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Shreyas Devaraju, Shivam Garg, Alexander Ihler, Sunil Kumar

Routing protocols help in transmitting the sensed data from UAVs monitoring the targets (called target UAVs) to the BS. However, the highly dynamic nature of an autonomous, decentralized UAV network leads to frequent route breaks or traffic disruptions. Traditional routing schemes cannot quickly adapt to dynamic UAV networks and/or incur large control overhead and delays. To establish stable, high-quality routes from target UAVs to the BS, we design a hybrid reactive routing scheme called pipe routing that is mobility, congestion, and energy-aware. The pipe routing scheme discovers routes on-demand and proactively switches to alternate high-quality routes within a limited region around the active routes (called the pipe) when needed, reducing the number of route breaks and increasing data throughput. We then design a novel topology control-based pipe routing scheme to maintain robust connectivity in the pipe region around the active routes, leading to improved route stability and increased throughput with minimal impact on the coverage performance of the UAV network.

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Shivam Garg, Chirag Pabbaraju, Kirankumar Shiragur, Gregory Valiant

We examine the extent to which sublinear-sample property testing and estimation applies to settings where samples are independently but not identically distributed. Specifically, we consider the following distributional property testing framework: Suppose there is a set of distributions over a discrete support of size $k$, $\textbf{p}_1, \textbf{p}_2,\ldots,\textbf{p}_T$, and we obtain $c$ independent draws from each distribution. Suppose the goal is to learn or test a property of the average distribution, $\textbf{p}_{\mathrm{avg}}$. This setup models a number of important practical settings where the individual distributions correspond to heterogeneous entities -- either individuals, chronologically distinct time periods, spatially separated data sources, etc. From a learning standpoint, even with $c=1$ samples from each distribution, $\Theta(k/\varepsilon^2)$ samples are necessary and sufficient to learn $\textbf{p}_{\mathrm{avg}}$ to within error $\varepsilon$ in TV distance. To test uniformity or identity -- distinguishing the case that $\textbf{p}_{\mathrm{avg}}$ is equal to some reference distribution, versus has $\ell_1$ distance at least $\varepsilon$ from the reference distribution, we show that a linear number of samples in $k$ is necessary given $c=1$ samples from each distribution. In contrast, for $c \ge 2$, we recover the usual sublinear sample testing of the i.i.d. setting: we show that $O(\sqrt{k}/\varepsilon^2 + 1/\varepsilon^4)$ samples are sufficient, matching the optimal sample complexity in the i.i.d. case in the regime where $\varepsilon \ge k^{-1/4}$. Additionally, we show that in the $c=2$ case, there is a constant $\rho > 0$ such that even in the linear regime with $\rho k$ samples, no tester that considers the multiset of samples (ignoring which samples were drawn from the same $\textbf{p}_i$) can perform uniformity testing.

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Shivam Garg, Dimitris Tsipras, Percy Liang, Gregory Valiant

In-context learning refers to the ability of a model to condition on a prompt sequence consisting of in-context examples (input-output pairs corresponding to some task) along with a new query input, and generate the corresponding output. Crucially, in-context learning happens only at inference time without any parameter updates to the model. While large language models such as GPT-3 exhibit some ability to perform in-context learning, it is unclear what the relationship is between tasks on which this succeeds and what is present in the training data. To make progress towards understanding in-context learning, we consider the well-defined problem of training a model to in-context learn a function class (e.g., linear functions): that is, given data derived from some functions in the class, can we train a model to in-context learn "most" functions from this class? We show empirically that standard Transformers can be trained from scratch to perform in-context learning of linear functions -- that is, the trained model is able to learn unseen linear functions from in-context examples with performance comparable to the optimal least squares estimator. In fact, in-context learning is possible even under two forms of distribution shift: (i) between the training data of the model and inference-time prompts, and (ii) between the in-context examples and the query input during inference. We also show that we can train Transformers to in-context learn more complex function classes -- namely sparse linear functions, two-layer neural networks, and decision trees -- with performance that matches or exceeds task-specific learning algorithms. Our code and models are available at https://github.com/dtsip/in-context-learning .

