### NIPS 2018 Videos

The recent push to adopt machine learning solutions in real-world settings gives rise to a major challenge: can we develop ML solutions that, instead of merely working “most of the time”, are truly reliable and robust? This tutorial will survey some of the key challenges in this context and then focus on the topic of adversarial robustness: the widespread vulnerability of state-of-the-art deep learning models to adversarial misclassification (aka adversarial examples). We will discuss the practical as well as theoretical aspects of this phenomenon, with an emphasis on recent verification-based approaches to establishing formal robustness guarantees. Our treatment will go beyond viewing adversarial robustness solely as a security question. In particular, we will touch on the role it plays as a regularizer and its relation to generalization.

Visualization is a powerful way to understand and interpret machine learning--as well as a promising area for ML researchers to investigate. This tutorial will provide an introduction to the landscape of ML visualizations, organized by types of users and their goals. We'll discuss how each stage of the ML research and development pipeline lends itself to different visualization techniques: analyzing training data, understanding the internals of a model, and testing performance. In addition, we’ll explore how visualization can play an important role in ML education and outreach to non-technical stakeholders. The tutorial will also include a brief introduction to key techniques from the fields of graphic design and human-computer interaction that are relevant in designing data displays. These ideas are helpful whether refining existing visualizations, or inventing entirely new visual techniques.

This tutorial will provide a practical overview of state-of-the-art approaches for analyzing massive data sets using Bayesian statistical methods. The first focus area will be on algorithms for very large sample size data (large n), and the second focus area will be on approaches for very high-dimensional data (large p). A particular emphasis will be on maintaining a valid characterization of uncertainty, ruling out many popular methods, such as (most) variational approximations and approaches for maximum a posteriori estimation. I will briefly review classical large sample approximations to posterior distributions (e.g., Laplace’s method, Bayesian central limit theorem), and will then transition to discussing conceptually and practical simple approaches for scaling up commonly used Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithms. The focus is on making posterior computation much faster to implement for huge datasets while maintaining accuracy guarantees. Some useful classes of algorithms having increasing theoretical and practical support include embarrassingly parallel (EP) MCMC, approximate MCMC, stochastic approximation, hybrid optimization and sampling, and modularization. Applications to computational advertising, genomics, neurosciences and other areas will provide a concrete motivation. Code and notes will be made available, and research problems of ongoing interest highlighted.

Unsupervised learning looks set to play an ever more important role for deep neural networks, both as a way of harnessing vast quantities of unlabelled data, and as a means of learning representations that can rapidly generalise to new tasks and situations. The central challenge is how to determine what the objective function should be, when by definition we do not have an explicit target in mind. One approach, which this tutorial will cover in detail, is simply to ‘predict everything’ in the data, typically with a probabilistic model, which can be seen through the lens of the Minimum Description Length principle as an effort to compress the data as compactly as possible. However, we will also survey a range of other techniques, including un-normalized energy-based models, self-supervised algorithms and purely generative models such as GANs. Time allowing, we will extend our discussion to the reinforcement learning setting, where the natural analogue of unsupervised learning is intrinsic motivation, and notions such as curiosity, empowerment and compression progress are invoked as drivers of learning.

As machine learning becomes increasingly important in everyday life, researchers have examined its relationship to people and society to answer calls for more responsible uses of data-driven technologies. Much work has focused on fairness, accountability, and transparency as well as on explanation and interpretability. However, these terms have resisted definition by computer scientists: while many definitions of each have been put forward, several capturing natural intuitions, these definitions do not capture everything that is meant by associated concept, causing friction with other disciplines and the public. Worse, sometimes different properties conflict explicitly or cannot be satisfied simultaneously. Drawing on our research on the meanings of these terms and the concepts they refer to across different disciplines (e.g., computer science, statistics, public policy, law, social sciences, philosophy, humanities, and others), we present common misconceptions machine learning researchers and practitioners hold when thinking about these topics. For example, it is often axiomatic that producing machine learning explanations automatically makes the outputs of a model more understandable, but this is hardly if ever the case. Similarly, defining fairness as a statistical property of the distribution of model outputs ignores the many procedural requirements supporting fairness in policymaking and the operation of the law. We describe how to integrate the rich meanings of these concepts into machine learning research and practice, enabling attendees to engage with disparate communities of research and practice and to recognize when terms are being overloaded, thereby avoiding speaking to people from other disciplines at cross purposes.

This tutorial provides an introduction to a rapidly evolving topic: the theory of negative dependence and its numerous ramifications in machine learning. Indeed, negatively dependent probability measures provide a powerful tool for modeling non-i.i.d. data, and thus can impact all aspects of learning, including supervised, unsupervised, interpretable, interactive, and large-scale setups. The most well-known examples of negatively dependent distributions are perhaps the Determinantal Point Processes (DPPs), which have already found numerous ML applications. But DPPs are just the tip of the iceberg; the class of negatively dependent measures is much broader, and given the vast web of mathematical connections it enjoys, its holds great promise as a tool for machine learning. This tutorial exposes the ML audience to this rich mathematical toolbox, while outlining key theoretical ideas and motivating fundamental applications. Tasks that profit from negative dependence include anomaly detection, information maximization, experimental design, validation of black-box systems, architecture learning, fast MCMC sampling, dataset summarization, interpretable learning.

The success of machine learning crucially relies on human machine learning experts, who construct appropriate features and workflows, and select appropriate machine learning paradigms, algorithms, neural architectures, and their hyperparameters. Automatic machine learning (AutoML) is an emerging research area that targets the progressive automation of machine learning, which uses machine learning and optimization to develop off-the-shelf machine learning methods that can be used easily and without expert knowledge. It covers a broad range of subfields, including hyperparameter optimization, neural architecture search, meta-learning, and transfer learning. This tutorial will cover the methods underlying the current state of the art in this fast-paced field.

The tutorial will showcase what statistical learning theory aims to assess about and hence deliver for learning systems. We will highlight how algorithms can piggy back on its results to improve the performances of learning algorithms as well as to understand their limitations. The tutorial is aimed at those wishing to gain an understanding of the value and role of statistical learning theory in order to hitch a ride on its results.

This tutorial will review the literature that brings together recent developments in machine learning with methods for counterfactual inference. It will focus on problems where the goal is to estimate the magnitude of causal effects, as well as to quantify the researcher’s uncertainty about these magnitudes. The tutorial will consider two strands of the literature. The first strand attempts to estimate causal effects of a single intervention, like a drug or a price change. The goal can be to estimate the average (counterfactual) effect of applying the treatment to everyone; or the conditional average treatment effect, which is the effect of applying the treatment to an individual conditional on covariates. We will also consider the problem of estimating an optimal treatment assignment policy (mapping features to assignments) under constraints on the nature of the policy, such as budget constraints. We look at applications to assigning unemployed workers to re-employment services. We finish by considering the case with multiple alternative treatments, as well as the link between this literature and the literature on contextual bandits. The second strand of the literature attempts to infer individual’s preferences from their behavior (inverse reinforcement learning in machine learning parlance, or structural estimation in econometrics parlance), and then predict an individual’s behavior in new environments. We look at applications to consumer choice behavior, and analyze counterfactuals around price changes. We discuss how models such as these can be tuned when the goal is counterfactual estimation rather than predicting outcomes.

My talk will be about how lack of diversity --> biased algorithms ---> faulty products --> unethical tech.

AI and Machine Learning are already having a big impact on the world. Policymakers have noticed, and they are starting to formulate laws and regulations, and to convene conversations, about how society will govern the development of these technologies. This talk will give an overview of how policymakers deal with new technologies, how the process might develop in the case of AI/ML, and why constructive engagement with the policy process will lead to better outcomes for the field, for governments, and for society.

Neural networks have many successful applications, while much less theoretical understanding has been gained. Towards bridging this gap, we study the problem of learning a two-layer overparameterized ReLU neural network for multi-class classification via stochastic gradient descent (SGD) from random initialization. In the overparameterized setting, when the data comes from mixtures of well-separated distributions, we prove that SGD learns a network with a small generalization error, albeit the network has enough capacity to fit arbitrary labels. Furthermore, the analysis provides interesting insights into several aspects of learning neural networks and can be verified based on empirical studies on synthetic data and on the MNIST dataset.

Recent research has shown that word embedding spaces learned from text corpora of different languages can be aligned without any parallel data supervision. Inspired by the success in unsupervised cross-lingual word embeddings, in this paper we target learning a cross-modal alignment between the embedding spaces of speech and text learned from corpora of their respective modalities in an unsupervised fashion. The proposed framework learns the individual speech and text embedding spaces, and attempts to align the two spaces via adversarial training, followed by a refinement procedure. We show how our framework could be used to perform the tasks of spoken word classification and translation, and the experimental results on these two tasks demonstrate that the performance of our unsupervised alignment approach is comparable to its supervised counterpart. Our framework is especially useful for developing automatic speech recognition (ASR) and speech-to-text translation systems for low- or zero-resource languages, which have little parallel audio-text data for training modern supervised ASR and speech-to-text translation models, but account for the majority of the languages spoken across the world.

Multichannel blind deconvolution is the problem of recovering an unknown signal $f$ and multiple unknown channels $x_i$ from convolutional measurements $y_i=x_i \circledast f$ ($i=1,2,\dots,N$). We consider the case where the $x_i$'s are sparse, and convolution with $f$ is invertible. Our nonconvex optimization formulation solves for a filter $h$ on the unit sphere that produces sparse output $y_i\circledast h$. Under some technical assumptions, we show that all local minima of the objective function correspond to the inverse filter of $f$ up to an inherent sign and shift ambiguity, and all saddle points have strictly negative curvatures. This geometric structure allows successful recovery of $f$ and $x_i$ using a simple manifold gradient descent algorithm with random initialization. Our theoretical findings are complemented by numerical experiments, which demonstrate superior performance of the proposed approach over the previous methods.

This paper investigates the ability of generative networks to convert their input noise distributions into other distributions. Firstly, we demonstrate a construction that allows ReLU networks to increase the dimensionality of their noise distribution by implementing a ``space-filling'' function based on iterated tent maps. We show this construction is optimal by analyzing the number of affine pieces in functions computed by multivariate ReLU networks. Secondly, we provide efficient ways (using polylog$(1/\epsilon)$ nodes) for networks to pass between univariate uniform and normal distributions, using a Taylor series approximation and a binary search gadget for computing function inverses. Lastly, we indicate how high dimensional distributions can be efficiently transformed into low dimensional distributions.

