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Authors:Felix Petersen, Christian Borgelt, Tobias Sutter, Hilde Kuehne, Oliver Deussen, Stefano Ermon

Abstract:When training neural networks with custom objectives, such as ranking losses and shortest-path losses, a common problem is that they are, per se, non-differentiable. A popular approach is to continuously relax the objectives to provide gradients, enabling learning. However, such differentiable relaxations are often non-convex and can exhibit vanishing and exploding gradients, making them (already in isolation) hard to optimize. Here, the loss function poses the bottleneck when training a deep neural network. We present Newton Losses, a method for improving the performance of existing hard to optimize losses by exploiting their second-order information via their empirical Fisher and Hessian matrices. Instead of training the neural network with second-order techniques, we only utilize the loss function's second-order information to replace it by a Newton Loss, while training the network with gradient descent. This makes our method computationally efficient. We apply Newton Losses to eight differentiable algorithms for sorting and shortest-paths, achieving significant improvements for less-optimized differentiable algorithms, and consistent improvements, even for well-optimized differentiable algorithms.

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Abstract:Understanding how models process and interpret time series data remains a significant challenge in deep learning to enable applicability in safety-critical areas such as healthcare. In this paper, we introduce Sequence Dreaming, a technique that adapts Activation Maximization to analyze sequential information, aiming to enhance the interpretability of neural networks operating on univariate time series. By leveraging this method, we visualize the temporal dynamics and patterns most influential in model decision-making processes. To counteract the generation of unrealistic or excessively noisy sequences, we enhance Sequence Dreaming with a range of regularization techniques, including exponential smoothing. This approach ensures the production of sequences that more accurately reflect the critical features identified by the neural network. Our approach is tested on a time series classification dataset encompassing applications in predictive maintenance. The results show that our proposed Sequence Dreaming approach demonstrates targeted activation maximization for different use cases so that either centered class or border activation maximization can be generated. The results underscore the versatility of Sequence Dreaming in uncovering salient temporal features learned by neural networks, thereby advancing model transparency and trustworthiness in decision-critical domains.

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Abstract:This work studies discrete-time discounted Markov decision processes with continuous state and action spaces and addresses the inverse problem of inferring a cost function from observed optimal behavior. We first consider the case in which we have access to the entire expert policy and characterize the set of solutions to the inverse problem by using occupation measures, linear duality, and complementary slackness conditions. To avoid trivial solutions and ill-posedness, we introduce a natural linear normalization constraint. This results in an infinite-dimensional linear feasibility problem, prompting a thorough analysis of its properties. Next, we use linear function approximators and adopt a randomized approach, namely the scenario approach and related probabilistic feasibility guarantees, to derive epsilon-optimal solutions for the inverse problem. We further discuss the sample complexity for a desired approximation accuracy. Finally, we deal with the more realistic case where we only have access to a finite set of expert demonstrations and a generative model and provide bounds on the error made when working with samples.

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Abstract:We propose a new Q-learning variant, called 2RA Q-learning, that addresses some weaknesses of existing Q-learning methods in a principled manner. One such weakness is an underlying estimation bias which cannot be controlled and often results in poor performance. We propose a distributionally robust estimator for the maximum expected value term, which allows us to precisely control the level of estimation bias introduced. The distributionally robust estimator admits a closed-form solution such that the proposed algorithm has a computational cost per iteration comparable to Watkins' Q-learning. For the tabular case, we show that 2RA Q-learning converges to the optimal policy and analyze its asymptotic mean-squared error. Lastly, we conduct numerical experiments for various settings, which corroborate our theoretical findings and indicate that 2RA Q-learning often performs better than existing methods.

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Abstract:We develop a principled approach to end-to-end learning in stochastic optimization. First, we show that the standard end-to-end learning algorithm admits a Bayesian interpretation and trains a posterior Bayes action map. Building on the insights of this analysis, we then propose new end-to-end learning algorithms for training decision maps that output solutions of empirical risk minimization and distributionally robust optimization problems, two dominant modeling paradigms in optimization under uncertainty. Numerical results for a synthetic newsvendor problem illustrate the key differences between alternative training schemes. We also investigate an economic dispatch problem based on real data to showcase the impact of the neural network architecture of the decision maps on their test performance.

