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Curvature and Optimal Algorithms for Learning and Minimizing Submodular Functions
Rishabh K Iyer · Stefanie Jegelka · Jeffrey A Bilmes

Thu Dec 05 07:00 PM -- 11:59 PM (PST) @ Harrah's Special Events Center, 2nd Floor

We investigate three related and important problems connected to machine learning, namely approximating a submodular function everywhere, learning a submodular function (in a PAC like setting [26]), and constrained minimization of submodular functions. In all three problems, we provide improved bounds which depend on the “curvature” of a submodular function and improve on the previously known best results for these problems [9, 3, 7, 25] when the function is not too curved – a property which is true of many real-world submodular functions. In the former two problems, we obtain these bounds through a generic black-box transformation (which can potentially work for any algorithm), while in the case of submodular minimization, we propose a framework of algorithms which depend on choosing an appropriate surrogate for the submodular function. In all these cases, we provide almost matching lower bounds. While improved curvature-dependent bounds were shown for monotone submodular maximization [4, 27], the existence of similar improved bounds for the aforementioned problems has been open. We resolve this question in this paper by showing that the same notion of curvature provides these improved results. Empirical experiments add further support to our claims.

Author Information

Rishabh K Iyer (University of Texas, Dallas)
Stefanie Jegelka (MIT)
Jeffrey A Bilmes (University of Washington, Seattle)

Jeffrey A. Bilmes is a professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle Washington. He is also an adjunct professor in Computer Science & Engineering and the department of Linguistics. Prof. Bilmes is the founder of the MELODI (MachinE Learning for Optimization and Data Interpretation) lab here in the department. Bilmes received his Ph.D. from the Computer Science Division of the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California in Berkeley and a masters degree from MIT. He was also a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, and a member of the Realization group there. Prof. Bilmes is a 2001 NSF Career award winner, a 2002 CRA Digital Government Fellow, a 2008 NAE Gilbreth Lectureship award recipient, and a 2012/2013 ISCA Distinguished Lecturer. Prof. Bilmes was, along with Andrew Ng, one of the two UAI (Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence) program chairs (2009) and then the general chair (2010). He was also a workshop chair (2011) and the tutorials chair (2014) at NIPS/NeurIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems), and is a regular senior technical chair at NeurIPS/NIPS since then. He was an action editor for JMLR (Journal of Machine Learning Research). Prof. Bilmes's primary interests lie in statistical modeling (particularly graphical model approaches) and signal processing for pattern classification, speech recognition, language processing, bioinformatics, machine learning, submodularity in combinatorial optimization and machine learning, active and semi-supervised learning, and audio/music processing. He is particularly interested in temporal graphical models (or dynamic graphical models, which includes HMMs, DBNs, and CRFs) and ways in which to design efficient algorithms for them and design their structure so that they may perform as better structured classifiers. He also has strong interests in speech-based human-computer interfaces, the statistical properties of natural objects and natural scenes, information theory and its relation to natural computation by humans and pattern recognition by machines, and computational music processing (such as human timing subtleties). He is also quite interested in high performance computing systems, computer architecture, and software techniques to reduce power consumption. Prof. Bilmes has also pioneered (starting in 2003) the development of submodularity within machine learning, and he received a best paper award at ICML 2013, a best paper award at NIPS 2013, and a best paper award at ACMBCB in 2016, all in this area. In 2014, Prof. Bilmes also received a most influential paper in 25 years award from the International Conference on Supercomputing, given to a paper on high-performance matrix optimization. Prof. Bilmes has authored the graphical models toolkit (GMTK), a dynamic graphical-model based software system widely used in speech, language, bioinformatics, and human-activity recognition.

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