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List learning is a variant of supervised classification where the learner outputs multiple plausible labels for each instance rather than just one. We investigate classical principles related to generalization within the context of list learning. Our primary goal is to determine whether classical principles in the PAC setting retain their applicability in the domain of list PAC learning. We focus on uniform convergence (which is the basis of Empirical Risk Minimization) and on sample compression (which is a powerful manifestation of Occam's Razor). In classical PAC learning, both uniform convergence and sample compression satisfy a form of `completeness': whenever a class is learnable, it can also be learned by a learning rule that adheres to these principles. We ask whether the same completeness holds true in the list learning setting. We show that uniform convergence remains equivalent to learnability in the list PAC learning setting. In contrast, our findings reveal surprising results regarding sample compression: we prove that when the label space is $Y=\{0,1,2\}$, then there are 2-list-learnable classes that cannot be compressed. This refutes the list version of the sample compression conjecture by Littlestone and Warmuth (1986). We prove an even stronger impossibility result, showing that there are $2$-list-learnable classes that cannot be compressed even when the reconstructed function can work with lists of arbitrarily large size. We prove a similar result for (1-list) PAC learnable classes when the label space is unbounded. This generalizes a recent result by arXiv:2308.06424.

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Understanding the self-directed learning complexity has been an important problem that has captured the attention of the online learning theory community since the early 1990s. Within this framework, the learner is allowed to adaptively choose its next data point in making predictions unlike the setting in adversarial online learning. In this paper, we study the self-directed learning complexity in both the binary and multi-class settings, and we develop a dimension, namely $SDdim$, that exactly characterizes the self-directed learning mistake-bound for any concept class. The intuition behind $SDdim$ can be understood as a two-player game called the "labelling game". Armed with this two-player game, we calculate $SDdim$ on a whole host of examples with notable results on axis-aligned rectangles, VC dimension $1$ classes, and linear separators. We demonstrate several learnability gaps with a central focus on self-directed learning and offline sequence learning models that include either the best or worst ordering. Finally, we extend our analysis to the self-directed binary agnostic setting where we derive upper and lower bounds.

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Consider the domain of multiclass classification within the adversarial online setting. What is the price of relying on bandit feedback as opposed to full information? To what extent can an adaptive adversary amplify the loss compared to an oblivious one? To what extent can a randomized learner reduce the loss compared to a deterministic one? We study these questions in the mistake bound model and provide nearly tight answers. We demonstrate that the optimal mistake bound under bandit feedback is at most $O(k)$ times higher than the optimal mistake bound in the full information case, where $k$ represents the number of labels. This bound is tight and provides an answer to an open question previously posed and studied by Daniely and Helbertal ['13] and by Long ['17, '20], who focused on deterministic learners. Moreover, we present nearly optimal bounds of $\tilde{\Theta}(k)$ on the gap between randomized and deterministic learners, as well as between adaptive and oblivious adversaries in the bandit feedback setting. This stands in contrast to the full information scenario, where adaptive and oblivious adversaries are equivalent, and the gap in mistake bounds between randomized and deterministic learners is a constant multiplicative factor of $2$. In addition, our results imply that in some cases the optimal randomized mistake bound is approximately the square-root of its deterministic parallel. Previous results show that this is essentially the smallest it can get.

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We present new upper and lower bounds on the number of learner mistakes in the `transductive' online learning setting of Ben-David, Kushilevitz and Mansour (1997). This setting is similar to standard online learning, except that the adversary fixes a sequence of instances $x_1,\dots,x_n$ to be labeled at the start of the game, and this sequence is known to the learner. Qualitatively, we prove a trichotomy, stating that the minimal number of mistakes made by the learner as $n$ grows can take only one of precisely three possible values: $n$, $\Theta\left(\log (n)\right)$, or $\Theta(1)$. Furthermore, this behavior is determined by a combination of the VC dimension and the Littlestone dimension. Quantitatively, we show a variety of bounds relating the number of mistakes to well-known combinatorial dimensions. In particular, we improve the known lower bound on the constant in the $\Theta(1)$ case from $\Omega\left(\sqrt{\log(d)}\right)$ to $\Omega(\log(d))$ where $d$ is the Littlestone dimension. Finally, we extend our results to cover multiclass classification and the agnostic setting.

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We study distribution-free nonparametric regression following a notion of average smoothness initiated by Ashlagi et al. (2021), which measures the "effective" smoothness of a function with respect to an arbitrary unknown underlying distribution. While the recent work of Hanneke et al. (2023) established tight uniform convergence bounds for average-smooth functions in the realizable case and provided a computationally efficient realizable learning algorithm, both of these results currently lack analogs in the general agnostic (i.e. noisy) case. In this work, we fully close these gaps. First, we provide a distribution-free uniform convergence bound for average-smoothness classes in the agnostic setting. Second, we match the derived sample complexity with a computationally efficient agnostic learning algorithm. Our results, which are stated in terms of the intrinsic geometry of the data and hold over any totally bounded metric space, show that the guarantees recently obtained for realizable learning of average-smooth functions transfer to the agnostic setting. At the heart of our proof, we establish the uniform convergence rate of a function class in terms of its bracketing entropy, which may be of independent interest.

