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Sarah Sachs, Tim van Erven, Liam Hodgkinson, Rajiv Khanna, Umut Simsekli

Algorithm- and data-dependent generalization bounds are required to explain the generalization behavior of modern machine learning algorithms. In this context, there exists information theoretic generalization bounds that involve (various forms of) mutual information, as well as bounds based on hypothesis set stability. We propose a conceptually related, but technically distinct complexity measure to control generalization error, which is the empirical Rademacher complexity of an algorithm- and data-dependent hypothesis class. Combining standard properties of Rademacher complexity with the convenient structure of this class, we are able to (i) obtain novel bounds based on the finite fractal dimension, which (a) extend previous fractal dimension-type bounds from continuous to finite hypothesis classes, and (b) avoid a mutual information term that was required in prior work; (ii) we greatly simplify the proof of a recent dimension-independent generalization bound for stochastic gradient descent; and (iii) we easily recover results for VC classes and compression schemes, similar to approaches based on conditional mutual information.

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Hidde Fokkema, Damien Garreau, Tim van Erven

Algorithmic recourse provides explanations that help users overturn an unfavorable decision by a machine learning system. But so far very little attention has been paid to whether providing recourse is beneficial or not. We introduce an abstract learning-theoretic framework that compares the risks (i.e. expected losses) for classification with and without algorithmic recourse. This allows us to answer the question of when providing recourse is beneficial or harmful at the population level. Surprisingly, we find that there are many plausible scenarios in which providing recourse turns out to be harmful, because it pushes users to regions of higher class uncertainty and therefore leads to more mistakes. We further study whether the party deploying the classifier has an incentive to strategize in anticipation of having to provide recourse, and we find that sometimes they do, to the detriment of their users. Providing algorithmic recourse may therefore also be harmful at the systemic level. We confirm our theoretical findings in experiments on simulated and real-world data. All in all, we conclude that the current concept of algorithmic recourse is not reliably beneficial, and therefore requires rethinking.

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Julia Olkhovskaya, Jack Mayo, Tim van Erven, Gergely Neu, Chen-Yu Wei

We consider the adversarial linear contextual bandit setting, which allows for the loss functions associated with each of $K$ arms to change over time without restriction. Assuming the $d$-dimensional contexts are drawn from a fixed known distribution, the worst-case expected regret over the course of $T$ rounds is known to scale as $\tilde O(\sqrt{Kd T})$. Under the additional assumption that the density of the contexts is log-concave, we obtain a second-order bound of order $\tilde O(K\sqrt{d V_T})$ in terms of the cumulative second moment of the learner's losses $V_T$, and a closely related first-order bound of order $\tilde O(K\sqrt{d L_T^*})$ in terms of the cumulative loss of the best policy $L_T^*$. Since $V_T$ or $L_T^*$ may be significantly smaller than $T$, these improve over the worst-case regret whenever the environment is relatively benign. Our results are obtained using a truncated version of the continuous exponential weights algorithm over the probability simplex, which we analyse by exploiting a novel connection to the linear bandit setting without contexts.

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Hédi Hadiji, Sarah Sachs, Tim van Erven, Wouter M. Koolen

In the first-order query model for zero-sum $K\times K$ matrix games, playersobserve the expected pay-offs for all their possible actions under therandomized action played by their opponent. This is a classical model,which has received renewed interest after the discoveryby Rakhlin and Sridharan that $\epsilon$-approximate Nash equilibria can be computedefficiently from $O(\ln K / \epsilon) $ instead of $O( \ln K / \epsilon^2)$ queries.Surprisingly, the optimal number of such queries, as a function of both$\epsilon$ and $K$, is not known.We make progress on this question on two fronts. First, we fully characterise the query complexity of learning exact equilibria ($\epsilon=0$), by showing that they require a number of queries that is linearin $K$, which means that it is essentially as hard as querying the wholematrix, which can also be done with $K$ queries. Second, for $\epsilon > 0$, the currentquery complexity upper bound stands at $O(\min(\ln(K) / \epsilon , K))$. We argue that, unfortunately, obtaining matchinglower bound is not possible with existing techniques: we prove that nolower bound can be derived by constructing hard matrices whose entriestake values in a known countable set, because such matrices can be fullyidentified by a single query. This rules out, for instance, reducing toa submodular optimization problem over the hypercube by encoding itas a binary matrix. We then introduce a new technique for lower bounds,which allows us to obtain lower bounds of order$\tilde\Omega(\log(1 / (K\epsilon)))$ for any $\epsilon \leq1 / cK^4$, where $c$ is a constant independent of $K$. We furtherdiscuss possible future directions to improve on our techniques in orderto close the gap with the upper bounds.

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Sarah Sachs, Hedi Hadiji, Tim van Erven, Cristobal Guzman

Stochastic and adversarial data are two widely studied settings in online learning. But many optimization tasks are neither i.i.d. nor fully adversarial, which makes it of fundamental interest to get a better theoretical understanding of the world between these extremes. In this work we establish novel regret bounds for online convex optimization in a setting that interpolates between stochastic i.i.d. and fully adversarial losses. By exploiting smoothness of the expected losses, these bounds replace a dependence on the maximum gradient length by the variance of the gradients, which was previously known only for linear losses. In addition, they weaken the i.i.d. assumption by allowing, for example, adversarially poisoned rounds, which were previously considered in the related expert and bandit settings. In the fully i.i.d. case, our regret bounds match the rates one would expect from results in stochastic acceleration, and we also recover the optimal stochastically accelerated rates via online-to-batch conversion. In the fully adversarial case our bounds gracefully deteriorate to match the minimax regret. We further provide lower bounds showing that our regret upper bounds are tight for all intermediate regimes in terms of the stochastic variance and the adversarial variation of the loss gradients.

