### NIPS 2016 Video

One of the core problems of modern statistics and machine learning is to approximate difficult-to-compute probability distributions. This problem is especially important in probabilistic modeling, which frames all inference about unknown quantities as a calculation about a conditional distribution. In this tutorial we review and discuss variational inference (VI), a method a that approximates probability distributions through optimization. VI has been used in myriad applications in machine learning and tends to be faster than more traditional methods, such as Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling. Brought into machine learning in the 1990s, recent advances and easier implementation have renewed interest and application of this class of methods. This tutorial aims to provide both an introduction to VI with a modern view of the field, and an overview of the role that probabilistic inference plays in many of the central areas of machine learning. The tutorial has three parts. First, we provide a broad review of variational inference from several perspectives. This part serves as an introduction (or review) of its central concepts. Second, we develop and connect some of the pivotal tools for VI that have been developed in the last few years, tools like Monte Carlo gradient estimation, black box variational inference, stochastic approximation, and variational auto-encoders. These methods have lead to a resurgence of research and applications of VI. Finally, we discuss some of the unsolved problems in VI and point to promising research directions. Learning objectives; - Gain a well-grounded understanding of modern advances in variational inference. - Understand how to implement basic versions for a wide class of models. - Understand connections and different names used in other related research areas. - Understand important problems in variational inference research. Target audience; - Machine learning researchers across all level of experience from first year grad students to other more experienced researchers - Targeted at those who want to understand recent advances in variational inference - Basic understanding of probability is sufficient

This tutorial will showcase some of the most innovative uses of crowdsourcing that have emerged in the past few years. While some have clear and immediate benefits to machine learning, we will also discuss examples in which crowdsourcing has allowed researchers to answer exciting questions in psychology, economics, and other fields. We will discuss best practices for crowdsourcing (such as how and why to maintain a positive relationship with crowdworkers) and available crowdsourcing tools. We will survey recent research examining the effect of incentives on crowdworker performance. Time permitting, we will also touch on recent ethnographic research studying the community of crowdworkers and/or delve into the ethical implications of crowdsourcing. Despite the inclusion of best practices and tools, this tutorial should not be viewed as a prescriptive guide for applying existing techniques. The goals of the tutorial are to inspire you to find novel ways of using crowdsourcing in your own research and to provide you with the resources you need to avoid common pitfalls when you do. Target audience: This tutorial is open to anyone who wants to learn more about cutting edge research in crowdsourcing. No assumptions will be made about the audience's familiarity with either crowdsourcing or specific machine learning techniques. Anyone who is curious is welcome to attend! As the tutorial approaches, more information will be available on the tutorial website: http://www.jennwv.com/projects/crowdtutorial.html

Deep Reinforcement Learning (Deep RL) has seen several breakthroughs in recent years. In this tutorial we will focus on recent advances in Deep RL through policy gradient methods and actor critic methods. These methods have shown significant success in a wide range of domains, including continuous-action domains such as manipulation, locomotion, and flight. They have also achieved the state of the art in discrete action domains such as Atari. Fundamentally, there are two types of gradient calculations: likelihood ratio gradients (aka score function gradients) and path derivative gradients (aka perturbation analysis gradients). We will teach policy gradient methods of each type, connect with Actor-Critic methods (which learn both a value function and a policy), and cover a generalized view of the computation of gradients of expectations through Stochastic Computation Graphs. Learning Objectives: The objective is to provide attendees with a good understanding of foundations as well as recent advances in policy gradient methods and actor critic methods. Approaches that will be taught: Likelihood Ratio Policy Gradient (REINFORCE), Natural Policy Gradient, Trust Region Policy Optimization (TRPO), Generalized Advantage Estimation (GAE), Asynchronous Advantage Actor Critic (A3C), Path Derivative Policy Gradients, (Deep) Deterministic Policy Gradient (DDPG), Stochastic Value Gradients (SVG), Guided Policy Search (GPS). As well as a generalized view of the computation of gradients of expectations through Stochastic Computation Graphs. Target Audience: Machine learning researchers. RL background not assumed, but some prior familiarity with the basic concepts could be helpful. Good resource: Sutton and Barto Chapters 3 & 4 (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~sutton/book/the-book.html).

Time series appear in a variety of key real-world applications such as signal processing, including audio and video processing; the analysis of natural phenomena such as local weather, global temperature, and earthquakes; the study of economic variables such as stock values, sales amounts, energy demand; and many other areas. But, while time series forecasting is critical for many applications, it has received little attention in the ML community in recent years, probably due to a lack of familiarity with time series and the fact that standard i.i.d. learning concepts and tools are not readily applicable in that scenario. This tutorial precisely addresses these and many other related questions. It provides theoretical and algorithmic tools for research related to time series and for designing new solutions. We first present a concise introduction to time series, including basic concepts, common challenges and standard models. Next, we discuss important statistical learning tools and results developed in recent years and show how they are useful for deriving guarantees and designing algorithms both in stationary and non-stationary scenarios. Finally, we show how the online learning framework can be leveraged to derive algorithms that tackle important and notoriously difficult problems including model selection and ensemble methods. Learning objectives: a. familiarization with basic time series concepts b. introduction to statistical learning theory and algorithms for stationary and non-stationary time series c. introduction to model selection and ensemble methods for time series via online learning Target audience: This tutorial is targeted for a very general ML audience and should be accessible to most machine learning researchers and practitioners. We will introduce all the necessary tools from scratch and of course make slides and other detailed tutorial documents available.

Generative adversarial networks (GANs) are a recently introduced class of generative models, designed to produce realistic samples. This tutorial is intended to be accessible to an audience who has no experience with GANs, and should prepare the audience to make original research contributions applying GANs or improving the core GAN algorithms. GANs are universal approximators of probability distributions. Such models generally have an intractable log-likelihood gradient, and require approximations such as Markov chain Monte Carlo or variational lower bounds to make learning feasible. GANs avoid using either of these classes of approximations. The learning process consists of a game between two adversaries: a generator network that attempts to produce realistic samples, and a discriminator network that attempts to identify whether samples originated from the training data or from the generative model. At the Nash equilibrium of this game, the generator network reproduces the data distribution exactly, and the discriminator network cannot distinguish samples from the model from training data. Both networks can be trained using stochastic gradient descent with exact gradients computed by maximum likelihood. Topics include: - An introduction to the basics of GANs. - A review of work applying GANs to large image generation. - Extending the GAN framework to approximate maximum likelihood, rather than minimizing the Jensen-Shannon divergence. - Improved model architectures that yield better learning in GANs. - Semi-supervised learning with GANs. - Research frontiers, including guaranteeing convergence of the GAN game. - Other applications of adversarial learning, such as domain adaptation and privacy. Learning objectives: - To explain the fundamentals of how GANs work to someone who has not heard of them previously - To bring the audience up to date on image generation applications of GANs - To prepare the audience to make original contributions to generative modeling research Target audience: The target audience is people who are interested in generative modeling. Both people who do not have prior knowledge of GANs and people who do should find something worthwhile, but the first part of the tutorial will be less interesting to people who have prior knowledge of GANs.

Electronic health records and high throughput measurement technologies are changing the practice of healthcare to become more algorithmic and data-driven. This offers an exciting opportunity for machine learning to impact healthcare. The aim of this tutorial is to introduce you to the most important challenges and techniques for developing “personalized decision-making” tools in medicine. We will also cover example data sources and describe ongoing national initiatives that provide a way for you to get involved. Target audience: The majority of this tutorial will be targeted at an audience with basic machine learning knowledge. No background in medicine or health care is needed. We will make our slides and any relevant documents accessible after the talk. Learning objectives: - Become familiar with important (computational) problems in precision medicine and individualized health care - Get introduced to state-of-the-art approaches - Hear about relevant datasets (and potential funding sources).

Deep learning has been at the root of significant progress in many application areas, such as computer perception and natural language processing. But almost all of these systems currently use supervised learning with human-curated labels. The challenge of the next several years is to let machines learn from raw, unlabeled data, such as images, videos and text. Intelligent systems today do not possess "common sense", which humans and animals acquire by observing the world, acting in it, and understanding the physical constraints of it. I will argue that allowing machine to learn predictive models of the world is key to significant progress in artificial intelligence, and a necessary component of model-based planning and reinforcement learning. The main technical difficulty is that the world is only partially predictable. A general formulation of unsupervised learning that deals with partial predictability will be presented. The formulation connects many well-known approaches to unsupervised learning, as well as new and exciting ones such as adversarial training.

Dropout has been witnessed with great success in training deep neural networks by independently zeroing out the outputs of neurons at random. It has also received a surge of interest for shallow learning, e.g., logistic regression. However, the independent sampling for dropout could be suboptimal for the sake of convergence. In this paper, we propose to use multinomial sampling for dropout, i.e., sampling features or neurons according to a multinomial distribution with different probabilities for different features/neurons. To exhibit the optimal dropout probabilities, we analyze the shallow learning with multinomial dropout and establish the risk bound for stochastic optimization. By minimizing a sampling dependent factor in the risk bound, we obtain a distribution-dependent dropout with sampling probabilities dependent on the second order statistics of the data distribution. To tackle the issue of evolving distribution of neurons in deep learning, we propose an efficient adaptive dropout (named \textbf{evolutional dropout}) that computes the sampling probabilities on-the-fly from a mini-batch of examples. Empirical studies on several benchmark datasets demonstrate that the proposed dropouts achieve not only much faster convergence and but also a smaller testing error than the standard dropout. For example, on the CIFAR-100 data, the evolutional dropout achieves relative improvements over 10\% on the prediction performance and over 50\% on the convergence speed compared to the standard dropout.

Clustering large datasets is a fundamental problem with a number of applications in machine learning. Data is often collected on different sites and clustering needs to be performed in a distributed manner with low communication. We would like the quality of the clustering in the distributed setting to match that in the centralized setting for which all the data resides on a single site. In this work, we study both graph and geometric clustering problems in two distributed models: (1) a point-to-point model, and (2) a model with a broadcast channel. We give protocols in both models which we show are nearly optimal by proving almost matching communication lower bounds. Our work highlights the surprising power of a broadcast channel for clustering problems; roughly speaking, to cluster n points or n vertices in a graph distributed across s servers, for a worst-case partitioning the communication complexity in a point-to-point model is n*s, while in the broadcast model it is n + s. We implement our algorithms and demonstrate this phenomenon on real life datasets, showing that our algorithms are also very efficient in practice.

Clustering is an important unsupervised learning problem in machine learning and statistics. Among many existing algorithms, kernel \km has drawn much research attention due to its ability to find non-linear cluster boundaries and its inherent simplicity. There are two main approaches for kernel k-means: SVD of the kernel matrix and convex relaxations. Despite the attention kernel clustering has received both from theoretical and applied quarters, not much is known about robustness of the methods. In this paper we first introduce a semidefinite programming relaxation for the kernel clustering problem, then prove that under a suitable model specification, both K-SVD and SDP approaches are consistent in the limit, albeit SDP is strongly consistent, i.e. achieves exact recovery, whereas K-SVD is weakly consistent, i.e. the fraction of misclassified nodes vanish. Also the error bounds suggest that SDP is more resilient towards outliers, which we also demonstrate with experiments.

The combinatorial stochastic semi-bandit problem is an extension of the classical multi-armed bandit problem in which an algorithm pulls more than one arm at each stage and the rewards of all pulled arms are revealed. One difference with the single arm variant is that the dependency structure of the arms is crucial. Previous works on this setting either used a worst-case approach or imposed independence of the arms. We introduce a way to quantify the dependency structure of the problem and design an algorithm that adapts to it. The algorithm is based on linear regression and the analysis uses techniques from the linear bandit literature. By comparing its performance to a new lower bound, we prove that it is optimal, up to a poly-logarithmic factor in the number of arms pulled.

Several works have shown that deep CNN classifiers can be easily transferred across datasets, e.g. the transfer of a CNN trained to recognize objects on ImageNET to an object detector on Pascal VOC. Less clear, however, is the ability of CNNs to transfer knowledge across tasks. A common example of such transfer is the problem of scene classification that should leverage localized object detections to recognize holistic visual concepts. While this problem is currently addressed with Fisher vector representations, these are now shown ineffective for the high-dimensional and highly non-linear features extracted by modern CNNs. It is argued that this is mostly due to the reliance on a model, the Gaussian mixture of diagonal covariances, which has a very limited ability to capture the second order statistics of CNN features. This problem is addressed by the adoption of a better model, the mixture of factor analyzers (MFA), which approximates the non-linear data manifold by a collection of local subspaces. The Fisher score with respect to the MFA (MFA-FS) is derived and proposed as an image representation for holistic image classifiers. Extensive experiments show that the MFA-FS has state of the art performance for object-to-scene transfer and this transfer actually outperforms the training of a scene CNN from a large scene dataset. The two representations are also shown to be complementary, in the sense that their combination outperforms each of the representations by itself. When combined, they produce a state of the art scene classifier.

Statistical methods for network data often parameterize the edge-probability by attributing latent traits such as block structure to the vertices and assume exchangeability in the sense of the Aldous-Hoover representation theorem. These assumptions are however incompatible with traits found in real-world networks such as a power-law degree-distribution. Recently, Caron & Fox (2014) proposed the use of a different notion of exchangeability after Kallenberg (2005) and obtained a network model which permits edge-inhomogeneity, such as a power-law degree-distribution whilst retaining desirable statistical properties. However, this model does not capture latent vertex traits such as block-structure. In this work we re-introduce the use of block-structure for network models obeying Kallenberg’s notion of exchangeability and thereby obtain a collapsed model which both admits the inference of block-structure and edge inhomogeneity. We derive a simple expression for the likelihood and an efficient sampling method. The obtained model is not significantly more difficult to implement than existing approaches to block-modelling and performs well on real network datasets.

We present a new type of probabilistic model which we call DISsimilarity COefficient Networks (DISCO Nets). DISCO Nets allow us to efficiently sample from a posterior distribution parametrised by a neural network. During training, DISCO Nets are learned by minimising the dissimilarity coefficient between the true distribution and the estimated distribution. This allows us to tailor the training to the loss related to the task at hand. We empirically show that (i) by modeling uncertainty on the output value, DISCO Nets outperform equivalent non-probabilistic predictive networks and (ii) DISCO Nets accurately model the uncertainty of the output, outperforming existing probabilistic models based on deep neural networks.

The question of how to parallelize the stochastic gradient descent (SGD) method has received much attention in the literature. In this paper, we focus instead on batch methods that use a sizeable fraction of the training set at each iteration to facilitate parallelism, and that employ second-order information. In order to improve the learning process, we follow a multi-batch approach in which the batch changes at each iteration. This can cause difficulties because L-BFGS employs gradient differences to update the Hessian approximations, and when these gradients are computed using different data points the process can be unstable. This paper shows how to perform stable quasi-Newton updating in the multi-batch setting, illustrates the behavior of the algorithm in a distributed computing platform, and studies its convergence properties for both the convex and nonconvex cases.

We introduce the study of fairness in multi-armed bandit problems. Our fairness definition demands that, given a pool of applicants, a worse applicant is never favored over a better one, despite a learning algorithm’s uncertainty over the true payoffs. In the classic stochastic bandits problem we provide a provably fair algorithm based on “chained” confidence intervals, and prove a cumulative regret bound with a cubic dependence on the number of arms. We further show that any fair algorithm must have such a dependence, providing a strong separation between fair and unfair learning that extends to the general contextual case. In the general contextual case, we prove a tight connection between fairness and the KWIK (Knows What It Knows) learning model: a KWIK algorithm for a class of functions can be transformed into a provably fair contextual bandit algorithm and vice versa. This tight connection allows us to provide a provably fair algorithm for the linear contextual bandit problem with a polynomial dependence on the dimension, and to show (for a different class of functions) a worst-case exponential gap in regret between fair and non-fair learning algorithms.

We exhibit a strong link between frequentist PAC-Bayesian bounds and the Bayesian marginal likelihood. That is, for the negative log-likelihood loss function, we show that the minimization of PAC-Bayesian generalization bounds maximizes the Bayesian marginal likelihood. This provides an alternative explanation to the Bayesian Occam's razor criteria, under the assumption that the data is generated by an i.i.d. distribution. Moreover, as the negative log-likelihood is an unbounded loss function, we motivate and propose a PAC-Bayesian theorem tailored for the sub-gamma loss family, and we show that our approach is sound on classical Bayesian linear regression tasks.

In neuroscience, the similarity matrix of neural activity patterns in response to different sensory stimuli or under different cognitive states reflects the structure of neural representational space. Existing methods derive point estimations of neural activity patterns from noisy neural imaging data, and the similarity is calculated from these point estimations. We show that this approach translates structured noise from estimated patterns into spurious bias structure in the resulting similarity matrix, which is especially severe when signal-to-noise ratio is low and experimental conditions cannot be fully randomized in a cognitive task. We propose an alternative Bayesian framework for computing representational similarity in which we treat the covariance structure of neural activity patterns as a hyper-parameter in a generative model of the neural data, and directly estimate this covariance structure from imaging data while marginalizing over the unknown activity patterns. Converting the estimated covariance structure into a correlation matrix offers a much less biased estimate of neural representational similarity. Our method can also simultaneously estimate a signal-to-noise map that informs where the learned representational structure is supported more strongly, and the learned covariance matrix can be used as a structured prior to constrain Bayesian estimation of neural activity patterns. Our code is freely available in Brainiak (https://github.com/IntelPNI/brainiak), a python toolkit for brain imaging analysis.

We consider the problem of multiple agents sensing and acting in environments with the goal of maximising their shared utility. In these environments, agents must learn communication protocols in order to share information that is needed to solve the tasks. By embracing deep neural networks, we are able to demonstrate end-to-end learning of protocols in complex environments inspired by communication riddles and multi-agent computer vision problems with partial observability. We propose two approaches for learning in these domains: Reinforced Inter-Agent Learning (RIAL) and Differentiable Inter-Agent Learning (DIAL). The former uses deep Q-learning, while the latter exploits the fact that, during learning, agents can backpropagate error derivatives through (noisy) communication channels. Hence, this approach uses centralised learning but decentralised execution. Our experiments introduce new environments for studying the learning of communication protocols and present a set of engineering innovations that are essential for success in these domains.

Word embeddings are a powerful approach to capturing semantic similarity among terms in a vocabulary. In this paper, we develop exponential family embeddings, which extends the idea of word embeddings to other types of high-dimensional data. As examples, we studied several types of data: neural data with real-valued observations, count data from a market basket analysis, and ratings data from a movie recommendation system. The main idea is that each observation is modeled conditioned on a set of latent embeddings and other observations, called the context, where the way the context is defined depends on the problem. In language the context is the surrounding words; in neuroscience the context is close-by neurons; in market basket data the context is other items in the shopping cart. Each instance of an embedding defines the context, the exponential family of conditional distributions, and how the embedding vectors are shared across data. We infer the embeddings with stochastic gradient descent, with an algorithm that connects closely to generalized linear models. On all three of our applications—neural activity of zebrafish, users’ shopping behavior, and movie ratings—we found that exponential family embedding models are more effective than other dimension reduction methods. They better reconstruct held-out data and find interesting qualitative structure.

The weighted k-nearest neighbors algorithm is one of the most fundamental non-parametric methods in pattern recognition and machine learning. The question of setting the optimal number of neighbors as well as the optimal weights has received much attention throughout the years, nevertheless this problem seems to have remained unsettled. In this paper we offer a simple approach to locally weighted regression/classification, where we make the bias-variance tradeoff explicit. Our formulation enables us to phrase a notion of optimal weights, and to efficiently find these weights as well as the optimal number of neighbors efficiently and adaptively, for each data point whose value we wish to estimate. The applicability of our approach is demonstrated on several datasets, showing superior performance over standard locally weighted methods.

It has recently been shown that supervised learning linear classifiers with two of the most popular losses, the logistic and square loss, is equivalent to optimizing an equivalent loss over sufficient statistics about the class: Rademacher observations (rados). It has also been shown that learning over rados brings solutions to two prominent problems for which the state of the art of learning from examples can be comparatively inferior and in fact less convenient: protecting and learning from private examples, learning from distributed datasets without entity resolution. Bis repetita placent: the two proofs of equivalence are different and rely on specific properties of the corresponding losses, so whether these can be unified and generalized inevitably comes to mind. This is our first contribution: we show how they can be fit into the same theory for the equivalence between example and rado losses. As a second contribution, we show that the generalization unveils a surprising new connection to regularized learning, and in particular a sufficient condition under which regularizing the loss over examples is equivalent to regularizing the rados (i.e. the data) in the equivalent rado loss, in such a way that an efficient algorithm for one regularized rado loss may be as efficient when changing the regularizer. This is our third contribution: we give a formal boosting algorithm for the regularized exponential rado-loss which boost with any of the ridge, lasso, \slope, l_\infty, or elastic nets, using the same master routine for all. Because the regularized exponential rado-loss is the equivalent of the regularized logistic loss over examples we obtain the first efficient proxy to the minimisation of the regularized logistic loss over examples using such a wide spectrum of regularizers. Experiments with a readily available code display that regularization significantly improves rado-based learning and compares favourably with example-based learning.

Reasoning about objects, relations, and physics is central to human intelligence, and a key goal of artificial intelligence. Here we introduce the interaction network, a model which can reason about how objects in complex systems interact, supporting dynamical predictions, as well as inferences about the abstract properties of the system. Our model takes graphs as input, performs object- and relation-centric reasoning in a way that is analogous to a simulation, and is implemented using deep neural networks. We evaluate its ability to reason about several challenging physical domains: n-body problems, rigid-body collision, and non-rigid dynamics. Our results show it can be trained to accurately simulate the physical trajectories of dozens of objects over thousands of time steps, estimate abstract quantities such as energy, and generalize automatically to systems with different numbers and configurations of objects and relations. Our interaction network implementation is the first general-purpose, learnable physics engine, and a powerful general framework for reasoning about object and relations in a wide variety of complex real-world domains.

We introduce a method to train Binarized Neural Networks (BNNs) - neural networks with binary weights and activations at run-time. At train-time the binary weights and activations are used for computing the parameter gradients. During the forward pass, BNNs drastically reduce memory size and accesses, and replace most arithmetic operations with bit-wise operations, which is expected to substantially improve power-efficiency. To validate the effectiveness of BNNs, we conducted two sets of experiments on the Torch7 and Theano frameworks. On both, BNNs achieved nearly state-of-the-art results over the MNIST, CIFAR-10 and SVHN datasets. We also report our preliminary results on the challenging ImageNet dataset. Last but not least, we wrote a binary matrix multiplication GPU kernel with which it is possible to run our MNIST BNN 7 times faster than with an unoptimized GPU kernel, without suffering any loss in classification accuracy. The code for training and running our BNNs is available on-line.

Effective convolutional neural networks are trained on large sets of labeled data. However, creating large labeled datasets is a very costly and time-consuming task. Semi-supervised learning uses unlabeled data to train a model with higher accuracy when there is a limited set of labeled data available. In this paper, we consider the problem of semi-supervised learning with convolutional neural networks. Techniques such as randomized data augmentation, dropout and random max-pooling provide better generalization and stability for classifiers that are trained using gradient descent. Multiple passes of an individual sample through the network might lead to different predictions due to the non-deterministic behavior of these techniques. We propose an unsupervised loss function that takes advantage of the stochastic nature of these methods and minimizes the difference between the predictions of multiple passes of a training sample through the network. We evaluate the proposed method on several benchmark datasets.

We propose a general modeling and inference framework that combines the complementary strengths of probabilistic graphical models and deep learning methods. Our model family composes latent graphical models with neural network observation likelihoods. For inference, we use recognition networks to produce local evidence potentials, then combine them with the model distribution using efficient message-passing algorithms. All components are trained simultaneously with a single stochastic variational inference objective. We illustrate this framework by automatically segmenting and categorizing mouse behavior from raw depth video, and demonstrate several other example models.