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Shivam Garg, Alexander Ihler, Sunil Kumar

An autonomous airborne network (AN) consists of multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can self-configure to provide seamless, low-cost and secure connectivity. AN is preferred for applications in civilian and military sectors because it can improve the network reliability and fault tolerance, reduce mission completion time through collaboration, and adapt to dynamic mission requirements. However, facilitating seamless communication in such ANs is a challenging task due to their fast node mobility, which results in frequent link disruptions. Many existing AN-specific mobility-aware schemes restrictively assume that UAVs fly in straight lines, to reduce the high uncertainty in the mobility pattern and simplify the calculation of link lifetime (LLT). Here, LLT represents the duration after which the link between a node pair terminates. However, the application of such schemes is severely limited, which makes them unsuitable for practical autonomous ANs. In this report, a mathematical framework is described to accurately compute the \textit{LLT} value for a UAV node pair, where each node flies independently in a randomly selected smooth trajectory. In addition, the impact of random trajectory changes on LLT accuracy is also discussed.

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Brian Axelrod, Shivam Garg, Yanjun Han, Vatsal Sharan, Gregory Valiant

Given $n$ i.i.d. samples drawn from an unknown distribution $P$, when is it possible to produce a larger set of $n+m$ samples which cannot be distinguished from $n+m$ i.i.d. samples drawn from $P$? (Axelrod et al. 2019) formalized this question as the sample amplification problem, and gave optimal amplification procedures for discrete distributions and Gaussian location models. However, these procedures and associated lower bounds are tailored to the specific distribution classes, and a general statistical understanding of sample amplification is still largely missing. In this work, we place the sample amplification problem on a firm statistical foundation by deriving generally applicable amplification procedures, lower bound techniques and connections to existing statistical notions. Our techniques apply to a large class of distributions including the exponential family, and establish a rigorous connection between sample amplification and distribution learning.

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Shivam Garg, Samuele Tosatto, Yangchen Pan, Martha White, A. Rupam Mahmood

Policy gradient (PG) estimators for softmax policies are ineffective with sub-optimally saturated initialization, which happens when the density concentrates on a sub-optimal action. Sub-optimal policy saturation may arise from bad policy initialization or sudden changes in the environment that occur after the policy has already converged, and softmax PG estimators require a large number of updates to recover an effective policy. This severe issue causes high sample inefficiency and poor adaptability to new situations. To mitigate this problem, we propose a novel policy gradient estimator for softmax policies that utilizes the bias in the critic estimate and the noise present in the reward signal to escape the saturated regions of the policy parameter space. Our analysis and experiments, conducted on bandits and classical MDP benchmarking tasks, show that our estimator is more robust to policy saturation.

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Shivam Garg, Santosh S. Vempala

The success of gradient descent in ML and especially for learning neural networks is remarkable and robust. In the context of how the brain learns, one aspect of gradient descent that appears biologically difficult to realize (if not implausible) is that its updates rely on feedback from later layers to earlier layers through the same connections. Such bidirected links are relatively few in brain networks, and even when reciprocal connections exist, they may not be equi-weighted. Random Feedback Alignment (Lillicrap et al., 2016), where the backward weights are random and fixed, has been proposed as a bio-plausible alternative and found to be effective empirically. We investigate how and when feedback alignment (FA) works, focusing on one of the most basic problems with layered structure -- low-rank matrix factorization. In this problem, given a matrix $Y_{n\times m}$, the goal is to find a low rank factorization $Z_{n \times r}W_{r \times m}$ that minimizes the error $\|ZW-Y\|_F$. Gradient descent solves this problem optimally. We show that FA converges to the optimal solution when $r\ge \mbox{rank}(Y)$. We also shed light on how FA works. It is observed empirically that the forward weight matrices and (random) feedback matrices come closer during FA updates. Our analysis rigorously derives this phenomenon and shows how it facilitates convergence of FA. We also show that FA can be far from optimal when $r < \mbox{rank}(Y)$. This is the first provable separation result between gradient descent and FA. Moreover, the representations found by gradient descent and FA can be almost orthogonal even when their error $\|ZW-Y\|_F$ is approximately equal.

