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Jessica Dai, Bailey Flanigan, Nika Haghtalab, Meena Jagadeesan, Chara Podimata

A common explanation for negative user impacts of content recommender systems is misalignment between the platform's objective and user welfare. In this work, we show that misalignment in the platform's objective is not the only potential cause of unintended impacts on users: even when the platform's objective is fully aligned with user welfare, the platform's learning algorithm can induce negative downstream impacts on users. The source of these user impacts is that different pieces of content may generate observable user reactions (feedback information) at different rates; these feedback rates may correlate with content properties, such as controversiality or demographic similarity of the creator, that affect the user experience. Since differences in feedback rates can impact how often the learning algorithm engages with different content, the learning algorithm may inadvertently promote content with certain such properties. Using the multi-armed bandit framework with probabilistic feedback, we examine the relationship between feedback rates and a learning algorithm's engagement with individual arms for different no-regret algorithms. We prove that no-regret algorithms can exhibit a wide range of dependencies: if the feedback rate of an arm increases, some no-regret algorithms engage with the arm more, some no-regret algorithms engage with the arm less, and other no-regret algorithms engage with the arm approximately the same number of times. From a platform design perspective, our results highlight the importance of looking beyond regret when measuring an algorithm's performance, and assessing the nature of a learning algorithm's engagement with different types of content as well as their resulting downstream impacts.

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Constantinos Daskalakis, Noah Golowich, Nika Haghtalab, Abhishek Shetty

A fundamental shortcoming of the concept of Nash equilibrium is its computational intractability: approximating Nash equilibria in normal-form games is PPAD-hard. In this paper, inspired by the ideas of smoothed analysis, we introduce a relaxed variant of Nash equilibrium called $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibrium, for a smoothness parameter $\sigma$. In a $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibrium, players only need to achieve utility at least as high as their best deviation to a $\sigma$-smooth strategy, which is a distribution that does not put too much mass (as parametrized by $\sigma$) on any fixed action. We distinguish two variants of $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibria: strong $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibria, in which players are required to play $\sigma$-smooth strategies under equilibrium play, and weak $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibria, where there is no such requirement. We show that both weak and strong $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibria have superior computational properties to Nash equilibria: when $\sigma$ as well as an approximation parameter $\epsilon$ and the number of players are all constants, there is a constant-time randomized algorithm to find a weak $\epsilon$-approximate $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibrium in normal-form games. In the same parameter regime, there is a polynomial-time deterministic algorithm to find a strong $\epsilon$-approximate $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibrium in a normal-form game. These results stand in contrast to the optimal algorithm for computing $\epsilon$-approximate Nash equilibria, which cannot run in faster than quasipolynomial-time. We complement our upper bounds by showing that when either $\sigma$ or $\epsilon$ is an inverse polynomial, finding a weak $\epsilon$-approximate $\sigma$-smooth Nash equilibria becomes computationally intractable.

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Nivasini Ananthakrishnan, Stephen Bates, Michael I. Jordan, Nika Haghtalab

Motivated by the emergence of decentralized machine learning ecosystems, we study the delegation of data collection. Taking the field of contract theory as our starting point, we design optimal and near-optimal contracts that deal with two fundamental machine learning challenges: lack of certainty in the assessment of model quality and lack of knowledge regarding the optimal performance of any model. We show that lack of certainty can be dealt with via simple linear contracts that achieve 1-1/e fraction of the first-best utility, even if the principal has a small test set. Furthermore, we give sufficient conditions on the size of the principal's test set that achieves a vanishing additive approximation to the optimal utility. To address the lack of a priori knowledge regarding the optimal performance, we give a convex program that can adaptively and efficiently compute the optimal contract.

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Pranjal Awasthi, Nika Haghtalab, Eric Zhao

Multi-distribution learning is a natural generalization of PAC learning to settings with multiple data distributions. There remains a significant gap between the known upper and lower bounds for PAC-learnable classes. In particular, though we understand the sample complexity of learning a VC dimension d class on $k$ distributions to be $O(\epsilon^{-2} \ln(k)(d + k) + \min\{\epsilon^{-1} dk, \epsilon^{-4} \ln(k) d\})$, the best lower bound is $\Omega(\epsilon^{-2}(d + k \ln(k)))$. We discuss recent progress on this problem and some hurdles that are fundamental to the use of game dynamics in statistical learning.

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Alexander Wei, Nika Haghtalab, Jacob Steinhardt

Large language models trained for safety and harmlessness remain susceptible to adversarial misuse, as evidenced by the prevalence of "jailbreak" attacks on early releases of ChatGPT that elicit undesired behavior. Going beyond recognition of the issue, we investigate why such attacks succeed and how they can be created. We hypothesize two failure modes of safety training: competing objectives and mismatched generalization. Competing objectives arise when a model's capabilities and safety goals conflict, while mismatched generalization occurs when safety training fails to generalize to a domain for which capabilities exist. We use these failure modes to guide jailbreak design and then evaluate state-of-the-art models, including OpenAI's GPT-4 and Anthropic's Claude v1.3, against both existing and newly designed attacks. We find that vulnerabilities persist despite the extensive red-teaming and safety-training efforts behind these models. Notably, new attacks utilizing our failure modes succeed on every prompt in a collection of unsafe requests from the models' red-teaming evaluation sets and outperform existing ad hoc jailbreaks. Our analysis emphasizes the need for safety-capability parity -- that safety mechanisms should be as sophisticated as the underlying model -- and argues against the idea that scaling alone can resolve these safety failure modes.