In recent years, a rapidly increasing number of applications in practice requires solving non-convex objectives, like training neural networks, learning graphical models, maximum likelihood estimation etc. Though simple heuristics such as gradient descent with very few modifications tend to work well, theoretical understanding is very weak. We consider possibly the most natural class of non-convex functions where one could hope to obtain provable guarantees: functions that are ``approximately convex'', i.e. functions $\tf: \Real^d \to \Real$ for which there exists a \emph{convex function} $f$ such that for all $x$, $|\tf(x) - f(x)| \le \errnoise$ for a fixed value $\errnoise$. We then want to minimize $\tf$, i.e. output a point $\tx$ such that $\tf(\tx) \le \min_{x} \tf(x) + \err$. It is quite natural to conjecture that for fixed $\err$, the problem gets harder for larger $\errnoise$, however, the exact dependency of $\err$ and $\errnoise$ is not known. In this paper, we strengthen the known \emph{information theoretic} lower bounds on the trade-off between $\err$ and $\errnoise$ substantially, and exhibit an algorithm that matches these lower bounds for a large class of convex bodies.

A core challenge for an agent learning to interact with the world is to predict how its actions affect objects in its environment. Many existing methods for learning the dynamics of physical interactions require labeled object information. However, to scale real-world interaction learning to a variety of scenes and objects, acquiring labeled data becomes increasingly impractical. To learn about physical object motion without labels, we develop an action-conditioned video prediction model that explicitly models pixel motion, by predicting a distribution over pixel motion from previous frames. Because our model explicitly predicts motion, it is partially invariant to object appearance, enabling it to generalize to previously unseen objects. To explore video prediction for real-world interactive agents, we also introduce a dataset of 59,000 robot interactions involving pushing motions, including a test set with novel objects. In this dataset, accurate prediction of videos conditioned on the robot's future actions amounts to learning a "visual imagination" of different futures based on different courses of action. Our experiments show that our proposed method produces more accurate video predictions both quantitatively and qualitatively, when compared to prior methods.

Hybrid methods that utilize both content and rating information are commonly used in many recommender systems. However, most of them use either handcrafted features or the bag-of-words representation as a surrogate for the content information but they are neither effective nor natural enough. To address this problem, we develop a collaborative recurrent autoencoder (CRAE) which is a denoising recurrent autoencoder (DRAE) that models the generation of content sequences in the collaborative filtering (CF) setting. The model generalizes recent advances in recurrent deep learning from i.i.d. input to non-i.i.d. (CF-based) input and provides a new denoising scheme along with a novel learnable pooling scheme for the recurrent autoencoder. To do this, we first develop a hierarchical Bayesian model for the DRAE and then generalize it to the CF setting. The synergy between denoising and CF enables CRAE to make accurate recommendations while learning to fill in the blanks in sequences. Experiments on real-world datasets from different domains (CiteULike and Netflix) show that, by jointly modeling the order-aware generation of sequences for the content information and performing CF for the ratings, CRAE is able to significantly outperform the state of the art on both the recommendation task based on ratings and the sequence generation task based on content information.

In high-dimensional settings, where the number of features p is typically much larger than the number of samples n, methods which can systematically examine arbitrary combinations of features, a huge 2^p-dimensional space, have recently begun to be explored. However, none of the current methods is able to assess the association between feature combinations and a target variable while conditioning on a categorical covariate, in order to correct for potential confounding effects. We propose the Fast Automatic Conditional Search (FACS) algorithm, a significant discriminative itemset mining method which conditions on categorical covariates and only scales as O(k log k), where k is the number of states of the categorical covariate. Based on the Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel Test, FACS demonstrates superior speed and statistical power on simulated and real-world datasets compared to the state of the art, opening the door to numerous applications in biomedicine.

We study a surprising phenomenon related to the representation of a cloud of data points using polynomials. We start with the previously unnoticed empirical observation that, given a collection (a cloud) of data points, the sublevel sets of a certain distinguished polynomial capture the shape of the cloud very accurately. This distinguished polynomial is a sum-of-squares (SOS) derived in a simple manner from the inverse of the empirical moment matrix. In fact, this SOS polynomial is directly related to orthogonal polynomials and the Christoffel function. This allows to generalize and interpret extremality properties of orthogonal polynomials and to provide a mathematical rationale for the observed phenomenon. Among diverse potential applications, we illustrate the relevance of our results on a network intrusion detection task for which we obtain performances similar to existing dedicated methods reported in the literature.

Spreading processes are often modelled as a stochastic dynamics occurring on top of a given network with edge weights corresponding to the transmission probabilities. Knowledge of veracious transmission probabilities is essential for prediction, optimization, and control of diffusion dynamics. Unfortunately, in most cases the transmission rates are unknown and need to be reconstructed from the spreading data. Moreover, in realistic settings it is impossible to monitor the state of each node at every time, and thus the data is highly incomplete. We introduce an efficient dynamic message-passing algorithm, which is able to reconstruct parameters of the spreading model given only partial information on the activation times of nodes in the network. The method is generalizable to a large class of dynamic models, as well to the case of temporal graphs.

For an autonomous system to be helpful to humans and to pose no unwarranted risks, it needs to align its values with those of the humans in its environment in such a way that its actions contribute to the maximization of value for the humans. We propose a formal definition of the value alignment problem as cooperative inverse reinforcement learning (CIRL). A CIRL problem is a cooperative, partial- information game with two agents, human and robot; both are rewarded according to the human’s reward function, but the robot does not initially know what this is. In contrast to classical IRL, where the human is assumed to act optimally in isolation, optimal CIRL solutions produce behaviors such as active teaching, active learning, and communicative actions that are more effective in achieving value alignment. We show that computing optimal joint policies in CIRL games can be reduced to solving a POMDP, prove that optimality in isolation is suboptimal in CIRL, and derive an approximate CIRL algorithm.

We present a new boosting algorithm for the key scenario of binary classification with abstention where the algorithm can abstain from predicting the label of a point, at the price of a fixed cost. At each round, our algorithm selects a pair of functions, a base predictor and a base abstention function. We define convex upper bounds for the natural loss function associated to this problem, which we prove to be calibrated with respect to the Bayes solution. Our algorithm benefits from general margin-based learning guarantees which we derive for ensembles of pairs of base predictor and abstention functions, in terms of the Rademacher complexities of the corresponding function classes. We give convergence guarantees for our algorithm along with a linear-time weak-learning algorithm for abstention stumps. We also report the results of several experiments suggesting that our algorithm provides a significant improvement in practice over two confidence-based algorithms.

We study the problem of recovering an incomplete $m\times n$ matrix of rank $r$ with columns arriving online over time. This is known as the problem of life-long matrix completion, and is widely applied to recommendation system, computer vision, system identification, etc. The challenge is to design provable algorithms tolerant to a large amount of noises, with small sample complexity. In this work, we give algorithms achieving strong guarantee under two realistic noise models. In bounded deterministic noise, an adversary can add any bounded yet unstructured noise to each column. For this problem, we present an algorithm that returns a matrix of a small error, with sample complexity almost as small as the best prior results in the noiseless case. For sparse random noise, where the corrupted columns are sparse and drawn randomly, we give an algorithm that exactly recovers an $\mu_0$-incoherent matrix by probability at least $1-\delta$ with sample complexity as small as $O(\mu_0rn\log(r/\delta))$. This result advances the state-of-the-art work and matches the lower bound in a worst case. We also study the scenario where the hidden matrix lies on a mixture of subspaces and show that the sample complexity can be even smaller. Our proposed algorithms perform well experimentally in both synthetic and real-world datasets.

We study causal subset selection with Directed Information as the measure of prediction causality. Two typical tasks, causal sensor placement and covariate selection, are correspondingly formulated into cardinality constrained directed information maximizations. To attack the NP-hard problems, we show that the first problem is submodular while not necessarily monotonic. And the second one is ``nearly'' submodular. To substantiate the idea of approximate submodularity, we introduce a novel quantity, namely submodularity index (SmI), for general set functions. Moreover, we show that based on SmI, greedy algorithm has performance guarantee for the maximization of possibly non-monotonic and non-submodular functions, justifying its usage for a much broader class of problems. We evaluate the theoretical results with several case studies, and also illustrate the application of the subset selection to causal structure learning.

In classical reinforcement learning agents accept arbitrary short term loss for long term gain when exploring their environment. This is infeasible for safety critical applications such as robotics, where even a single unsafe action may cause system failure or harm the environment. In this paper, we address the problem of safely exploring finite Markov decision processes (MDP). We define safety in terms of an a priori unknown safety constraint that depends on states and actions and satisfies certain regularity conditions expressed via a Gaussian process prior. We develop a novel algorithm, SAFEMDP, for this task and prove that it completely explores the safely reachable part of the MDP without violating the safety constraint. To achieve this, it cautiously explores safe states and actions in order to gain statistical confidence about the safety of unvisited state-action pairs from noisy observations collected while navigating the environment. Moreover, the algorithm explicitly considers reachability when exploring the MDP, ensuring that it does not get stuck in any state with no safe way out. We demonstrate our method on digital terrain models for the task of exploring an unknown map with a rover.

Many applications of machine learning involve structured output with large domain, where learning of structured predictor is prohibitive due to repetitive calls to expensive inference oracle. In this work, we show that, by decomposing training of Structural Support Vector Machine (SVM) into a series of multiclass SVM problems connected through messages, one can replace expensive structured oracle with Factorwise Maximization Oracle (FMO) that allows efficient implementation of complexity sublinear to the factor domain. A Greedy Direction Method of Multiplier (GDMM) algorithm is proposed to exploit sparsity of messages which guarantees $\epsilon$ sub-optimality after $O(log(1/\epsilon))$ passes of FMO calls. We conduct experiments on chain-structured problems and fully-connected problems of large output domains. The proposed approach is orders-of-magnitude faster than the state-of-the-art training algorithms for Structural SVM.

Sequentially learning to place items in multi-position displays or lists is a task that can be cast into the multiple-play semi-bandit setting. However, a major concern in this context is when the system cannot decide whether the user feedback for each item is actually exploitable. Indeed, much of the content may have been simply ignored by the user. The present work proposes to exploit available information regarding the display position bias under the so-called Position-based click model (PBM). We first discuss how this model differs from the Cascade model and its variants considered in several recent works on multiple-play bandits. We then provide a novel regret lower bound for this model as well as computationally efficient algorithms that display good empirical and theoretical performance.

Deep kernel learning combines the non-parametric flexibility of kernel methods with the inductive biases of deep learning architectures. We propose a novel deep kernel learning model and stochastic variational inference procedure which generalizes deep kernel learning approaches to enable classification, multi-task learning, additive covariance structures, and stochastic gradient training. Specifically, we apply additive base kernels to subsets of output features from deep neural architectures, and jointly learn the parameters of the base kernels and deep network through a Gaussian process marginal likelihood objective. Within this framework, we derive an efficient form of stochastic variational inference which leverages local kernel interpolation, inducing points, and structure exploiting algebra. We show improved performance over stand alone deep networks, SVMs, and state of the art scalable Gaussian processes on several classification benchmarks, including an airline delay dataset containing 6 million training points, CIFAR, and ImageNet.

Experience constantly shapes neural circuits through a variety of plasticity mechanisms. While the functional roles of some plasticity mechanisms are well-understood, it remains unclear how changes in neural excitability contribute to learning. Here, we develop a normative interpretation of intrinsic plasticity (IP) as a key component of unsupervised learning. We introduce a novel generative mixture model that accounts for the class-specific statistics of stimulus intensities, and we derive a neural circuit that learns the input classes and their intensities. We will analytically show that inference and learning for our generative model can be achieved by a neural circuit with intensity-sensitive neurons equipped with a specific form of IP. Numerical experiments verify our analytical derivations and show robust behavior for artificial and natural stimuli. Our results link IP to non-trivial input statistics, in particular the statistics of stimulus intensities for classes to which a neuron is sensitive. More generally, our work paves the way toward new classification algorithms that are robust to intensity variations.

We present an effective method for supervised feature construction. The main goal of the approach is to construct a feature representation for which a set of linear hypotheses is of sufficient capacity -- large enough to contain a satisfactory solution to the considered problem and small enough to allow good generalization from a small number of training examples. We achieve this goal with a greedy procedure that constructs features by empirically fitting squared error residuals. The proposed constructive procedure is consistent and can output a rich set of features. The effectiveness of the approach is evaluated empirically by fitting a linear ridge regression model in the constructed feature space and our empirical results indicate a superior performance of our approach over competing methods.

We study active learning where the labeler can not only return incorrect labels but also abstain from labeling. We consider different noise and abstention conditions of the labeler. We propose an algorithm which utilizes abstention responses, and analyze its statistical consistency and query complexity under fairly natural assumptions on the noise and abstention rate of the labeler. This algorithm is adaptive in a sense that it can automatically request less queries with a more informed or less noisy labeler. We couple our algorithm with lower bounds to show that under some technical conditions, it achieves nearly optimal query complexity.

We study the problem of minimising regret in two-armed bandit problems with Gaussian rewards. Our objective is to use this simple setting to illustrate that strategies based on an exploration phase (up to a stopping time) followed by exploitation are necessarily suboptimal. The results hold regardless of whether or not the difference in means between the two arms is known. Besides the main message, we also refine existing deviation inequalities, which allow us to design fully sequential strategies with finite-time regret guarantees that are (a) asymptotically optimal as the horizon grows and (b) order-optimal in the minimax sense. Furthermore we provide empirical evidence that the theory also holds in practice and discuss extensions to non-gaussian and multiple-armed case.

We introduce the Adaptive Skills, Adaptive Partitions (ASAP) framework that (1) learns skills (i.e., temporally extended actions or options) as well as (2) where to apply them. We believe that both (1) and (2) are necessary for a truly general skill learning framework, which is a key building block needed to scale up to lifelong learning agents. The ASAP framework is also able to solve related new tasks simply by adapting where it applies its existing learned skills. We prove that ASAP converges to a local optimum under natural conditions. Finally, our experimental results, which include a RoboCup domain, demonstrate the ability of ASAP to learn where to reuse skills as well as solve multiple tasks with considerably less experience than solving each task from scratch.

This study introduces a novel feature selection approach CMICOT, which is a further evolution of filter methods with sequential forward selection (SFS) whose scoring functions are based on conditional mutual information (MI). We state and study a novel saddle point (max-min) optimization problem to build a scoring function that is able to identify joint interactions between several features. This method fills the gap of MI-based SFS techniques with high-order dependencies. In this high-dimensional case, the estimation of MI has prohibitively high sample complexity. We mitigate this cost using a greedy approximation and binary representatives what makes our technique able to be effectively used. The superiority of our approach is demonstrated by comparison with recently proposed interaction-aware filters and several interaction-agnostic state-of-the-art ones on ten publicly available benchmark datasets.

Two seemingly contradictory theories attempt to explain how humans move to intercept an airborne ball. One theory posits that humans predict the ball trajectory to optimally plan future actions; the other claims that, instead of performing such complicated computations, humans employ heuristics to reactively choose appropriate actions based on immediate visual feedback. In this paper, we show that interception strategies appearing to be heuristics can be understood as computational solutions to the optimal control problem faced by a ball-catching agent acting under uncertainty. Modeling catching as a continuous partially observable Markov decision process and employing stochastic optimal control theory, we discover that the four main heuristics described in the literature are optimal solutions if the catcher has sufficient time to continuously visually track the ball. Specifically, by varying model parameters such as noise, time to ground contact, and perceptual latency, we show that different strategies arise under different circumstances. The catcher's policy switches between generating reactive and predictive behavior based on the ratio of system to observation noise and the ratio between reaction time and task duration. Thus, we provide a rational account of human ball-catching behavior and a unifying explanation for seemingly contradictory theories of target interception on the basis of stochastic optimal control.

Asynchronous parallel optimization received substantial successes and extensive attention recently. One of core theoretical questions is how much speedup (or benefit) the asynchronous parallelization can bring to us. This paper provides a comprehensive and generic analysis to study the speedup property for a broad range of asynchronous parallel stochastic algorithms from the zeroth order to the first order methods. Our result recovers or improves existing analysis on special cases, provides more insights for understanding the asynchronous parallel behaviors, and suggests a novel asynchronous parallel zeroth order method for the first time. Our experiments provide novel applications of the proposed asynchronous parallel zeroth order method on hyper parameter tuning and model blending problems.

We provide a theoretical foundation for non-parametric estimation of functions of random variables using kernel mean embeddings. We show that for any continuous function f, consistent estimators of the mean embedding of a random variable X lead to consistent estimators of the mean embedding of f(X). For Matern kernels and sufficiently smooth functions we also provide rates of convergence. Our results extend to functions of multiple random variables. If the variables are dependent, we require an estimator of the mean embedding of their joint distribution as a starting point; if they are independent, it is sufficient to have separate estimators of the mean embeddings of their marginal distributions. In either case, our results cover both mean embeddings based on i.i.d. samples as well as "reduced set" expansions in terms of dependent expansion points. The latter serves as a justification for using such expansions to limit memory resources when applying the approach as a basis for probabilistic programming.

Tensor factorization is a powerful tool to analyse multi-way data. Recently proposed nonlinear factorization methods, although capable of capturing complex relationships, are computationally quite expensive and may suffer a severe learning bias in case of extreme data sparsity. Therefore, we propose a distributed, flexible nonlinear tensor factorization model, which avoids the expensive computations and structural restrictions of the Kronecker-product in the existing TGP formulations, allowing an arbitrary subset of tensor entries to be selected for training. Meanwhile, we derive a tractable and tight variational evidence lower bound (ELBO) that enables highly decoupled, parallel computations and high-quality inference. Based on the new bound, we develop a distributed, key-value-free inference algorithm in the MapReduce framework, which can fully exploit the memory cache mechanism in fast MapReduce systems such as Spark. Experiments demonstrate the advantages of our method over several state-of-the-art approaches, in terms of both predictive performance and computational efficiency.

Learning accurate prior knowledge of natural images is of great importance for single image super-resolution (SR). Existing SR methods either learn the prior from the low/high-resolution patch pairs or estimate the prior models from the input low-resolution (LR) image. Specifically, high-frequency details are learned in the former methods. Though effective, they are heuristic and have limitations in dealing with blurred LR images; while the latter suffers from the limitations of frequency aliasing. In this paper, we propose to combine those two lines of ideas for image super-resolution. More specifically, the parametric sparse prior of the desirable high-resolution (HR) image patches are learned from both the input low-resolution (LR) image and a training image dataset. With the learned sparse priors, the sparse codes and thus the HR image patches can be accurately recovered by solving a sparse coding problem. Experimental results show that the proposed SR method outperforms existing state-of-the-art methods in terms of both subjective and objective image qualities.

We consider the problem of estimating the latent state of a spatiotemporally evolving continuous function using very few sensor measurements. We show that layering a dynamical systems prior over temporal evolution of weights of a kernel model is a valid approach to spatiotemporal modeling that does not necessarily require the design of complex nonstationary kernels. Furthermore, we show that such a predictive model can be utilized to determine sensing locations that guarantee that the hidden state of the phenomena can be recovered with very few measurements. We provide sufficient conditions on the number and spatial location of samples required to guarantee state recovery, and provide a lower bound on the minimum number of samples required to robustly infer the hidden states. Our approach outperforms existing methods in numerical experiments.

We propose a multivariate online dictionary-learning method for obtaining decompositions of brain images with structured and sparse components (aka atoms). Sparsity is to be understood in the usual sense: the dictionary atoms are constrained to contain mostly zeros. This is imposed via an $\ell_1$-norm constraint. By "structured", we mean that the atoms are piece-wise smooth and compact, thus making up blobs, as opposed to scattered patterns of activation. We propose to use a Sobolev (Laplacian) penalty to impose this type of structure. Combining the two penalties, we obtain decompositions that properly delineate brain structures from functional images. This non-trivially extends the online dictionary-learning work of Mairal et al. (2010), at the price of only a factor of 2 or 3 on the overall running time. Just like the Mairal et al. (2010) reference method, the online nature of our proposed algorithm allows it to scale to arbitrarily sized datasets. Experiments on brain data show that our proposed method extracts structured and denoised dictionaries that are more intepretable and better capture inter-subject variability in small medium, and large-scale regimes alike, compared to state-of-the-art models.

We consider a learner's problem of acquiring data dynamically for training a regression model, where the training data are collected from strategic data sources. A fundamental challenge is to incentivize data holders to exert effort to improve the quality of their reported data, despite that the quality is not directly verifiable by the learner. In this work, we study a dynamic data acquisition process where data holders can contribute multiple times. Using a bandit framework, we leverage on the long-term incentive of future job opportunities to incentivize high-quality contributions. We propose a Strategic Regression-Upper Confidence Bound (SR-UCB) framework, an UCB-style index combined with a simple payment rule, where the index of a worker approximates the quality of his past contributions and is used by the learner to determine whether the worker receives future work. For linear regression and certain family of non-linear regression problems, we show that SR-UCB enables a $O(\sqrt{\log T/T})$-Bayesian Nash Equilibrium (BNE) where each worker exerting a target effort level that the learner has chosen, with $T$ being the number of data acquisition stages. The SR-UCB framework also has some other desirable properties: (1) The indexes can be updated in an online fashion (hence computationally light). (2) A slight variant, namely Private SR-UCB (PSR-UCB), is able to preserve $(O(\log^{-1} T), O(\log^{-1} T))$-differential privacy for workers' data, with only a small compromise on incentives (achieving $O(\log^{6} T/\sqrt{T})$-BNE).

In this work, we are interested in generalizing convolutional neural networks (CNNs) from low-dimensional regular grids, where image, video and speech are represented, to high-dimensional irregular domains, such as social networks, brain connectomes or words’ embedding, represented by graphs. We present a formulation of CNNs in the context of spectral graph theory, which provides the necessary mathematical background and efficient numerical schemes to design fast localized convolutional filters on graphs. Importantly, the proposed technique offers the same linear computational complexity and constant learning complexity as classical CNNs, while being universal to any graph structure. Experiments on MNIST and 20NEWS demonstrate the ability of this novel deep learning system to learn local, stationary, and compositional features on graphs.

The design of revenue-maximizing combinatorial auctions, i.e. multi item auctions over bundles of goods, is one of the most fundamental problems in computational economics, unsolved even for two bidders and two items for sale. In the traditional economic models, it is assumed that the bidders' valuations are drawn from an underlying distribution and that the auction designer has perfect knowledge of this distribution. Despite this strong and oftentimes unrealistic assumption, it is remarkable that the revenue-maximizing combinatorial auction remains unknown. In recent years, automated mechanism design has emerged as one of the most practical and promising approaches to designing high-revenue combinatorial auctions. The most scalable automated mechanism design algorithms take as input samples from the bidders' valuation distribution and then search for a high-revenue auction in a rich auction class. In this work, we provide the first sample complexity analysis for the standard hierarchy of deterministic combinatorial auction classes used in automated mechanism design. In particular, we provide tight sample complexity bounds on the number of samples needed to guarantee that the empirical revenue of the designed mechanism on the samples is close to its expected revenue on the underlying, unknown distribution over bidder valuations, for each of the auction classes in the hierarchy. In addition to helping set automated mechanism design on firm foundations, our results also push the boundaries of learning theory. In particular, the hypothesis functions used in our contexts are defined through multi stage combinatorial optimization procedures, rather than simple decision boundaries, as are common in machine learning.

Efficient exploration remains a major challenge for reinforcement learning (RL). Common dithering strategies for exploration, such as epsilon-greedy, do not carry out temporally-extended (or deep) exploration; this can lead to exponentially larger data requirements. However, most algorithms for statistically efficient RL are not computationally tractable in complex environments. Randomized value functions offer a promising approach to efficient exploration with generalization, but existing algorithms are not compatible with nonlinearly parameterized value functions. As a first step towards addressing such contexts we develop bootstrapped DQN. We demonstrate that bootstrapped DQN can combine deep exploration with deep neural networks for exponentially faster learning than any dithering strategy. In the Arcade Learning Environment bootstrapped DQN substantially improves learning speed and cumulative performance across most games.

