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Pengkun Yang, Jingzhao Zhang

A scaling law refers to the observation that the test performance of a model improves as the number of training data increases. A fast scaling law implies that one can solve machine learning problems by simply boosting the data and the model sizes. Yet, in many cases, the benefit of adding more data can be negligible. In this work, we study the rate of scaling laws of nearest neighbor classifiers. We show that a scaling law can have two phases: in the first phase, the generalization error depends polynomially on the data dimension and decreases fast; whereas in the second phase, the error depends exponentially on the data dimension and decreases slowly. Our analysis highlights the complexity of the data distribution in determining the generalization error. When the data distributes benignly, our result suggests that nearest neighbor classifier can achieve a generalization error that depends polynomially, instead of exponentially, on the data dimension.

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Lili Su, Jiaming Xu, Pengkun Yang

Federated learning is a decentralized machine learning framework wherein not all clients are able to participate in each round. An emerging line of research is devoted to tackling arbitrary client unavailability. Existing theoretical analysis imposes restrictive structural assumptions on the unavailability patterns, and their proposed algorithms were tailored to those assumptions. In this paper, we relax those assumptions and consider adversarial client unavailability. To quantify the degrees of client unavailability, we use the notion of {\em $\epsilon$-adversary dropout fraction}. For both non-convex and strongly-convex global objectives, we show that simple variants of FedAvg or FedProx, albeit completely agnostic to $\epsilon$, converge to an estimation error on the order of $\epsilon (G^2 + \sigma^2)$, where $G$ is a heterogeneity parameter and $\sigma^2$ is the noise level. We prove that this estimation error is minimax-optimal. We also show that the variants of FedAvg or FedProx have convergence speeds $O(1/\sqrt{T})$ for non-convex objectives and $O(1/T)$ for strongly-convex objectives, both of which are the best possible for any first-order method that only has access to noisy gradients. Our proofs build upon a tight analysis of the selection bias that persists in the entire learning process. We validate our theoretical prediction through numerical experiments on synthetic and real-world datasets.

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Lili Su, Jiaming Xu, Pengkun Yang

This paper studies the problem of model training under Federated Learning when clients exhibit cluster structure. We contextualize this problem in mixed regression, where each client has limited local data generated from one of $k$ unknown regression models. We design an algorithm that achieves global convergence from any initialization, and works even when local data volume is highly unbalanced -- there could exist clients that contain $O(1)$ data points only. Our algorithm first runs moment descent on a few anchor clients (each with $\tilde{\Omega}(k)$ data points) to obtain coarse model estimates. Then each client alternately estimates its cluster labels and refines the model estimates based on FedAvg or FedProx. A key innovation in our analysis is a uniform estimate on the clustering errors, which we prove by bounding the VC dimension of general polynomial concept classes based on the theory of algebraic geometry.

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Xingjian Li, Pengkun Yang, Tianyang Wang, Xueying Zhan, Min Xu, Dejing Dou, Chengzhong Xu

Uncertainty estimation for unlabeled data is crucial to active learning. With a deep neural network employed as the backbone model, the data selection process is highly challenging due to the potential over-confidence of the model inference. Existing methods resort to special learning fashions (e.g. adversarial) or auxiliary models to address this challenge. This tends to result in complex and inefficient pipelines, which would render the methods impractical. In this work, we propose a novel algorithm that leverages noise stability to estimate data uncertainty in a Single-Training Multi-Inference fashion. The key idea is to measure the output derivation from the original observation when the model parameters are randomly perturbed by noise. We provide theoretical analyses by leveraging the small Gaussian noise theory and demonstrate that our method favors a subset with large and diverse gradients. Despite its simplicity, our method outperforms the state-of-the-art active learning baselines in various tasks, including computer vision, natural language processing, and structural data analysis.

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Tianyang Wang, Xingjian Li, Pengkun Yang, Guosheng Hu, Xiangrui Zeng, Siyu Huang, Cheng-Zhong Xu, Min Xu

Central to active learning (AL) is what data should be selected for annotation. Existing works attempt to select highly uncertain or informative data for annotation. Nevertheless, it remains unclear how selected data impacts the test performance of the task model used in AL. In this work, we explore such an impact by theoretically proving that selecting unlabeled data of higher gradient norm leads to a lower upper bound of test loss, resulting in a better test performance. However, due to the lack of label information, directly computing gradient norm for unlabeled data is infeasible. To address this challenge, we propose two schemes, namely expected-gradnorm and entropy-gradnorm. The former computes the gradient norm by constructing an expected empirical loss while the latter constructs an unsupervised loss with entropy. Furthermore, we integrate the two schemes in a universal AL framework. We evaluate our method on classical image classification and semantic segmentation tasks. To demonstrate its competency in domain applications and its robustness to noise, we also validate our method on a cellular imaging analysis task, namely cryo-Electron Tomography subtomogram classification. Results demonstrate that our method achieves superior performance against the state-of-the-art. Our source code is available at https://github.com/xulabs/aitom