Textual network embedding leverages rich text information associated with the network to learn low-dimensional vectorial representations of vertices. Rather than using typical natural language processing (NLP) approaches, recent research exploits the relationship of texts on the same edge to graphically embed text. However, these models neglect to measure the complete level of connectivity between any two texts in the graph. We present diffusion maps for textual network embedding (DMTE), integrating global structural information of the graph to capture the semantic relatedness between texts, with a diffusion-convolution operation applied on the text inputs. In addition, a new objective function is designed to efficiently preserve the high-order proximity using the graph diffusion. Experimental results show that the proposed approach outperforms state-of-the-art methods on the vertex-classification and link-prediction tasks.

In recent years, unfolding iterative algorithms as neural networks has become an empirical success in solving sparse recovery problems. However, its theoretical understanding is still immature, which prevents us from fully utilizing the power of neural networks. In this work, we study unfolded ISTA (Iterative Shrinkage Thresholding Algorithm) for sparse signal recovery. We introduce a weight structure that is necessary for asymptotic convergence to the true sparse signal. With this structure, unfolded ISTA can attain a linear convergence, which is better than the sublinear convergence of ISTA/FISTA in general cases. Furthermore, we propose to incorporate thresholding in the network to perform support selection, which is easy to implement and able to boost the convergence rate both theoretically and empirically. Extensive simulations, including sparse vector recovery and a compressive sensing experiment on real image data, corroborate our theoretical results and demonstrate their practical usefulness. We have made our codes publicly available: https://github.com/xchen-tamu/linear-lista-cpss.

Generative adversarial network (GAN) is a minimax game between a generator mimicking the true model and a discriminator distinguishing the samples produced by the generator from the real training samples. Given an unconstrained discriminator able to approximate any function, this game reduces to finding the generative model minimizing a divergence measure, e.g. the Jensen-Shannon (JS) divergence, to the data distribution. However, in practice the discriminator is constrained to be in a smaller class F such as neural nets. Then, a natural question is how the divergence minimization interpretation changes as we constrain F. In this work, we address this question by developing a convex duality framework for analyzing GANs. For a convex set F, this duality framework interprets the original GAN formulation as finding the generative model with minimum JS-divergence to the distributions penalized to match the moments of the data distribution, with the moments specified by the discriminators in F. We show that this interpretation more generally holds for f-GAN and Wasserstein GAN. As a byproduct, we apply the duality framework to a hybrid of f-divergence and Wasserstein distance. Unlike the f-divergence, we prove that the proposed hybrid divergence changes continuously with the generative model, which suggests regularizing the discriminator's Lipschitz constant in f-GAN and vanilla GAN. We numerically evaluate the power of the suggested regularization schemes for improving GAN's training performance.

Previous works on sequential learning address the problem of forgetting in discriminative models. In this paper we consider the case of generative models. In particular, we investigate generative adversarial networks (GANs) in the task of learning new categories in a sequential fashion. We first show that sequential fine tuning renders the network unable to properly generate images from previous categories (i.e. forgetting). Addressing this problem, we propose Memory Replay GANs (MeRGANs), a conditional GAN framework that integrates a memory replay generator. We study two methods to prevent forgetting by leveraging these replays, namely joint training with replay and replay alignment. Qualitative and quantitative experimental results in MNIST, SVHN and LSUN datasets show that our memory replay approach can generate competitive images while significantly mitigating the forgetting of previous categories.

We study the problem of video-to-video synthesis, whose goal is to learn a mapping function from an input source video (e.g., a sequence of semantic segmentation masks) to an output photorealistic video that precisely depicts the content of the source video. While its image counterpart, the image-to-image translation problem, is a popular topic, the video-to-video synthesis problem is less explored in the literature. Without modeling temporal dynamics, directly applying existing image synthesis approaches to an input video often results in temporally incoherent videos of low visual quality. In this paper, we propose a video-to-video synthesis approach under the generative adversarial learning framework. Through carefully-designed generators and discriminators, coupled with a spatio-temporal adversarial objective, we achieve high-resolution, photorealistic, temporally coherent video results on a diverse set of input formats including segmentation masks, sketches, and poses. Experiments on multiple benchmarks show the advantage of our method compared to strong baselines. In particular, our model is capable of synthesizing 2K resolution videos of street scenes up to 30 seconds long, which significantly advances the state-of-the-art of video synthesis. Finally, we apply our method to future video prediction, outperforming several competing systems. Code, models, and more results are available at our website: https://github.com/NVIDIA/vid2vid. (Please use Adobe Reader to see the embedded videos in the paper.)

Few ideas have enjoyed as large an impact on deep learning as convolution. For any problem involving pixels or spatial representations, common intuition holds that convolutional neural networks may be appropriate. In this paper we show a striking counterexample to this intuition via the seemingly trivial coordinate transform problem, which simply requires learning a mapping between coordinates in (x,y) Cartesian space and coordinates in one-hot pixel space. Although convolutional networks would seem appropriate for this task, we show that they fail spectacularly. We demonstrate and carefully analyze the failure first on a toy problem, at which point a simple fix becomes obvious. We call this solution CoordConv, which works by giving convolution access to its own input coordinates through the use of extra coordinate channels. Without sacrificing the computational and parametric efficiency of ordinary convolution, CoordConv allows networks to learn either complete translation invariance or varying degrees of translation dependence, as required by the end task. CoordConv solves the coordinate transform problem with perfect generalization and 150 times faster with 10--100 times fewer parameters than convolution. This stark contrast raises the question: to what extent has this inability of convolution persisted insidiously inside other tasks, subtly hampering performance from within? A complete answer to this question will require further investigation, but we show preliminary evidence that swapping convolution for CoordConv can improve models on a diverse set of tasks. Using CoordConv in a GAN produced less mode collapse as the transform between high-level spatial latents and pixels becomes easier to learn. A Faster R-CNN detection model trained on MNIST detection showed 24% better IOU when using CoordConv, and in the Reinforcement Learning (RL) domain agents playing Atari games benefit significantly from the use of CoordConv layers.

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) remains the method of choice for deep learning, despite the limitations arising for ill-behaved objective functions. In cases where it could be estimated, the natural gradient has proven very effective at mitigating the catastrophic effects of pathological curvature in the objective function, but little is known theoretically about its convergence properties, and it has yet to find a practical implementation that would scale to very deep and large networks. Here, we derive an exact expression for the natural gradient in deep linear networks, which exhibit pathological curvature similar to the nonlinear case. We provide for the first time an analytical solution for its convergence rate, showing that the loss decreases exponentially to the global minimum in parameter space. Our expression for the natural gradient is surprisingly simple, computationally tractable, and explains why some approximations proposed previously work well in practice. This opens new avenues for approximating the natural gradient in the nonlinear case, and we show in preliminary experiments that our online natural gradient descent outperforms SGD on MNIST autoencoding while sharing its computational simplicity.

Knowledge distillation is effective to train the small and generalisable network models for meeting the low-memory and fast running requirements. Existing offline distillation methods rely on a strong pre-trained teacher, which enables favourable knowledge discovery and transfer but requires a complex two-phase training procedure. Online counterparts address this limitation at the price of lacking a high-capacity teacher. In this work, we present an On-the-fly Native Ensemble (ONE) learning strategy for one-stage online distillation. Specifically, ONE only trains a single multi-branch network while simultaneously establishing a strong teacher on-the-fly to enhance the learning of target network. Extensive evaluations show that ONE improves the generalisation performance of a variety of deep neural networks more significantly than alternative methods on four image classification dataset: CIFAR10, CIFAR100, SVHN, and ImageNet, whilst having the computational efficiency advantages.

Quantized Neural Networks (QNNs) are often used to improve network efficiency during the inference phase, i.e. after the network has been trained. Extensive research in the field suggests many different quantization schemes. Still, the number of bits required, as well as the best quantization scheme, are yet unknown. Our theoretical analysis suggests that most of the training process is robust to substantial precision reduction, and points to only a few specific operations that require higher precision. Armed with this knowledge, we quantize the model parameters, activations and layer gradients to 8-bit, leaving at higher precision only the final step in the computation of the weight gradients. Additionally, as QNNs require batch-normalization to be trained at high precision, we introduce Range Batch-Normalization (BN) which has significantly higher tolerance to quantization noise and improved computational complexity. Our simulations show that Range BN is equivalent to the traditional batch norm if a precise scale adjustment, which can be approximated analytically, is applied. To the best of the authors' knowledge, this work is the first to quantize the weights, activations, as well as a substantial volume of the gradients stream, in all layers (including batch normalization) to 8-bit while showing state-of-the-art results over the ImageNet-1K dataset.

The large communication overhead has imposed a bottleneck on the performance of distributed Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) for training deep neural networks. Previous works have demonstrated the potential of using gradient sparsification and quantization to reduce the communication cost. However, there is still a lack of understanding about how sparse and quantized communication affects the convergence rate of the training algorithm. In this paper, we study the convergence rate of distributed SGD for non-convex optimization with two communication reducing strategies: sparse parameter averaging and gradient quantization. We show that $O(1/\sqrt{MK})$ convergence rate can be achieved if the sparsification and quantization hyperparameters are configured properly. We also propose a strategy called periodic quantized averaging (PQASGD) that further reduces the communication cost while preserving the $O(1/\sqrt{MK})$ convergence rate. Our evaluation validates our theoretical results and shows that our PQASGD can converge as fast as full-communication SGD with only $3\%-5\%$ communication data size.

We study the problem of fast and efficient classification of sequential data (such as time-series) on tiny devices, which is critical for various IoT related applications like audio keyword detection or gesture detection. Such tasks are cast as a standard classification task by sliding windows over the data stream to construct data points. Deploying such classification modules on tiny devices is challenging as predictions over sliding windows of data need to be invoked continuously at a high frequency. Each such predictor instance in itself is expensive as it evaluates large models over long windows of data. In this paper, we address this challenge by exploiting the following two observations about classification tasks arising in typical IoT related applications: (a) the "signature" of a particular class (e.g. an audio keyword) typically occupies a small fraction of the overall data, and (b) class signatures tend to be discernible early on in the data. We propose a method, EMI-RNN, that exploits these observations by using a multiple instance learning formulation along with an early prediction technique to learn a model that achieves better accuracy compared to baseline models, while simultaneously reducing computation by a large fraction. For instance, on a gesture detection benchmark [ 25 ], EMI-RNN improves standard LSTM model’s accuracy by up to 1% while requiring 72x less computation. This enables us to deploy such models for continuous real-time prediction on a small device such as Raspberry Pi0 and Arduino variants, a task that the baseline LSTM could not achieve. Finally, we also provide an analysis of our multiple instance learning algorithm in a simple setting and show that the proposed algorithm converges to the global optima at a linear rate, one of the first such result in this domain. The code for EMI-RNN is available at: https://github.com/Microsoft/EdgeML/tree/master/tf/examples/EMI-RNN

Configuring deep Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) is an exciting research avenue for low power spike event based computation. However, the spike generation function is non-differentiable and therefore not directly compatible with the standard error backpropagation algorithm. In this paper, we introduce a new general backpropagation mechanism for learning synaptic weights and axonal delays which overcomes the problem of non-differentiability of the spike function and uses a temporal credit assignment policy for backpropagating error to preceding layers. We describe and release a GPU accelerated software implementation of our method which allows training both fully connected and convolutional neural network (CNN) architectures. Using our software, we compare our method against existing SNN based learning approaches and standard ANN to SNN conversion techniques and show that our method achieves state of the art performance for an SNN on the MNIST, NMNIST, DVS Gesture, and TIDIGITS datasets.