We investigate active learning with access to two distinct oracles: LABEL (which is standard) and SEARCH (which is not). The SEARCH oracle models the situation where a human searches a database to seed or counterexample an existing solution. SEARCH is stronger than LABEL while being natural to implement in many situations. We show that an algorithm using both oracles can provide exponentially large problem-dependent improvements over LABEL alone.

Deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) are successfully used in a number of applications. However, their storage and computational requirements have largely prevented their widespread use on mobile devices. Here we present an effective CNN compression approach in the frequency domain, which focuses not only on smaller weights but on all the weights and their underlying connections. By treating convolutional filters as images, we decompose their representations in the frequency domain as common parts (i.e., cluster centers) shared by other similar filters and their individual private parts (i.e., individual residuals). A large number of low-energy frequency coefficients in both parts can be discarded to produce high compression without significantly compromising accuracy. We relax the computational burden of convolution operations in CNNs by linearly combining the convolution responses of discrete cosine transform (DCT) bases. The compression and speed-up ratios of the proposed algorithm are thoroughly analyzed and evaluated on benchmark image datasets to demonstrate its superiority over state-of-the-art methods.

Many popular network models rely on the assumption of (vertex) exchangeability, in which the distribution of the graph is invariant to relabelings of the vertices. However, the Aldous-Hoover theorem guarantees that these graphs are dense or empty with probability one, whereas many real-world graphs are sparse. We present an alternative notion of exchangeability for random graphs, which we call edge exchangeability, in which the distribution of a graph sequence is invariant to the order of the edges. We demonstrate that edge-exchangeable models, unlike models that are traditionally vertex exchangeable, can exhibit sparsity. To do so, we outline a general framework for graph generative models; by contrast to the pioneering work of Caron and Fox (2015), models within our framework are stationary across steps of the graph sequence. In particular, our model grows the graph by instantiating more latent atoms of a single random measure as the dataset size increases, rather than adding new atoms to the measure.

Social media and social networking sites have become a global pinboard for exposition and discussion of news, topics, and ideas, where social media users often update their opinions about a particular topic by learning from the opinions shared by their friends. In this context, can we learn a data-driven model of opinion dynamics that is able to accurately forecast users' opinions? In this paper, we introduce SLANT, a probabilistic modeling framework of opinion dynamics, which represents users' opinions over time by means of marked jump diffusion stochastic differential equations, and allows for efficient model simulation and parameter estimation from historical fine grained event data. We then leverage our framework to derive a set of efficient predictive formulas for opinion forecasting and identify conditions under which opinions converge to a steady state. Experiments on data gathered from Twitter show that our model provides a good fit to the data and our formulas achieve more accurate forecasting than alternatives.

How do people learn about complex functional structure? Taking inspiration from other areas of cognitive science, we propose that this is accomplished by harnessing compositionality: complex structure is decomposed into simpler building blocks. We formalize this idea within the framework of Bayesian regression using a grammar over Gaussian process kernels. We show that participants prefer compositional over non-compositional function extrapolations, that samples from the human prior over functions are best described by a compositional model, and that people perceive compositional functions as more predictable than their non-compositional but otherwise similar counterparts. We argue that the compositional nature of intuitive functions is consistent with broad principles of human cognition.

Convolutional neural networks have achieved extraordinary results in many computer vision and pattern recognition applications; however, their adoption in the computer graphics and geometry processing communities is limited due to the non-Euclidean structure of their data. In this paper, we propose Anisotropic Convolutional Neural Network (ACNN), a generalization of classical CNNs to non-Euclidean domains, where classical convolutions are replaced by projections over a set of oriented anisotropic diffusion kernels. We use ACNNs to effectively learn intrinsic dense correspondences between deformable shapes, a fundamental problem in geometry processing, arising in a wide variety of applications. We tested ACNNs performance in very challenging settings, achieving state-of-the-art results on some of the most difficult recent correspondence benchmarks.

Large labeled training sets are the critical building blocks of supervised learning methods and are key enablers of deep learning techniques. For some applications, creating labeled training sets is the most time-consuming and expensive part of applying machine learning. We therefore propose a paradigm for the programmatic creation of training sets called data programming in which users provide a set of labeling functions, which are programs that heuristically label subsets of the data, but that are noisy and may conflict. By viewing these labeling functions as implicitly describing a generative model for this noise, we show that we can recover the parameters of this model to "denoise" the generated training set, and establish theoretically that we can recover the parameters of these generative models in a handful of settings. We then show how to modify a discriminative loss function to make it noise-aware, and demonstrate our method over a range of discriminative models including logistic regression and LSTMs. Experimentally, on the 2014 TAC-KBP Slot Filling challenge, we show that data programming would have led to a new winning score, and also show that applying data programming to an LSTM model leads to a TAC-KBP score almost 6 F1 points over a state-of-the-art LSTM baseline (and into second place in the competition). Additionally, in initial user studies we observed that data programming may be an easier way for non-experts to create machine learning models when training data is limited or unavailable.

In this work we analyze the class prediction of parallel randomized ensembles by majority voting as an urn model. For a given test instance, the ensemble can be viewed as an urn of marbles of different colors. A marble represents an individual classifier. Its color represents the class label prediction of the corresponding classifier. The sequential querying of classifiers in the ensemble can be seen as draws without replacement from the urn. An analysis of this classical urn model based on the hypergeometric distribution makes it possible to estimate the confidence on the outcome of majority voting when only a fraction of the individual predictions is known. These estimates can be used to speed up the prediction by the ensemble. Specifically, the aggregation of votes can be halted when the confidence in the final prediction is sufficiently high. If one assumes a uniform prior for the distribution of possible votes the analysis is shown to be equivalent to a previous one based on Dirichlet distributions. The advantage of the current approach is that prior knowledge on the possible vote outcomes can be readily incorporated in a Bayesian framework. We show how incorporating this type of problem-specific knowledge into the statistical analysis of majority voting leads to faster classification by the ensemble and allows us to estimate the expected average speed-up beforehand.

The biosphere is a stupendously complex and poorly understood system, which we depend on for our survival, and which we are attacking on every front. Worrying. But what has that got to do with machine learning and AI? I will explain how the complexity and stability of the entire biosphere depend on, and select for, the intelligence of the individual organisms that comprise it; why simulations of ecological tasks in naturalistic environments could be an important test bed for Artificial General Intelligence, AGI; how new technology and machine learning are already giving us a deeper understanding of life on Earth; and why AGI is needed to maintain the biosphere in a state that is compatible with the continued existence of human civilization.

We introduce the value iteration network (VIN): a fully differentiable neural network with a `planning module' embedded within. VINs can learn to plan, and are suitable for predicting outcomes that involve planning-based reasoning, such as policies for reinforcement learning. Key to our approach is a novel differentiable approximation of the value-iteration algorithm, which can be represented as a convolutional neural network, and trained end-to-end using standard backpropagation. We evaluate VIN based policies on discrete and continuous path-planning domains, and on a natural-language based search task. We show that by learning an explicit planning computation, VIN policies generalize better to new, unseen domains.

In this work we develop a theory of hierarchical clustering for graphs. Our modelling assumption is that graphs are sampled from a graphon, which is a powerful and general model for generating graphs and analyzing large networks. Graphons are a far richer class of graph models than stochastic blockmodels, the primary setting for recent progress in the statistical theory of graph clustering. We define what it means for an algorithm to produce the ``correct" clustering, give sufficient conditions in which a method is statistically consistent, and provide an explicit algorithm satisfying these properties.

We study the cost function for hierarchical clusterings introduced by [Dasgupta, 2015] where hierarchies are treated as first-class objects rather than deriving their cost from projections into flat clusters. It was also shown in [Dasgupta, 2015] that a top-down algorithm returns a hierarchical clustering of cost at most \(O\left(\alpha_n \log n\right)\) times the cost of the optimal hierarchical clustering, where \(\alpha_n\) is the approximation ratio of the Sparsest Cut subroutine used. Thus using the best known approximation algorithm for Sparsest Cut due to Arora-Rao-Vazirani, the top down algorithm returns a hierarchical clustering of cost at most \(O\left(\log^{3/2} n\right)\) times the cost of the optimal solution. We improve this by giving an \(O(\log{n})\)-approximation algorithm for this problem. Our main technical ingredients are a combinatorial characterization of ultrametrics induced by this cost function, deriving an Integer Linear Programming (ILP) formulation for this family of ultrametrics, and showing how to iteratively round an LP relaxation of this formulation by using the idea of \emph{sphere growing} which has been extensively used in the context of graph partitioning. We also prove that our algorithm returns an \(O(\log{n})\)-approximate hierarchical clustering for a generalization of this cost function also studied in [Dasgupta, 2015]. Experiments show that the hierarchies found by using the ILP formulation as well as our rounding algorithm often have better projections into flat clusters than the standard linkage based algorithms. We conclude with an inapproximability result for this problem, namely that no polynomial sized LP or SDP can be used to obtain a constant factor approximation for this problem.

Functional brain networks are well described and estimated from data with Gaussian Graphical Models (GGMs), e.g.\ using sparse inverse covariance estimators. Comparing functional connectivity of subjects in two populations calls for comparing these estimated GGMs. Our goal is to identify differences in GGMs known to have similar structure. We characterize the uncertainty of differences with confidence intervals obtained using a parametric distribution on parameters of a sparse estimator. Sparse penalties enable statistical guarantees and interpretable models even in high-dimensional and low-sample settings. Characterizing the distributions of sparse models is inherently challenging as the penalties produce a biased estimator. Recent work invokes the sparsity assumptions to effectively remove the bias from a sparse estimator such as the lasso. These distributions can be used to give confidence intervals on edges in GGMs, and by extension their differences. However, in the case of comparing GGMs, these estimators do not make use of any assumed joint structure among the GGMs. Inspired by priors from brain functional connectivity we derive the distribution of parameter differences under a joint penalty when parameters are known to be sparse in the difference. This leads us to introduce the debiased multi-task fused lasso, whose distribution can be characterized in an efficient manner. We then show how the debiased lasso and multi-task fused lasso can be used to obtain confidence intervals on edge differences in GGMs. We validate the techniques proposed on a set of synthetic examples as well as neuro-imaging dataset created for the study of autism.

We propose a framework for Semi-Supervised Active Clustering framework (SSAC), where the learner is allowed to interact with a domain expert, asking whether two given instances belong to the same cluster or not. We study the query and computational complexity of clustering in this framework. We consider a setting where the expert conforms to a center-based clustering with a notion of margin. We show that there is a trade off between computational complexity and query complexity; We prove that for the case of $k$-means clustering (i.e., when the expert conforms to a solution of $k$-means), having access to relatively few such queries allows efficient solutions to otherwise NP hard problems. In particular, we provide a probabilistic polynomial-time (BPP) algorithm for clustering in this setting that asks $O\big(k^2\log k + k\log n)$ same-cluster queries and runs with time complexity $O\big(kn\log n)$ (where $k$ is the number of clusters and $n$ is the number of instances). The success of the algorithm is guaranteed for data satisfying the margin condition under which, without queries, we show that the problem is NP hard. We also prove a lower bound on the number of queries needed to have a computationally efficient clustering algorithm in this setting.

We develop a scalable, computationally efficient method for the task of energy disaggregation for home appliance monitoring. In this problem the goal is to estimate the energy consumption of each appliance based on the total energy-consumption signal of a household. The current state of the art models the problem as inference in factorial HMMs, and finds an approximate solution to the resulting quadratic integer program via quadratic programming. Here we take a more principled approach, better suited to integer programming problems, and find an approximate optimum by combining convex semidefinite relaxations with randomized rounding, as well as with a scalable ADMM method that exploits the special structure of the resulting semidefinite program. Simulation results demonstrate the superiority of our methods both in synthetic and real-world datasets.

Nonlinear independent component analysis (ICA) provides an appealing framework for unsupervised feature learning, but the models proposed so far are not identifiable. Here, we first propose a new intuitive principle of unsupervised deep learning from time series which uses the nonstationary structure of the data. Our learning principle, time-contrastive learning (TCL), finds a representation which allows optimal discrimination of time segments (windows). Surprisingly, we show how TCL can be related to a nonlinear ICA model, when ICA is redefined to include temporal nonstationarities. In particular, we show that TCL combined with linear ICA estimates the nonlinear ICA model up to point-wise transformations of the sources, and this solution is unique --- thus providing the first identifiability result for nonlinear ICA which is rigorous, constructive, as well as very general.

We present a scalable and robust Bayesian method for demand forecasting in the context of a large e-commerce platform, paying special attention to intermittent and bursty target statistics. Inference is approximated by the Newton-Raphson algorithm, reduced to linear-time Kalman smoothing, which allows us to operate on several orders of magnitude larger problems than previous related work. In a study on large real-world sales datasets, our method outperforms competing approaches on fast and medium moving items.

Seeding - the task of finding initial cluster centers - is critical in obtaining high-quality clusterings for k-Means. However, k-means++ seeding, the state of the art algorithm, does not scale well to massive datasets as it is inherently sequential and requires k full passes through the data. It was recently shown that Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling can be used to efficiently approximate the seeding step of k-means++. However, this result requires assumptions on the data generating distribution. We propose a simple yet fast seeding algorithm that produces *provably* good clusterings even *without assumptions* on the data. Our analysis shows that the algorithm allows for a favourable trade-off between solution quality and computational cost, speeding up k-means++ seeding by up to several orders of magnitude. We validate our theoretical results in extensive experiments on a variety of real-world data sets.

Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) and Belief Propagation (BP) are the most popular algorithms for computational inference in Graphical Models (GM). In principle, MCMC is an exact probabilistic method which, however, often suffers from exponentially slow mixing. In contrast, BP is a deterministic method, which is typically fast, empirically very successful, however in general lacking control of accuracy over loopy graphs. In this paper, we introduce MCMC algorithms correcting the approximation error of BP, i.e., we provide a way to compensate for BP errors via a consecutive BP-aware MCMC. Our framework is based on the Loop Calculus (LC) approach which allows to express the BP error as a sum of weighted generalized loops. Although the full series is computationally intractable, it is known that a truncated series, summing up all 2-regular loops, is computable in polynomial-time for planar pair-wise binary GMs and it also provides a highly accurate approximation empirically. Motivated by this, we, first, propose a polynomial-time approximation MCMC scheme for the truncated series of general (non-planar) pair-wise binary models. Our main idea here is to use the Worm algorithm, known to provide fast mixing in other (related) problems, and then design an appropriate rejection scheme to sample 2-regular loops. Furthermore, we also design an efficient rejection-free MCMC scheme for approximating the full series. The main novelty underlying our design is in utilizing the concept of cycle basis, which provides an efficient decomposition of the generalized loops. In essence, the proposed MCMC schemes run on transformed GM built upon the non-trivial BP solution, and our experiments show that this synthesis of BP and MCMC outperforms both direct MCMC and bare BP schemes.

Predicting the behavior of human participants in strategic settings is an important problem in many domains. Most existing work either assumes that participants are perfectly rational, or attempts to directly model each participant's cognitive processes based on insights from cognitive psychology and experimental economics. In this work, we present an alternative, a deep learning approach that automatically performs cognitive modeling without relying on such expert knowledge. We introduce a novel architecture that allows a single network to generalize across different input and output dimensions by using matrix units rather than scalar units, and show that its performance significantly outperforms that of the previous state of the art, which relies on expert-constructed features.

This work continues the study of the relationship between sample compression schemes and statistical learning, which has been mostly investigated within the framework of binary classification. We first extend the investigation to multiclass categorization: we prove that in this case learnability is equivalent to compression of logarithmic sample size and that the uniform convergence property implies compression of constant size. We use the compressibility-learnability equivalence to show that (i) for multiclass categorization, PAC and agnostic PAC learnability are equivalent, and (ii) to derive a compactness theorem for learnability. We then consider supervised learning under general loss functions: we show that in this case, in order to maintain the compressibility-learnability equivalence, it is necessary to consider an approximate variant of compression. We use it to show that PAC and agnostic PAC are not equivalent, even when the loss function has only three values.

Until recently, research on artificial neural networks was largely restricted to systems with only two types of variable: Neural activities that represent the current or recent input and weights that learn to capture regularities among inputs, outputs and payoffs. There is no good reason for this restriction. Synapses have dynamics at many different time-scales and this suggests that artificial neural networks might benefit from variables that change slower than activities but much faster than the standard weights. These ``fast weights'' can be used to store temporary memories of the recent past and they provide a neurally plausible way of implementing the type of attention to the past that has recently proven helpful in sequence-to-sequence models. By using fast weights we can avoid the need to store copies of neural activity patterns.

In online convex optimization it is well known that certain subclasses of objective functions are much easier than arbitrary convex functions. We are interested in designing adaptive methods that can automatically get fast rates in as many such subclasses as possible, without any manual tuning. Previous adaptive methods are able to interpolate between strongly convex and general convex functions. We present a new method, MetaGrad, that adapts to a much broader class of functions, including exp-concave and strongly convex functions, but also various types of stochastic and non-stochastic functions without any curvature. For instance, MetaGrad can achieve logarithmic regret on the unregularized hinge loss, even though it has no curvature, if the data come from a favourable probability distribution. MetaGrad's main feature is that it simultaneously considers multiple learning rates. Unlike all previous methods with provable regret guarantees, however, its learning rates are not monotonically decreasing over time and are not tuned based on a theoretically derived bound on the regret. Instead, they are weighted directly proportional to their empirical performance on the data using a tilted exponential weights master algorithm.

How can we efficiently propagate uncertainty in a latent state representation with recurrent neural networks? This paper introduces stochastic recurrent neural networks which glue a deterministic recurrent neural network and a state space model together to form a stochastic and sequential neural generative model. The clear separation of deterministic and stochastic layers allows a structured variational inference network to track the factorization of the model’s posterior distribution. By retaining both the nonlinear recursive structure of a recurrent neural network and averaging over the uncertainty in a latent path, like a state space model, we improve the state of the art results on the Blizzard and TIMIT speech modeling data sets by a large margin, while achieving comparable performances to competing methods on polyphonic music modeling.

We study the sampling-based planning problem in Markov decision processes (MDPs) that we can access only through a generative model, usually referred to as Monte-Carlo planning. Our objective is to return a good estimate of the optimal value function at any state while minimizing the number of calls to the generative model, i.e. the sample complexity. We propose a new algorithm, TrailBlazer, able to handle MDPs with a finite or an infinite number of transitions from state-action to next states. TrailBlazer is an adaptive algorithm that exploits possible structures of the MDP by exploring only a subset of states reachable by following near-optimal policies. We provide bounds on its sample complexity that depend on a measure of the quantity of near-optimal states. The algorithm behavior can be considered as an extension of Monte-Carlo sampling (for estimating an expectation) to problems that alternate maximization (over actions) and expectation (over next states). Finally, another appealing feature of TrailBlazer is that it is simple to implement and computationally efficient.

Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) have become the state-of-the-art choice for extracting patterns from temporal sequences. Current RNN models are ill suited to process irregularly sampled data triggered by events generated in continuous time by sensors or other neurons. Such data can occur, for example, when the input comes from novel event-driven artificial sensors which generate sparse, asynchronous streams of events or from multiple conventional sensors with different update intervals. In this work, we introduce the Phased LSTM model, which extends the LSTM unit by adding a new time gate. This gate is controlled by a parametrized oscillation with a frequency range which require updates of the memory cell only during a small percentage of the cycle. Even with the sparse updates imposed by the oscillation, the Phased LSTM network achieves faster convergence than regular LSTMs on tasks which require learning of long sequences. The model naturally integrates inputs from sensors of arbitrary sampling rates, thereby opening new areas of investigation for processing asynchronous sensory events that carry timing information. It also greatly improves the performance of LSTMs in standard RNN applications, and does so with an order-of-magnitude fewer computes.

Expectation Maximization (EM) is among the most popular algorithms for estimating parameters of statistical models. However, EM, which is an iterative algorithm based on the maximum likelihood principle, is generally only guaranteed to find stationary points of the likelihood objective, and these points may be far from any maximizer. This article addresses this disconnect between the statistical principles behind EM and its algorithmic properties. Specifically, it provides a global analysis of EM for specific models in which the observations comprise an i.i.d. sample from a mixture of two Gaussians. This is achieved by (i) studying the sequence of parameters from idealized execution of EM in the infinite sample limit, and fully characterizing the limit points of the sequence in terms of the initial parameters; and then (ii) based on this convergence analysis, establishing statistical consistency (or lack thereof) for the actual sequence of parameters produced by EM.

We study the worst-case adaptive optimization problem with budget constraint that is useful for modeling various practical applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning. We investigate the near-optimality of greedy algorithms for this problem with both modular and non-modular cost functions. In both cases, we prove that two simple greedy algorithms are not near-optimal but the best between them is near-optimal if the utility function satisfies pointwise submodularity and pointwise cost-sensitive submodularity respectively. This implies a combined algorithm that is near-optimal with respect to the optimal algorithm that uses half of the budget. We discuss applications of our theoretical results and also report experiments comparing the greedy algorithms on the active learning problem.

While neural machine translation (NMT) is making good progress in the past two years, tens of millions of bilingual sentence pairs are needed for its training. However, human labeling is very costly. To tackle this training data bottleneck, we develop a dual-learning mechanism, which can enable an NMT system to automatically learn from unlabeled data through a dual-learning game. This mechanism is inspired by the following observation: any machine translation task has a dual task, e.g., English-to-French translation (primal) versus French-to-English translation (dual); the primal and dual tasks can form a closed loop, and generate informative feedback signals to train the translation models, even if without the involvement of a human labeler. In the dual-learning mechanism, we use one agent to represent the model for the primal task and the other agent to represent the model for the dual task, then ask them to teach each other through a reinforcement learning process. Based on the feedback signals generated during this process (e.g., the language-model likelihood of the output of a model, and the reconstruction error of the original sentence after the primal and dual translations), we can iteratively update the two models until convergence (e.g., using the policy gradient methods). We call the corresponding approach to neural machine translation \emph{dual-NMT}. Experiments show that dual-NMT works very well on English$\leftrightarrow$French translation; especially, by learning from monolingual data (with 10\% bilingual data for warm start), it achieves a comparable accuracy to NMT trained from the full bilingual data for the French-to-English translation task.

A number of recent works have proposed attention models for Visual Question Answering (VQA) that generate spatial maps highlighting image regions relevant to answering the question. In this paper, we argue that in addition to modeling "where to look" or visual attention, it is equally important to model "what words to listen to" or question attention. We present a novel co-attention model for VQA that jointly reasons about image and question attention. In addition, our model reasons about the question (and consequently the image via the co-attention mechanism) in a hierarchical fashion via a novel 1-dimensional convolution neural networks (CNN). Our model improves the state-of-the-art on the VQA dataset from 60.3% to 60.5%, and from 61.6% to 63.3% on the COCO-QA dataset. By using ResNet, the performance is further improved to 62.1% for VQA and 65.4% for COCO-QA.

For massive and heterogeneous modern data sets, it is of fundamental interest to provide guarantees on the accuracy of estimation when computational resources are limited. In the application of learning to rank, we provide a hierarchy of rank-breaking mechanisms ordered by the complexity in thus generated sketch of the data. This allows the number of data points collected to be gracefully traded off against computational resources available, while guaranteeing the desired level of accuracy. Theoretical guarantees on the proposed generalized rank-breaking implicitly provide such trade-offs, which can be explicitly characterized under certain canonical scenarios on the structure of the data.

We propose Sketched Online Newton (SON), an online second order learning algorithm that enjoys substantially improved regret guarantees for ill-conditioned data. SON is an enhanced version of the Online Newton Step, which, via sketching techniques enjoys a running time linear in the dimension and sketch size. We further develop sparse forms of the sketching methods (such as Oja's rule), making the computation linear in the sparsity of features. Together, the algorithm eliminates all computational obstacles in previous second order online learning approaches.