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Lili Su, Jiaming Xu, Pengkun Yang

Federated Learning (FL) is a promising framework that has great potentials in privacy preservation and in lowering the computation load at the cloud. FedAvg and FedProx are two widely adopted algorithms. However, recent work raised concerns on these two methods: (1) their fixed points do not correspond to the stationary points of the original optimization problem, and (2) the common model found might not generalize well locally. In this paper, we alleviate these concerns. Towards this, we adopt the statistical learning perspective yet allow the distributions to be heterogeneous and the local data to be unbalanced. We show, in the general kernel regression setting, that both FedAvg and FedProx converge to the minimax-optimal error rates. Moreover, when the kernel function has a finite rank, the convergence is exponentially fast. Our results further analytically quantify the impact of the model heterogeneity and characterize the federation gain - the reduction of the estimation error for a worker to join the federated learning compared to the best local estimator. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to show the achievability of minimax error rates under FedAvg and FedProx, and the first to characterize the gains in joining FL. Numerical experiments further corroborate our theoretical findings on the statistical optimality of FedAvg and FedProx and the federation gains.

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Cong Fang, Jason D. Lee, Pengkun Yang, Tong Zhang

This paper proposes a new mean-field framework for over-parameterized deep neural networks (DNNs), which can be used to analyze neural network training. In this framework, a DNN is represented by probability measures and functions over its features (that is, the function values of the hidden units over the training data) in the continuous limit, instead of the neural network parameters as most existing studies have done. This new representation overcomes the degenerate situation where all the hidden units essentially have only one meaningful hidden unit in each middle layer, and further leads to a simpler representation of DNNs, for which the training objective can be reformulated as a convex optimization problem via suitable re-parameterization. Moreover, we construct a non-linear dynamics called neural feature flow, which captures the evolution of an over-parameterized DNN trained by Gradient Descent. We illustrate the framework via the standard DNN and the Residual Network (Res-Net) architectures. Furthermore, we show, for Res-Net, when the neural feature flow process converges, it reaches a global minimal solution under suitable conditions. Our analysis leads to the first global convergence proof for over-parameterized neural network training with more than $3$ layers in the mean-field regime.

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Natalie Doss, Yihong Wu, Pengkun Yang, Harrison H. Zhou

This paper studies the optimal rate of estimation in a finite Gaussian location mixture model in high dimensions without separation conditions. We assume that the number of components $k$ is bounded and that the centers lie in a ball of bounded radius, while allowing the dimension $d$ to be as large as the sample size $n$. Extending the one-dimensional result of Heinrich and Kahn \cite{HK2015}, we show that the minimax rate of estimating the mixing distribution in Wasserstein distance is $\Theta((d/n)^{1/4} + n^{-1/(4k-2)})$, achieved by an estimator computable in time $O(nd^2+n^{5/4})$. Furthermore, we show that the mixture density can be estimated at the optimal parametric rate $\Theta(\sqrt{d/n})$ in Hellinger distance; however, no computationally efficient algorithm is known to achieve the optimal rate. Both the theoretical and methodological development rely on a careful application of the method of moments. Central to our results is the observation that the information geometry of finite Gaussian mixtures is characterized by the moment tensors of the mixing distribution, whose low-rank structure can be exploited to obtain a sharp local entropy bound.

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Lili Su, Pengkun Yang

We consider training over-parameterized two-layer neural networks with Rectified Linear Unit (ReLU) using gradient descent (GD) method. Inspired by a recent line of work, we study the evolutions of the network prediction errors across GD iterations, which can be neatly described in a matrix form. It turns out that when the network is sufficiently over-parameterized, these matrices individually approximate an integral operator which is determined by the feature vector distribution $\rho$ only. Consequently, GD method can be viewed as approximately apply the powers of this integral operator on the underlying/target function $f^*$ that generates the responses/labels. We show that if $f^*$ admits a low-rank approximation with respect to the eigenspaces of this integral operator, then, even with constant stepsize, the empirical risk decreases to this low-rank approximation error at a linear rate in iteration $t$. In addition, this linear rate is determined by $f^*$ and $\rho$ only. Furthermore, if $f^*$ has zero low-rank approximation error, then $\Omega(n^2)$ network over-parameterization is enough, and the empirical risk decreases to $\Theta(1/\sqrt{n})$. We provide an application of our general results to the setting where $\rho$ is the uniform distribution on the spheres and $f^*$ is a polynomial.

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