Deep learning has become increasingly popular in both supervised and unsupervised machine learning thanks to its outstanding empirical performance. However, because of their intrinsic complexity, most deep learning methods are largely treated as black box tools with little interpretability. Even though recent attempts have been made to facilitate the interpretability of deep neural networks (DNNs), existing methods are susceptible to noise and lack of robustness. Therefore, scientists are justifiably cautious about the reproducibility of the discoveries, which is often related to the interpretability of the underlying statistical models. In this paper, we describe a method to increase the interpretability and reproducibility of DNNs by incorporating the idea of feature selection with controlled error rate. By designing a new DNN architecture and integrating it with the recently proposed knockoffs framework, we perform feature selection with a controlled error rate, while maintaining high power. This new method, DeepPINK (Deep feature selection using Paired-Input Nonlinear Knockoffs), is applied to both simulated and real data sets to demonstrate its empirical utility.

Optimizing task-related mathematical model is one of the most fundamental methodologies in statistic and learning areas. However, generally designed schematic iterations may hard to investigate complex data distributions in real-world applications. Recently, training deep propagations (i.e., networks) has gained promising performance in some particular tasks. Unfortunately, existing networks are often built in heuristic manners, thus lack of principled interpretations and solid theoretical supports. In this work, we provide a new paradigm, named Propagation and Optimization based Deep Model (PODM), to bridge the gaps between these different mechanisms (i.e., model optimization and deep propagation). On the one hand, we utilize PODM as a deeply trained solver for model optimization. Different from these existing network based iterations, which often lack theoretical investigations, we provide strict convergence analysis for PODM in the challenging nonconvex and nonsmooth scenarios. On the other hand, by relaxing the model constraints and performing end-to-end training, we also develop a PODM based strategy to integrate domain knowledge (formulated as models) and real data distributions (learned by networks), resulting in a generic ensemble framework for challenging real-world applications. Extensive experiments verify our theoretical results and demonstrate the superiority of PODM against these state-of-the-art approaches.

Despite being virtually ubiquitous, sequence-to-sequence models are challenged by their lack of diversity and inability to be externally controlled. In this paper, we speculate that a fundamental shortcoming of sequence generation models is that the decoding is done strictly from left-to-right, meaning that outputs values generated earlier have a profound effect on those generated later. To address this issue, we propose a novel middle-out decoder architecture that begins from an initial middle-word and simultaneously expands the sequence in both directions. To facilitate information flow and maintain consistent decoding, we introduce a dual self-attention mechanism that allows us to model complex dependencies between the outputs. We illustrate the performance of our model on the task of video captioning, as well as a synthetic sequence de-noising task. Our middle-out decoder achieves significant improvements on de-noising and competitive performance in the task of video captioning, while quantifiably improving the caption diversity. Furthermore, we perform a qualitative analysis that demonstrates our ability to effectively control the generation process of our decoder.

We present a neurosymbolic framework for the lifelong learning of algorithmic tasks that mix perception and procedural reasoning. Reusing high-level concepts across domains and learning complex procedures are key challenges in lifelong learning. We show that a program synthesis approach that combines gradient descent with combinatorial search over programs can be a more effective response to these challenges than purely neural methods. Our framework, called HOUDINI, represents neural networks as strongly typed, differentiable functional programs that use symbolic higher-order combinators to compose a library of neural functions. Our learning algorithm consists of: (1) a symbolic program synthesizer that performs a type-directed search over parameterized programs, and decides on the library functions to reuse, and the architectures to combine them, while learning a sequence of tasks; and (2) a neural module that trains these programs using stochastic gradient descent. We evaluate HOUDINI on three benchmarks that combine perception with the algorithmic tasks of counting, summing, and shortest-path computation. Our experiments show that HOUDINI transfers high-level concepts more effectively than traditional transfer learning and progressive neural networks, and that the typed representation of networks signiﬁcantly accelerates the search.

Neural models operating over structured spaces such as knowledge graphs require a continuous embedding of the discrete elements of this space (such as entities) as well as the relationships between them. Relational embeddings with high expressivity, however, have high model complexity, making them computationally difficult to train. We propose a new family of embeddings for knowledge graphs that interpolate between a method with high model complexity and one, namely Holographic embeddings (HolE), with low dimensionality and high training efficiency. This interpolation, termed HolEx, is achieved by concatenating several linearly perturbed copies of original HolE. We formally characterize the number of perturbed copies needed to provably recover the full entity-entity or entity-relation interaction matrix, leveraging ideas from Haar wavelets and compressed sensing. In practice, using just a handful of Haar-based or random perturbation vectors results in a much stronger knowledge completion system. On the Freebase FB15K dataset, HolEx outperforms originally reported HolE by 14.7\% on the HITS@10 metric, and the current path-based state-of-the-art method, PTransE, by 4\% (absolute).

In this paper, we provide a theoretical understanding of word embedding and its dimensionality. Motivated by the unitary-invariance of word embedding, we propose the Pairwise Inner Product (PIP) loss, a novel metric on the dissimilarity between word embeddings. Using techniques from matrix perturbation theory, we reveal a fundamental bias-variance trade-off in dimensionality selection for word embeddings. This bias-variance trade-off sheds light on many empirical observations which were previously unexplained, for example the existence of an optimal dimensionality. Moreover, new insights and discoveries, like when and how word embeddings are robust to over-fitting, are revealed. By optimizing over the bias-variance trade-off of the PIP loss, we can explicitly answer the open question of dimensionality selection for word embedding.

Humans have a remarkable capacity to understand the physical dynamics of objects in their environment, flexibly capturing complex structures and interactions at multiple levels of detail. Inspired by this ability, we propose a hierarchical particle-based object representation that covers a wide variety of types of three-dimensional objects, including both arbitrary rigid geometrical shapes and deformable materials. We then describe the Hierarchical Relation Network (HRN), an end-to-end differentiable neural network based on hierarchical graph convolution, that learns to predict physical dynamics in this representation. Compared to other neural network baselines, the HRN accurately handles complex collisions and nonrigid deformations, generating plausible dynamics predictions at long time scales in novel settings, and scaling to large scene configurations. These results demonstrate an architecture with the potential to form the basis of next-generation physics predictors for use in computer vision, robotics, and quantitative cognitive science.

Estimating how uncertain an AI system is in its predictions is important to improve the safety of such systems. Uncertainty in predictive can result from uncertainty in model parameters, irreducible \emph{data uncertainty} and uncertainty due to distributional mismatch between the test and training data distributions. Different actions might be taken depending on the source of the uncertainty so it is important to be able to distinguish between them. Recently, baseline tasks and metrics have been defined and several practical methods to estimate uncertainty developed. These methods, however, attempt to model uncertainty due to distributional mismatch either implicitly through \emph{model uncertainty} or as \emph{data uncertainty}. This work proposes a new framework for modeling predictive uncertainty called Prior Networks (PNs) which explicitly models \emph{distributional uncertainty}. PNs do this by parameterizing a prior distribution over predictive distributions. This work focuses on uncertainty for classification and evaluates PNs on the tasks of identifying out-of-distribution (OOD) samples and detecting misclassification on the MNIST and CIFAR-10 datasets, where they are found to outperform previous methods. Experiments on synthetic and MNIST and CIFAR-10 data show that unlike previous non-Bayesian methods PNs are able to distinguish between data and distributional uncertainty.

The vulnerability of deep image classification networks to adversarial attack is now well known, but less well understood. Via a novel experimental analysis, we illustrate some facts about deep convolutional networks for image classification that shed new light on their behaviour and how it connects to the problem of adversaries. In short, the celebrated performance of these networks and their vulnerability to adversarial attack are simply two sides of the same coin: the input image-space directions along which the networks are most vulnerable to attack are the same directions which they use to achieve their classification performance in the first place. We develop this result in two main steps. The first uncovers the fact that classes tend to be associated with specific image-space directions. This is shown by an examination of the class-score outputs of nets as functions of 1D movements along these directions. This provides a novel perspective on the existence of universal adversarial perturbations. The second is a clear demonstration of the tight coupling between classification performance and vulnerability to adversarial attack within the spaces spanned by these directions. Thus, our analysis resolves the apparent contradiction between accuracy and vulnerability. It provides a new perspective on much of the prior art and reveals profound implications for efforts to construct neural nets that are both accurate and robust to adversarial attack.

This paper introduces versatile filters to construct efficient convolutional neural network. Considering the demands of efficient deep learning techniques running on cost-effective hardware, a number of methods have been developed to learn compact neural networks. Most of these works aim to slim down filters in different ways, e.g., investigating small, sparse or binarized filters. In contrast, we treat filters from an additive perspective. A series of secondary filters can be derived from a primary filter. These secondary filters all inherit in the primary filter without occupying more storage, but once been unfolded in computation they could significantly enhance the capability of the filter by integrating information extracted from different receptive fields. Besides spatial versatile filters, we additionally investigate versatile filters from the channel perspective. The new techniques are general to upgrade filters in existing CNNs. Experimental results on benchmark datasets and neural networks demonstrate that CNNs constructed with our versatile filters are able to achieve comparable accuracy as that of original filters, but require less memory and FLOPs.

We replace the output layer of deep neural nets, typically the softmax function, by a novel interpolating function. And we propose end-to-end training and testing algorithms for this new architecture. Compared to classical neural nets with softmax function as output activation, the surrogate with interpolating function as output activation combines advantages of both deep and manifold learning. The new framework demonstrates the following major advantages: First, it is better applicable to the case with insufficient training data. Second, it significantly improves the generalization accuracy on a wide variety of networks. The algorithm is implemented in PyTorch, and the code is available at https://github.com/ BaoWangMath/DNN-DataDependentActivation.

We use complex-weighted, deep networks to invert the effects of multimode optical fibre distortion of a coherent input image. We generated experimental data based on collections of optical fibre responses to greyscale input images generated with coherent light, by measuring only image amplitude (not amplitude and phase as is typical) at the output of \SI{1}{\metre} and \SI{10}{\metre} long, \SI{105}{\micro\metre} diameter multimode fibre. This data is made available as the {\it Optical fibre inverse problem} Benchmark collection. The experimental data is used to train complex-weighted models with a range of regularisation approaches. A {\it unitary regularisation} approach for complex-weighted networks is proposed which performs well in robustly inverting the fibre transmission matrix, which fits well with the physical theory. A key benefit of the unitary constraint is that it allows us to learn a forward unitary model and analytically invert it to solve the inverse problem. We demonstrate this approach, and show how it can improve performance by incorporating knowledge of the phase shift induced by the spatial light modulator.