The multivariate normal density is a monotonic function of the distance to the mean, and its ellipsoidal shape is due to the underlying Euclidean metric. We suggest to replace this metric with a locally adaptive, smoothly changing (Riemannian) metric that favors regions of high local density. The resulting locally adaptive normal distribution (LAND) is a generalization of the normal distribution to the "manifold" setting, where data is assumed to lie near a potentially low-dimensional manifold embedded in R^D. The LAND is parametric, depending only on a mean and a covariance, and is the maximum entropy distribution under the given metric. The underlying metric is, however, non-parametric. We develop a maximum likelihood algorithm to infer the distribution parameters that relies on a combination of gradient descent and Monte Carlo integration. We further extend the LAND to mixture models, and provide the corresponding EM algorithm. We demonstrate the efficiency of the LAND to fit non-trivial probability distributions over both synthetic data, and EEG measurements of human sleep.

In topic modeling, many algorithms that guarantee identifiability of the topics have been developed under the premise that there exist anchor words -- i.e., words that only appear (with positive probability) in one topic. Follow-up work has resorted to three or higher-order statistics of the data corpus to relax the anchor word assumption. Reliable estimates of higher-order statistics are hard to obtain, however, and the identification of topics under those models hinges on uncorrelatedness of the topics, which can be unrealistic. This paper revisits topic modeling based on second-order moments, and proposes an anchor-free topic mining framework. The proposed approach guarantees the identification of the topics under a much milder condition compared to the anchor-word assumption, thereby exhibiting much better robustness in practice. The associated algorithm only involves one eigen-decomposition and a few small linear programs. This makes it easy to implement and scale up to very large problem instances. Experiments using the TDT2 and Reuters-21578 corpus demonstrate that the proposed anchor-free approach exhibits very favorable performance (measured using coherence, similarity count, and clustering accuracy metrics) compared to the prior art.

We study an online decision making problem where on each round a learner chooses a list of items based on some side information, receives a scalar feedback value for each individual item, and a reward that is linearly related to this feedback. These problems, known as contextual semibandits, arise in crowdsourcing, recommendation, and many other domains. This paper reduces contextual semibandits to supervised learning, allowing us to leverage powerful supervised learning methods in this partial-feedback setting. Our first reduction applies when the mapping from feedback to reward is known and leads to a computationally efficient algorithm with near-optimal regret. We show that this algorithm outperforms state-of-the-art approaches on real-world learning-to-rank datasets, demonstrating the advantage of oracle-based algorithms. Our second reduction applies to the previously unstudied setting when the linear mapping from feedback to reward is unknown. Our regret guarantees are superior to prior techniques that ignore the feedback.

We introduce the framework of blind regression motivated by matrix completion for recommendation systems: given $m$ users, $n$ movies, and a subset of user-movie ratings, the goal is to predict the unobserved user-movie ratings given the data, i.e., to complete the partially observed matrix. Following the framework of non-parametric statistics, we posit that user $u$ and movie $i$ have features $x1(u)$ and $x2(i)$ respectively, and their corresponding rating $y(u,i)$ is a noisy measurement of $f(x1(u), x2(i))$ for some unknown function $f$. In contrast with classical regression, the features $x = (x1(u), x2(i))$ are not observed, making it challenging to apply standard regression methods to predict the unobserved ratings. Inspired by the classical Taylor's expansion for differentiable functions, we provide a prediction algorithm that is consistent for all Lipschitz functions. In fact, the analysis through our framework naturally leads to a variant of collaborative filtering, shedding insight into the widespread success of collaborative filtering in practice. Assuming each entry is sampled independently with probability at least $\max(m^{-1+\delta},n^{-1/2+\delta})$ with $\delta > 0$, we prove that the expected fraction of our estimates with error greater than $\epsilon$ is less than $\gamma^2 / \epsilon^2$ plus a polynomially decaying term, where $\gamma^2$ is the variance of the additive entry-wise noise term. Experiments with the MovieLens and Netflix datasets suggest that our algorithm provides principled improvements over basic collaborative filtering and is competitive with matrix factorization methods.

We present diffusion-convolutional neural networks (DCNNs), a new model for graph-structured data. Through the introduction of a diffusion-convolution operation, we show how diffusion-based representations can be learned from graph-structured data and used as an effective basis for node classification. DCNNs have several attractive qualities, including a latent representation for graphical data that is invariant under isomorphism, as well as polynomial-time prediction and learning that can be represented as tensor operations and efficiently implemented on a GPU. Through several experiments with real structured datasets, we demonstrate that DCNNs are able to outperform probabilistic relational models and kernel-on-graph methods at relational node classification tasks.

Unsupervised learning of structured predictors has been a long standing pursuit in machine learning. Recently a conditional random field auto-encoder has been proposed in a two-layer setting, allowing latent structured representation to be automatically inferred. Aside from being nonconvex, it also requires the demanding inference of normalization. In this paper, we develop a convex relaxation of two-layer conditional model which captures latent structure and estimates model parameters, jointly and optimally. We further expand its applicability by resorting to a weaker form of inference---maximum a-posteriori. The flexibility of the model is demonstrated on two structures based on total unimodularity---graph matching and linear chain. Experimental results confirm the promise of the method.

In this paper, we develop a novel {\bf ho}moto{\bf p}y {\bf s}moothing (HOPS) algorithm for solving a family of non-smooth problems that is composed of a non-smooth term with an explicit max-structure and a smooth term or a simple non-smooth term whose proximal mapping is easy to compute. The best known iteration complexity for solving such non-smooth optimization problems is $O(1/\epsilon)$ without any assumption on the strong convexity. In this work, we will show that the proposed HOPS achieved a lower iteration complexity of $\tilde O(1/\epsilon^{1-\theta})$ with $\theta\in(0,1]$ capturing the local sharpness of the objective function around the optimal solutions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the lowest iteration complexity achieved so far for the considered non-smooth optimization problems without strong convexity assumption. The HOPS algorithm employs Nesterov's smoothing technique and Nesterov's accelerated gradient method and runs in stages, which gradually decreases the smoothing parameter in a stage-wise manner until it yields a sufficiently good approximation of the original function. We show that HOPS enjoys a linear convergence for many well-known non-smooth problems (e.g., empirical risk minimization with a piece-wise linear loss function and $\ell_1$ norm regularizer, finding a point in a polyhedron, cone programming, etc). Experimental results verify the effectiveness of HOPS in comparison with Nesterov's smoothing algorithm and the primal-dual style of first-order methods.

Recognizing facial action units (AUs) from spontaneous facial expressions is still a challenging problem. Most recently, CNNs have shown promise on facial AU recognition. However, the learned CNNs are often overfitted and do not generalize well to unseen subjects due to limited AU-coded training images. We proposed a novel Incremental Boosting CNN (IB-CNN) to integrate boosting into the CNN via an incremental boosting layer that selects discriminative neurons from the lower layer and is incrementally updated on successive mini-batches. In addition, a novel loss function that accounts for errors from both the incremental boosted classifier and individual weak classifiers was proposed to fine-tune the IB-CNN. Experimental results on four benchmark AU databases have demonstrated that the IB-CNN yields significant improvement over the traditional CNN and the boosting CNN without incremental learning, as well as outperforming the state-of-the-art CNN-based methods in AU recognition. The improvement is more impressive for the AUs that have the lowest frequencies in the databases.

This paper introduces an approach to regularize 2.5D surface normal and depth predictions at each pixel given a single input image. The approach infers and reasons about the underlying 3D planar surfaces depicted in the image to snap predicted normals and depths to inferred planar surfaces, all while maintaining fine detail within objects. Our approach comprises two components: (i) a fourstream convolutional neural network (CNN) where depths, surface normals, and likelihoods of planar region and planar boundary are predicted at each pixel, followed by (ii) a dense conditional random field (DCRF) that integrates the four predictions such that the normals and depths are compatible with each other and regularized by the planar region and planar boundary information. The DCRF is formulated such that gradients can be passed to the surface normal and depth CNNs via backpropagation. In addition, we propose new planar wise metrics to evaluate geometry consistency within planar surfaces, which are more tightly related to dependent 3D editing applications. We show that our regularization yields a 30% relative improvement in planar consistency on the NYU v2 dataset.

Gibbs sampling is a Markov Chain Monte Carlo sampling technique that iteratively samples variables from their conditional distributions. There are two common scan orders for the variables: random scan and systematic scan. Due to the benefits of locality in hardware, systematic scan is commonly used, even though most statistical guarantees are only for random scan. While it has been conjectured that the mixing times of random scan and systematic scan do not differ by more than a logarithmic factor, we show by counterexample that this is not the case, and we prove that that the mixing times do not differ by more than a polynomial factor under mild conditions. To prove these relative bounds, we introduce a method of augmenting the state space to study systematic scan using conductance.

Variational approaches are often used to approximate intractable posteriors or normalization constants in hierarchical latent variable models. While often effective in practice, it is known that the approximation error can be arbitrarily large. We propose a new class of bounds on the marginal log-likelihood of directed latent variable models. Our approach relies on random projections to simplify the posterior. In contrast to standard variational methods, our bounds are guaranteed to be tight with high probability. We provide a new approach for learning latent variable models based on optimizing our new bounds on the log-likelihood. We demonstrate empirical improvements on benchmark datasets in vision and language for sigmoid belief networks, where a neural network is used to approximate the posterior.

Segmentation of 3D images is a fundamental problem in biomedical image analysis. Deep learning (DL) approaches have achieved the state-of-the-art segmentation performance. To exploit the 3D contexts using neural networks, known DL segmentation methods, including 3D convolution, 2D convolution on the planes orthogonal to 2D slices, and LSTM in multiple directions, all suffer incompatibility with the highly anisotropic dimensions in common 3D biomedical images. In this paper, we propose a new DL framework for 3D image segmentation, based on a combination of a fully convolutional network (FCN) and a recurrent neural network (RNN), which are responsible for exploiting the intra-slice and inter-slice contexts, respectively. To our best knowledge, this is the first DL framework for 3D image segmentation that explicitly leverages 3D image anisotropism. Evaluating using a dataset from the ISBI Neuronal Structure Segmentation Challenge and in-house image stacks for 3D fungus segmentation, our approach achieves promising results, comparing to the known DL-based 3D segmentation approaches.

The blind application of machine learning runs the risk of amplifying biases present in data. Such a danger is facing us with word embedding, a popular framework to represent text data as vectors which has been used in many machine learning and natural language processing tasks. We show that even word embeddings trained on Google News articles exhibit female/male gender stereotypes to a disturbing extent. This raises concerns because their widespread use, as we describe, often tends to amplify these biases. Geometrically, gender bias is first shown to be captured by a direction in the word embedding. Second, gender neutral words are shown to be linearly separable from gender definition words in the word embedding. Using these properties, we provide a methodology for modifying an embedding to remove gender stereotypes, such as the association between the words receptionist and female, while maintaining desired associations such as between the words queen and female. Using crowd-worker evaluation as well as standard benchmarks, we empirically demonstrate that our algorithms significantly reduce gender bias in embeddings while preserving the its useful properties such as the ability to cluster related concepts and to solve analogy tasks. The resulting embeddings can be used in applications without amplifying gender bias.

Previous studies have proposed image-based clutter measures that correlate with human search times and/or eye movements. However, most models do not take into account the fact that the effects of clutter interact with the foveated nature of the human visual system: visual clutter further from the fovea has an increasing detrimental influence on perception. Here, we introduce a new foveated clutter model to predict the detrimental effects in target search utilizing a forced fixation search task. We use Feature Congestion (Rosenholtz et al.) as our non foveated clutter model, and we stack a peripheral architecture on top of Feature Congestion for our foveated model. We introduce the Peripheral Integration Feature Congestion (PIFC) coefficient, as a fundamental ingredient of our model that modulates clutter as a non-linear gain contingent on eccentricity. We finally show that Foveated Feature Congestion (FFC) clutter scores (r(44) = −0.82 ± 0.04, p < 0.0001) correlate better with target detection (hit rate) than regular Feature Congestion (r(44) = −0.19 ± 0.13, p = 0.0774) in forced fixation search; and we extend foveation to other clutter models showing stronger correlations in all cases. Thus, our model allows us to enrich clutter perception research by computing fixation specific clutter maps. Code for building peripheral representations is available.

Accuracy and interpretability are two dominant features of successful predictive models. Typically, a choice must be made in favor of complex black box models such as recurrent neural networks (RNN) for accuracy versus less accurate but more interpretable traditional models such as logistic regression. This tradeoff poses challenges in medicine where both accuracy and interpretability are important. We addressed this challenge by developing the REverse Time AttentIoN model (RETAIN) for application to Electronic Health Records (EHR) data. RETAIN achieves high accuracy while remaining clinically interpretable and is based on a two-level neural attention model that detects influential past visits and significant clinical variables within those visits (e.g. key diagnoses). RETAIN mimics physician practice by attending the EHR data in a reverse time order so that recent clinical visits are likely to receive higher attention. RETAIN was tested on a large health system EHR dataset with 14 million visits completed by 263K patients over an 8 year period and demonstrated predictive accuracy and computational scalability comparable to state-of-the-art methods such as RNN, and ease of interpretability comparable to traditional models.

We propose a new approach to designing visual markers (analogous to QR-codes, markers for augmented reality, and robotic fiducial tags) based on the advances in deep generative networks. In our approach, the markers are obtained as color images synthesized by a deep network from input bit strings, whereas another deep network is trained to recover the bit strings back from the photos of these markers. The two networks are trained simultaneously in a joint backpropagation process that takes characteristic photometric and geometric distortions associated with marker fabrication and capture into account. Additionally, a stylization loss based on statistics of activations in a pretrained classification network can be inserted into the learning in order to shift the marker appearance towards some texture prototype. In the experiments, we demonstrate that the markers obtained using our approach are capable of retaining bit strings that are long enough to be practical. The ability to automatically adapt markers according to the usage scenario and the desired capacity as well as the ability to combine information encoding with artistic stylization are the unique properties of our approach. As a byproduct, our approach provides an insight on the structure of patterns that are most suitable for recognition by ConvNets and on their ability to distinguish composite patterns.

A central challenge in neuroscience is understanding how neural system implements computation through its dynamics. We propose a nonlinear time series model aimed at characterizing interpretable dynamics from neural trajectories. Our model assumes low-dimensional continuous dynamics in a finite volume. It incorporates a prior assumption about globally contractional dynamics to avoid overly enthusiastic extrapolation outside of the support of observed trajectories. We show that our model can recover qualitative features of the phase portrait such as attractors, slow points, and bifurcations, while also producing reliable long-term future predictions in a variety of dynamical models and in real neural data.

We provide two fundamental results on the population (infinite-sample) likelihood function of Gaussian mixture models with $M \geq 3$ components. Our first main result shows that the population likelihood function has bad local maxima even in the special case of equally-weighted mixtures of well-separated and spherical Gaussians. We prove that the log-likelihood value of these bad local maxima can be arbitrarily worse than that of any global optimum, thereby resolving an open question of Srebro (2007). Our second main result shows that the EM algorithm (or a first-order variant of it) with random initialization will converge to bad critical points with probability at least $1-e^{-\Omega(M)}$. We further establish that a first-order variant of EM will not converge to strict saddle points almost surely, indicating that the poor performance of the first-order method can be attributed to the existence of bad local maxima rather than bad saddle points. Overall, our results highlight the necessity of careful initialization when using the EM algorithm in practice, even when applied in highly favorable settings.

Semi-supervised clustering algorithms have been proposed to identify data clusters that align with user perceived ones via the aid of side information such as seeds or pairwise constrains. However, traditional side information is mostly at the instance level and subject to the sampling bias, where non-randomly sampled instances in the supervision can mislead the algorithms to wrong clusters. In this paper, we propose learning from the feature-level supervision. We show that this kind of supervision can be easily obtained in the form of perception vectors in many applications. Then we present novel algorithms, called Perception Embedded (PE) clustering, that exploit the perception vectors as well as traditional side information to find clusters perceived by the user. Extensive experiments are conducted on real datasets and the results demonstrate the effectiveness of PE empirically.

We present a new framework of applying deep neural networks (DNN) to devise a universal discrete denoiser. Unlike other approaches that utilize supervised learning for denoising, we do not require any additional training data. In such setting, while the ground-truth label, i.e., the clean data, is not available, we devise ``pseudo-labels'' and a novel objective function such that DNN can be trained in a same way as supervised learning to become a discrete denoiser. We experimentally show that our resulting algorithm, dubbed as Neural DUDE, significantly outperforms the previous state-of-the-art in several applications with a systematic rule of choosing the hyperparameter, which is an attractive feature in practice.

We consider cooperative multi-agent consensus optimization problems over an undirected network of agents, where only those agents connected by an edge can directly communicate. The objective is to minimize the sum of agent-specific composite convex functions over agent-specific private conic constraint sets; hence, the optimal consensus decision should lie in the intersection of these private sets. We provide convergence rates in sub-optimality, infeasibility and consensus violation; examine the effect of underlying network topology on the convergence rates of the proposed decentralized algorithms; and show how to extend these methods to handle time-varying communication networks.

Models for collecting and aggregating categorical data on crowdsourcing platforms typically fall into two broad categories: those assuming agents honest and consistent but with heterogeneous error rates, and those assuming agents strategic and seek to maximize their expected reward. The former often leads to tractable aggregation of elicited data, while the latter usually focuses on optimal elicitation and does not consider aggregation. In this paper, we develop a Bayesian model, wherein agents have differing quality of information, but also respond to incentives. Our model generalizes both categories and enables the joint exploration of optimal elicitation and aggregation. This model enables our exploration, both analytically and experimentally, of optimal aggregation of categorical data and optimal multiple-choice interface design.

We present SEBOOST, a technique for boosting the performance of existing stochastic optimization methods. SEBOOST applies a secondary optimization process in the subspace spanned by the last steps and descent directions. The method was inspired by the SESOP optimization method for large-scale problems, and has been adapted for the stochastic learning framework. It can be applied on top of any existing optimization method with no need to tweak the internal algorithm. We show that the method is able to boost the performance of different algorithms, and make them more robust to changes in their hyper-parameters. As the boosting steps of SEBOOST are applied between large sets of descent steps, the additional subspace optimization hardly increases the overall computational burden. We introduce two hyper-parameters that control the balance between the baseline method and the secondary optimization process. The method was evaluated on several deep learning tasks, demonstrating promising results.

In this paper, we focus on training and evaluating effective word embeddings with both text and visual information. More specifically, we introduce a large-scale dataset with 300 million sentences describing over 40 million images crawled and downloaded from publicly available Pins (i.e. an image with sentence descriptions uploaded by users) on Pinterest. This dataset is more than 200 times larger than MS COCO, the standard large-scale image dataset with sentence descriptions. In addition, we construct an evaluation dataset to directly assess the effectiveness of word embeddings in terms of finding semantically similar or related words and phrases. The word/phrase pairs in this evaluation dataset are collected from the click data with millions of users in an image search system, thus contain rich semantic relationships. Based on these datasets, we propose and compare several Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) based multimodal (text and image) models. Experiments show that our model benefits from incorporating the visual information into the word embeddings, and a weight sharing strategy is crucial for learning such multimodal embeddings. The project page is: http://www.stat.ucla.edu/~junhua.mao/multimodal_embedding.html (The datasets introduced in this work will be gradually released on the project page.).

Scalable and effective exploration remains a key challenge in reinforcement learning (RL). While there are methods with optimality guarantees in the setting of discrete state and action spaces, these methods cannot be applied in high-dimensional deep RL scenarios. As such, most contemporary RL relies on simple heuristics such as epsilon-greedy exploration or adding Gaussian noise to the controls. This paper introduces Variational Information Maximizing Exploration (VIME), an exploration strategy based on maximization of information gain about the agent's belief of environment dynamics. We propose a practical implementation, using variational inference in Bayesian neural networks which efficiently handles continuous state and action spaces. VIME modifies the MDP reward function, and can be applied with several different underlying RL algorithms. We demonstrate that VIME achieves significantly better performance compared to heuristic exploration methods across a variety of continuous control tasks and algorithms, including tasks with very sparse rewards.

In many cases of network analysis, it is more attractive to study how a network varies under different conditions than an individual static network. We propose a novel graphical model, namely Latent Differential Graph Model, where the networks under two different conditions are represented by two semiparametric elliptical distributions respectively, and the variation of these two networks (i.e., differential graph) is characterized by the difference between their latent precision matrices. We propose an estimator for the differential graph based on quasi likelihood maximization with nonconvex regularization. We show that our estimator attains a faster statistical rate in parameter estimation than the state-of-the-art methods, and enjoys oracle property under mild conditions. Thorough experiments on both synthetic and real world data support our theory.

A recent work (Wang et. al., NIPS 2015) gives the fastest known algorithms for orthogonal tensor decomposition with provable guarantees. Their algorithm is based on computing sketches of the input tensor, which requires reading the entire input. We show in a number of cases one can achieve the same theoretical guarantees in sublinear time, i.e., even without reading most of the input tensor. Instead of using sketches to estimate inner products in tensor decomposition algorithms, we use importance sampling. To achieve sublinear time, we need to know the norms of tensor slices, and we show how to do this in a number of important cases. For symmetric tensors $ T = \sum_{i=1}^k \lambda_i u_i^{\otimes p}$ with $\lambda_i > 0$ for all i, we estimate such norms in sublinear time whenever p is even. For the important case of p = 3 and small values of k, we can also estimate such norms. For asymmetric tensors sublinear time is not possible in general, but we show if the tensor slice norms are just slightly below $\| T \|_F$ then sublinear time is again possible. One of the main strengths of our work is empirical - in a number of cases our algorithm is orders of magnitude faster than existing methods with the same accuracy.

Adaptive schemes, where tasks are assigned based on the data collected thus far, are widely used in practical crowdsourcing systems to efficiently allocate the budget. However, existing theoretical analyses of crowdsourcing systems suggest that the gain of adaptive task assignments is minimal. To bridge this gap, we investigate this question under a strictly more general probabilistic model, which has been recently introduced to model practical crowdsourcing data sets. Under this generalized Dawid-Skene model, we characterize the fundamental trade-off between budget and accuracy, and introduce a novel adaptive scheme that matches this fundamental limit. We further quantify the gain of adaptivity, by comparing the trade-off with the one for non-adaptive schemes, and confirm that the gain is significant and can be made arbitrarily large depending on the distribution of the difficulty level of the tasks at hand.

Offline handwriting recognition systems require cropped text line images for both training and recognition. On the one hand, the annotation of position and transcript at line level is costly to obtain. On the other hand, automatic line segmentation algorithms are prone to errors, compromising the subsequent recognition. In this paper, we propose a modification of the popular and efficient Multi-Dimensional Long Short-Term Memory Recurrent Neural Networks (MDLSTM-RNNs) to enable end-to-end processing of handwritten paragraphs. More particularly, we replace the collapse layer transforming the two-dimensional representation into a sequence of predictions by a recurrent version which can select one line at a time. In the proposed model, a neural network performs a kind of implicit line segmentation by computing attention weights on the image representation. The experiments on paragraphs of Rimes and IAM databases yield results that are competitive with those of networks trained at line level, and constitute a significant step towards end-to-end transcription of full documents.

We study k-SVD that is to obtain the first k singular vectors of a matrix A approximately. Recently, a few breakthroughs have been discovered on $k$-SVD: Musco and Musco [1] provided the first gap-free theorem for the block Krylov method, Shamir [2] discovered the first variance-reduction stochastic method, and Bhojanapalli et al. [3] provided the fastest $O(nnz(A) + poly(1/eps))$-type of algorithm using alternating minimization. In this paper, we improve the above breakthroughs by providing a new framework for solving k-SVD. In particular, we obtain faster gap-free convergence speed outperforming [1], we obtain the first accelerated AND stochastic method outperforming [3]. In the NNZ running-time regime, we outperform [3] without even using alternating minimization for certain parameter regimes.

