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Interest in bilevel optimization has grown in recent years, partially due to its applications to tackle challenging machine-learning problems. Several exciting recent works have been centered around developing efficient gradient-based algorithms that can solve bilevel optimization problems with provable guarantees. However, the existing literature mainly focuses on bilevel problems either without constraints, or featuring only simple constraints that do not couple variables across the upper and lower levels, excluding a range of complex applications. Our paper studies this challenging but less explored scenario and develops a (fully) first-order algorithm, which we term BLOCC, to tackle BiLevel Optimization problems with Coupled Constraints. We establish rigorous convergence theory for the proposed algorithm and demonstrate its effectiveness on two well-known real-world applications - hyperparameter selection in support vector machine (SVM) and infrastructure planning in transportation networks using the real data from the city of Seville.

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Bilevel optimization has recently regained interest owing to its applications in emerging machine learning fields such as hyperparameter optimization, meta-learning, and reinforcement learning. Recent results have shown that simple alternating (implicit) gradient-based algorithms can achieve the same convergence rate of single-level gradient descent (GD) for bilevel problems with a strongly convex lower-level objective. However, it remains unclear whether this result can be generalized to bilevel problems beyond this basic setting. In this paper, we propose a Generalized ALternating mEthod for bilevel opTimization (GALET) with a nonconvex lower-level objective that satisfies the Polyak-{\L}ojasiewicz (PL) condition. We first introduce a stationary metric for the considered bilevel problems, which generalizes the existing metric. We then establish that GALET achieves an $\epsilon$-stationary metric for the considered problem within $\tilde{\cal O}(\epsilon^{-1})$ iterations, which matches the iteration complexity of GD for smooth nonconvex problems.

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Stochastic bilevel optimization, which captures the inherent nested structure of machine learning problems, is gaining popularity in many recent applications. Existing works on bilevel optimization mostly consider either unconstrained problems or constrained upper-level problems. This paper considers the stochastic bilevel optimization problems with equality constraints both in the upper and lower levels. By leveraging the special structure of the equality constraints problem, the paper first presents an alternating implicit projected SGD approach and establishes the $\tilde{\cal O}(\epsilon^{-2})$ sample complexity that matches the state-of-the-art complexity of ALSET \citep{chen2021closing} for unconstrained bilevel problems. To further save the cost of projection, the paper presents two alternating implicit projection-efficient SGD approaches, where one algorithm enjoys the $\tilde{\cal O}(\epsilon^{-2}/T)$ upper-level and ${\cal O}(\epsilon^{-1.5}/T^{\frac{3}{4}})$ lower-level projection complexity with ${\cal O}(T)$ lower-level batch size, and the other one enjoys $\tilde{\cal O}(\epsilon^{-1.5})$ upper-level and lower-level projection complexity with ${\cal O}(1)$ batch size. Application to federated bilevel optimization has been presented to showcase the empirical performance of our algorithms. Our results demonstrate that equality-constrained bilevel optimization with strongly-convex lower-level problems can be solved as efficiently as stochastic single-level optimization problems.

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A major challenge of applying zeroth-order (ZO) methods is the high query complexity, especially when queries are costly. We propose a novel gradient estimation technique for ZO methods based on adaptive lazy queries that we term as LAZO. Different from the classic one-point or two-point gradient estimation methods, LAZO develops two alternative ways to check the usefulness of old queries from previous iterations, and then adaptively reuses them to construct the low-variance gradient estimates. We rigorously establish that through judiciously reusing the old queries, LAZO can reduce the variance of stochastic gradient estimates so that it not only saves queries per iteration but also achieves the regret bound for the symmetric two-point method. We evaluate the numerical performance of LAZO, and demonstrate the low-variance property and the performance gain of LAZO in both regret and query complexity relative to several existing ZO methods. The idea of LAZO is general, and can be applied to other variants of ZO methods.

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Model-agnostic meta learning (MAML) is currently one of the dominating approaches for few-shot meta-learning. Albeit its effectiveness, the optimization of MAML can be challenging due to the innate bilevel problem structure. Specifically, the loss landscape of MAML is much more complex with possibly more saddle points and local minimizers than its empirical risk minimization counterpart. To address this challenge, we leverage the recently invented sharpness-aware minimization and develop a sharpness-aware MAML approach that we term Sharp-MAML. We empirically demonstrate that Sharp-MAML and its computation-efficient variant can outperform popular existing MAML baselines (e.g., $+12\%$ accuracy on Mini-Imagenet). We complement the empirical study with the convergence rate analysis and the generalization bound of Sharp-MAML. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical and theoretical study on sharpness-aware minimization in the context of bilevel learning. The code is available at https://github.com/mominabbass/Sharp-MAML.

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K-SVD algorithm has been successfully applied to image denoising tasks dozens of years but the big bottleneck in speed and accuracy still needs attention to break. For the sparse coding stage in K-SVD, which involves $\ell_{0}$ constraint, prevailing methods usually seek approximate solutions greedily but are less effective once the noise level is high. The alternative $\ell_{1}$ optimization is proved to be powerful than $\ell_{0}$, however, the time consumption prevents it from the implementation. In this paper, we propose a new K-SVD framework called K-SVD$_P$ by applying the Primal-dual active set (PDAS) algorithm to it. Different from the greedy algorithms based K-SVD, the K-SVD$_P$ algorithm develops a selection strategy motivated by KKT (Karush-Kuhn-Tucker) condition and yields to an efficient update in the sparse coding stage. Since the K-SVD$_P$ algorithm seeks for an equivalent solution to the dual problem iteratively with simple explicit expression in this denoising problem, speed and quality of denoising can be reached simultaneously. Experiments are carried out and demonstrate the comparable denoising performance of our K-SVD$_P$ with state-of-the-art methods.

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