Neural networks are a powerful class of nonlinear functions that can be trained end-to-end on various applications. While the over-parametrization nature in many neural networks renders the ability to fit complex functions and the strong representation power to handle challenging tasks, it also leads to highly correlated neurons that can hurt the generalization ability and incur unnecessary computation cost. As a result, how to regularize the network to avoid undesired representation redundancy becomes an important issue. To this end, we draw inspiration from a well-known problem in physics -- Thomson problem, where one seeks to find a state that distributes N electrons on a unit sphere as evenly as possible with minimum potential energy. In light of this intuition, we reduce the redundancy regularization problem to generic energy minimization, and propose a minimum hyperspherical energy (MHE) objective as generic regularization for neural networks. We also propose a few novel variants of MHE, and provide some insights from a theoretical point of view. Finally, we apply neural networks with MHE regularization to several challenging tasks. Extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of our intuition, by showing the superior performance with MHE regularization.

Attention networks in multimodal learning provide an efficient way to utilize given visual information selectively. However, the computational cost to learn attention distributions for every pair of multimodal input channels is prohibitively expensive. To solve this problem, co-attention builds two separate attention distributions for each modality neglecting the interaction between multimodal inputs. In this paper, we propose bilinear attention networks (BAN) that find bilinear attention distributions to utilize given vision-language information seamlessly. BAN considers bilinear interactions among two groups of input channels, while low-rank bilinear pooling extracts the joint representations for each pair of channels. Furthermore, we propose a variant of multimodal residual networks to exploit eight-attention maps of the BAN efficiently. We quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate our model on visual question answering (VQA 2.0) and Flickr30k Entities datasets, showing that BAN significantly outperforms previous methods and achieves new state-of-the-arts on both datasets.

Data parallelism can boost the training speed of convolutional neural networks (CNN), but could suffer from significant communication costs caused by gradient aggregation. To alleviate this problem, several scalar quantization techniques have been developed to compress the gradients. But these techniques could perform poorly when used together with decentralized aggregation protocols like ring all-reduce (RAR), mainly due to their inability to directly aggregate compressed gradients. In this paper, we empirically demonstrate the strong linear correlations between CNN gradients, and propose a gradient vector quantization technique, named GradiVeQ, to exploit these correlations through principal component analysis (PCA) for substantial gradient dimension reduction. GradiveQ enables direct aggregation of compressed gradients, hence allows us to build a distributed learning system that parallelizes GradiveQ gradient compression and RAR communications. Extensive experiments on popular CNNs demonstrate that applying GradiveQ slashes the wall-clock gradient aggregation time of the original RAR by more than 5x without noticeable accuracy loss, and reduce the end-to-end training time by almost 50%. The results also show that \GradiveQ is compatible with scalar quantization techniques such as QSGD (Quantized SGD), and achieves a much higher speed-up gain under the same compression ratio.

We introduce a novel deep-learning inspired formulation of the \textit{phase retrieval problem}, which asks to recover a signal $y_0 \in \R^n$ from $m$ quadratic observations, under structural assumptions on the underlying signal. As is common in many imaging problems, previous methodologies have considered natural signals as being sparse with respect to a known basis, resulting in the decision to enforce a generic sparsity prior. However, these methods for phase retrieval have encountered possibly fundamental limitations, as no computationally efficient algorithm for sparse phase retrieval has been proven to succeed with fewer than $O(k^2\log n)$ generic measurements, which is larger than the theoretical optimum of $O(k \log n)$. In this paper, we sidestep this issue by considering a prior that a natural signal is in the range of a generative neural network $G : \R^k \rightarrow \R^n$. We introduce an empirical risk formulation that has favorable global geometry for gradient methods, as soon as $m = O(k)$, under the model of a multilayer fully-connected neural network with random weights. Specifically, we show that there exists a descent direction outside of a small neighborhood around the true $k$-dimensional latent code and a negative multiple thereof. This formulation for structured phase retrieval thus benefits from two effects: generative priors can more tightly represent natural signals than sparsity priors, and this empirical risk formulation can exploit those generative priors at an information theoretically optimal sample complexity, unlike for a sparsity prior. We corroborate these results with experiments showing that exploiting generative models in phase retrieval tasks outperforms both sparse and general phase retrieval methods.

In recent years, unfolding iterative algorithms as neural networks has become an empirical success in solving sparse recovery problems. However, its theoretical understanding is still immature, which prevents us from fully utilizing the power of neural networks. In this work, we study unfolded ISTA (Iterative Shrinkage Thresholding Algorithm) for sparse signal recovery. We introduce a weight structure that is necessary for asymptotic convergence to the true sparse signal. With this structure, unfolded ISTA can attain a linear convergence, which is better than the sublinear convergence of ISTA/FISTA in general cases. Furthermore, we propose to incorporate thresholding in the network to perform support selection, which is easy to implement and able to boost the convergence rate both theoretically and empirically. Extensive simulations, including sparse vector recovery and a compressive sensing experiment on real image data, corroborate our theoretical results and demonstrate their practical usefulness. We have made our codes publicly available: https://github.com/xchen-tamu/linear-lista-cpss.

Brains are not unique in their computational abilities. Bacteria, plants, and unicellular organisms exhibit learning and plasticity; nervous systems speed-optimized information-processing that is ubiquitous across the tree of life and was already occurring at multiple scales before neurons evolved. Non-neural computation is especially critical for enabling individual cells to coordinate their activity toward the creation and repair of complex large-scale anatomies. We have found that bioelectric signaling enables all types of cells to form networks that store pattern memories that guide large-scale growth and form. In this talk, I will introduce the basics of developmental bioelectricity, and show how novel conceptual and methodological advances have enabled rewriting pattern memories that guide morphogenesis without genomic editing. In effect, these strategies allow reprogramming the bioelectric software that implements multicellular patterning goal states. I will show examples of applications in regenerative medicine and cognitive neuroplasticity, and illustrate future impacts on synthetic bioengineering, robotics, and machine learning.

Voice cloning is a highly desired feature for personalized speech interfaces. We introduce a neural voice cloning system that learns to synthesize a person's voice from only a few audio samples. We study two approaches: speaker adaptation and speaker encoding. Speaker adaptation is based on fine-tuning a multi-speaker generative model. Speaker encoding is based on training a separate model to directly infer a new speaker embedding, which will be applied to a multi-speaker generative model. In terms of naturalness of the speech and similarity to the original speaker, both approaches can achieve good performance, even with a few cloning audios. While speaker adaptation can achieve slightly better naturalness and similarity, cloning time and required memory for the speaker encoding approach are significantly less, making it more favorable for low-resource deployment.

We propose a metalearning approach for learning gradient-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms. The idea is to evolve a differentiable loss function, such that an agent, which optimizes its policy to minimize this loss, will achieve high rewards. The loss is parametrized via temporal convolutions over the agent's experience. Because this loss is highly flexible in its ability to take into account the agent's history, it enables fast task learning. Empirical results show that our evolved policy gradient algorithm (EPG) achieves faster learning on several randomized environments compared to an off-the-shelf policy gradient method. We also demonstrate that EPG's learned loss can generalize to out-of-distribution test time tasks, and exhibits qualitatively different behavior from other popular metalearning algorithms.

We study the fundamental problems of identity testing (goodness of fit), and closeness testing (two sample test) of distributions over $k$ elements, under differential privacy. While the problems have a long history in statistics, finite sample bounds for these problems have only been established recently. In this work, we derive upper and lower bounds on the sample complexity of both the problems under $(\varepsilon, \delta)$-differential privacy. We provide optimal sample complexity algorithms for identity testing problem for all parameter ranges, and the first results for closeness testing. Our closeness testing bounds are optimal in the sparse regime where the number of samples is at most $k$. Our upper bounds are obtained by privatizing non-private estimators for these problems. The non-private estimators are chosen to have small sensitivity. We propose a general framework to establish lower bounds on the sample complexity of statistical tasks under differential privacy. We show a bound on differentially private algorithms in terms of a coupling between the two hypothesis classes we aim to test. By constructing carefully chosen priors over the hypothesis classes, and using Le Cam's two point theorem we provide a general mechanism for proving lower bounds. We believe that the framework can be used to obtain strong lower bounds for other statistical tasks under privacy.

Goal-oriented dialog has been given attention due to its numerous applications in artificial intelligence. Goal-oriented dialogue tasks occur when a questioner asks an action-oriented question and an answerer responds with the intent of letting the questioner know a correct action to take. To ask the adequate question, deep learning and reinforcement learning have been recently applied. However, these approaches struggle to find a competent recurrent neural questioner, owing to the complexity of learning a series of sentences. Motivated by theory of mind, we propose "Answerer in Questioner's Mind" (AQM), a novel information theoretic algorithm for goal-oriented dialog. With AQM, a questioner asks and infers based on an approximated probabilistic model of the answerer. The questioner figures out the answerer’s intention via selecting a plausible question by explicitly calculating the information gain of the candidate intentions and possible answers to each question. We test our framework on two goal-oriented visual dialog tasks: "MNIST Counting Dialog" and "GuessWhat?!". In our experiments, AQM outperforms comparative algorithms by a large margin.

The focus in machine learning has branched beyond training classifiers on a single task to investigating how previously acquired knowledge in a source domain can be leveraged to facilitate learning in a related target domain, known as inductive transfer learning. Three active lines of research have independently explored transfer learning using neural networks. In weight transfer, a model trained on the source domain is used as an initialization point for a network to be trained on the target domain. In deep metric learning, the source domain is used to construct an embedding that captures class structure in both the source and target domains. In few-shot learning, the focus is on generalizing well in the target domain based on a limited number of labeled examples. We compare state-of-the-art methods from these three paradigms and also explore hybrid adapted-embedding methods that use limited target-domain data to fine tune embeddings constructed from source-domain data. We conduct a systematic comparison of methods in a variety of domains, varying the number of labeled instances available in the target domain (k), as well as the number of target-domain classes. We reach three principal conclusions: (1) Deep embeddings are far superior, compared to weight transfer, as a starting point for inter-domain transfer or model re-use (2) Our hybrid methods robustly outperform every few-shot learning and every deep metric learning method previously proposed, with a mean error reduction of 34% over state-of-the-art. (3) Among loss functions for discovering embeddings, the histogram loss (Ustinova & Lempitsky, 2016) is most robust. We hope our results will motivate a unification of research in weight transfer, deep metric learning, and few-shot learning.