Many practical perception systems exist within larger processes which often include interactions with users or additional components that are capable of evaluating the quality of predicted solutions. In these contexts, it is beneficial to provide these oracle mechanisms with multiple highly likely hypotheses rather than a single prediction. In this work, we pose the task of producing multiple outputs as a learning problem over an ensemble of deep networks -- introducing a novel stochastic gradient descent based approach to minimize the loss with respect to an oracle. Our method is simple to implement, agnostic to both architecture and loss function, and parameter-free. Our approach achieves lower oracle error compared to existing methods on a wide range of tasks and deep architectures. We also show qualitatively that solutions produced from our approach often provide interpretable representations of task ambiguity.

Social dynamics is concerned primarily with interactions among individuals and the resulting group behaviors, modeling the temporal evolution of social systems via the interactions of individuals within these systems. In particular, the availability of large-scale data from social networks and sensor networks offers an unprecedented opportunity to predict state-changing events at the individual level. Examples of such events include disease transmission, opinion transition in elections, and rumor propagation. Unlike previous research focusing on the collective effects of social systems, this study makes efficient inferences at the individual level. In order to cope with dynamic interactions among a large number of individuals, we introduce the stochastic kinetic model to capture adaptive transition probabilities and propose an efficient variational inference algorithm the complexity of which grows linearly — rather than exponentially— with the number of individuals. To validate this method, we have performed epidemic-dynamics experiments on wireless sensor network data collected from more than ten thousand people over three years. The proposed algorithm was used to track disease transmission and predict the probability of infection for each individual. Our results demonstrate that this method is more efficient than sampling while nonetheless achieving high accuracy.

We investigate a subclass of exponential family graphical models of which the sufficient statistics are defined by arbitrary additive forms. We propose two $\ell_{2,1}$-norm regularized maximum likelihood estimators to learn the model parameters from i.i.d. samples. The first one is a joint MLE estimator which estimates all the parameters simultaneously. The second one is a node-wise conditional MLE estimator which estimates the parameters for each node individually. For both estimators, statistical analysis shows that under mild conditions the extra flexibility gained by the additive exponential family models comes at almost no cost of statistical efficiency. A Monte-Carlo approximation method is developed to efficiently optimize the proposed estimators. The advantages of our estimators over Gaussian graphical models and Nonparanormal estimators are demonstrated on synthetic and real data sets.

In this work we propose a novel interpretation of residual networks showing that they can be seen as a collection of many paths of differing length. Moreover, residual networks seem to enable very deep networks by leveraging only the short paths during training. To support this observation, we rewrite residual networks as an explicit collection of paths. Unlike traditional models, paths through residual networks vary in length. Further, a lesion study reveals that these paths show ensemble-like behavior in the sense that they do not strongly depend on each other. Finally, and most surprising, most paths are shorter than one might expect, and only the short paths are needed during training, as longer paths do not contribute any gradient. For example, most of the gradient in a residual network with 110 layers comes from paths that are only 10-34 layers deep. Our results reveal one of the key characteristics that seem to enable the training of very deep networks: Residual networks avoid the vanishing gradient problem by introducing short paths which can carry gradient throughout the extent of very deep networks.

Recurrent neural networks are powerful models for processing sequential data, but they are generally plagued by vanishing and exploding gradient problems. Unitary recurrent neural networks (uRNNs), which use unitary recurrence matrices, have recently been proposed as a means to avoid these issues. However, in previous experiments, the recurrence matrices were restricted to be a product of parameterized unitary matrices, and an open question remains: when does such a parameterization fail to represent all unitary matrices, and how does this restricted representational capacity limit what can be learned? To address this question, we propose full-capacity uRNNs that optimize their recurrence matrix over all unitary matrices, leading to significantly improved performance over uRNNs that use a restricted-capacity recurrence matrix. Our contribution consists of two main components. First, we provide a theoretical argument to determine if a unitary parameterization has restricted capacity. Using this argument, we show that a recently proposed unitary parameterization has restricted capacity for hidden state dimension greater than 7. Second,we show how a complete, full-capacity unitary recurrence matrix can be optimized over the differentiable manifold of unitary matrices. The resulting multiplicative gradient step is very simple and does not require gradient clipping or learning rate adaptation. We confirm the utility of our claims by empirically evaluating our new full-capacity uRNNs on both synthetic and natural data, achieving superior performance compared to both LSTMs and the original restricted-capacity uRNNs.

We demonstrate how quantum computation can provide non-trivial improvements in the computational and statistical complexity of the perceptron model. We develop two quantum algorithms for perceptron learning. The first algorithm exploits quantum information processing to determine a separating hyperplane using a number of steps sublinear in the number of data points $N$, namely $O(\sqrt{N})$. The second algorithm illustrates how the classical mistake bound of $O(\frac{1}{\gamma^2})$ can be further improved to $O(\frac{1}{\sqrt{\gamma}})$ through quantum means, where $\gamma$ denotes the margin. Such improvements are achieved through the application of quantum amplitude amplification to the version space interpretation of the perceptron model.

Feature selection is one of the most fundamental problems in machine learning. An extensive body of work on information-theoretic feature selection exists which is based on maximizing mutual information between subsets of features and class labels. Practical methods are forced to rely on approximations due to the difficulty of estimating mutual information. We demonstrate that approximations made by existing methods are based on unrealistic assumptions. We formulate a more flexible and general class of assumptions based on variational distributions and use them to tractably generate lower bounds for mutual information. These bounds define a novel information-theoretic framework for feature selection, which we prove to be optimal under tree graphical models with proper choice of variational distributions. Our experiments demonstrate that the proposed method strongly outperforms existing information-theoretic feature selection approaches.

Given a task of predicting Y from X, a loss function L, and a set of probability distributions Gamma on (X,Y), what is the optimal decision rule minimizing the worst-case expected loss over Gamma? In this paper, we address this question by introducing a generalization of the maximum entropy principle. Applying this principle to sets of distributions with marginal on X constrained to be the empirical marginal, we provide a minimax interpretation of the maximum likelihood problem over generalized linear models, which connects the minimax problem for each loss function to a generalized linear model. While in some cases such as quadratic and logarithmic loss functions we revisit well-known linear and logistic regression models, our approach reveals novel models for other loss functions. In particular, for the 0-1 loss we derive a classification approach which we call the minimax SVM. The minimax SVM minimizes the worst-case expected 0-1 loss over the proposed Gamma by solving a tractable optimization problem. We perform several numerical experiments in all of which the minimax SVM outperforms the SVM.

In this paper, we introduce the public-private framework of data summarization motivated by privacy concerns in personalized recommender systems and online social services. Such systems have usually access to massive data generated by a large pool of users. A major fraction of the data is public and is visible to (and can be used for) all users. However, each user can also contribute some private data that should not be shared with other users to ensure her privacy. The goal is to provide a succinct summary of massive dataset, ideally as small as possible, from which customized summaries can be built for each user, i.e. it can contain elements from the public data (for diversity) and users' private data (for personalization). To formalize the above challenge, we assume that the scoring function according to which a user evaluates the utility of her summary satisfies submodularity, a widely used notion in data summarization applications. Thus, we model the data summarization targeted to each user as an instance of a submodular cover problem. However, when the data is massive it is infeasible to use the centralized greedy algorithm to find a customized summary even for a single user. Moreover, for a large pool of users, it is too time consuming to find such summaries separately. Instead, we develop a fast distributed algorithm for submodular cover, FASTCOVER, that provides a succinct summary in one shot and for all users. We show that the solution provided by FASTCOVER is competitive with that of the centralized algorithm with the number of rounds that is exponentially smaller than state of the art results. Moreover, we have implemented FASTCOVER with Spark to demonstrate its practical performance on a number of concrete applications, including personalized location recommendation, personalized movie recommendation, and dominating set on tens of millions of data points and varying number of users.

Deep neural networks continue to advance the state-of-the-art of image recognition tasks with various methods. However, applications of these methods to multimodality remain limited. We present Multimodal Residual Networks (MRN) for the multimodal residual learning of visual question-answering, which extends the idea of the deep residual learning. Unlike the deep residual learning, MRN effectively learns the joint representation from visual and language information. The main idea is to use element-wise multiplication for the joint residual mappings exploiting the residual learning of the attentional models in recent studies. Various alternative models introduced by multimodality are explored based on our study. We achieve the state-of-the-art results on the Visual QA dataset for both Open-Ended and Multiple-Choice tasks. Moreover, we introduce a novel method to visualize the attention effect of the joint representations for each learning block using back-propagation algorithm, even though the visual features are collapsed without spatial information.

In supervised binary hashing, one wants to learn a function that maps a high-dimensional feature vector to a vector of binary codes, for application to fast image retrieval. This typically results in a difficult optimization problem, nonconvex and nonsmooth, because of the discrete variables involved. Much work has simply relaxed the problem during training, solving a continuous optimization, and truncating the codes a posteriori. This gives reasonable results but is quite suboptimal. Recent work has tried to optimize the objective directly over the binary codes and achieved better results, but the hash function was still learned a posteriori, which remains suboptimal. We propose a general framework for learning hash functions using affinity-based loss functions that uses auxiliary coordinates. This closes the loop and optimizes jointly over the hash functions and the binary codes so that they gradually match each other. The resulting algorithm can be seen as an iterated version of the procedure of optimizing first over the codes and then learning the hash function. Compared to this, our optimization is guaranteed to obtain better hash functions while being not much slower, as demonstrated experimentally in various supervised datasets. In addition, our framework facilitates the design of optimization algorithms for arbitrary types of loss and hash functions.

The use of Bayesian methods in large-scale data settings is attractive because of the rich hierarchical models, uncertainty quantification, and prior specification they provide. Standard Bayesian inference algorithms are computationally expensive, however, making their direct application to large datasets difficult or infeasible. Recent work on scaling Bayesian inference has focused on modifying the underlying algorithms to, for example, use only a random data subsample at each iteration. We leverage the insight that data is often redundant to instead obtain a weighted subset of the data (called a coreset) that is much smaller than the original dataset. We can then use this small coreset in any number of existing posterior inference algorithms without modification. In this paper, we develop an efficient coreset construction algorithm for Bayesian logistic regression models. We provide theoretical guarantees on the size and approximation quality of the coreset -- both for fixed, known datasets, and in expectation for a wide class of data generative models. Crucially, the proposed approach also permits efficient construction of the coreset in both streaming and parallel settings, with minimal additional effort. We demonstrate the efficacy of our approach on a number of synthetic and real-world datasets, and find that, in practice, the size of the coreset is independent of the original dataset size. Furthermore, constructing the coreset takes a negligible amount of time compared to that required to run MCMC on it.

In many applications of black-box optimization, one can evaluate multiple points simultaneously, e.g. when evaluating the performances of several different neural network architectures in a parallel computing environment. In this paper, we develop a novel batch Bayesian optimization algorithm --- the parallel knowledge gradient method. By construction, this method provides the one-step Bayes optimal batch of points to sample. We provide an efficient strategy for computing this Bayes-optimal batch of points, and we demonstrate that the parallel knowledge gradient method finds global optima significantly faster than previous batch Bayesian optimization algorithms on both synthetic test functions and when tuning hyperparameters of practical machine learning algorithms, especially when function evaluations are noisy.

Many tasks in AI require the collaboration of multiple agents. Typically, the communication protocol between agents is manually specified and not altered during training. In this paper we explore a simple neural model, called CommNet, that uses continuous communication for fully cooperative tasks. The model consists of multiple agents and the communication between them is learned alongside their policy. We apply this model to a diverse set of tasks, demonstrating the ability of the agents to learn to communicate amongst themselves, yielding improved performance over non-communicative agents and baselines. In some cases, it is possible to interpret the language devised by the agents, revealing simple but effective strategies for solving the task at hand.

We address the problem of aggregating an ensemble of predictors with known loss bounds in a semi-supervised binary classification setting, to minimize prediction loss incurred on the unlabeled data. We find the minimax optimal predictions for a very general class of loss functions including all convex and many non-convex losses, extending a recent analysis of the problem for misclassification error. The result is a family of semi-supervised ensemble aggregation algorithms which are as efficient as linear learning by convex optimization, but are minimax optimal without any relaxations. Their decision rules take a form familiar in decision theory -- applying sigmoid functions to a notion of ensemble margin -- without the assumptions typically made in margin-based learning.

Many machine learning applications involve jointly predicting multiple mutually dependent output variables. Learning to search is a family of methods where the complex decision problem is cast into a sequence of decisions via a search space. Although these methods have shown promise both in theory and in practice, implementing them has been burdensomely awkward. In this paper, we show the search space can be defined by an arbitrary imperative program, turning learning to search into a credit assignment compiler. Altogether with the algorithmic improvements for the compiler, we radically reduce the complexity of programming and the running time. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach on multiple joint prediction tasks. In all cases, we obtain accuracies as high as alternative approaches, at drastically reduced execution and programming time.

Faced with saturation of Moore's law and increasing size and dimension of data, system designers have increasingly resorted to parallel and distributed computing to reduce computation time of machine-learning algorithms. However, distributed computing is often bottle necked by a small fraction of slow processors called "stragglers" that reduce the speed of computation because the fusion node has to wait for all processors to complete their processing. To combat the effect of stragglers, recent literature proposes introducing redundancy in computations across processors, e.g., using repetition-based strategies or erasure codes. The fusion node can exploit this redundancy by completing the computation using outputs from only a subset of the processors, ignoring the stragglers. In this paper, we propose a novel technique - that we call "Short-Dot" - to introduce redundant computations in a coding theory inspired fashion, for computing linear transforms of long vectors. Instead of computing long dot products as required in the original linear transform, we construct a larger number of redundant and short dot products that can be computed more efficiently at individual processors. Further, only a subset of these short dot products are required at the fusion node to finish the computation successfully. We demonstrate through probabilistic analysis as well as experiments on computing clusters that Short-Dot offers significant speed-up compared to existing techniques. We also derive trade-offs between the length of the dot-products and the resilience to stragglers (number of processors required to finish), for any such strategy and compare it to that achieved by our strategy.

We consider the problem of building continuous occupancy representations in dynamic environments for robotics applications. The problem has hardly been discussed previously due to the complexity of patterns in urban environments, which have both spatial and temporal dependencies. We address the problem as learning a kernel classifier on an efficient feature space. The key novelty of our approach is the incorporation of variations in the time domain into the spatial domain. We propose a method to propagate motion uncertainty into the kernel using a hierarchical model. The main benefit of this approach is that it can directly predict the occupancy state of the map in the future from past observations, being a valuable tool for robot trajectory planning under uncertainty. Our approach preserves the main computational benefits of static Hilbert maps — using stochastic gradient descent for fast optimization of model parameters and incremental updates as new data are captured. Experiments conducted in road intersections of an urban environment demonstrated that spatio-temporal Hilbert maps can accurately model changes in the map while outperforming other techniques on various aspects.

A key challenge in sequential decision problems is to determine how many samples are needed for an agent to make reliable decisions with good probabilistic guarantees. We introduce Hoeffding-like concentration inequalities that hold for a random, adaptively chosen number of samples. Our inequalities are tight under natural assumptions and can greatly simplify the analysis of common sequential decision problems. In particular, we apply them to sequential hypothesis testing, best arm identification, and sorting. The resulting algorithms rival or exceed the state of the art both theoretically and empirically.

We study a rich family of distributions that capture variable interactions significantly more expressive than those representable with low-treewidth or pairwise graphical models, or log-supermodular models. We call these cooperative graphical models. Yet, this family retains structure, which we carefully exploit for efficient inference techniques. Our algorithms combine the polyhedral structure of submodular functions in new ways with variational inference methods to obtain both lower and upper bounds on the partition function. While our fully convex upper bound is minimized as an SDP or via tree-reweighted belief propagation, our lower bound is tightened via belief propagation or mean-field algorithms. The resulting algorithms are easy to implement and, as our experiments show, effectively obtain good bounds and marginals for synthetic and real-world examples.

Most robots lack the ability to learn new objects from past experiences. To migrate a robot to a new environment one must often completely re-generate the knowledge- base that it is running with. Since in open-ended domains the set of categories to be learned is not predefined, it is not feasible to assume that one can pre-program all object categories required by robots. Therefore, autonomous robots must have the ability to continuously execute learning and recognition in a concurrent and interleaved fashion. This paper proposes an open-ended 3D object recognition system which concurrently learns both the object categories and the statistical features for encoding objects. In particular, we propose an extension of Latent Dirichlet Allocation to learn structural semantic features (i.e. topics) from low-level feature co-occurrences for each category independently. Moreover, topics in each category are discovered in an unsupervised fashion and are updated incrementally using new object views. The approach contains similarities with the organization of the visual cortex and builds a hierarchy of increasingly sophisticated representations. Results show the fulfilling performance of this approach on different types of objects. Moreover, this system demonstrates the capability of learning from few training examples and competes with state-of-the-art systems.

High demand for computation resources severely hinders deployment of large-scale Deep Neural Networks (DNN) in resource constrained devices. In this work, we propose a Structured Sparsity Learning (SSL) method to regularize the structures (i.e., filters, channels, filter shapes, and layer depth) of DNNs. SSL can: (1) learn a compact structure from a bigger DNN to reduce computation cost; (2) obtain a hardware-friendly structured sparsity of DNN to efficiently accelerate the DNN’s evaluation. Experimental results show that SSL achieves on average 5.1X and 3.1X speedups of convolutional layer computation of AlexNet against CPU and GPU, respectively, with off-the-shelf libraries. These speedups are about twice speedups of non-structured sparsity; (3) regularize the DNN structure to improve classification accuracy. The results show that for CIFAR-10, regularization on layer depth reduces a 20-layer Deep Residual Network (ResNet) to 18 layers while improves the accuracy from 91.25% to 92.60%, which is still higher than that of original ResNet with 32 layers. For AlexNet, SSL reduces the error by ~1%.

Recently proposed adversarial classification methods have shown promising results for cost sensitive and multivariate losses. In contrast with empirical risk minimization (ERM) methods, which use convex surrogate losses to approximate the desired non-convex target loss function, adversarial methods minimize non-convex losses by treating the properties of the training data as being uncertain and worst case within a minimax game. Despite this difference in formulation, we recast adversarial classification under zero-one loss as an ERM method with a novel prescribed loss function. We demonstrate a number of theoretical and practical advantages over the very closely related hinge loss ERM methods. This establishes adversarial classification under the zero-one loss as a method that fills the long standing gap in multiclass hinge loss classification, simultaneously guaranteeing Fisher consistency and universal consistency, while also providing dual parameter sparsity and high accuracy predictions in practice.

Seeding - the task of finding initial cluster centers - is critical in obtaining high-quality clusterings for k-Means. However, k-means++ seeding, the state of the art algorithm, does not scale well to massive datasets as it is inherently sequential and requires k full passes through the data. It was recently shown that Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling can be used to efficiently approximate the seeding step of k-means++. However, this result requires assumptions on the data generating distribution. We propose a simple yet fast seeding algorithm that produces *provably* good clusterings even *without assumptions* on the data. Our analysis shows that the algorithm allows for a favourable trade-off between solution quality and computational cost, speeding up k-means++ seeding by up to several orders of magnitude. We validate our theoretical results in extensive experiments on a variety of real-world data sets.

Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) and Belief Propagation (BP) are the most popular algorithms for computational inference in Graphical Models (GM). In principle, MCMC is an exact probabilistic method which, however, often suffers from exponentially slow mixing. In contrast, BP is a deterministic method, which is typically fast, empirically very successful, however in general lacking control of accuracy over loopy graphs. In this paper, we introduce MCMC algorithms correcting the approximation error of BP, i.e., we provide a way to compensate for BP errors via a consecutive BP-aware MCMC. Our framework is based on the Loop Calculus (LC) approach which allows to express the BP error as a sum of weighted generalized loops. Although the full series is computationally intractable, it is known that a truncated series, summing up all 2-regular loops, is computable in polynomial-time for planar pair-wise binary GMs and it also provides a highly accurate approximation empirically. Motivated by this, we, first, propose a polynomial-time approximation MCMC scheme for the truncated series of general (non-planar) pair-wise binary models. Our main idea here is to use the Worm algorithm, known to provide fast mixing in other (related) problems, and then design an appropriate rejection scheme to sample 2-regular loops. Furthermore, we also design an efficient rejection-free MCMC scheme for approximating the full series. The main novelty underlying our design is in utilizing the concept of cycle basis, which provides an efficient decomposition of the generalized loops. In essence, the proposed MCMC schemes run on transformed GM built upon the non-trivial BP solution, and our experiments show that this synthesis of BP and MCMC outperforms both direct MCMC and bare BP schemes.

In this work we develop a theory of hierarchical clustering for graphs. Our modelling assumption is that graphs are sampled from a graphon, which is a powerful and general model for generating graphs and analyzing large networks. Graphons are a far richer class of graph models than stochastic blockmodels, the primary setting for recent progress in the statistical theory of graph clustering. We define what it means for an algorithm to produce the ``correct" clustering, give sufficient conditions in which a method is statistically consistent, and provide an explicit algorithm satisfying these properties.

Predicting the behavior of human participants in strategic settings is an important problem in many domains. Most existing work either assumes that participants are perfectly rational, or attempts to directly model each participant's cognitive processes based on insights from cognitive psychology and experimental economics. In this work, we present an alternative, a deep learning approach that automatically performs cognitive modeling without relying on such expert knowledge. We introduce a novel architecture that allows a single network to generalize across different input and output dimensions by using matrix units rather than scalar units, and show that its performance significantly outperforms that of the previous state of the art, which relies on expert-constructed features.

We consider tractable representations of probability distributions and the polytime operations they support. In particular, we consider a recently proposed arithmetic circuit representation, the Probabilistic Sentential Decision Diagram (PSDD). We show that PSDD supports a polytime multiplication operator, while they do not support a polytime operator for summing-out variables. A polytime multiplication operator make PSDDs suitable for a broader class of applications compared to arithmetic circuits, which do not in general support multiplication. As one example, we show that PSDD multiplication leads to a very simple but effective compilation algorithm for probabilistic graphical models: represent each model factor as a PSDD, and then multiply them.

Particle physics aims to answer profound questions about the fundamental building blocks of the Universe through enormous data sets collected at experiments like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Inference in this context involves two extremes. On one hand the theories of fundamental particle interactions are described by quantum field theory, which is elegant, highly constrained, and highly predictive. On the other hand, the observations come from interactions with complex sensor arrays with uncertain response, which lead to intractable likelihoods. Machine learning techniques with high-capacity models offer a promising set of tools for coping with the complexity of the data; however, we ultimately want to perform inference in the language of quantum field theory. I will discuss likelihood-free inference, generative models, adversarial training, and other recent progress in machine learning from this point of view.

Matrix completion is a basic machine learning problem that has wide applications, especially in collaborative filtering and recommender systems. Simple non-convex optimization algorithms are popular and effective in practice. Despite recent progress in proving various non-convex algorithms converge from a good initial point, it remains unclear why random or arbitrary initialization suffices in practice. We prove that the commonly used non-convex objective function for matrix completion has no spurious local minima \--- all local minima must also be global. Therefore, many popular optimization algorithms such as (stochastic) gradient descent can provably solve matrix completion with \textit{arbitrary} initialization in polynomial time.

The stochastic block model (SBM) has long been studied in machine learning and network science as a canonical model for clustering and community detection. In the recent years, new developments have demonstrated the presence of threshold phenomena for this model, which have set new challenges for algorithms. For the {\it detection} problem in symmetric SBMs, Decelle et al.\ conjectured that the so-called Kesten-Stigum (KS) threshold can be achieved efficiently. This was proved for two communities, but remained open from three communities. We prove this conjecture here, obtaining a more general result that applies to arbitrary SBMs with linear size communities. The developed algorithm is a linearized acyclic belief propagation (ABP) algorithm, which mitigates the effects of cycles while provably achieving the KS threshold in $O(n \ln n)$ time. This extends prior methods by achieving universally the KS threshold while reducing or preserving the computational complexity. ABP is also connected to a power iteration method on a generalized nonbacktracking operator, formalizing the spectral-message passing interplay described in Krzakala et al., and extending results from Bordenave et al.

