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Abstract:We consider a model of learning and evolution in games whose action sets are endowed with a partition-based similarity structure intended to capture exogenous similarities between strategies. In this model, revising agents have a higher probability of comparing their current strategy with other strategies that they deem similar, and they switch to the observed strategy with probability proportional to its payoff excess. Because of this implicit bias toward similar strategies, the resulting dynamics - which we call the nested replicator dynamics - do not satisfy any of the standard monotonicity postulates for imitative game dynamics; nonetheless, we show that they retain the main long-run rationality properties of the replicator dynamics, albeit at quantitatively different rates. We also show that the induced dynamics can be viewed as a stimulus-response model in the spirit of Erev & Roth (1998), with choice probabilities given by the nested logit choice rule of Ben-Akiva (1973) and McFadden (1978). This result generalizes an existing relation between the replicator dynamics and the exponential weights algorithm in online learning, and provides an additional layer of interpretation to our analysis and results.

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Abstract:In this paper, we examine the long-run distribution of stochastic gradient descent (SGD) in general, non-convex problems. Specifically, we seek to understand which regions of the problem's state space are more likely to be visited by SGD, and by how much. Using an approach based on the theory of large deviations and randomly perturbed dynamical systems, we show that the long-run distribution of SGD resembles the Boltzmann-Gibbs distribution of equilibrium thermodynamics with temperature equal to the method's step-size and energy levels determined by the problem's objective and the statistics of the noise. In particular, we show that, in the long run, (a) the problem's critical region is visited exponentially more often than any non-critical region; (b) the iterates of SGD are exponentially concentrated around the problem's minimum energy state (which does not always coincide with the global minimum of the objective); (c) all other connected components of critical points are visited with frequency that is exponentially proportional to their energy level; and, finally (d) any component of local maximizers or saddle points is "dominated" by a component of local minimizers which is visited exponentially more often.

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Abstract:Motivated by applications to deep learning which often fail standard Lipschitz smoothness requirements, we examine the problem of sampling from distributions that are not log-concave and are only weakly dissipative, with log-gradients allowed to grow superlinearly at infinity. In terms of structure, we only assume that the target distribution satisfies either a log-Sobolev or a Poincar\'e inequality and a local Lipschitz smoothness assumption with modulus growing possibly polynomially at infinity. This set of assumptions greatly exceeds the operational limits of the "vanilla" unadjusted Langevin algorithm (ULA), making sampling from such distributions a highly involved affair. To account for this, we introduce a taming scheme which is tailored to the growth and decay properties of the target distribution, and we provide explicit non-asymptotic guarantees for the proposed sampler in terms of the Kullback-Leibler (KL) divergence, total variation, and Wasserstein distance to the target distribution.

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Abstract:In view of the complexity of the dynamics of no-regret learning in games, we seek to decompose a finite game into simpler components where the day-to-day behavior of the dynamics is well understood. A natural starting point for this is Helmholtz's theorem, which resolves a vector field into a potential and an incompressible component. However, the geometry of no-regret dynamics - and, in particular, the dynamics of exponential / multiplicative weights (EW) schemes - is not compatible with the Euclidean underpinnings of Helmholtz's theorem, leading us to consider a Riemannian framework based on the Shahshahani metric. Using this geometric construction, we introduce the class of incompressible games, and we prove the following results: First, in addition to being volume-preserving, the continuous-time EW dynamics in incompressible games admit a constant of motion and are Poincar\'e recurrent - i.e., almost every trajectory of play comes arbitrarily close to its starting point infinitely often. Second, we establish a deep connection with a well-known decomposition of games into a potential and harmonic component (where the players' objectives are aligned and anti-aligned respectively): a game is incompressible if and only if it is harmonic, implying in turn that the EW dynamics lead to Poincar\'e recurrence in harmonic games.

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Authors:Iosif Sakos, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Georgios Piliouras

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Abstract:A wide array of modern machine learning applications - from adversarial models to multi-agent reinforcement learning - can be formulated as non-cooperative games whose Nash equilibria represent the system's desired operational states. Despite having a highly non-convex loss landscape, many cases of interest possess a latent convex structure that could potentially be leveraged to yield convergence to equilibrium. Driven by this observation, our paper proposes a flexible first-order method that successfully exploits such "hidden structures" and achieves convergence under minimal assumptions for the transformation connecting the players' control variables to the game's latent, convex-structured layer. The proposed method - which we call preconditioned hidden gradient descent (PHGD) - hinges on a judiciously chosen gradient preconditioning scheme related to natural gradient methods. Importantly, we make no separability assumptions for the game's hidden structure, and we provide explicit convergence rate guarantees for both deterministic and stochastic environments.