There are now several large scale deployments of differential privacy used to collect statistical information about users. However, these deployments periodically recollect the data and recompute the statistics using algorithms designed for a single use. As a result, these systems do not provide meaningful privacy guarantees over long time scales. Moreover, existing techniques to mitigate this effect do not apply in the ``local model'' of differential privacy that these systems use. In this paper, we introduce a new technique for local differential privacy that makes it possible to maintain up-to-date statistics over time, with privacy guarantees that degrade only in the number of changes in the underlying distribution rather than the number of collection periods. We use our technique for tracking a changing statistic in the setting where users are partitioned into an unknown collection of groups, and at every time period each user draws a single bit from a common (but changing) group-specific distribution. We also provide an application to frequency and heavy-hitter estimation.

We marry two powerful ideas: deep representation learning for visual recognition and language understanding, and symbolic program execution for reasoning. Our neural-symbolic visual question answering (NS-VQA) system first recovers a structural scene representation from the image and a program trace from the question. It then executes the program on the scene representation to obtain an answer. Incorporating symbolic structure as prior knowledge offers three unique advantages. First, executing programs on a symbolic space is more robust to long program traces; our model can solve complex reasoning tasks better, achieving an accuracy of 99.8% on the CLEVR dataset. Second, the model is more data- and memory-efficient: it performs well after learning on a small number of training data; it can also encode an image into a compact representation, requiring less storage than existing methods for offline question answering. Third, symbolic program execution offers full transparency to the reasoning process; we are thus able to interpret and diagnose each execution step.

Due to the inherent model uncertainty, learning to infer Bayesian posterior from a few-shot dataset is an important step towards robust meta-learning. In this paper, we propose a novel Bayesian model-agnostic meta-learning method. The proposed method combines efficient gradient-based meta-learning with nonparametric variational inference in a principled probabilistic framework. Unlike previous methods, during fast adaptation, the method is capable of learning complex uncertainty structure beyond a simple Gaussian approximation, and during meta-update, a novel Bayesian mechanism prevents meta-level overfitting. Remaining a gradient-based method, it is also the first Bayesian model-agnostic meta-learning method applicable to various tasks including reinforcement learning. Experiment results show the accuracy and robustness of the proposed method in sinusoidal regression, image classification, active learning, and reinforcement learning.

We design new differentially private algorithms for the Euclidean k-means problem, both in the centralized model and in the local model of differential privacy. In both models, our algorithms achieve significantly improved error guarantees than the previous state-of-the-art. In addition, in the local model, our algorithm significantly reduces the number of interaction rounds. Although the problem has been widely studied in the context of differential privacy, all of the existing constructions achieve only super constant approximation factors. We present, for the first time, efficient private algorithms for the problem with constant multiplicative error. Furthermore, we show how to modify our algorithms so they compute private coresets for k-means clustering in both models.

We introduce a learning-based framework to optimize tensor programs for deep learning workloads. Efficient implementations of tensor operators, such as matrix multiplication and high dimensional convolution are key enablers of effective deep learning systems. However, existing systems rely on manually optimized libraries such as cuDNN where only a narrow range of server class GPUs are well-supported. The reliance on hardware specific operator libraries limits the applicability of high-level graph optimizations and incurs significant engineering costs when deploying to new hardware targets. We use learning to remove this engineering burden. We learn domain specific statistical cost models to guide the search of tensor operator implementations over billions of possible program variants. We further accelerate the search by effective model transfer across workloads. Experimental results show that our framework delivers performance competitive with state-of-the-art hand-tuned libraries for low-power CPU, mobile GPU, and server-class GPU.

In this paper we address the text to scene image generation problem. Generative models that capture the variability in complicated scenes containing rich semantics is a grand goal of image generation. Complicated scene images contain rich visual elements, compositional visual concepts, and complicated relations between objects. Generative models, as an analysis-by-synthesis process, should encompass the following three core components: 1) the generation process that composes the scene; 2) what are the primitive visual elements and how are they composed; 3) the rendering of abstract concepts into their pixel-level realizations. We propose PNP-Net, a variational auto-encoder framework that addresses these three challenges: it flexibly composes images with a dynamic network structure, learns a set of distribution transformers that can compose distributions based on semantics, and decodes samples from these distributions into realistic images.

Given the apparent difficulty of learning models that are robust to adversarial perturbations, we propose tackling the simpler problem of developing adversarially robust features. Specifically, given a dataset and metric of interest, the goal is to return a function (or multiple functions) that 1) is robust to adversarial perturbations, and 2) has significant variation across the datapoints. We establish strong connections between adversarially robust features and a natural spectral property of the geometry of the dataset and metric of interest. This connection can be leveraged to provide both robust features, and a lower bound on the robustness of any function that has significant variance across the dataset. Finally, we provide empirical evidence that the adversarially robust features given by this spectral approach can be fruitfully leveraged to learn a robust (and accurate) model.

An explosion of high-throughput DNA sequencing in the past decade has led to a surge of interest in population-scale inference with whole-genome data. Recent work in population genetics has centered on designing inference methods for relatively simple model classes, and few scalable general-purpose inference techniques exist for more realistic, complex models. To achieve this, two inferential challenges need to be addressed: (1) population data are exchangeable, calling for methods that efficiently exploit the symmetries of the data, and (2) computing likelihoods is intractable as it requires integrating over a set of correlated, extremely high-dimensional latent variables. These challenges are traditionally tackled by likelihood-free methods that use scientific simulators to generate datasets and reduce them to hand-designed, permutation-invariant summary statistics, often leading to inaccurate inference. In this work, we develop an exchangeable neural network that performs summary statistic-free, likelihood-free inference. Our framework can be applied in a black-box fashion across a variety of simulation-based tasks, both within and outside biology. We demonstrate the power of our approach on the recombination hotspot testing problem, outperforming the state-of-the-art.

In high dimensional settings, density estimation algorithms rely crucially on their inductive bias. Despite recent empirical success, the inductive bias of deep generative models is not well understood. In this paper we propose a framework to systematically investigate bias and generalization in deep generative models of images by probing the learning algorithm with carefully designed training datasets. By measuring properties of the learned distribution, we are able to find interesting patterns of generalization. We verify that these patterns are consistent across datasets, common models and architectures.

Prior work has investigated variations of prediction markets that preserve participants' (differential) privacy, which formed the basis of useful mechanisms for purchasing data for machine learning objectives. Such markets required potentially unlimited financial subsidy, however, making them impractical. In this work, we design an adaptively-growing prediction market with a bounded financial subsidy, while achieving privacy, incentives to produce accurate predictions, and precision in the sense that market prices are not heavily impacted by the added privacy-preserving noise. We briefly discuss how our mechanism can extend to the data-purchasing setting, and its relationship to traditional learning algorithms.

Probability estimation is one of the fundamental tasks in statistics and machine learning. However, standard methods for probability estimation on discrete objects do not handle object structure in a satisfactory manner. In this paper, we derive a general Bayesian network formulation for probability estimation on leaf-labeled trees that enables flexible approximations which can generalize beyond observations. We show that efficient algorithms for learning Bayesian networks can be easily extended to probability estimation on this challenging structured space. Experiments on both synthetic and real data show that our methods greatly outperform the current practice of using the empirical distribution, as well as a previous effort for probability estimation on trees.

We study the problem of learning conditional generators from noisy labeled samples, where the labels are corrupted by random noise. A standard training of conditional GANs will not only produce samples with wrong labels, but also generate poor quality samples. We consider two scenarios, depending on whether the noise model is known or not. When the distribution of the noise is known, we introduce a novel architecture which we call Robust Conditional GAN (RCGAN). The main idea is to corrupt the label of the generated sample before feeding to the adversarial discriminator, forcing the generator to produce samples with clean labels. This approach of passing through a matching noisy channel is justified by accompanying multiplicative approximation bounds between the loss of the RCGAN and the distance between the clean real distribution and the generator distribution. This shows that the proposed approach is robust, when used with a carefully chosen discriminator architecture, known as projection discriminator. When the distribution of the noise is not known, we provide an extension of our architecture, which we call RCGAN-U, that learns the noise model simultaneously while training the generator. We show experimentally on MNIST and CIFAR-10 datasets that both the approaches consistently improve upon baseline approaches, and RCGAN-U closely matches the performance of RCGAN.

Distributed stochastic gradient descent is an important subroutine in distributed learning. A setting of particular interest is when the clients are mobile devices, where two important concerns are communication efficiency and the privacy of the clients. Several recent works have focused on reducing the communication cost or introducing privacy guarantees, but none of the proposed communication efficient methods are known to be privacy preserving and none of the known privacy mechanisms are known to be communication efficient. To this end, we study algorithms that achieve both communication efficiency and differential privacy. For $d$ variables and $n \approx d$ clients, the proposed method uses $\cO(\log \log(nd))$ bits of communication per client per coordinate and ensures constant privacy. We also improve previous analysis of the \emph{Binomial mechanism} showing that it achieves nearly the same utility as the Gaussian mechanism, while requiring fewer representation bits, which can be of independent interest.

We propose a new type of generative model for high-dimensional data that learns a manifold geometry of the data, rather than density, and can generate points evenly along this manifold. This is in contrast to existing generative models that represent data density, and are strongly affected by noise and other artifacts of data collection. We demonstrate how this approach corrects sampling biases and artifacts, thus improves several downstream data analysis tasks, such as clustering and classification. Finally, we demonstrate that this approach is especially useful in biology where, despite the advent of single-cell technologies, rare subpopulations and gene-interaction relationships are affected by biased sampling. We show that SUGAR can generate hypothetical populations, and it is able to reveal intrinsic patterns and mutual-information relationships between genes on a single-cell RNA sequencing dataset of hematopoiesis.

This paper addresses the mode collapse for generative adversarial networks (GANs). We view modes as a geometric structure of data distribution in a metric space. Under this geometric lens, we embed subsamples of the dataset from an arbitrary metric space into the L2 space, while preserving their pairwise distance distribution. Not only does this metric embedding determine the dimensionality of the latent space automatically, it also enables us to construct a mixture of Gaussians to draw latent space random vectors. We use the Gaussian mixture model in tandem with a simple augmentation of the objective function to train GANs. Every major step of our method is supported by theoretical analysis, and our experiments on real and synthetic data confirm that the generator is able to produce samples spreading over most of the modes while avoiding unwanted samples, outperforming several recent GAN variants on a number of metrics and offering new features.

Machine learning models are often susceptible to adversarial perturbations of their inputs. Even small perturbations can cause state-of-the-art classifiers with high "standard" accuracy to produce an incorrect prediction with high confidence. To better understand this phenomenon, we study adversarially robust learning from the viewpoint of generalization. We show that already in a simple natural data model, the sample complexity of robust learning can be significantly larger than that of "standard" learning. This gap is information theoretic and holds irrespective of the training algorithm or the model family. We complement our theoretical results with experiments on popular image classification datasets and show that a similar gap exists here as well. We postulate that the difficulty of training robust classifiers stems, at least partially, from this inherently larger sample complexity.