This paper deals with price optimization, which is to find the best pricing strategy that maximizes revenue or profit, on the basis of demand forecasting models. Though recent advances in regression technologies have made it possible to reveal price-demand relationship of a number of multiple products, most existing price optimization methods, such as mixed integer programming formulation, cannot handle tens or hundreds of products because of their high computational costs. To cope with this problem, this paper proposes a novel approach based on network flow algorithms. We reveal a connection between supermodularity of the revenue and cross elasticity of demand. On the basis of this connection, we propose an efficient algorithm that employs network flow algorithms. The proposed algorithm can handle hundreds or thousands of products, and returns an exact optimal solution under an assumption regarding cross elasticity of demand. Even in case in which the assumption does not hold, the proposed algorithm can efficiently find approximate solutions as good as can other state-of-the-art methods, as empirical results show.

We present an intriguing discovery related to Random Fourier Features: replacing multiplication by a random Gaussian matrix with multiplication by a properly scaled random orthogonal matrix significantly decreases kernel approximation error. We call this technique Orthogonal Random Features (ORF), and provide theoretical and empirical justification for its effectiveness. Motivated by the discovery, we further propose Structured Orthogonal Random Features (SORF), which uses a class of structured discrete orthogonal matrices to speed up the computation. The method reduces the time cost from $\mathcal{O}(d^2)$ to $\mathcal{O}(d \log d)$, where $d$ is the data dimensionality, with almost no compromise in kernel approximation quality compared to ORF. Experiments on several datasets verify the effectiveness of ORF and SORF over the existing methods. We also provide discussions on using the same type of discrete orthogonal structure for a broader range of kernels and applications.

We study the problem of synthesizing a number of likely future frames from a single input image. In contrast to traditional methods, which have tackled this problem in a deterministic or non-parametric way, we propose a novel approach which models future frames in a probabilistic manner. Our proposed method is therefore able to synthesize multiple possible next frames using the same model. Solving this challenging problem involves low- and high-level image and motion understanding for successful image synthesis. Here, we propose a novel network structure, namely a Cross Convolutional Network, that encodes images as feature maps and motion information as convolutional kernels to aid in synthesizing future frames. In experiments, our model performs well on both synthetic data, such as 2D shapes and animated game sprites, as well as on real-wold video data. We show that our model can also be applied to tasks such as visual analogy-making, and present analysis of the learned network representations.

This paper presents a dynamical system based on the Poisson-Gamma construction for sequentially observed multivariate count data. Inherent to the model is a novel Bayesian nonparametric prior that ties and shrinks parameters in a powerful way. We develop theory about the model's infinite limit and its steady-state. The model's inductive bias is demonstrated on a variety of real-world datasets where it is shown to learn interpretable structure and have superior predictive performance.

Accurately measuring the similarity between text documents lies at the core of many real world applications of machine learning. These include web-search ranking, document recommendation, multi-lingual document matching, and article categorization. Recently, a new document metric, the word mover's distance (WMD), has been proposed with unprecedented results on kNN-based document classification. The WMD elevates high quality word embeddings to document metrics by formulating the distance between two documents as an optimal transport problem between the embedded words. However, the document distances are entirely unsupervised and lack a mechanism to incorporate supervision when available. In this paper we propose an efficient technique to learn a supervised metric, which we call the Supervised WMD (S-WMD) metric. Our algorithm learns document distances that measure the underlying semantic differences between documents by leveraging semantic differences between individual words discovered during supervised training. This is achieved with an linear transformation of the underlying word embedding space and tailored word-specific weights, learned to minimize the stochastic leave-one-out nearest neighbor classification error on a per-document level. We evaluate our metric on eight real-world text classification tasks on which S-WMD consistently outperforms almost all of our 26 competitive baselines.

Many real world graphs, such as the graphs of molecules, exhibit structure at multiple different scales, but most existing kernels between graphs are either purely local or purely global in character. In contrast, by building a hierarchy of nested subgraphs, the Multiscale Laplacian Graph kernels (MLG kernels) that we define in this paper can account for structure at a range of different scales. At the heart of the MLG construction is another new graph kernel, called the Feature Space Laplacian Graph kernel (FLG kernel), which has the property that it can lift a base kernel defined on the vertices of two graphs to a kernel between the graphs. The MLG kernel applies such FLG kernels to subgraphs recursively. To make the MLG kernel computationally feasible, we also introduce a randomized projection procedure, similar to the Nystro ̈m method, but for RKHS operators.

Many online communities present user-contributed responses, such as reviews of products and answers to questions. User-provided helpfulness votes can highlight the most useful responses, but voting is a social process that can gain momentum based on the popularity of responses and the polarity of existing votes. We propose the Chinese Voting Process (CVP) which models the evolution of helpfulness votes as a self-reinforcing process dependent on position and presentation biases. We evaluate this model on Amazon product reviews and more than 80 StackExchange forums, measuring the intrinsic quality of individual responses and behavioral coefficients of different communities.

Area under ROC (AUC) is a metric which is widely used for measuring the classification performance for imbalanced data. It is of theoretical and practical interest to develop online learning algorithms that maximizes AUC for large-scale data. A specific challenge in developing online AUC maximization algorithm is that the learning objective function is usually defined over a pair of training examples of opposite classes, and existing methods achieves on-line processing with higher space and time complexity. In this work, we propose a new stochastic online algorithm for AUC maximization. In particular, we show that AUC optimization can be equivalently formulated as a convex-concave saddle point problem. From this saddle representation, a stochastic online algorithm (SOLAM) is proposed which has time and space complexity of one datum. We establish theoretical convergence of SOLAM with high probability and demonstrate its effectiveness and efficiency on standard benchmark datasets.

Proteins are the "building blocks of life", the most abundant organic molecules, and the central focus of most areas of biomedicine. Protein structure is strongly related to protein function, thus structure prediction is a crucial task on the way to solve many biological questions. A contact map is a compact representation of the three-dimensional structure of a protein via the pairwise contacts between the amino acid constituting the protein. We use a convolutional network to calculate protein contact maps from inferred statistical coupling between positions in the protein sequence. The input to the network has an image-like structure amenable to convolutions, but every "pixel" instead of color channels contains a bipartite undirected edge-weighted graph. We propose several methods for treating such "graph-valued images" in a convolutional network. The proposed method outperforms state-of-the-art methods by a large margin. It also allows for a great flexibility with regard to the input data, which makes it useful for studying a wide range of problems.

In this paper, we prove a conjecture published in 1989 and also partially address an open problem announced at the Conference on Learning Theory (COLT) 2015. For an expected loss function of a deep nonlinear neural network, we prove the following statements under the independence assumption adopted from recent work: 1) the function is non-convex and non-concave, 2) every local minimum is a global minimum, 3) every critical point that is not a global minimum is a saddle point, and 4) the property of saddle points differs for shallow networks (with three layers) and deeper networks (with more than three layers). Moreover, we prove that the same four statements hold for deep linear neural networks with any depth, any widths and no unrealistic assumptions. As a result, we present an instance, for which we can answer to the following question: how difficult to directly train a deep model in theory? It is more difficult than the classical machine learning models (because of the non-convexity), but not too difficult (because of the nonexistence of poor local minima and the property of the saddle points). We note that even though we have advanced the theoretical foundations of deep learning, there is still a gap between theory and practice.

Stochastic gradient methods for machine learning and optimization problems are usually analyzed assuming data points are sampled *with* replacement. In contrast, sampling *without* replacement is far less understood, yet in practice it is very common, often easier to implement, and usually performs better. In this paper, we provide competitive convergence guarantees for without-replacement sampling under several scenarios, focusing on the natural regime of few passes over the data. Moreover, we describe a useful application of these results in the context of distributed optimization with randomly-partitioned data, yielding a nearly-optimal algorithm for regularized least squares (in terms of both communication complexity and runtime complexity) under broad parameter regimes. Our proof techniques combine ideas from stochastic optimization, adversarial online learning and transductive learning theory, and can potentially be applied to other stochastic optimization and learning problems.

We describe a convergence acceleration technique for generic optimization problems. Our scheme computes estimates of the optimum from a nonlinear average of the iterates produced by any optimization method. The weights in this average are computed via a simple and small linear system, whose solution can be updated online. This acceleration scheme runs in parallel to the base algorithm, providing improved estimates of the solution on the fly, while the original optimization method is running. Numerical experiments are detailed on classical classification problems.

We investigate an experiential learning paradigm for acquiring an internal model of intuitive physics. Our model is evaluated on a real-world robotic manipulation task that requires displacing objects to target locations by poking. The robot gathered over 400 hours of experience by executing more than 50K pokes on different objects. We propose a novel approach based on deep neural networks for modeling the dynamics of robot's interactions directly from images, by jointly estimating forward and inverse models of dynamics. The inverse model objective provides supervision to construct informative visual features, which the forward model can then predict and in turn regularize the feature space for the inverse model. The interplay between these two objectives creates useful, accurate models that can then be used for multi-step decision making. This formulation has the additional benefit that it is possible to learn forward models in an abstract feature space and thus alleviate the need of predicting pixels. Our experiments show that this joint modeling approach outperforms alternative methods. We also demonstrate that active data collection using the learned model further improves performance.

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have recently demonstrated the capability to synthesize compelling real-world images, such as room interiors, album covers, manga, faces, birds, and flowers. While existing models can synthesize images based on global constraints such as a class label or caption, they do not provide control over pose or object location. We propose a new model, the Generative Adversarial What-Where Network (GAWWN), that synthesizes images given instructions describing what content to draw in which location. We show high-quality 128 × 128 image synthesis on the Caltech-UCSD Birds dataset, conditioned on both informal text descriptions and also object location. Our system exposes control over both the bounding box around the bird and its constituent parts. By modeling the conditional distributions over part locations, our system also enables conditioning on arbitrary subsets of parts (e.g. only the beak and tail), yielding an efficient interface for picking part locations.

In stochastic convex optimization the goal is to minimize a convex function $F(x) \doteq \E_{f\sim D}[f(x)]$ over a convex set $\K \subset \R^d$ where $D$ is some unknown distribution and each $f(\cdot)$ in the support of $D$ is convex over $\K$. The optimization is based on i.i.d.~samples $f^1,f^2,\ldots,f^n$ from $D$. A common approach to such problems is empirical risk minimization (ERM) that optimizes $F_S(x) \doteq \frac{1}{n}\sum_{i\leq n} f^i(x)$. Here we consider the question of how many samples are necessary for ERM to succeed and the closely related question of uniform convergence of $F_S$ to $F$ over $\K$. We demonstrate that in the standard $\ell_p/\ell_q$ setting of Lipschitz-bounded functions over a $\K$ of bounded radius, ERM requires sample size that scales linearly with the dimension $d$. This nearly matches standard upper bounds and improves on $\Omega(\log d)$ dependence proved for $\ell_2/\ell_2$ setting in (Shalev-Shwartz et al. 2009). In stark contrast, these problems can be solved using dimension-independent number of samples for $\ell_2/\ell_2$ setting and $\log d$ dependence for $\ell_1/\ell_\infty$ setting using other approaches. We also demonstrate that for a more general class of range-bounded (but not Lipschitz-bounded) stochastic convex programs an even stronger gap appears already in dimension 2.

We present weight normalization: a reparameterization of the weight vectors in a neural network that decouples the length of those weight vectors from their direction. By reparameterizing the weights in this way we improve the conditioning of the optimization problem and we speed up convergence of stochastic gradient descent. Our reparameterization is inspired by batch normalization but does not introduce any dependencies between the examples in a minibatch. This means that our method can also be applied successfully to recurrent models such as LSTMs and to noise-sensitive applications such as deep reinforcement learning or generative models, for which batch normalization is less well suited. Although our method is much simpler, it still provides much of the speed-up of full batch normalization. In addition, the computational overhead of our method is lower, permitting more optimization steps to be taken in the same amount of time. We demonstrate the usefulness of our method on applications in supervised image recognition, generative modelling, and deep reinforcement learning.

Bayesian optimization is a prominent method for optimizing expensive to evaluate black-box functions that is prominently applied to tuning the hyperparameters of machine learning algorithms. Despite its successes, the prototypical Bayesian optimization approach - using Gaussian process models - does not scale well to either many hyperparameters or many function evaluations. Attacking this lack of scalability and flexibility is thus one of the key challenges of the field. We present a general approach for using flexible parametric models (neural networks) for Bayesian optimization, staying as close to a truly Bayesian treatment as possible. We obtain scalability through stochastic gradient Hamiltonian Monte Carlo, whose robustness we improve via a scale adaptation. Experiments including multi-task Bayesian optimization with 21 tasks, parallel optimization of deep neural networks and deep reinforcement learning show the power and flexibility of this approach.

The amount of data available in the world is growing faster than our ability to deal with it. However, if we take advantage of the internal structure, data may become much smaller for machine learning purposes. In this paper we focus on one of the fundamental machine learning tasks, empirical risk minimization (ERM), and provide faster algorithms with the help from the clustering structure of the data. We introduce a simple notion of raw clustering that can be efficiently computed from the data, and propose two algorithms based on clustering information. Our accelerated algorithm ClusterACDM is built on a novel Haar transformation applied to the dual space of the ERM problem, and our variance-reduction based algorithm ClusterSVRG introduces a new gradient estimator using clustering. Our algorithms outperform their classical counterparts ACDM and SVRG respectively.

Understanding the 3D world is a fundamental problem in computer vision. However, learning a good representation of 3D objects is still an open problem due to the high dimensionality of the data and many factors of variation involved. In this work, we investigate the task of single-view 3D object reconstruction from a learning agent's perspective. We formulate the learning process as an interaction between 3D and 2D representations and propose an encoder-decoder network with a novel projection loss defined by the projective transformation. More importantly, the projection loss enables the unsupervised learning using 2D observation without explicit 3D supervision. We demonstrate the ability of the model in generating 3D volume from a single 2D image with three sets of experiments: (1) learning from single-class objects; (2) learning from multi-class objects and (3) testing on novel object classes. Results show superior performance and better generalization ability for 3D object reconstruction when the projection loss is involved.

Recommendation and collaborative filtering systems are important in modern information and e-commerce applications. As these systems are becoming increasingly popular in industry, their outputs could affect business decision making, introducing incentives for an adversarial party to compromise the availability or integrity of such systems. We introduce a data poisoning attack on collaborative filtering systems. We demonstrate how a powerful attacker with full knowledge of the learner can generate malicious data so as to maximize his/her malicious objectives, while at the same time mimicking normal user behaviors to avoid being detected. While the complete knowledge assumption seems extreme, it enables a robust assessment of the vulnerability of collaborative filtering schemes to highly motivated attacks. We present efficient solutions for two popular factorization-based collaborative filtering algorithms: the alternative minimization formulation and the nuclear norm minimization method. Finally, we test the effectiveness of our proposed algorithms on real-world data and discuss potential defensive strategies.

Observable operator models (OOMs) and related models are one of the most important and powerful tools for modeling and analyzing stochastic systems. They exactly describe dynamics of finite-rank systems and can be efficiently and consistently estimated through spectral learning under the assumption of identically distributed data. In this paper, we investigate the properties of spectral learning without this assumption due to the requirements of analyzing large-time scale systems, and show that the equilibrium dynamics of a system can be extracted from nonequilibrium observation data by imposing an equilibrium constraint. In addition, we propose a binless extension of spectral learning for continuous data. In comparison with the other continuous-valued spectral algorithms, the binless algorithm can achieve consistent estimation of equilibrium dynamics with only linear complexity.

Decision tree (and its extensions such as Gradient Boosting Decision Trees and Random Forest) is a widely used machine learning algorithm, due to its practical effectiveness and model interpretability. With the emergence of big data, there is an increasing need to parallelize the training process of decision tree. However, most existing attempts along this line suffer from high communication costs. In this paper, we propose a new algorithm, called \emph{Parallel Voting Decision Tree (PV-Tree)}, to tackle this challenge. After partitioning the training data onto a number of (e.g., $M$) machines, this algorithm performs both local voting and global voting in each iteration. For local voting, the top-$k$ attributes are selected from each machine according to its local data. Then, the indices of these top attributes are aggregated by a server, and the globally top-$2k$ attributes are determined by a majority voting among these local candidates. Finally, the full-grained histograms of the globally top-$2k$ attributes are collected from local machines in order to identify the best (most informative) attribute and its split point. PV-Tree can achieve a very low communication cost (independent of the total number of attributes) and thus can scale out very well. Furthermore, theoretical analysis shows that this algorithm can learn a near optimal decision tree, since it can find the best attribute with a large probability. Our experiments on real-world datasets show that PV-Tree significantly outperforms the existing parallel decision tree algorithms in the tradeoff between accuracy and efficiency.

The facility location problem is widely used for summarizing large datasets and has additional applications in sensor placement, image retrieval, and clustering. One difficulty of this problem is that submodular optimization algorithms require the calculation of pairwise benefits for all items in the dataset. This is infeasible for large problems, so recent work proposed to only calculate nearest neighbor benefits. One limitation is that several strong assumptions were invoked to obtain provable approximation guarantees. In this paper we establish that these extra assumptions are not necessary—solving the sparsified problem will be almost optimal under the standard assumptions of the problem. We then analyze a different method of sparsification that is a better model for methods such as Locality Sensitive Hashing to accelerate the nearest neighbor computations and extend the use of the problem to a broader family of similarities. We validate our approach by demonstrating that it rapidly generates interpretable summaries.

In this paper we establish a duality between boosting and SVM, and use this to derive a novel discriminant dimensionality reduction algorithm. In particular, using the multiclass formulation of boosting and SVM we note that both use a combination of mapping and linear classification to maximize the multiclass margin. In SVM this is implemented using a pre-defined mapping (induced by the kernel) and optimizing the linear classifiers. In boosting the linear classifiers are pre-defined and the mapping (predictor) is learned through combination of weak learners. We argue that the intermediate mapping, e.g. boosting predictor, is preserving the discriminant aspects of the data and by controlling the dimension of this mapping it is possible to achieve discriminant low dimensional representations for the data. We use the aforementioned duality and propose a new method, Large Margin Discriminant Dimensionality Reduction (LADDER) that jointly learns the mapping and the linear classifiers in an efficient manner. This leads to a data-driven mapping which can embed data into any number of dimensions. Experimental results show that this embedding can significantly improve performance on tasks such as hashing and image/scene classification.

Neural networks (NN) have achieved state-of-the-art performance in various applications. Unfortunately in applications where training data is insufficient, they are often prone to overfitting. One effective way to alleviate this problem is to exploit the Bayesian approach by using Bayesian neural networks (BNN). Another shortcoming of NN is the lack of flexibility to customize different distributions for the weights and neurons according to the data, as is often done in probabilistic graphical models. To address these problems, we propose a class of probabilistic neural networks, dubbed natural-parameter networks (NPN), as a novel and lightweight Bayesian treatment of NN. NPN allows the usage of arbitrary exponential-family distributions to model the weights and neurons. Different from traditional NN and BNN, NPN takes distributions as input and goes through layers of transformation before producing distributions to match the target output distributions. As a Bayesian treatment, efficient backpropagation (BP) is performed to learn the natural parameters for the distributions over both the weights and neurons. The output distributions of each layer, as byproducts, may be used as second-order representations for the associated tasks such as link prediction. Experiments on real-world datasets show that NPN can achieve state-of-the-art performance.

Probabilistic techniques are central to data analysis, but different approaches can be challenging to apply, combine, and compare. This paper introduces composable generative population models (CGPMs), a computational abstraction that extends directed graphical models and can be used to describe and compose a broad class of probabilistic data analysis techniques. Examples include discriminative machine learning, hierarchical Bayesian models, multivariate kernel methods, clustering algorithms, and arbitrary probabilistic programs. We demonstrate the integration of CGPMs into BayesDB, a probabilistic programming platform that can express data analysis tasks using a modeling definition language and structured query language. The practical value is illustrated in two ways. First, the paper describes an analysis on a database of Earth satellites, which identifies records that probably violate Kepler’s Third Law by composing causal probabilistic programs with non-parametric Bayes in 50 lines of probabilistic code. Second, it reports the lines of code and accuracy of CGPMs compared with baseline solutions from standard machine learning libraries.

We present a framework for efficient inference in structured image models that explicitly reason about objects. We achieve this by performing probabilistic inference using a recurrent neural network that attends to scene elements and processes them one at a time. Crucially, the model itself learns to choose the appropriate number of inference steps. We use this scheme to learn to perform inference in partially specified 2D models (variable-sized variational auto-encoders) and fully specified 3D models (probabilistic renderers). We show that such models learn to identify multiple objects - counting, locating and classifying the elements of a scene - without any supervision, e.g., decomposing 3D images with various numbers of objects in a single forward pass of a neural network at unprecedented speed. We further show that the networks produce accurate inferences when compared to supervised counterparts, and that their structure leads to improved generalization.

Binary hashing is a well-known approach for fast approximate nearest-neighbor search in information retrieval. Much work has focused on affinity-based objective functions involving the hash functions or binary codes. These objective functions encode neighborhood information between data points and are often inspired by manifold learning algorithms. They ensure that the hash functions differ from each other through constraints or penalty terms that encourage codes to be orthogonal or dissimilar across bits, but this couples the binary variables and complicates the already difficult optimization. We propose a much simpler approach: we train each hash function (or bit) independently from each other, but introduce diversity among them using techniques from classifier ensembles. Surprisingly, we find that not only is this faster and trivially parallelizable, but it also improves over the more complex, coupled objective function, and achieves state-of-the-art precision and recall in experiments with image retrieval.

We present a framework for efficient perceptual inference that explicitly reasons about the segmentation of its inputs and features. Rather than being trained for any specific segmentation, our framework learns the grouping process in an unsupervised manner or alongside any supervised task. We enable a neural network to group the representations of different objects in an iterative manner through a differentiable mechanism. We achieve very fast convergence by allowing the system to amortize the joint iterative inference of the groupings and their representations. In contrast to many other recently proposed methods for addressing multi-object scenes, our system does not assume the inputs to be images and can therefore directly handle other modalities. We evaluate our method on multi-digit classification of very cluttered images that require texture segmentation. Remarkably our method achieves improved classification performance over convolutional networks despite being fully connected, by making use of the grouping mechanism. Furthermore, we observe that our system greatly improves upon the semi-supervised result of a baseline Ladder network on our dataset. These results are evidence that grouping is a powerful tool that can help to improve sample efficiency.

Bregman divergences play a central role in the design and analysis of a range of machine learning algorithms through a handful of popular theorems. We present a new theorem which shows that ``Bregman distortions'' (employing a potentially non-convex generator) may be exactly re-written as a scaled Bregman divergence computed over transformed data. This property can be viewed from the standpoints of geometry (a scaled isometry with adaptive metrics) or convex optimization (relating generalized perspective transforms). Admissible distortions include {geodesic distances} on curved manifolds and projections or gauge-normalisation. Our theorem allows one to leverage to the wealth and convenience of Bregman divergences when analysing algorithms relying on the aforementioned Bregman distortions. We illustrate this with three novel applications of our theorem: a reduction from multi-class density ratio to class-probability estimation, a new adaptive projection free yet norm-enforcing dual norm mirror descent algorithm, and a reduction from clustering on flat manifolds to clustering on curved manifolds. Experiments on each of these domains validate the analyses and suggest that the scaled Bregman theorem might be a worthy addition to the popular handful of Bregman divergence properties that have been pervasive in machine learning.

Estimators of information theoretic measures such as entropy and mutual information from samples are a basic workhorse for many downstream applications in modern data science. State of the art approaches have been either geometric (nearest neighbor (NN) based) or kernel based (with bandwidth chosen to be data independent and vanishing sub linearly in the sample size). In this paper we combine both these approaches to design new estimators of entropy and mutual information that strongly outperform all state of the art methods. Our estimator uses bandwidth choice of fixed $k$-NN distances; such a choice is both data dependent and linearly vanishing in the sample size and necessitates a bias cancellation term that is universal and independent of the underlying distribution. As a byproduct, we obtain a unified way of obtaining both kernel and NN estimators. The corresponding theoretical contribution relating the geometry of NN distances to asymptotic order statistics is of independent mathematical interest.