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Rui M. Castro, Fredrik Hellström, Tim van Erven

We consider online prediction of a binary sequence with expert advice. For this setting, we devise label-efficient forecasting algorithms, which use a selective sampling scheme that enables collecting much fewer labels than standard procedures, while still retaining optimal worst-case regret guarantees. These algorithms are based on exponentially weighted forecasters, suitable for settings with and without a perfect expert. For a scenario where one expert is strictly better than the others in expectation, we show that the label complexity of the label-efficient forecaster scales roughly as the square root of the number of rounds. Finally, we present numerical experiments empirically showing that the normalized regret of the label-efficient forecaster can asymptotically match known minimax rates for pool-based active learning, suggesting it can optimally adapt to benign settings.

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Thom Neuteboom, Tim van Erven

We provide a new method for online learning, specifically prediction with expert advice, in a changing environment. In a non-changing environment the Squint algorithm has been designed to always function at least as well as other known algorithms and in specific cases it functions much better. However, when using a conventional black-box algorithm to make Squint suitable for a changing environment, it loses its beneficial properties. Hence, we provide a new algorithm, Squint-CE, which is suitable for a changing environment and preserves the properties of Squint.

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Hidde Fokkema, Rianne de Heide, Tim van Erven

Different users of machine learning methods require different explanations, depending on their goals. To make machine learning accountable to society, one important goal is to get actionable options for recourse, which allow an affected user to change the decision $f(x)$ of a machine learning system by making limited changes to its input $x$. We formalize this by providing a general definition of recourse sensitivity, which needs to be instantiated with a utility function that describes which changes to the decisions are relevant to the user. This definition applies to local attribution methods, which attribute an importance weight to each input feature. It is often argued that such local attributions should be robust, in the sense that a small change in the input $x$ that is being explained, should not cause a large change in the feature weights. However, we prove formally that it is in general impossible for any single attribution method to be both recourse sensitive and robust at the same time. It follows that there must always exist counterexamples to at least one of these properties. We provide such counterexamples for several popular attribution methods, including LIME, SHAP, Integrated Gradients and SmoothGrad. Our results also cover counterfactual explanations, which may be viewed as attributions that describe a perturbation of $x$. We further discuss possible ways to work around our impossibility result, for instance by allowing the output to consist of sets with multiple attributions. Finally, we strengthen our impossibility result for the restricted case where users are only able to change a single attribute of x, by providing an exact characterization of the functions $f$ to which impossibility applies.

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Sarah Sachs, Hédi Hadiji, Tim van Erven, Cristóbal Guzmán

Stochastic and adversarial data are two widely studied settings in online learning. But many optimization tasks are neither i.i.d. nor fully adversarial, which makes it of fundamental interest to get a better theoretical understanding of the world between these extremes. In this work we establish novel regret bounds for online convex optimization in a setting that interpolates between stochastic i.i.d. and fully adversarial losses. By exploiting smoothness of the expected losses, these bounds replace a dependence on the maximum gradient length by the variance of the gradients, which was previously known only for linear losses. In addition, they weaken the i.i.d. assumption by allowing adversarially poisoned rounds or shifts in the data distribution. To accomplish this goal, we introduce two key quantities associated with the loss sequence, that we call the cumulative stochastic variance and the adversarial variation. Our upper bounds are attained by instances of optimistic follow the regularized leader, and we design adaptive learning rates that automatically adapt to the cumulative stochastic variance and adversarial variation. In the fully i.i.d. case, our bounds match the rates one would expect from results in stochastic acceleration, and in the fully adversarial case they gracefully deteriorate to match the minimax regret. We further provide lower bounds showing that our regret upper bounds are tight for all intermediate regimes for the cumulative stochastic variance and the adversarial variation.

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Jack J. Mayo, Hédi Hadiji, Tim van Erven

A sequence of works in unconstrained online convex optimisation have investigated the possibility of adapting simultaneously to the norm $U$ of the comparator and the maximum norm $G$ of the gradients. In full generality, matching upper and lower bounds are known which show that this comes at the unavoidable cost of an additive $G U^3$, which is not needed when either $G$ or $U$ is known in advance. Surprisingly, recent results by Kempka et al. (2019) show that no such price for adaptivity is needed in the specific case of $1$-Lipschitz losses like the hinge loss. We follow up on this observation by showing that there is in fact never a price to pay for adaptivity if we specialise to any of the other common supervised online learning losses: our results cover log loss, (linear and non-parametric) logistic regression, square loss prediction, and (linear and non-parametric) least-squares regression. We also fill in several gaps in the literature by providing matching lower bounds with an explicit dependence on $U$. In all cases we obtain scale-free algorithms, which are suitably invariant under rescaling of the data. Our general goal is to establish achievable rates without concern for computational efficiency, but for linear logistic regression we also provide an adaptive method that is as efficient as the recent non-adaptive algorithm by Agarwal et al. (2021).

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