A fundamental goal of systems neuroscience is to understand how neural activity gives rise to natural behavior. In order to achieve this goal, we must first build comprehensive models that offer quantitative descriptions of behavior. We develop a new class of probabilistic models to tackle this challenge in the study of larval zebrafish, an important model organism for neuroscience. Larval zebrafish locomote via sequences of punctate swim bouts--brief flicks of the tail--which are naturally modeled as a marked point process. However, these sequences of swim bouts belie a set of discrete and continuous internal states, latent variables that are not captured by standard point process models. We incorporate these variables as latent marks of a point process and explore various models for their dynamics. To infer the latent variables and fit the parameters of this model, we develop an amortized variational inference algorithm that targets the collapsed posterior distribution, analytically marginalizing out the discrete latent variables. With a dataset of over 120,000 swim bouts, we show that our models reveal interpretable discrete classes of swim bouts and continuous internal states like hunger that modulate their dynamics. These models are a major step toward understanding the natural behavioral program of the larval zebrafish and, ultimately, its neural underpinnings.

The loss functions of deep neural networks are complex and their geometric properties are not well understood. We show that the optima of these complex loss functions are in fact connected by simple curves, over which training and test accuracy are nearly constant. We introduce a training procedure to discover these high-accuracy pathways between modes. Inspired by this new geometric insight, we also propose a new ensembling method entitled Fast Geometric Ensembling (FGE). Using FGE we can train high-performing ensembles in the time required to train a single model. We achieve improved performance compared to the recent state-of-the-art Snapshot Ensembles, on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and ImageNet.

Adversarial sample attacks perturb benign inputs to induce DNN misbehaviors. Recent research has demonstrated the widespread presence and the devastating consequences of such attacks. Existing defense techniques either assume prior knowledge of specific attacks or may not work well on complex models due to their underlying assumptions. We argue that adversarial sample attacks are deeply entangled with interpretability of DNN models: while classification results on benign inputs can be reasoned based on the human perceptible features/attributes, results on adversarial samples can hardly be explained. Therefore, we propose a novel adversarial sample detection technique for face recognition models, based on interpretability. It features a novel bi-directional correspondence inference between attributes and internal neurons to identify neurons critical for individual attributes. The activation values of critical neurons are enhanced to amplify the reasoning part of the computation and the values of other neurons are weakened to suppress the uninterpretable part. The classification results after such transformation are compared with those of the original model to detect adversaries. Results show that our technique can achieve 94% detection accuracy for 7 different kinds of attacks with 9.91% false positives on benign inputs. In contrast, a state-of-the-art feature squeezing technique can only achieve 55% accuracy with 23.3% false positives.

Sensory processing is often characterized as implementing probabilistic inference: networks of neurons compute posterior beliefs over unobserved causes given the sensory inputs. How these beliefs are computed and represented by neural responses is much-debated (Fiser et al. 2010, Pouget et al. 2013). A central debate concerns the question of whether neural responses represent samples of latent variables (Hoyer & Hyvarinnen 2003) or parameters of their distributions (Ma et al. 2006) with efforts being made to distinguish between them (Grabska-Barwinska et al. 2013). A separate debate addresses the question of whether neural responses are proportionally related to the encoded probabilities (Barlow 1969), or proportional to the logarithm of those probabilities (Jazayeri & Movshon 2006, Ma et al. 2006, Beck et al. 2012). Here, we show that these alternatives -- contrary to common assumptions -- are not mutually exclusive and that the very same system can be compatible with all of them. As a central analytical result, we show that modeling neural responses in area V1 as samples from a posterior distribution over latents in a linear Gaussian model of the image implies that those neural responses form a linear Probabilistic Population Code (PPC, Ma et al. 2006). In particular, the posterior distribution over some experimenter-defined variable like "orientation" is part of the exponential family with sufficient statistics that are linear in the neural sampling-based firing rates.

Learning long-term dependencies in extended temporal sequences requires credit assignment to events far back in the past. The most common method for training recurrent neural networks, back-propagation through time (BPTT), requires credit information to be propagated backwards through every single step of the forward computation, potentially over thousands or millions of time steps. This becomes computationally expensive or even infeasible when used with long sequences. Importantly, biological brains are unlikely to perform such detailed reverse replay over very long sequences of internal states (consider days, months, or years.) However, humans are often reminded of past memories or mental states which are associated with the current mental state. We consider the hypothesis that such memory associations between past and present could be used for credit assignment through arbitrarily long sequences, propagating the credit assigned to the current state to the associated past state. Based on this principle, we study a novel algorithm which only back-propagates through a few of these temporal skip connections, realized by a learned attention mechanism that associates current states with relevant past states. We demonstrate in experiments that our method matches or outperforms regular BPTT and truncated BPTT in tasks involving particularly long-term dependencies, but without requiring the biologically implausible backward replay through the whole history of states. Additionally, we demonstrate that the proposed method transfers to longer sequences significantly better than LSTMs trained with BPTT and LSTMs trained with full self-attention.

Training a neural network using backpropagation algorithm requires passing error gradients sequentially through the network. The backward locking prevents us from updating network layers in parallel and fully leveraging the computing resources. Recently, there are several works trying to decouple and parallelize the backpropagation algorithm. However, all of them suffer from severe accuracy loss or memory explosion when the neural network is deep. To address these challenging issues, we propose a novel parallel-objective formulation for the objective function of the neural network. After that, we introduce features replay algorithm and prove that it is guaranteed to converge to critical points for the non-convex problem under certain conditions. Finally, we apply our method to training deep convolutional neural networks, and the experimental results show that the proposed method achieves {faster} convergence, {lower} memory consumption, and {better} generalization error than compared methods.

Although the recent progress is substantial, deep learning methods can be vulnerable to the maliciously generated adversarial examples. In this paper, we present a novel training procedure and a thresholding test strategy, towards robust detection of adversarial examples. In training, we propose to minimize the reverse cross-entropy (RCE), which encourages a deep network to learn latent representations that better distinguish adversarial examples from normal ones. In testing, we propose to use a thresholding strategy as the detector to filter out adversarial examples for reliable predictions. Our method is simple to implement using standard algorithms, with little extra training cost compared to the common cross-entropy minimization. We apply our method to defend various attacking methods on the widely used MNIST and CIFAR-10 datasets, and achieve significant improvements on robust predictions under all the threat models in the adversarial setting.

Social goods, such as healthcare, smart city, and information networks, often produce ordered event data in continuous time. The generative processes of these event data can be very complex, requiring flexible models to capture their dynamics. Temporal point processes offer an elegant framework for modeling event data without discretizing the time. However, the existing maximum-likelihood-estimation (MLE) learning paradigm requires hand-crafting the intensity function beforehand and cannot directly monitor the goodness-of-fit of the estimated model in the process of training. To alleviate the risk of model-misspecification in MLE, we propose to generate samples from the generative model and monitor the quality of the samples in the process of training until the samples and the real data are indistinguishable. We take inspiration from reinforcement learning (RL) and treat the generation of each event as the action taken by a stochastic policy. We parameterize the policy as a flexible recurrent neural network and gradually improve the policy to mimic the observed event distribution. Since the reward function is unknown in this setting, we uncover an analytic and nonparametric form of the reward function using an inverse reinforcement learning formulation. This new RL framework allows us to derive an efficient policy gradient algorithm for learning flexible point process models, and we show that it performs well in both synthetic and real data.

Training a neural network with the gradient descent algorithm gives rise to a discrete-time nonlinear dynamical system. Consequently, behaviors that are typically observed in these systems emerge during training, such as convergence to an orbit but not to a fixed point or dependence of convergence on the initialization. Step size of the algorithm plays a critical role in these behaviors: it determines the subset of the local optima that the algorithm can converge to, and it specifies the magnitude of the oscillations if the algorithm converges to an orbit. To elucidate the effects of the step size on training of neural networks, we study the gradient descent algorithm as a discrete-time dynamical system, and by analyzing the Lyapunov stability of different solutions, we show the relationship between the step size of the algorithm and the solutions that can be obtained with this algorithm. The results provide an explanation for several phenomena observed in practice, including the deterioration in the training error with increased depth, the hardness of estimating linear mappings with large singular values, and the distinct performance of deep residual networks.

Bayesian Optimisation (BO) refers to a class of methods for global optimisation of a function f which is only accessible via point evaluations. It is typically used in settings where f is expensive to evaluate. A common use case for BO in machine learning is model selection, where it is not possible to analytically model the generalisation performance of a statistical model, and we resort to noisy and expensive training and validation procedures to choose the best model. Conventional BO methods have focused on Euclidean and categorical domains, which, in the context of model selection, only permits tuning scalar hyper-parameters of machine learning algorithms. However, with the surge of interest in deep learning, there is an increasing demand to tune neural network architectures. In this work, we develop NASBOT, a Gaussian process based BO framework for neural architecture search. To accomplish this, we develop a distance metric in the space of neural network architectures which can be computed efficiently via an optimal transport program. This distance might be of independent interest to the deep learning community as it may find applications outside of BO. We demonstrate that NASBOT outperforms other alternatives for architecture search in several cross validation based model selection tasks on multi-layer perceptrons and convolutional neural networks.

Classical anomaly detection is principally concerned with point-based anomalies, those anomalies that occur at a single point in time. Yet, many real-world anomalies are range-based, meaning they occur over a period of time. Motivated by this observation, we present a new mathematical model to evaluate the accuracy of time series classification algorithms. Our model expands the well-known Precision and Recall metrics to measure ranges, while simultaneously enabling customization support for domain-specific preferences.

At initialization, artificial neural networks (ANNs) are equivalent to Gaussian processes in the infinite-width limit, thus connecting them to kernel methods. We prove that the evolution of an ANN during training can also be described by a kernel: during gradient descent on the parameters of an ANN, the network function (which maps input vectors to output vectors) follows the so-called kernel gradient associated with a new object, which we call the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK). This kernel is central to describe the generalization features of ANNs. While the NTK is random at initialization and varies during training, in the infinite-width limit it converges to an explicit limiting kernel and stays constant during training. This makes it possible to study the training of ANNs in function space instead of parameter space. Convergence of the training can then be related to the positive-definiteness of the limiting NTK. We then focus on the setting of least-squares regression and show that in the infinite-width limit, the network function follows a linear differential equation during training. The convergence is fastest along the largest kernel principal components of the input data with respect to the NTK, hence suggesting a theoretical motivation for early stopping. Finally we study the NTK numerically, observe its behavior for wide networks, and compare it to the infinite-width limit.