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Sina Ghiassian, Andrew Patterson, Shivam Garg, Dhawal Gupta, Adam White, Martha White

It is still common to use Q-learning and temporal difference (TD) learning-even though they have divergence issues and sound Gradient TD alternatives exist-because divergence seems rare and they typically perform well. However, recent work with large neural network learning systems reveals that instability is more common than previously thought. Practitioners face a difficult dilemma: choose an easy to use and performant TD method, or a more complex algorithm that is more sound but harder to tune and all but unexplored with non-linear function approximation or control. In this paper, we introduce a new method called TD with Regularized Corrections (TDRC), that attempts to balance ease of use, soundness, and performance. It behaves as well as TD, when TD performs well, but is sound in cases where TD diverges. We empirically investigate TDRC across a range of problems, for both prediction and control, and for both linear and non-linear function approximation, and show, potentially for the first time, that gradient TD methods could be a better alternative to TD and Q-learning.

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Brian Axelrod, Shivam Garg, Vatsal Sharan, Gregory Valiant

Given data drawn from an unknown distribution, $D$, to what extent is it possible to ``amplify'' this dataset and output an even larger set of samples that appear to have been drawn from $D$? We formalize this question as follows: an $(n,m)$ $\text{amplification procedure}$ takes as input $n$ independent draws from an unknown distribution $D$, and outputs a set of $m > n$ ``samples''. An amplification procedure is valid if no algorithm can distinguish the set of $m$ samples produced by the amplifier from a set of $m$ independent draws from $D$, with probability greater than $2/3$. Perhaps surprisingly, in many settings, a valid amplification procedure exists, even when the size of the input dataset, $n$, is significantly less than what would be necessary to learn $D$ to non-trivial accuracy. Specifically we consider two fundamental settings: the case where $D$ is an arbitrary discrete distribution supported on $\le k$ elements, and the case where $D$ is a $d$-dimensional Gaussian with unknown mean, and fixed covariance. In the first case, we show that an $\left(n, n + \Theta(\frac{n}{\sqrt{k}})\right)$ amplifier exists. In particular, given $n=O(\sqrt{k})$ samples from $D$, one can output a set of $m=n+1$ datapoints, whose total variation distance from the distribution of $m$ i.i.d. draws from $D$ is a small constant, despite the fact that one would need quadratically more data, $n=\Theta(k)$, to learn $D$ up to small constant total variation distance. In the Gaussian case, we show that an $\left(n,n+\Theta(\frac{n}{\sqrt{d}} )\right)$ amplifier exists, even though learning the distribution to small constant total variation distance requires $\Theta(d)$ samples. In both the discrete and Gaussian settings, we show that these results are tight, to constant factors. Beyond these results, we formalize a number of curious directions for future research along this vein.

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Shivam Garg, Vatsal Sharan, Brian Hu Zhang, Gregory Valiant

Given the apparent difficulty of learning models that are robust to adversarial perturbations, we propose tackling the simpler problem of developing adversarially robust features. Specifically, given a dataset and metric of interest, the goal is to return a function (or multiple functions) that 1) is robust to adversarial perturbations, and 2) has significant variation across the datapoints. We establish strong connections between adversarially robust features and a natural spectral property of the geometry of the dataset and metric of interest. This connection can be leveraged to provide both robust features, and a lower bound on the robustness of any function that has significant variance across the dataset. Finally, we provide empirical evidence that the adversarially robust features given by this spectral approach can be fruitfully leveraged to learn a robust (and accurate) model.

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