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In this work, we aim to characterize the statistical complexity of realizable regression both in the PAC learning setting and the online learning setting. Previous work had established the sufficiency of finiteness of the fat shattering dimension for PAC learnability and the necessity of finiteness of the scaled Natarajan dimension, but little progress had been made towards a more complete characterization since the work of Simon 1997 (SICOMP '97). To this end, we first introduce a minimax instance optimal learner for realizable regression and propose a novel dimension that both qualitatively and quantitatively characterizes which classes of real-valued predictors are learnable. We then identify a combinatorial dimension related to the Graph dimension that characterizes ERM learnability in the realizable setting. Finally, we establish a necessary condition for learnability based on a combinatorial dimension related to the DS dimension, and conjecture that it may also be sufficient in this context. Additionally, in the context of online learning we provide a dimension that characterizes the minimax instance optimal cumulative loss up to a constant factor and design an optimal online learner for realizable regression, thus resolving an open question raised by Daskalakis and Golowich in STOC '22.

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We study universal rates for multiclass classification, establishing the optimal rates (up to log factors) for all hypothesis classes. This generalizes previous results on binary classification (Bousquet, Hanneke, Moran, van Handel, and Yehudayoff, 2021), and resolves an open question studied by Kalavasis, Velegkas, and Karbasi (2022) who handled the multiclass setting with a bounded number of class labels. In contrast, our result applies for any countable label space. Even for finite label space, our proofs provide a more precise bounds on the learning curves, as they do not depend on the number of labels. Specifically, we show that any class admits exponential rates if and only if it has no infinite Littlestone tree, and admits (near-)linear rates if and only if it has no infinite Daniely-Shalev-Shwartz-Littleston (DSL) tree, and otherwise requires arbitrarily slow rates. DSL trees are a new structure we define in this work, in which each node of the tree is given by a pseudo-cube of possible classifications of a given set of points. Pseudo-cubes are a structure, rooted in the work of Daniely and Shalev-Shwartz (2014), and recently shown by Brukhim, Carmon, Dinur, Moran, and Yehudayoff (2022) to characterize PAC learnability (i.e., uniform rates) for multiclass classification. We also resolve an open question of Kalavasis, Velegkas, and Karbasi (2022) regarding the equivalence of classes having infinite Graph-Littlestone (GL) trees versus infinite Natarajan-Littlestone (NL) trees, showing that they are indeed equivalent.

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We study the problem of sequential prediction in the stochastic setting with an adversary that is allowed to inject clean-label adversarial (or out-of-distribution) examples. Algorithms designed to handle purely stochastic data tend to fail in the presence of such adversarial examples, often leading to erroneous predictions. This is undesirable in many high-stakes applications such as medical recommendations, where abstaining from predictions on adversarial examples is preferable to misclassification. On the other hand, assuming fully adversarial data leads to very pessimistic bounds that are often vacuous in practice. To capture this motivation, we propose a new model of sequential prediction that sits between the purely stochastic and fully adversarial settings by allowing the learner to abstain from making a prediction at no cost on adversarial examples. Assuming access to the marginal distribution on the non-adversarial examples, we design a learner whose error scales with the VC dimension (mirroring the stochastic setting) of the hypothesis class, as opposed to the Littlestone dimension which characterizes the fully adversarial setting. Furthermore, we design a learner for VC dimension~1 classes, which works even in the absence of access to the marginal distribution. Our key technical contribution is a novel measure for quantifying uncertainty for learning VC classes, which may be of independent interest.

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Theoretical studies on transfer learning or domain adaptation have so far focused on situations with a known hypothesis class or model; however in practice, some amount of model selection is usually involved, often appearing under the umbrella term of hyperparameter-tuning: for example, one may think of the problem of tuning for the right neural network architecture towards a target task, while leveraging data from a related source task. Now, in addition to the usual tradeoffs on approximation vs estimation errors involved in model selection, this problem brings in a new complexity term, namely, the transfer distance between source and target distributions, which is known to vary with the choice of hypothesis class. We present a first study of this problem, focusing on classification; in particular, the analysis reveals some remarkable phenomena: adaptive rates, i.e., those achievable with no distributional information, can be arbitrarily slower than oracle rates, i.e., when given knowledge on distances.

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Machine learning algorithms are often used in environments which are not captured accurately even by the most carefully obtained training data, either due to the possibility of `adversarial' test-time attacks, or on account of `natural' distribution shift. For test-time attacks, we introduce and analyze a novel robust reliability guarantee, which requires a learner to output predictions along with a reliability radius $\eta$, with the meaning that its prediction is guaranteed to be correct as long as the adversary has not perturbed the test point farther than a distance $\eta$. We provide learners that are optimal in the sense that they always output the best possible reliability radius on any test point, and we characterize the reliable region, i.e. the set of points where a given reliability radius is attainable. We additionally analyze reliable learners under distribution shift, where the test points may come from an arbitrary distribution Q different from the training distribution P. For both cases, we bound the probability mass of the reliable region for several interesting examples, for linear separators under nearly log-concave and s-concave distributions, as well as for smooth boundary classifiers under smooth probability distributions.

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