Algorithms for clustering points in metric spaces is a long-studied area of research. Clustering has seen a multitude of work both theoretically, in understanding the approximation guarantees possible for many objective functions such as k-median and k-means clustering, and experimentally, in finding the fastest algorithms and seeding procedures for Lloyd's algorithm. The performance of a given clustering algorithm depends on the specific application at hand, and this may not be known up front. For example, a "typical instance" may vary depending on the application, and different clustering heuristics perform differently depending on the instance. In this paper, we define an infinite family of algorithms generalizing Lloyd's algorithm, with one parameter controlling the the initialization procedure, and another parameter controlling the local search procedure. This family of algorithms includes the celebrated k-means++ algorithm, as well as the classic farthest-first traversal algorithm. We design efficient learning algorithms which receive samples from an application-specific distribution over clustering instances and learn a near-optimal clustering algorithm from the class. We show the best parameters vary significantly across datasets such as MNIST, CIFAR, and mixtures of Gaussians. Our learned algorithms never perform worse than k-means++, and on some datasets we see significant improvements.

Spectral estimation (SE) aims to identify how the energy of a signal (e.g., a time series) is distributed across different frequencies. This can become particularly challenging when only partial and noisy observations of the signal are available, where current methods fail to handle uncertainty appropriately. In this context, we propose a joint probabilistic model for signals, observations and spectra, where SE is addressed as an inference problem. Assuming a Gaussian process prior over the signal, we apply Bayes' rule to find the analytic posterior distribution of the spectrum given a set of observations. Besides its expressiveness and natural account of spectral uncertainty, the proposed model also provides a functional-form representation of the power spectral density, which can be optimised efficiently. Comparison with previous approaches is addressed theoretically, showing that the proposed method is an infinite-dimensional variant of the Lomb-Scargle approach, and also empirically through three experiments.

Recently, graph neural networks (GNNs) have revolutionized the field of graph representation learning through effectively learned node embeddings, and achieved state-of-the-art results in tasks such as node classification and link prediction. However, current GNN methods are inherently flat and do not learn hierarchical representations of graphs---a limitation that is especially problematic for the task of graph classification, where the goal is to predict the label associated with an entire graph. Here we propose DiffPool, a differentiable graph pooling module that can generate hierarchical representations of graphs and can be combined with various graph neural network architectures in an end-to-end fashion. DiffPool learns a differentiable soft cluster assignment for nodes at each layer of a deep GNN, mapping nodes to a set of clusters, which then form the coarsened input for the next GNN layer. Our experimental results show that combining existing GNN methods with DiffPool yields an average improvement of 5-10% accuracy on graph classification benchmarks, compared to all existing pooling approaches, achieving a new state-of-the-art on four out of five benchmark datasets.

We introduce a framework to transfer knowledge acquired from a repository of (heterogeneous) supervised datasets to new unsupervised datasets. Our perspective avoids the subjectivity inherent in unsupervised learning by reducing it to supervised learning, and provides a principled way to evaluate unsupervised algorithms. We demonstrate the versatility of our framework via rigorous agnostic bounds on a variety of unsupervised problems. In the context of clustering, our approach helps choose the number of clusters and the clustering algorithm, remove the outliers, and provably circumvent Kleinberg's impossibility result. Experiments across hundreds of problems demonstrate improvements in performance on unsupervised data with simple algorithms despite the fact our problems come from heterogeneous domains. Additionally, our framework lets us leverage deep networks to learn common features across many small datasets, and perform zero shot learning.

At initialization, artificial neural networks (ANNs) are equivalent to Gaussian processes in the infinite-width limit, thus connecting them to kernel methods. We prove that the evolution of an ANN during training can also be described by a kernel: during gradient descent on the parameters of an ANN, the network function (which maps input vectors to output vectors) follows the so-called kernel gradient associated with a new object, which we call the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK). This kernel is central to describe the generalization features of ANNs. While the NTK is random at initialization and varies during training, in the infinite-width limit it converges to an explicit limiting kernel and stays constant during training. This makes it possible to study the training of ANNs in function space instead of parameter space. Convergence of the training can then be related to the positive-definiteness of the limiting NTK. We then focus on the setting of least-squares regression and show that in the infinite-width limit, the network function follows a linear differential equation during training. The convergence is fastest along the largest kernel principal components of the input data with respect to the NTK, hence suggesting a theoretical motivation for early stopping. Finally we study the NTK numerically, observe its behavior for wide networks, and compare it to the infinite-width limit.

Batch Normalization (BatchNorm) is a widely adopted technique that enables faster and more stable training of deep neural networks (DNNs). Despite its pervasiveness, the exact reasons for BatchNorm's effectiveness are still poorly understood. The popular belief is that this effectiveness stems from controlling the change of the layers' input distributions during training to reduce the so-called "internal covariate shift". In this work, we demonstrate that such distributional stability of layer inputs has little to do with the success of BatchNorm. Instead, we uncover a more fundamental impact of BatchNorm on the training process: it makes the optimization landscape significantly smoother. This smoothness induces a more predictive and stable behavior of the gradients, allowing for faster training.

Recent milestones in equilibrium computation, such as the success of Libratus, show that it is possible to compute strong solutions to two-player zero-sum games in theory and practice. This is not the case for games with more than two players, which remain one of the main open challenges in computational game theory. This paper focuses on zero-sum games where a team of players faces an opponent, as is the case, for example, in Bridge, collusion in poker, and many non-recreational applications such as war, where the colluders do not have time or means of communicating during battle, collusion in bidding, where communication during the auction is illegal, and coordinated swindling in public. The possibility for the team members to communicate before game play—that is, coordinate their strategies ex ante—makes the use of behavioral strategies unsatisfactory. The reasons for this are closely related to the fact that the team can be represented as a single player with imperfect recall. We propose a new game representation, the realization form, that generalizes the sequence form but can also be applied to imperfect-recall games. Then, we use it to derive an auxiliary game that is equivalent to the original one. It provides a sound way to map the problem of finding an optimal ex-ante-correlated strategy for the team to the well-understood Nash equilibrium-finding problem in a (larger) two-player zero-sum perfect-recall game. By reasoning over the auxiliary game, we devise an anytime algorithm, fictitious team-play, that is guaranteed to converge to an optimal coordinated strategy for the team against an optimal opponent, and that is dramatically faster than the prior state-of-the-art algorithm for this problem.

In this paper, we propose a novel regularization method for Generative Adversarial Networks that allows the model to learn discriminative yet compact binary representations of image patches (image descriptors). We exploit the dimensionality reduction that takes place in the intermediate layers of the discriminator network and train the binarized penultimate layer's low-dimensional representation to mimic the distribution of the higher-dimensional preceding layers. To achieve this, we introduce two loss terms that aim at: (i) reducing the correlation between the dimensions of the binarized penultimate layer's low-dimensional representation (i.e. maximizing joint entropy) and (ii) propagating the relations between the dimensions in the high-dimensional space to the low-dimensional space. We evaluate the resulting binary image descriptors on two challenging applications, image matching and retrieval, where they achieve state-of-the-art results.

We address the problem of learning accurate 3D shape and camera pose from a collection of unlabeled category-specific images. We train a convolutional network to predict both the shape and the pose from a single image by minimizing the reprojection error: given several views of an object, the projections of the predicted shapes to the predicted camera poses should match the provided views. To deal with pose ambiguity, we introduce an ensemble of pose predictors which we then distill to a single "student" model. To allow for efficient learning of high-fidelity shapes, we represent the shapes by point clouds and devise a formulation allowing for differentiable projection of these. Our experiments show that the distilled ensemble of pose predictors learns to estimate the pose accurately, while the point cloud representation allows to predict detailed shape models.

Semantic scene completion predicts volumetric occupancy and object category of a 3D scene, which helps intelligent agents to understand and interact with the surroundings. In this work, we propose a disentangled framework, sequentially carrying out 2D semantic segmentation, 2D-3D reprojection and 3D semantic scene completion. This three-stage framework has three advantages: (1) explicit semantic segmentation significantly boosts performance; (2) flexible fusion ways of sensor data bring good extensibility; (3) progress in any subtask will promote the holistic performance. Experimental results show that regardless of inputing a single depth or RGB-D, our framework can generate high-quality semantic scene completion, and outperforms state-of-the-art approaches on both synthetic and real datasets.

Image matting is an ill-posed problem. It requires a user input trimap or some strokes to obtain an alpha matte of the foreground object. A fine user input is essential to obtain a good result, which is either time consuming or suitable for experienced users who know where to place the strokes. In this paper, we explore the intrinsic relationship between the user input and the matting algorithm to address the problem of where and when the user should provide the input. Our aim is to discover the most informative sequence of regions for user input in order to produce a good alpha matte with minimum labeling efforts. To this end, we propose an active matting method with recurrent reinforcement learning. The proposed framework involves human in the loop by sequentially detecting informative regions for trivial human judgement. Comparing to traditional matting algorithms, the proposed framework requires much less efforts, and can produce satisfactory results with just 10 regions. Through extensive experiments, we show that the proposed model reduces user efforts significantly and achieves comparable performance to dense trimaps in a user-friendly manner. We further show that the learned informative knowledge can be generalized across different matting algorithms.

Holistic 3D indoor scene understanding refers to jointly recovering the i) object bounding boxes, ii) room layout, and iii) camera pose, all in 3D. The existing methods either are ineffective or only tackle the problem partially. In this paper, we propose an end-to-end model that simultaneously solves all three tasks in real-time given only a single RGB image. The essence of the proposed method is to improve the prediction by i) parametrizing the targets (e.g., 3D boxes) instead of directly estimating the targets, and ii) cooperative training across different modules in contrast to training these modules individually. Specifically, we parametrize the 3D object bounding boxes by the predictions from several modules, i.e., 3D camera pose and object attributes. The proposed method provides two major advantages: i) The parametrization helps maintain the consistency between the 2D image and the 3D world, thus largely reducing the prediction variances in 3D coordinates. ii) Constraints can be imposed on the parametrization to train different modules simultaneously. We call these constraints "cooperative losses" as they enable the joint training and inference. We employ three cooperative losses for 3D bounding boxes, 2D projections, and physical constraints to estimate a geometrically consistent and physically plausible 3D scene. Experiments on the SUN RGB-D dataset shows that the proposed method significantly outperforms prior approaches on 3D layout estimation, 3D object detection, 3D camera pose estimation, and holistic scene understanding.

