Abstract:Multitask learning is a powerful framework that enables one to simultaneously learn multiple related tasks by sharing information between them. Quantifying uncertainty in the estimated tasks is of pivotal importance for many downstream applications, such as online or active learning. In this work, we provide novel multitask confidence intervals in the challenging agnostic setting, i.e., when neither the similarity between tasks nor the tasks' features are available to the learner. The obtained intervals do not require i.i.d. data and can be directly applied to bound the regret in online learning. Through a refined analysis of the multitask information gain, we obtain new regret guarantees that, depending on a task similarity parameter, can significantly improve over treating tasks independently. We further propose a novel online learning algorithm that achieves such improved regret without knowing this parameter in advance, i.e., automatically adapting to task similarity. As a second key application of our results, we introduce a novel multitask active learning setup where several tasks must be simultaneously optimized, but only one of them can be queried for feedback by the learner at each round. For this problem, we design a no-regret algorithm that uses our confidence intervals to decide which task should be queried. Finally, we empirically validate our bounds and algorithms on synthetic and real-world (drug discovery) data.

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