The Hard Thresholding Pursuit (HTP) is a class of truncated gradient descent methods for finding sparse solutions of $\ell_0$-constrained loss minimization problems. The HTP-style methods have been shown to have strong approximation guarantee and impressive numerical performance in high dimensional statistical learning applications. However, the current theoretical treatment of these methods has traditionally been restricted to the analysis of parameter estimation consistency. It remains an open problem to analyze the support recovery performance (a.k.a., sparsistency) of this type of methods for recovering the global minimizer of the original NP-hard problem. In this paper, we bridge this gap by showing, for the first time, that exact recovery of the global sparse minimizer is possible for HTP-style methods under restricted strong condition number bounding conditions. We further show that HTP-style methods are able to recover the support of certain relaxed sparse solutions without assuming bounded restricted strong condition number. Numerical results on simulated data confirms our theoretical predictions.

Statistical relational models provide compact encodings of probabilistic dependencies in relational domains, but result in highly intractable graphical models. The goal of lifted inference is to carry out probabilistic inference without needing to reason about each individual separately, by instead treating exchangeable, undistinguished objects as a whole. In this paper, we study the domain recursion inference rule, which, despite its central role in early theoretical results on domain-lifted inference, has later been believed redundant. We show that this rule is more powerful than expected, and in fact significantly extends the range of models for which lifted inference runs in time polynomial in the number of individuals in the domain. This includes an open problem called S4, the symmetric transitivity model, and a first-order logic encoding of the birthday paradox. We further identify new classes S2FO2 and S2RU of domain-liftable theories, which respectively subsume FO2 and recursively unary theories, the largest classes of domain-liftable theories known so far, and show that using domain recursion can achieve exponential speedup even in theories that cannot fully be lifted with the existing set of inference rules.

We consider the problem of variational inference in probabilistic models with both log-submodular and log-supermodular higher-order potentials. These models can represent arbitrary distributions over binary variables, and thus generalize the commonly used pairwise Markov random fields and models with log-supermodular potentials only, for which efficient approximate inference algorithms are known. While inference in the considered models is #P-hard in general, we present efficient approximate algorithms exploiting recent advances in the field of discrete optimization. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in a large set of experiments, where our model allows reasoning about preferences over sets of items with complements and substitutes.

We consider an agent's uncertainty about its environment and the problem of generalizing this uncertainty across states. Specifically, we focus on the problem of exploration in non-tabular reinforcement learning. Drawing inspiration from the intrinsic motivation literature, we use density models to measure uncertainty, and propose a novel algorithm for deriving a pseudo-count from an arbitrary density model. This technique enables us to generalize count-based exploration algorithms to the non-tabular case. We apply our ideas to Atari 2600 games, providing sensible pseudo-counts from raw pixels. We transform these pseudo-counts into exploration bonuses and obtain significantly improved exploration in a number of hard games, including the infamously difficult Montezuma's Revenge.

The well known maximum-entropy principle due to Jaynes, which states that given mean parameters, the maximum entropy distribution matching them is in an exponential family has been very popular in machine learning due to its “Occam’s razor” interpretation. Unfortunately, calculating the potentials in the maximum entropy distribution is intractable [BGS14]. We provide computationally efficient versions of this principle when the mean parameters are pairwise moments: we design distributions that approximately match given pairwise moments, while having entropy which is comparable to the maximum entropy distribution matching those moments. We additionally provide surprising applications of the approximate maximum entropy principle to designing provable variational methods for partition function calculations for Ising models without any assumptions on the potentials of the model. More precisely, we show that we can get approximation guarantees for the log-partition function comparable to those in the low-temperature limit, which is the setting of optimization of quadratic forms over the hypercube. ([AN06])

We propose an online convex optimization algorithm (RescaledExp) that achieves optimal regret in the unconstrained setting without prior knowledge of any bounds on the loss functions. We prove a lower bound showing an exponential separation between the regret of existing algorithms that require a known bound on the loss functions and any algorithm that does not require such knowledge. RescaledExp matches this lower bound asymptotically in the number of iterations. RescaledExp is naturally hyperparameter-free and we demonstrate empirically that it matches prior optimization algorithms that require hyperparameter optimization.

Non-negative matrix factorization is a popular tool for decomposing data into feature and weight matrices under non-negativity constraints. It enjoys practical success but is poorly understood theoretically. This paper proposes an algorithm that alternates between decoding the weights and updating the features, and shows that assuming a generative model of the data, it provably recovers the ground-truth under fairly mild conditions. In particular, its only essential requirement on features is linear independence. Furthermore, the algorithm uses ReLU to exploit the non-negativity for decoding the weights, and thus can tolerate adversarial noise that can potentially be as large as the signal, and can tolerate unbiased noise much larger than the signal. The analysis relies on a carefully designed coupling between two potential functions, which we believe is of independent interest.

Most learning algorithms are not invariant to the scale of the signal that is being approximated. We propose to adaptively normalize the targets used in the learning updates. This is important in value-based reinforcement learning, where the magnitude of appropriate value approximations can change over time when we update the policy of behavior. Our main motivation is prior work on learning to play Atari games, where the rewards were clipped to a predetermined range. This clipping facilitates learning across many different games with a single learning algorithm, but a clipped reward function can result in qualitatively different behavior. Using adaptive normalization we can remove this domain-specific heuristic without diminishing overall performance.

In this paper we present a new algorithm for computing a low rank approximation of the product $A^TB$ by taking only a single pass of the two matrices $A$ and $B$. The straightforward way to do this is to (a) first sketch $A$ and $B$ individually, and then (b) find the top components using PCA on the sketch. Our algorithm in contrast retains additional summary information about $A,B$ (e.g. row and column norms etc.) and uses this additional information to obtain an improved approximation from the sketches. Our main analytical result establishes a comparable spectral norm guarantee to existing two-pass methods; in addition we also provide results from an Apache Spark implementation that shows better computational and statistical performance on real-world and synthetic evaluation datasets.

Despite the success of CNNs, selecting the optimal architecture for a given task remains an open problem. Instead of aiming to select a single optimal architecture, we propose a ``fabric'' that embeds an exponentially large number of architectures. The fabric consists of a 3D trellis that connects response maps at different layers, scales, and channels with a sparse homogeneous local connectivity pattern. The only hyper-parameters of a fabric are the number of channels and layers. While individual architectures can be recovered as paths, the fabric can in addition ensemble all embedded architectures together, sharing their weights where their paths overlap. Parameters can be learned using standard methods based on back-propagation, at a cost that scales linearly in the fabric size. We present benchmark results competitive with the state of the art for image classification on MNIST and CIFAR10, and for semantic segmentation on the Part Labels dataset.

The diverse world of machine learning applications has given rise to a plethora of algorithms and optimization methods, finely tuned to the specific regression or classification task at hand. We reduce the complexity of algorithm design for machine learning by reductions: we develop reductions that take a method developed for one setting and apply it to the entire spectrum of smoothness and strong-convexity in applications. Furthermore, unlike existing results, our new reductions are OPTIMAL and more PRACTICAL. We show how these new reductions give rise to new and faster running times on training linear classifiers for various families of loss functions, and conclude with experiments showing their successes also in practice.

Matrix completion methods can benefit from side information besides the partially observed matrix. The use of side features describing the row and column entities of a matrix has been shown to reduce the sample complexity for completing the matrix. We propose a novel sparse formulation that explicitly models the interaction between the row and column side features to approximate the matrix entries. Unlike early methods, this model does not require the low-rank condition on the model parameter matrix. We prove that when the side features can span the latent feature space of the matrix to be recovered, the number of observed entries needed for an exact recovery is $O(\log N)$ where $N$ is the size of the matrix. When the side features are corrupted latent features of the matrix with a small perturbation, our method can achieve an $\epsilon$-recovery with $O(\log N)$ sample complexity, and maintains a $\O(N^{3/2})$ rate similar to classfic methods with no side information. An efficient linearized Lagrangian algorithm is developed with a strong guarantee of convergence. Empirical results show that our approach outperforms three state-of-the-art methods both in simulations and on real world datasets.

The goal of ordinal embedding is to represent items as points in a low-dimensional Euclidean space given a set of constraints like ``item $i$ is closer to item $j$ than item $k$''. Ordinal constraints like this often come from human judgments. The classic approach to solving this problem is known as non-metric multidimensional scaling. To account for errors and variation in judgments, we consider the noisy situation in which the given constraints are independently corrupted by reversing the correct constraint with some probability. The ordinal embedding problem has been studied for decades, but most past work pays little attention to the question of whether accurate embedding is possible, apart from empirical studies. This paper shows that under a generative data model it is possible to learn the correct embedding from noisy distance comparisons. In establishing this fundamental result, the paper makes several new contributions. First, we derive prediction error bounds for embedding from noisy distance comparisons by exploiting the fact that the rank of a distance matrix of points in $\R^d$ is at most $d+2$. These bounds characterize how well a learned embedding predicts new comparative judgments. Second, we show that the underlying embedding can be recovered by solving a simple convex optimization. This result is highly non-trivial since we show that the linear map corresponding to distance comparisons is non-invertible, but there exists a nonlinear map that is invertible. Third, two new algorithms for ordinal embedding are proposed and evaluated in experiments.

Linkages are essentially determined by similarity measures that may be derived from multiple perspectives. For example, spatial linkages are usually generated based on localities of heterogeneous data, whereas semantic linkages can come from various properties, such as different physical meanings behind social relations. Many existing metric learning models focus on spatial linkages, but leave the rich semantic factors unconsidered. Similarities based on these models are usually overdetermined on linkages. We propose a Unified Multi-Metric Learning (UM2L) framework to exploit multiple types of metrics. In UM2L, a type of combination operator is introduced for distance characterization from multiple perspectives, and thus can introduce flexibilities for representing and utilizing both spatial and semantic linkages. Besides, we propose a uniform solver for UM2L which is guaranteed to converge. Extensive experiments on diverse applications exhibit the superior classification performance and comprehensibility of UM2L. Visualization results also validate its ability on physical meanings discovery.

We present Cyclades, a general framework for parallelizing stochastic optimization algorithms in a shared memory setting. Cyclades is asynchronous during model updates, and requires no memory locking mechanisms, similar to Hogwild!-type algorithms. Unlike Hogwild!, Cyclades introduces no conflicts during parallel execution, and offers a black-box analysis for provable speedups across a large family of algorithms. Due to its inherent cache locality and conflict-free nature, our multi-core implementation of Cyclades consistently outperforms Hogwild!-type algorithms on sufficiently sparse datasets, leading to up to 40% speedup gains compared to Hogwild!, and up to 5\times gains over asynchronous implementations of variance reduction algorithms.

Medical researchers are coming to appreciate that many diseases are in fact complex, heterogeneous syndromes composed of subpopulations that express different variants of a related complication. Longitudinal data extracted from individual electronic health records (EHR) offer an exciting new way to study subtle differences in the way these diseases progress over time. In this paper, we focus on answering two questions that can be asked using these databases of longitudinal EHR data. First, we want to understand whether there are individuals with similar disease trajectories and whether there are a small number of degrees of freedom that account for differences in trajectories across the population. Second, we want to understand how important clinical outcomes are associated with disease trajectories. To answer these questions, we propose the Disease Trajectory Map (DTM), a novel probabilistic model that learns low-dimensional representations of sparse and irregularly sampled longitudinal data. We propose a stochastic variational inference algorithm for learning the DTM that allows the model to scale to large modern medical datasets. To demonstrate the DTM, we analyze data collected on patients with the complex autoimmune disease, scleroderma. We find that DTM learns meaningful representations of disease trajectories and that the representations are significantly associated with important clinical outcomes.

Stochastic structured prediction under bandit feedback follows a learning protocol where on each of a sequence of iterations, the learner receives an input, predicts an output structure, and receives partial feedback in form of a task loss evaluation of the predicted structure. We present applications of this learning scenario to convex and non-convex objectives for structured prediction and analyze them as stochastic first-order methods. We present an experimental evaluation on problems of natural language processing over exponential output spaces, and compare convergence speed across different objectives under the practical criterion of optimal task performance on development data and the optimization-theoretic criterion of minimal squared gradient norm. Best results under both criteria are obtained for a non-convex objective for pairwise preference learning under bandit feedback.

The recursive teaching dimension (RTD) of a concept class $C \subseteq \{0, 1\}^n$, introduced by Zilles et al. [ZLHZ11], is a complexity parameter measured by the worst-case number of labeled examples needed to learn any target concept of $C$ in the recursive teaching model. In this paper, we study the quantitative relation between RTD and the well-known learning complexity measure VC dimension (VCD), and improve the best known upper and (worst-case) lower bounds on the recursive teaching dimension with respect to the VC dimension. Given a concept class $C \subseteq \{0, 1\}^n$ with $VCD(C) = d$, we first show that $RTD(C)$ is at most $d 2^{d+1}$. This is the first upper bound for $RTD(C)$ that depends only on $VCD(C)$, independent of the size of the concept class $|C|$ and its~domain size $n$. Before our work, the best known upper bound for $RTD(C)$ is $O(d 2^d \log \log |C|)$, obtained by Moran et al. [MSWY15]. We remove the $\log \log |C|$ factor. We also improve the lower bound on the worst-case ratio of $RTD(C)$ to $VCD(C)$. We present a family of classes $\{ C_k \}_{k \ge 1}$ with $VCD(C_k) = 3k$ and $RTD(C_k)=5k$, which implies that the ratio of $RTD(C)$ to $VCD(C)$ in the worst case can be as large as $5/3$. Before our work, the largest ratio known was $3/2$ as obtained by Kuhlmann [Kuh99]. Since then, no finite concept class $C$ has been known to satisfy $RTD(C) > (3/2) VCD(C)$.

Generative neural networks are probabilistic models that implement sampling using feedforward neural networks: they take a random input vector and produce a sample from a probability distribution defined by the network weights. These models are expressive and allow efficient computation of samples and derivatives, but cannot be used for computing likelihoods or for marginalization. The generative-adversarial training method allows to train such models through the use of an auxiliary discriminative neural network. We show that the generative-adversarial approach is a special case of an existing more general variational divergence estimation approach. We show that any $f$-divergence can be used for training generative neural networks. We discuss the benefits of various choices of divergence functions on training complexity and the quality of the obtained generative models.

This paper proposes an efficient algorithm (HOLRR) to handle regression tasks where the outputs have a tensor structure. We formulate the regression problem as the minimization of a least square criterion under a multilinear rank constraint, a difficult non convex problem. HOLRR computes efficiently an approximate solution of this problem, with solid theoretical guarantees. A kernel extension is also presented. Experiments on synthetic and real data show that HOLRR computes accurate solutions while being computationally very competitive.

In this paper, we propose a Double Thompson Sampling (D-TS) algorithm for dueling bandit problems. As its name suggests, D-TS selects both the first and the second candidates according to Thompson Sampling. Specifically, D-TS maintains a posterior distribution for the preference matrix, and chooses the pair of arms for comparison according to two sets of samples independently drawn from the posterior distribution. This simple algorithm applies to general Copeland dueling bandits, including Condorcet dueling bandits as its special case. For general Copeland dueling bandits, we show that D-TS achieves $O(K^2 \log T)$ regret. Moreover, using a back substitution argument, we refine the regret to $O(K \log T + K^2 \log \log T)$ in Condorcet dueling bandits and many practical Copeland dueling bandits. In addition, we propose an enhancement of D-TS, referred to as D-TS+, that reduces the regret by carefully breaking ties. Experiments based on both synthetic and real-world data demonstrate that D-TS and D-TS$^+$ significantly improve the overall performance, in terms of regret and robustness.

Low-rank matrix factorizations arise in a wide variety of applications -- including recommendation systems, topic models, and source separation, to name just a few. In these and many other applications, it has been widely noted that by incorporating temporal information and allowing for the possibility of time-varying models, significant improvements are possible in practice. However, despite the reported superior empirical performance of these dynamic models over their static counterparts, there is limited theoretical justification for introducing these more complex models. In this paper we aim to address this gap by studying the problem of recovering a dynamically evolving low-rank matrix from incomplete observations. First, we propose the locally weighted matrix smoothing (LOWEMS) framework as one possible approach to dynamic matrix recovery. We then establish error bounds for LOWEMS in both the {\em matrix sensing} and {\em matrix completion} observation models. Our results quantify the potential benefits of exploiting dynamic constraints both in terms of recovery accuracy and sample complexity. To illustrate these benefits we provide both synthetic and real-world experimental results.

We study accelerated descent dynamics for constrained convex optimization. This dynamics can be described naturally as a coupling of a dual variable accumulating gradients at a given rate $\eta(t)$, and a primal variable obtained as the weighted average of the mirrored dual trajectory, with weights $w(t)$. Using a Lyapunov argument, we give sufficient conditions on $\eta$ and $w$ to achieve a desired convergence rate. As an example, we show that the replicator dynamics (an example of mirror descent on the simplex) can be accelerated using a simple averaging scheme. We then propose an adaptive averaging heuristic which adaptively computes the weights to speed up the decrease of the Lyapunov function. We provide guarantees on adaptive averaging in continuous-time, prove that it preserves the quadratic convergence rate of accelerated first-order methods in discrete-time, and give numerical experiments to compare it with existing heuristics, such as adaptive restarting. The experiments indicate that adaptive averaging performs at least as well as adaptive restarting, with significant improvements in some cases.

We present the first general purpose framework for marginal maximum a posteriori estimation of probabilistic program variables. By using a series of code transformations, the evidence of any probabilistic program, and therefore of any graphical model, can be optimized with respect to an arbitrary subset of its sampled variables. To carry out this optimization, we develop the first Bayesian optimization package to directly exploit the source code of its target, leading to innovations in problem-independent hyperpriors, unbounded optimization, and implicit constraint satisfaction; delivering significant performance improvements over prominent existing packages. We present applications of our method to a number of tasks including engineering design and parameter optimization.

Probabilistic inference serves as a popular model for neural processing. It is still unclear, however, how approximate probabilistic inference can be accurate and scalable to very high-dimensional continuous latent spaces. Especially as typical posteriors for sensory data can be expected to exhibit complex latent dependencies including multiple modes. Here, we study an approach that can efficiently be scaled while maintaining a richly structured posterior approximation under these conditions. As example model we use spike-and-slab sparse coding for V1 processing, and combine latent subspace selection with Gibbs sampling (select-and-sample). Unlike factored variational approaches, the method can maintain large numbers of posterior modes and complex latent dependencies. Unlike pure sampling, the method is scalable to very high-dimensional latent spaces. Among all sparse coding approaches with non-trivial posterior approximations (MAP or ICA-like models), we report the largest-scale results. In applications we firstly verify the approach by showing competitiveness in standard denoising benchmarks. Secondly, we use its scalability to, for the first time, study highly-overcomplete settings for V1 encoding using sophisticated posterior representations. More generally, our study shows that very accurate probabilistic inference for multi-modal posteriors with complex dependencies is tractable, functionally desirable and consistent with models for neural inference.

We propose and analyze a regularization approach for structured prediction problems. We characterize a large class of loss functions that allows to naturally embed structured outputs in a linear space. We exploit this fact to design learning algorithms using a surrogate loss approach and regularization techniques. We prove universal consistency and finite sample bounds characterizing the generalization properties of the proposed method. Experimental results are provided to demonstrate the practical usefulness of the proposed approach.

We suggest a new loss for learning deep embeddings. The key characteristics of the new loss is the absence of tunable parameters and very good results obtained across a range of datasets and problems. The loss is computed by estimating two distribution of similarities for positive (matching) and negative (non-matching) point pairs, and then computing the probability of a positive pair to have a lower similarity score than a negative pair based on these probability estimates. We show that these operations can be performed in a simple and piecewise-differentiable manner using 1D histograms with soft assignment operations. This makes the proposed loss suitable for learning deep embeddings using stochastic optimization. The experiments reveal favourable results compared to recently proposed loss functions.

Arising from many applications at the intersection of decision-making and machine learning, Marginal Maximum A Posteriori (Marginal MAP) problems unify the two main classes of inference, namely maximization (optimization) and marginal inference (counting), and are believed to have higher complexity than both of them. We propose XOR_MMAP, a novel approach to solve the Marginal MAP problem, which represents the intractable counting subproblem with queries to NP oracles, subject to additional parity constraints. XOR_MMAP provides a constant factor approximation to the Marginal MAP problem, by encoding it as a single optimization in a polynomial size of the original problem. We evaluate our approach in several machine learning and decision-making applications, and show that our approach outperforms several state-of-the-art Marginal MAP solvers.

Most real-world networks are too large to be measured or studied directly and there is substantial interest in estimating global network properties from smaller sub-samples. One of the most important global properties is the number of vertices/nodes in the network. Estimating the number of vertices in a large network is a major challenge in computer science, epidemiology, demography, and intelligence analysis. In this paper we consider a population random graph G = (V;E) from the stochastic block model (SBM) with K communities/blocks. A sample is obtained by randomly choosing a subset W and letting G(W) be the induced subgraph in G of the vertices in W. In addition to G(W), we observe the total degree of each sampled vertex and its block membership. Given this partial information, we propose an efficient PopULation Size Estimation algorithm, called PULSE, that accurately estimates the size of the whole population as well as the size of each community. To support our theoretical analysis, we perform an exhaustive set of experiments to study the effects of sample size, K, and SBM model parameters on the accuracy of the estimates. The experimental results also demonstrate that PULSE significantly outperforms a widely-used method called the network scale-up estimator in a wide variety of scenarios.

Compressive Sensing (CS) is an effective approach for fast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). It aims at reconstructing MR image from a small number of under-sampled data in k-space, and accelerating the data acquisition in MRI. To improve the current MRI system in reconstruction accuracy and computational speed, in this paper, we propose a novel deep architecture, dubbed ADMM-Net. ADMM-Net is defined over a data flow graph, which is derived from the iterative procedures in Alternating Direction Method of Multipliers (ADMM) algorithm for optimizing a CS-based MRI model. In the training phase, all parameters of the net, e.g., image transforms, shrinkage functions, etc., are discriminatively trained end-to-end using L-BFGS algorithm. In the testing phase, it has computational overhead similar to ADMM but uses optimized parameters learned from the training data for CS-based reconstruction task. Experiments on MRI image reconstruction under different sampling ratios in k-space demonstrate that it significantly improves the baseline ADMM algorithm and achieves high reconstruction accuracies with fast computational speed.

We study the problem of 3D object generation. We propose a novel framework, namely 3D Generative Adversarial Network (3D-GAN), which generates 3D objects from a probabilistic space by leveraging recent advances in volumetric convolutional networks and generative adversarial nets. The benefits of our model are three-fold: first, the use of an adversarial criterion, instead of traditional heuristic criteria, enables the generator to capture object structure implicitly and to synthesize high-quality 3D objects; second, the generator establishes a mapping from a low-dimensional probabilistic space to the space of 3D objects, so that we can sample objects without a reference image or CAD models, and explore the 3D object manifold; third, the adversarial discriminator provides a powerful 3D shape descriptor which, learned without supervision, has wide applications in 3D object recognition. Experiments demonstrate that our method generates high-quality 3D objects, and our unsupervisedly learned features achieve impressive performance on 3D object recognition, comparable with those of supervised learning methods.

We present a novel framework, called GRAB (GRaphical models with overlApping Blocks), to capture densely connected components in a network estimate. GRAB takes as input a data matrix of p variables and n samples, and jointly learns both a network among p variables and densely connected groups of variables (called `blocks'). GRAB has four major novelties as compared to existing network estimation methods: 1) It does not require the blocks to be given a priori. 2) Blocks can overlap. 3) It can jointly learn a network structure and overlapping blocks. 4) It solves a joint optimization problem with the block coordinate descent method that is convex in each step. We show that GRAB reveals the underlying network structure substantially better than four state-of-the-art competitors on synthetic data. When applied to cancer gene expression data, GRAB outperforms its competitors in revealing known functional gene sets and potentially novel genes that drive cancer.