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Abstract:We propose a policy gradient algorithm for robust infinite-horizon Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) with non-rectangular uncertainty sets, thereby addressing an open challenge in the robust MDP literature. Indeed, uncertainty sets that display statistical optimality properties and make optimal use of limited data often fail to be rectangular. Unfortunately, the corresponding robust MDPs cannot be solved with dynamic programming techniques and are in fact provably intractable. This prompts us to develop a projected Langevin dynamics algorithm tailored to the robust policy evaluation problem, which offers global optimality guarantees. We also propose a deterministic policy gradient method that solves the robust policy evaluation problem approximately, and we prove that the approximation error scales with a new measure of non-rectangularity of the uncertainty set. Numerical experiments showcase that our projected Langevin dynamics algorithm can escape local optima, while algorithms tailored to rectangular uncertainty fail to do so.

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Abstract:This paper proposes a statistically optimal approach for learning a function value using a confidence interval in a wide range of models, including general non-parametric estimation of an expected loss described as a stochastic programming problem or various SDE models. More precisely, we develop a systematic construction of highly accurate confidence intervals by using a moderate deviation principle-based approach. It is shown that the proposed confidence intervals are statistically optimal in the sense that they satisfy criteria regarding exponential accuracy, minimality, consistency, mischaracterization probability, and eventual uniformly most accurate (UMA) property. The confidence intervals suggested by this approach are expressed as solutions to robust optimization problems, where the uncertainty is expressed via the underlying moderate deviation rate function induced by the data-generating process. We demonstrate that for many models these optimization problems admit tractable reformulations as finite convex programs even when they are infinite-dimensional.

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Authors:Felix Petersen, Tobias Sutter, Christian Borgelt, Dongsung Huh, Hilde Kuehne, Yuekai Sun, Oliver Deussen

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Abstract:We present ISAAC (Input-baSed ApproximAte Curvature), a novel method that conditions the gradient using selected second-order information and has an asymptotically vanishing computational overhead, assuming a batch size smaller than the number of neurons. We show that it is possible to compute a good conditioner based on only the input to a respective layer without a substantial computational overhead. The proposed method allows effective training even in small-batch stochastic regimes, which makes it competitive to first-order as well as second-order methods.

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Abstract:Counterexample-guided repair aims at creating neural networks with mathematical safety guarantees, facilitating the application of neural networks in safety-critical domains. However, whether counterexample-guided repair is guaranteed to terminate remains an open question. We approach this question by showing that counterexample-guided repair can be viewed as a robust optimisation algorithm. While termination guarantees for neural network repair itself remain beyond our reach, we prove termination for more restrained machine learning models and disprove termination in a general setting. We empirically study the practical implications of our theoretical results, demonstrating the suitability of common verifiers and falsifiers for repair despite a disadvantageous theoretical result. Additionally, we use our theoretical insights to devise a novel algorithm for repairing linear regression models, surpassing existing approaches.

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Abstract:We study a stochastic program where the probability distribution of the uncertain problem parameters is unknown and only indirectly observed via finitely many correlated samples generated by an unknown Markov chain with $d$ states. We propose a data-driven distributionally robust optimization model to estimate the problem's objective function and optimal solution. By leveraging results from large deviations theory, we derive statistical guarantees on the quality of these estimators. The underlying worst-case expectation problem is nonconvex and involves $\mathcal O(d^2)$ decision variables. Thus, it cannot be solved efficiently for large $d$. By exploiting the structure of this problem, we devise a customized Frank-Wolfe algorithm with convex direction-finding subproblems of size $\mathcal O(d)$. We prove that this algorithm finds a stationary point efficiently under mild conditions. The efficiency of the method is predicated on a dimensionality reduction enabled by a dual reformulation. Numerical experiments indicate that our approach has better computational and statistical properties than the state-of-the-art methods.

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