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Meena Jagadeesan, Michael I. Jordan, Jacob Steinhardt, Nika Haghtalab

As the scale of machine learning models increases, trends such as scaling laws anticipate consistent downstream improvements in predictive accuracy. However, these trends take the perspective of a single model-provider in isolation, while in reality providers often compete with each other for users. In this work, we demonstrate that competition can fundamentally alter the behavior of these scaling trends, even causing overall predictive accuracy across users to be non-monotonic or decreasing with scale. We define a model of competition for classification tasks, and use data representations as a lens for studying the impact of increases in scale. We find many settings where improving data representation quality (as measured by Bayes risk) decreases the overall predictive accuracy across users (i.e., social welfare) for a marketplace of competing model-providers. Our examples range from closed-form formulas in simple settings to simulations with pretrained representations on CIFAR-10. At a conceptual level, our work suggests that favorable scaling trends for individual model-providers need not translate to downstream improvements in social welfare in marketplaces with multiple model providers.

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Nika Haghtalab, Chara Podimata, Kunhe Yang

In this paper, we introduce a generalization of the standard Stackelberg Games (SGs) framework: Calibrated Stackelberg Games (CSGs). In CSGs, a principal repeatedly interacts with an agent who (contrary to standard SGs) does not have direct access to the principal's action but instead best-responds to calibrated forecasts about it. CSG is a powerful modeling tool that goes beyond assuming that agents use ad hoc and highly specified algorithms for interacting in strategic settings and thus more robustly addresses real-life applications that SGs were originally intended to capture. Along with CSGs, we also introduce a stronger notion of calibration, termed adaptive calibration, that provides fine-grained any-time calibration guarantees against adversarial sequences. We give a general approach for obtaining adaptive calibration algorithms and specialize them for finite CSGs. In our main technical result, we show that in CSGs, the principal can achieve utility that converges to the optimum Stackelberg value of the game both in finite and continuous settings, and that no higher utility is achievable. Two prominent and immediate applications of our results are the settings of learning in Stackelberg Security Games and strategic classification, both against calibrated agents.

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Alankrita Bhatt, Nika Haghtalab, Abhishek Shetty

We initiate the study of smoothed analysis for the sequential probability assignment problem with contexts. We study information-theoretically optimal minmax rates as well as a framework for algorithmic reduction involving the maximum likelihood estimator oracle. Our approach establishes a general-purpose reduction from minimax rates for sequential probability assignment for smoothed adversaries to minimax rates for transductive learning. This leads to optimal (logarithmic) fast rates for parametric classes and classes with finite VC dimension. On the algorithmic front, we develop an algorithm that efficiently taps into the MLE oracle, for general classes of functions. We show that under general conditions this algorithmic approach yields sublinear regret.

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Nika Haghtalab, Michael I. Jordan, Eric Zhao

We provide a unifying framework for the design and analysis of multi-calibrated and moment-multi-calibrated predictors. Placing the multi-calibration problem in the general setting of \emph{multi-objective learning} -- where learning guarantees must hold simultaneously over a set of distributions and loss functions -- we exploit connections to game dynamics to obtain state-of-the-art guarantees for a diverse set of multi-calibration learning problems. In addition to shedding light on existing multi-calibration guarantees, and greatly simplifying their analysis, our approach yields a $1/\epsilon^2$ improvement in the number of oracle calls compared to the state-of-the-art algorithm of Jung et al. 2021 for learning deterministic moment-calibrated predictors and an exponential improvement in $k$ compared to the state-of-the-art algorithm of Gopalan et al. 2022 for learning a $k$-class multi-calibrated predictor. Beyond multi-calibration, we use these game dynamics to address existing and emerging considerations in the study of group fairness and multi-distribution learning.

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Wenshuo Guo, Nika Haghtalab, Kirthevasan Kandasamy, Ellen Vitercik

In online marketplaces, customers have access to hundreds of reviews for a single product. Buyers often use reviews from other customers that share their type -- such as height for clothing, skin type for skincare products, and location for outdoor furniture -- to estimate their values, which they may not know a priori. Customers with few relevant reviews may hesitate to make a purchase except at a low price, so for the seller, there is a tension between setting high prices and ensuring that there are enough reviews so that buyers can confidently estimate their values. Simultaneously, sellers may use reviews to gauge the demand for items they wish to sell. In this work, we study this pricing problem in an online setting where the seller interacts with a set of buyers of finitely-many types, one-by-one, over a series of $T$ rounds. At each round, the seller first sets a price. Then a buyer arrives and examines the reviews of the previous buyers with the same type, which reveal those buyers' ex-post values. Based on the reviews, the buyer decides to purchase if they have good reason to believe that their ex-ante utility is positive. Crucially, the seller does not know the buyer's type when setting the price, nor even the distribution over types. We provide a no-regret algorithm that the seller can use to obtain high revenue. When there are $d$ types, after $T$ rounds, our algorithm achieves a problem-independent $\tilde O(T^{2/3}d^{1/3})$ regret bound. However, when the smallest probability $q_{\text{min}}$ that any given type appears is large, specifically when $q_{\text{min}} \in \Omega(d^{-2/3}T^{-1/3})$, then the same algorithm achieves a $\tilde O(T^{1/2}q_{\text{min}}^{-1/2})$ regret bound. We complement these upper bounds with matching lower bounds in both regimes, showing that our algorithm is minimax optimal up to lower order terms.

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