The Teacher Forcing algorithm trains recurrent networks by supplying observed sequence values as inputs during training and using the network’s own one-step-ahead predictions to do multi-step sampling. We introduce the Professor Forcing algorithm, which uses adversarial domain adaptation to encourage the dynamics of the recurrent network to be the same when training the network and when sampling from the network over multiple time steps. We apply Professor Forcing to language modeling, vocal synthesis on raw waveforms, handwriting generation, and image generation. Empirically we find that Professor Forcing acts as a regularizer, improving test likelihood on character level Penn Treebank and sequential MNIST. We also find that the model qualitatively improves samples, especially when sampling for a large number of time steps. This is supported by human evaluation of sample quality. Trade-offs between Professor Forcing and Scheduled Sampling are discussed. We produce T-SNEs showing that Professor Forcing successfully makes the dynamics of the network during training and sampling more similar.

We propose to prune a random forest (RF) for resource-constrained prediction. We first construct a RF and then prune it to optimize expected feature cost & accuracy. We pose pruning RFs as a novel 0-1 integer program with linear constraints that encourages feature re-use. We establish total unimodularity of the constraint set to prove that the corresponding LP relaxation solves the original integer program. We then exploit connections to combinatorial optimization and develop an efficient primal-dual algorithm, scalable to large datasets. In contrast to our bottom-up approach, which benefits from good RF initialization, conventional methods are top-down acquiring features based on their utility value and is generally intractable, requiring heuristics. Empirically, our pruning algorithm outperforms existing state-of-the-art resource-constrained algorithms.

We show that learning algorithms satisfying a low approximate regret property experience fast convergence to approximate optimality in a large class of repeated games. Our property, which simply requires that each learner has small regret compared to a (1+eps)-multiplicative approximation to the best action in hindsight, is ubiquitous among learning algorithms; it is satisfied even by the vanilla Hedge forecaster. Our results improve upon recent work of Syrgkanis et al. in a number of ways. We require only that players observe payoffs under other players' realized actions, as opposed to expected payoffs. We further show that convergence occurs with high probability, and show convergence under bandit feedback. Finally, we improve upon the speed of convergence by a factor of n, the number of players. Both the scope of settings and the class of algorithms for which our analysis provides fast convergence are considerably broader than in previous work. Our framework applies to dynamic population games via a low approximate regret property for shifting experts. Here we strengthen the results of Lykouris et al. in two ways: We allow players to select learning algorithms from a larger class, which includes a minor variant of the basic Hedge algorithm, and we increase the maximum churn in players for which approximate optimality is achieved. In the bandit setting we present a new algorithm which provides a "small loss"-type bound with improved dependence on the number of actions in utility settings, and is both simple and efficient. This result may be of independent interest.

Matrix completion, where we wish to recover a low rank matrix by observing a few entries from it, is a widely studied problem in both theory and practice with wide applications. Most of the provable algorithms so far on this problem have been restricted to the offline setting where they provide an estimate of the unknown matrix using all observations simultaneously. However, in many applications, the online version, where we observe one entry at a time and dynamically update our estimate, is more appealing. While existing algorithms are efficient for the offline setting, they could be highly inefficient for the online setting. In this paper, we propose the first provable, efficient online algorithm for matrix completion. Our algorithm starts from an initial estimate of the matrix and then performs non-convex stochastic gradient descent (SGD). After every observation, it performs a fast update involving only one row of two tall matrices, giving near linear total runtime. Our algorithm can be naturally used in the offline setting as well, where it gives competitive sample complexity and runtime to state of the art algorithms. Our proofs introduce a general framework to show that SGD updates tend to stay away from saddle surfaces and could be of broader interests to other non-convex problems.

The correlation between events is ubiquitous and important for temporal events modelling. In many cases, the correlation exists between not only events' emitted observations, but also their arrival times. State space models (e.g., hidden Markov model) and stochastic interaction point process models (e.g., Hawkes process) have been studied extensively yet separately for the two types of correlations in the past. In this paper, we propose a Bayesian nonparametric approach that considers both types of correlations via unifying and generalizing hidden semi-Markov model and interaction point process model. The proposed approach can simultaneously model both the observations and arrival times of temporal events, and determine the number of latent states from data. A Metropolis-within-particle-Gibbs sampler with ancestor resampling is developed for efficient posterior inference. The approach is tested on both synthetic and real-world data with promising outcomes.

We consider the linear contextual bandit problem with resource consumption, in addition to reward generation. In each round, the outcome of pulling an arm is a reward as well as a vector of resource consumptions. The expected values of these outcomes depend linearly on the context of that arm. The budget/capacity constraints require that the sum of these vectors doesn't exceed the budget in each dimension. The objective is once again to maximize the total reward. This problem turns out to be a common generalization of classic linear contextual bandits (linContextual), bandits with knapsacks (BwK), and the online stochastic packing problem (OSPP). We present algorithms with near-optimal regret bounds for this problem. Our bounds compare favorably to results on the unstructured version of the problem, where the relation between the contexts and the outcomes could be arbitrary, but the algorithm only competes against a fixed set of policies accessible through an optimization oracle. We combine techniques from the work on linContextual, BwK and OSPP in a nontrivial manner while also tackling new difficulties that are not present in any of these special cases.

Person Re-Identification is the task of matching images of a person across multiple camera views. Almost all prior approaches address this challenge by attempting to learn the possible transformations that relate the different views of a person from a training corpora. Then, they utilize these transformation patterns for matching a query image to those in a gallery image bank at test time. This necessitates learning good feature representations of the images and having a robust feature matching technique. Deep learning approaches, such as Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN), simultaneously do both and have shown great promise recently. In this work, we propose two CNN-based architectures for Person Re-Identification. In the first, given a pair of images, we extract feature maps from these images via multiple stages of convolution and pooling. A novel inexact matching technique then matches pixels in the first representation with those of the second. Furthermore, we search across a wider region in the second representation for matching. Our novel matching technique allows us to tackle the challenges posed by large viewpoint variations, illumination changes or partial occlusions. Our approach shows a promising performance and requires only about half the parameters as a current state-of-the-art technique. Nonetheless, it also suffers from false matches at times. In order to mitigate this issue, we propose a fused architecture that combines our inexact matching pipeline with a state-of-the-art exact matching technique. We observe substantial gains with the fused model over the current state-of-the-art on multiple challenging datasets of varying sizes, with gains of up to about 21%.

We study the problem of synthesizing a number of likely future frames from a single input image. In contrast to traditional methods, which have tackled this problem in a deterministic or non-parametric way, we propose a novel approach which models future frames in a probabilistic manner. Our proposed method is therefore able to synthesize multiple possible next frames using the same model. Solving this challenging problem involves low- and high-level image and motion understanding for successful image synthesis. Here, we propose a novel network structure, namely a Cross Convolutional Network, that encodes images as feature maps and motion information as convolutional kernels to aid in synthesizing future frames. In experiments, our model performs well on both synthetic data, such as 2D shapes and animated game sprites, as well as on real-wold video data. We show that our model can also be applied to tasks such as visual analogy-making, and present analysis of the learned network representations.

In this paper, we prove a conjecture published in 1989 and also partially address an open problem announced at the Conference on Learning Theory (COLT) 2015. For an expected loss function of a deep nonlinear neural network, we prove the following statements under the independence assumption adopted from recent work: 1) the function is non-convex and non-concave, 2) every local minimum is a global minimum, 3) every critical point that is not a global minimum is a saddle point, and 4) the property of saddle points differs for shallow networks (with three layers) and deeper networks (with more than three layers). Moreover, we prove that the same four statements hold for deep linear neural networks with any depth, any widths and no unrealistic assumptions. As a result, we present an instance, for which we can answer to the following question: how difficult to directly train a deep model in theory? It is more difficult than the classical machine learning models (because of the non-convexity), but not too difficult (because of the nonexistence of poor local minima and the property of the saddle points). We note that even though we have advanced the theoretical foundations of deep learning, there is still a gap between theory and practice.

Accurately measuring the similarity between text documents lies at the core of many real world applications of machine learning. These include web-search ranking, document recommendation, multi-lingual document matching, and article categorization. Recently, a new document metric, the word mover's distance (WMD), has been proposed with unprecedented results on kNN-based document classification. The WMD elevates high quality word embeddings to document metrics by formulating the distance between two documents as an optimal transport problem between the embedded words. However, the document distances are entirely unsupervised and lack a mechanism to incorporate supervision when available. In this paper we propose an efficient technique to learn a supervised metric, which we call the Supervised WMD (S-WMD) metric. Our algorithm learns document distances that measure the underlying semantic differences between documents by leveraging semantic differences between individual words discovered during supervised training. This is achieved with an linear transformation of the underlying word embedding space and tailored word-specific weights, learned to minimize the stochastic leave-one-out nearest neighbor classification error on a per-document level. We evaluate our metric on eight real-world text classification tasks on which S-WMD consistently outperforms almost all of our 26 competitive baselines.

Two semimetrics on probability distributions are proposed, given as the sum of differences of expectations of analytic functions evaluated at spatial or frequency locations (i.e, features). The features are chosen so as to maximize the distinguishability of the distributions, by optimizing a lower bound on test power for a statistical test using these features. The result is a parsimonious and interpretable indication of how and where two distributions differ locally. An empirical estimate of the test power criterion converges with increasing sample size, ensuring the quality of the returned features. In real-world benchmarks on high-dimensional text and image data, linear-time tests using the proposed semimetrics achieve comparable performance to the state-of-the-art quadratic-time maximum mean discrepancy test, while returning human-interpretable features that explain the test results.

A model of associative memory is studied, which stores and reliably retrieves many more patterns than the number of neurons in the network. We propose a simple duality between this dense associative memory and neural networks commonly used in deep learning. On the associative memory side of this duality, a family of models that smoothly interpolates between two limiting cases can be constructed. One limit is referred to as the feature-matching mode of pattern recognition, and the other one as the prototype regime. On the deep learning side of the duality, this family corresponds to feedforward neural networks with one hidden layer and various activation functions, which transmit the activities of the visible neurons to the hidden layer. This family of activation functions includes logistics, rectified linear units, and rectified polynomials of higher degrees. The proposed duality makes it possible to apply energy-based intuition from associative memory to analyze computational properties of neural networks with unusual activation functions - the higher rectified polynomials which until now have not been used in deep learning. The utility of the dense memories is illustrated for two test cases: the logical gate XOR and the recognition of handwritten digits from the MNIST data set.

Quantifying mental states and identifying "statistical biomarkers" of mental disorders from neuroimaging data is an exciting and rapidly growing research area at the intersection of neuroscience and machine learning. Given the focus on gaining better insights about the brain functioning, rather than just learning accurate "black-box" predictors, interpretability and reproducibility of learned models become particularly important in this field. We will discuss promises and limitations of machine learning in neuroimaging, and lessons learned from applying various approaches, from sparse models to deep neural nets, to a wide range of neuroimaging studies involving pain perception, schizophrenia, cocaine addiction and other mental disorders. Moreover, we will also go "beyond the scanner" and discuss some recent work on inferring mental states from relatively cheap and easily collected data, such as speech and wearable sensors, with applications ranging from clinical settings ("computational psychiatry") to everyday life ("augmented human").

Modern data sets usually present multiple levels of heterogeneity, some apparent such as the necessity of combining trees, graphs, contingency tables and continuous covariates, others concern latent factors and gradients. The biggest challenge in the analyses of these data comes from the necessity to maintain and percolate uncertainty throughout the analyses. I will present a completely reproducible workflow that combines the typical kernel multidimensional scaling approaches with Bayesian nonparametrics to arrive at visualizations that present honest projection regions. This talk will include joint work with Kris Sankaran, Julia Fukuyama, Lan Huong Nguyen, Ben Callahan, Boyu Ren, Sergio Bacallado, Stefano Favaro, Lorenzo Trippa and the members of Dr Relman's research group at Stanford.

Two semimetrics on probability distributions are proposed, given as the sum of differences of expectations of analytic functions evaluated at spatial or frequency locations (i.e, features). The features are chosen so as to maximize the distinguishability of the distributions, by optimizing a lower bound on test power for a statistical test using these features. The result is a parsimonious and interpretable indication of how and where two distributions differ locally. An empirical estimate of the test power criterion converges with increasing sample size, ensuring the quality of the returned features. In real-world benchmarks on high-dimensional text and image data, linear-time tests using the proposed semimetrics achieve comparable performance to the state-of-the-art quadratic-time maximum mean discrepancy test, while returning human-interpretable features that explain the test results.

People often learn from others' demonstrations, and classic inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) algorithms have brought us closer to realizing this capacity in machines. In contrast, teaching by demonstration has been less well studied computationally. Here, we develop a novel Bayesian model for teaching by demonstration. Stark differences arise when demonstrators are intentionally teaching a task versus simply performing a task. In two experiments, we show that human participants systematically modify their teaching behavior consistent with the predictions of our model. Further, we show that even standard IRL algorithms benefit when learning from behaviors that are intentionally pedagogical. We conclude by discussing IRL algorithms that can take advantage of intentional pedagogy.

Example-based explanations are widely used in the effort to improve the interpretability of highly complex distributions. However, prototypes alone are rarely sufficient to represent the gist of the complexity. In order for users to construct better mental models and understand complex data distributions, we also need {\em criticism} to explain what are \textit{not} captured by prototypes. Motivated by the Bayesian model criticism framework, we develop \texttt{MMD-critic} which efficiently learns prototypes and criticism, designed to aid human interpretability. A human subject pilot study shows that the \texttt{MMD-critic} selects prototypes and criticism that are useful to facilitate human understanding and reasoning. We also evaluate the prototypes selected by \texttt{MMD-critic} via a nearest prototype classifier, showing competitive performance compared to baselines.

In many applications, it is desirable to extract only the relevant aspects of data. A principled way to do this is the information bottleneck (IB) method, where one seeks a code that maximises information about a relevance variable, Y, while constraining the information encoded about the original data, X. Unfortunately however, the IB method is computationally demanding when data are high-dimensional and/or non-gaussian. Here we propose an approximate variational scheme for maximising a lower bound on the IB objective, analogous to variational EM. Using this method, we derive an IB algorithm to recover features that are both relevant and sparse. Finally, we demonstrate how kernelised versions of the algorithm can be used to address a broad range of problems with non-linear relation between X and Y.

A model of associative memory is studied, which stores and reliably retrieves many more patterns than the number of neurons in the network. We propose a simple duality between this dense associative memory and neural networks commonly used in deep learning. On the associative memory side of this duality, a family of models that smoothly interpolates between two limiting cases can be constructed. One limit is referred to as the feature-matching mode of pattern recognition, and the other one as the prototype regime. On the deep learning side of the duality, this family corresponds to feedforward neural networks with one hidden layer and various activation functions, which transmit the activities of the visible neurons to the hidden layer. This family of activation functions includes logistics, rectified linear units, and rectified polynomials of higher degrees. The proposed duality makes it possible to apply energy-based intuition from associative memory to analyze computational properties of neural networks with unusual activation functions - the higher rectified polynomials which until now have not been used in deep learning. The utility of the dense memories is illustrated for two test cases: the logical gate XOR and the recognition of handwritten digits from the MNIST data set.

Deep Learning algorithms attempt to discover good representations, at multiple levels of abstraction. Deep Learning is a topic of broad interest, both to researchers who develop new algorithms and theories, as well as to the rapidly growing number of practitioners who apply these algorithms to a wider range of applications, from vision and speech processing, to natural language understanding, neuroscience, health, etc. Major conferences in these fields often dedicate several sessions to this topic, attesting the widespread interest of our community in this area of research. <br><br>There has been very rapid and impressive progress in this area in recent years, in terms of both algorithms and applications, but many challenges remain. This symposium aims at bringing together researchers in Deep Learning and related areas to discuss the new advances, the challenges we face, and to brainstorm about new solutions and directions.

Soon after the birth of modern computer science in the 1930s, two fundamental questions arose: 1. How can computers learn useful programs from experience, as opposed to being programmed by human programmers? 2. How to program parallel multiprocessor machines, as opposed to traditional serial architectures? Both questions found natural answers in the field of Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs), which are brain-inspired general purpose computers that can learn parallel-sequential programs or algorithms encoded as weight matrices. <br><br>Our first RNNaissance NIPS workshop dates back to 2003: http://people.idsia.ch/~juergen/rnnaissance.html . Since then, a lot has happened. Some of the most successful applications in machine learning (including deep learning) are now driven by RNNs such as Long Short-Term Memory, e.g., speech recognition, video recognition, natural language processing, image captioning, time series prediction, etc. Through the world's most valuable public companies, billions of people have now access to this technology through their smartphones and other devices, e.g., in the form of Google Voice or on Apple's iOS. Reinforcement-learning and evolutionary RNNs are solving complex control tasks from raw video input. Many RNN-based methods learn sequential attention strategies. <br><br>Here we will review the latest developments in all of these fields, and focus not only on RNNs, but also on learning machines in which RNNs interact with external memory such as neural Turing machines, memory networks, and related memory architectures such as fast weight networks and neural stack machines. In this context we will also will discuss asymptotically optimal program search methods and their practical relevance.<br><br>Our target audience has heard a bit about recurrent neural networks but will happy to hear again a summary of the basics, and then delve into the latest advanced stuff, to see and understand what has recently become possible. We are hoping for thousands of attendees. <br><br>All talks (mostly by famous experts in the field who have already agreed to speak) will be followed by open discussions. We will also have a call for posters. Selected posters will adorn the environment of the lecture hall. We will also have a panel discussion on the bright future of RNNs, and their pros and cons.

Extreme classification, where one needs to deal with multi-class and multi-label problems involving a very large number of labels, has opened up a new research frontier in machine learning. Many challenging applications, such as photo or video annotation, web page categorization, gene function prediction, language modeling can benefit from being formulated as supervised learning tasks with millions, or even billions, of labels. Extreme classification can also give a fresh perspective on core learning problems such as ranking and recommendation by reformulating them as multi-class/label tasks where each item to be ranked or recommended is a separate label.<br><br>Extreme classification raises a number of interesting research questions including those related to:<br><br>* Large scale learning and distributed and parallel training<br>* Log-time and log-space prediction and prediction on a test-time budget<br>* Label embedding and tree-based approaches<br>* Crowd sourcing, preference elicitation and other data gathering techniques<br>* Bandits, semi-supervised learning and other approaches for dealing with training set biases and label noise<br>* Bandits with an extremely large number of arms<br>* Fine-grained classification<br>* Zero shot learning and extensible output spaces <br>* Tackling label polysemy, synonymy and correlations<br>* Structured output prediction and multi-task learning<br>* Learning from highly imbalanced data<br>* Dealing with tail labels and learning from very few data points per label<br>* PU learning and learning from missing and incorrect labels<br>* Feature extraction, feature sharing, lazy feature evaluation, etc.<br>* Performance evaluation<br>* Statistical analysis and generalization bounds<br>* Applications to ranking, recommendation, knowledge graph construction and other domains<br><br>The workshop aims to bring together researchers interested in these areas to encourage discussion and improve upon the state-of-the-art in extreme classification. In particular, we aim to bring together researchers from the natural language processing, computer vision and core machine learning communities to foster interaction and collaboration. Several leading researchers will present invited talks detailing the latest advances in the area. We also seek extended abstracts presenting work in progress which will be reviewed for acceptance as spotlight+poster or a talk. The workshop should be of interest to researchers in core supervised learning as well as application domains such as recommender systems, computer vision, computational advertising, information retrieval and natural language processing. We expect a healthy participation from both industry and academia.<br><br>http://www.manikvarma.org/events/XC16/schedule.html

The goal of this workshop is to bring together researchers from neuroscience, deep learning, machine learning, computer science theory, and statistics for a rich discussion about how computer science and neuroscience can inform one another as these two fields rapidly move forward. We invite high quality submissions and discussion on topics including, but not limited to, the following fundamental questions: a) shared approaches for analyzing biological and artificial neural systems, b) how insights and challenges from neuroscience can inspire progress in machine learning, and c) methods for interpreting the revolutionary large scale datasets produced by new experimental neuroscience techniques.<br><br>Experimental methods for measuring neural activity and structure have undergone recent revolutionary advances, including in high-density recording arrays, population calcium imaging, and large-scale reconstructions of anatomical circuitry. These developments promise unprecedented insights into the collective dynamics of neural populations and thereby the underpinnings of brain-like computation. However, these next-generation methods for measuring the brain’s architecture and function produce high-dimensional, large scale, and complex datasets, raising challenges for analysis. What are the machine learning and analysis approaches that will be indispensable for analyzing these next-generation datasets? What are the computational bottlenecks and challenges that must be overcome?<br><br>In parallel to experimental progress in neuroscience, the rise of deep learning methods has shown that hard computational problems can be solved by machine learning algorithms that are inspired by biological neural networks, and built by cascading many nonlinear units. In contrast to the brain, artificial neural systems are fully observable, so that experimental data-collection constraints are not relevant. Nevertheless, it has proven challenging to develop a theoretical understanding of how neural networks solve tasks, and what features are critical to their performance. Thus, while deep networks differ from biological neural networks in many ways, they provide an interesting testing ground for evaluating strategies for understanding neural processing systems. Are there synergies between analysis methods for biological and artificial neural systems? Has the resurgence of deep learning resulted in new hypotheses or strategies for trying to understand biological neural networks? Conversely, can neuroscience provide inspiration for the next generation of machine-learning algorithms?<br><br>We welcome participants from a range of disciplines in statistics, applied physics, machine learning, and both theoretical and experimental neuroscience, with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary insights. We hope that active discussions among these groups can set in motion new collaborations and facilitate future breakthroughs on fundamental research problems.

While deep learning has been revolutionary for machine learning, most modern deep learning models cannot represent their uncertainty nor take advantage of the well studied tools of probability theory. This has started to change following recent developments of tools and techniques combining Bayesian approaches with deep learning. The intersection of the two fields has received great interest from the community over the past few years, with the introduction of new deep learning models that take advantage of Bayesian techniques, as well as Bayesian models that incorporate deep learning elements.<br><br>In fact, the use of Bayesian techniques in deep learning can be traced back to the 1990s', in seminal works by Radford Neal, David MacKay, and Dayan et al.. These gave us tools to reason about deep models confidence, and achieved state-of-the-art performance on many tasks. However earlier tools did not adapt when new needs arose (such as scalability to big data), and were consequently forgotten. Such ideas are now being revisited in light of new advances in the field, yielding many exciting new results.<br><br>This workshop will study the advantages and disadvantages of such ideas, and will be a platform to host the recent flourish of ideas using Bayesian approaches in deep learning and using deep learning tools in Bayesian modelling. The program will include a mix of invited talks, contributed talks, and contributed posters. Also, the historic context of key developments in the field will be explained in an invited talk, followed by a tribute talk to David MacKay's work in the field. Future directions for the field will be debated in a panel discussion.

Deep learning systems that act in and interact with an environment must reason about how actions will change the world around them. The natural regime for such real-world decision problems involves supervision that is weak, delayed, or entirely absent, and the outputs are typically in the context of sequential decision processes, where each decision affects the next input. This regime poses a challenge for deep learning algorithms, which typically excel with: (1) large amounts of strongly supervised data and (2) a stationary distribution of independently observed inputs. The algorithmic tools for tackling these challenges have traditionally come from reinforcement learning, optimal control, and planning, and indeed the intersection of reinforcement learning and deep learning is currently an exciting and active research area. At the same time, deep learning methods for interactive decision-making domains have also been proposed in computer vision, robotics, and natural language processing, often using different tools and algorithmic formalisms from classical reinforcement learning, such as direct supervised learning, imitation learning, and model-based control. The aim of this workshop will be to bring together researchers across these disparate fields. The workshop program will focus on both the algorithmic and theoretical foundations of decision making and interaction with deep learning, and the practical challenges associated with bringing to bear deep learning methods in interactive settings, such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, and interactive agents.