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Authors:Francisca Vasconcelos, Emmanouil-Vasileios Vlatakis-Gkaragkounis, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Georgios Piliouras, Michael I. Jordan

Abstract:Recent developments in domains such as non-local games, quantum interactive proofs, and quantum generative adversarial networks have renewed interest in quantum game theory and, specifically, quantum zero-sum games. Central to classical game theory is the efficient algorithmic computation of Nash equilibria, which represent optimal strategies for both players. In 2008, Jain and Watrous proposed the first classical algorithm for computing equilibria in quantum zero-sum games using the Matrix Multiplicative Weight Updates (MMWU) method to achieve a convergence rate of $\mathcal{O}(d/\epsilon^2)$ iterations to $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria in the $4^d$-dimensional spectraplex. In this work, we propose a hierarchy of quantum optimization algorithms that generalize MMWU via an extra-gradient mechanism. Notably, within this proposed hierarchy, we introduce the Optimistic Matrix Multiplicative Weights Update (OMMWU) algorithm and establish its average-iterate convergence complexity as $\mathcal{O}(d/\epsilon)$ iterations to $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria. This quadratic speed-up relative to Jain and Watrous' original algorithm sets a new benchmark for computing $\epsilon$-Nash equilibria in quantum zero-sum games.

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Abstract:Many modern machine learning applications - from online principal component analysis to covariance matrix identification and dictionary learning - can be formulated as minimization problems on Riemannian manifolds, and are typically solved with a Riemannian stochastic gradient method (or some variant thereof). However, in many cases of interest, the resulting minimization problem is not geodesically convex, so the convergence of the chosen solver to a desirable solution - i.e., a local minimizer - is by no means guaranteed. In this paper, we study precisely this question, that is, whether stochastic Riemannian optimization algorithms are guaranteed to avoid saddle points with probability 1. For generality, we study a family of retraction-based methods which, in addition to having a potentially much lower per-iteration cost relative to Riemannian gradient descent, include other widely used algorithms, such as natural policy gradient methods and mirror descent in ordinary convex spaces. In this general setting, we show that, under mild assumptions for the ambient manifold and the oracle providing gradient information, the policies under study avoid strict saddle points / submanifolds with probability 1, from any initial condition. This result provides an important sanity check for the use of gradient methods on manifolds as it shows that, almost always, the limit state of a stochastic Riemannian algorithm can only be a local minimizer.

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Abstract:In this paper, we study the problem of learning in quantum games - and other classes of semidefinite games - with scalar, payoff-based feedback. For concreteness, we focus on the widely used matrix multiplicative weights (MMW) algorithm and, instead of requiring players to have full knowledge of the game (and/or each other's chosen states), we introduce a suite of minimal-information matrix multiplicative weights (3MW) methods tailored to different information frameworks. The main difficulty to attaining convergence in this setting is that, in contrast to classical finite games, quantum games have an infinite continuum of pure states (the quantum equivalent of pure strategies), so standard importance-weighting techniques for estimating payoff vectors cannot be employed. Instead, we borrow ideas from bandit convex optimization and we design a zeroth-order gradient sampler adapted to the semidefinite geometry of the problem at hand. As a first result, we show that the 3MW method with deterministic payoff feedback retains the $\mathcal{O}(1/\sqrt{T})$ convergence rate of the vanilla, full information MMW algorithm in quantum min-max games, even though the players only observe a single scalar. Subsequently, we relax the algorithm's information requirements even further and we provide a 3MW method that only requires players to observe a random realization of their payoff observable, and converges to equilibrium at an $\mathcal{O}(T^{-1/4})$ rate. Finally, going beyond zero-sum games, we show that a regularized variant of the proposed 3MW method guarantees local convergence with high probability to all equilibria that satisfy a certain first-order stability condition.

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Abstract:In this paper, we examine the long-run behavior of regularized, no-regret learning in finite games. A well-known result in the field states that the empirical frequencies of no-regret play converge to the game's set of coarse correlated equilibria; however, our understanding of how the players' actual strategies evolve over time is much more limited - and, in many cases, non-existent. This issue is exacerbated further by a series of recent results showing that only strict Nash equilibria are stable and attracting under regularized learning, thus making the relation between learning and pointwise solution concepts particularly elusive. In lieu of this, we take a more general approach and instead seek to characterize the \emph{setwise} rationality properties of the players' day-to-day play. To that end, we focus on one of the most stringent criteria of setwise strategic stability, namely that any unilateral deviation from the set in question incurs a cost to the deviator - a property known as closedness under better replies (club). In so doing, we obtain a far-reaching equivalence between strategic and dynamic stability: a product of pure strategies is closed under better replies if and only if its span is stable and attracting under regularized learning. In addition, we estimate the rate of convergence to such sets, and we show that methods based on entropic regularization (like the exponential weights algorithm) converge at a geometric rate, while projection-based methods converge within a finite number of iterations, even with bandit, payoff-based feedback.

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Abstract:In this paper, we introduce a class of learning dynamics for general quantum games, that we call "follow the quantum regularized leader" (FTQL), in reference to the classical "follow the regularized leader" (FTRL) template for learning in finite games. We show that the induced quantum state dynamics decompose into (i) a classical, commutative component which governs the dynamics of the system's eigenvalues in a way analogous to the evolution of mixed strategies under FTRL; and (ii) a non-commutative component for the system's eigenvectors which has no classical counterpart. Despite the complications that this non-classical component entails, we find that the FTQL dynamics incur no more than constant regret in all quantum games. Moreover, adjusting classical notions of stability to account for the nonlinear geometry of the state space of quantum games, we show that only pure quantum equilibria can be stable and attracting under FTQL while, as a partial converse, pure equilibria that satisfy a certain "variational stability" condition are always attracting. Finally, we show that the FTQL dynamics are Poincar\'e recurrent in quantum min-max games, extending in this way a very recent result for the quantum replicator dynamics.

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