Reasoning plays an essential role in Visual Question Answering (VQA). Multi-step and dynamic reasoning is often necessary for answering complex questions. For example, a question "What is placed next to the bus on the right of the picture?" talks about a compound object "bus on the right," which is generated by the relation <bus, on the right of, picture>. Furthermore, a new relation including this compound object <sign, next to, bus on the right> is then required to infer the answer. However, previous methods support either one-step or static reasoning, without updating relations or generating compound objects. This paper proposes a novel reasoning model for addressing these problems. A chain of reasoning (CoR) is constructed for supporting multi-step and dynamic reasoning on changed relations and objects. In detail, iteratively, the relational reasoning operations form new relations between objects, and the object refining operations generate new compound objects from relations. We achieve new state-of-the-art results on four publicly available datasets. The visualization of the chain of reasoning illustrates the progress that the CoR generates new compound objects that lead to the answer of the question step by step.

Accurately answering a question about a given image requires combining observations with general knowledge. While this is effortless for humans, reasoning with general knowledge remains an algorithmic challenge. To advance research in this direction a novel `fact-based' visual question answering (FVQA) task has been introduced recently along with a large set of curated facts which link two entities, i.e., two possible answers, via a relation. Given a question-image pair, deep network techniques have been employed to successively reduce the large set of facts until one of the two entities of the final remaining fact is predicted as the answer. We observe that a successive process which considers one fact at a time to form a local decision is sub-optimal. Instead, we develop an entity graph and use a graph convolutional network to `reason' about the correct answer by jointly considering all entities. We show on the challenging FVQA dataset that this leads to an improvement in accuracy of around 7% compared to the state-of-the-art.

Voice cloning is a highly desired feature for personalized speech interfaces. We introduce a neural voice cloning system that learns to synthesize a person's voice from only a few audio samples. We study two approaches: speaker adaptation and speaker encoding. Speaker adaptation is based on fine-tuning a multi-speaker generative model. Speaker encoding is based on training a separate model to directly infer a new speaker embedding, which will be applied to a multi-speaker generative model. In terms of naturalness of the speech and similarity to the original speaker, both approaches can achieve good performance, even with a few cloning audios. While speaker adaptation can achieve slightly better naturalness and similarity, cloning time and required memory for the speaker encoding approach are significantly less, making it more favorable for low-resource deployment.

In this paper, we introduce an unsupervised learning approach to automatically dis- cover, summarize, and manipulate artistic styles from large collections of paintings. Our method is based on archetypal analysis, which is an unsupervised learning technique akin to sparse coding with a geometric interpretation. When applied to deep image representations from a data collection, it learns a dictionary of archetypal styles, which can be easily visualized. After training the model, the style of a new image, which is characterized by local statistics of deep visual features, is approximated by a sparse convex combination of archetypes. This allows us to interpret which archetypal styles are present in the input image, and in which proportion. Finally, our approach allows us to manipulate the coefficients of the latent archetypal decomposition, and achieve various special effects such as style enhancement, transfer, and interpolation between multiple archetypes.

Navigation guided by natural language instructions presents a challenging reasoning problem for instruction followers. Natural language instructions typically identify only a few high-level decisions and landmarks rather than complete low-level motor behaviors; much of the missing information must be inferred based on perceptual context. In machine learning settings, this is doubly challenging: it is difficult to collect enough annotated data to enable learning of this reasoning process from scratch, and also difficult to implement the reasoning process using generic sequence models. Here we describe an approach to vision-and-language navigation that addresses both these issues with an embedded speaker model. We use this speaker model to (1) synthesize new instructions for data augmentation and to (2) implement pragmatic reasoning, which evaluates how well candidate action sequences explain an instruction. Both steps are supported by a panoramic action space that reflects the granularity of human-generated instructions. Experiments show that all three components of this approach---speaker-driven data augmentation, pragmatic reasoning and panoramic action space---dramatically improve the performance of a baseline instruction follower, more than doubling the success rate over the best existing approach on a standard benchmark.

Deep learning models exhibit state-of-the-art performance for many predictive healthcare tasks using electronic health records (EHR) data, but these models typically require training data volume that exceeds the capacity of most healthcare systems. External resources such as medical ontologies are used to bridge the data volume constraint, but this approach is often not directly applicable or useful because of inconsistencies with terminology. To solve the data insufficiency challenge, we leverage the inherent multilevel structure of EHR data and, in particular, the encoded relationships among medical codes. We propose Multilevel Medical Embedding (MiME) which learns the multilevel embedding of EHR data while jointly performing auxiliary prediction tasks that rely on this inherent EHR structure without the need for external labels. We conducted two prediction tasks, heart failure prediction and sequential disease prediction, where MiME outperformed baseline methods in diverse evaluation settings. In particular, MiME consistently outperformed all baselines when predicting heart failure on datasets of different volumes, especially demonstrating the greatest performance improvement (15% relative gain in PR-AUC over the best baseline) on the smallest dataset, demonstrating its ability to effectively model the multilevel structure of EHR data.

When observing task demonstrations, human apprentices are able to identify whether a given task is executed correctly long before they gain expertise in actually performing that task. Prior research into learning from demonstrations (LfD) has failed to capture this notion of the acceptability of an execution; meanwhile, temporal logics provide a flexible language for expressing task specifications. Inspired by this, we present Bayesian specification inference, a probabilistic model for inferring task specification as a temporal logic formula. We incorporate methods from probabilistic programming to define our priors, along with a domain-independent likelihood function to enable sampling-based inference. We demonstrate the efficacy of our model for inferring true specifications with over 90% similarity between the inferred specification and the ground truth, both within a synthetic domain and a real-world table setting task.

The state-of-the-art hardware platforms for training deep neural networks are moving from traditional single precision (32-bit) computations towards 16 bits of precision - in large part due to the high energy efficiency and smaller bit storage associated with using reduced-precision representations. However, unlike inference, training with numbers represented with less than 16 bits has been challenging due to the need to maintain fidelity of the gradient computations during back-propagation. Here we demonstrate, for the first time, the successful training of deep neural networks using 8-bit floating point numbers while fully maintaining the accuracy on a spectrum of deep learning models and datasets. In addition to reducing the data and computation precision to 8 bits, we also successfully reduce the arithmetic precision for additions (used in partial product accumulation and weight updates) from 32 bits to 16 bits through the introduction of a number of key ideas including chunk-based accumulation and floating point stochastic rounding. The use of these novel techniques lays the foundation for a new generation of hardware training platforms with the potential for 2-4 times improved throughput over today's systems.

Time series classification using deep neural networks, such as convolutional neural networks (CNN), operate on the spectral decomposition of the time series computed using a preprocessing step. This step can include a large number of hyperparameters, such as window length, filter widths, and filter shapes, each with a range of possible values that must be chosen using time and data intensive cross-validation procedures. We propose the wavelet deconvolution (WD) layer as an efficient alternative to this preprocessing step that eliminates a significant number of hyperparameters. The WD layer uses wavelet functions with adjustable scale parameters to learn the spectral decomposition directly from the signal. Using backpropagation, we show the scale parameters can be optimized with gradient descent. Furthermore, the WD layer adds interpretability to the learned time series classifier by exploiting the properties of the wavelet transform. In our experiments, we show that the WD layer can automatically extract the frequency content used to generate a dataset. The WD layer combined with a CNN applied to the phone recognition task on the TIMIT database achieves a phone error rate of 18.1\%, a relative improvement of 4\% over the baseline CNN. Experiments on a dataset where engineered features are not available showed WD+CNN is the best performing method. Our results show that the WD layer can improve neural network based time series classifiers both in accuracy and interpretability by learning directly from the input signal.

Measuring similarities between unlabeled time series trajectories is an important problem in many domains such as medicine, economics, and vision. It is often unclear what is the appropriate metric to use because of the complex nature of noise in the trajectories (e.g. different sampling rates or outliers). Experts typically hand-craft or manually select a specific metric, such as Dynamic Time Warping (DTW), to apply on their data. In this paper, we propose an end-to-end framework, autowarp, that optimizes and learns a good metric given unlabeled trajectories. We define a flexible and differentiable family of warping metrics, which encompasses common metrics such as DTW, Edit Distance, Euclidean, etc. Autowarp then leverages the representation power of sequence autoencoders to optimize for a member of this warping family. The output is an metric which is easy to interpret and can be robustly learned from relatively few trajectories. In systematic experiments across different domains, we show that autowarp often outperforms hand-crafted trajectory similarity metrics.

Classical anomaly detection is principally concerned with point-based anomalies, those anomalies that occur at a single point in time. Yet, many real-world anomalies are range-based, meaning they occur over a period of time. Motivated by this observation, we present a new mathematical model to evaluate the accuracy of time series classification algorithms. Our model expands the well-known Precision and Recall metrics to measure ranges, while simultaneously enabling customization support for domain-specific preferences.

We propose a deep generative Markov State Model (DeepGenMSM) learning framework for inference of metastable dynamical systems and prediction of trajectories. After unsupervised training on time series data, the model contains (i) a probabilistic encoder that maps from high-dimensional configuration space to a small-sized vector indicating the membership to metastable (long-lived) states, (ii) a Markov chain that governs the transitions between metastable states and facilitates analysis of the long-time dynamics, and (iii) a generative part that samples the conditional distribution of configurations in the next time step. The model can be operated in a recursive fashion to generate trajectories to predict the system evolution from a defined starting state and propose new configurations. The DeepGenMSM is demonstrated to provide accurate estimates of the long-time kinetics and generate valid distributions for molecular dynamics (MD) benchmark systems. Remarkably, we show that DeepGenMSMs are able to make long time-steps in molecular configuration space and generate physically realistic structures in regions that were not seen in training data.

We present the very first robust Bayesian Online Changepoint Detection algorithm through General Bayesian Inference (GBI) with $\beta$-divergences. The resulting inference procedure is doubly robust for both the predictive and the changepoint (CP) posterior, with linear time and constant space complexity. We provide a construction for exponential models and demonstrate it on the Bayesian Linear Regression model. In so doing, we make two additional contributions: Firstly, we make GBI scalable using Structural Variational approximations that are exact as $\beta \to 0$. Secondly, we give a principled way of choosing the divergence parameter $\beta$ by minimizing expected predictive loss on-line. Reducing False Discovery Rates of \CPs from up to 99\% to 0\% on real world data, this offers the state of the art.

We propose a new type of generative model for high-dimensional data that learns a manifold geometry of the data, rather than density, and can generate points evenly along this manifold. This is in contrast to existing generative models that represent data density, and are strongly affected by noise and other artifacts of data collection. We demonstrate how this approach corrects sampling biases and artifacts, thus improves several downstream data analysis tasks, such as clustering and classification. Finally, we demonstrate that this approach is especially useful in biology where, despite the advent of single-cell technologies, rare subpopulations and gene-interaction relationships are affected by biased sampling. We show that SUGAR can generate hypothetical populations, and it is able to reveal intrinsic patterns and mutual-information relationships between genes on a single-cell RNA sequencing dataset of hematopoiesis.

In this paper we propose a novel method that provides contrastive explanations justifying the classification of an input by a black box classifier such as a deep neural network. Given an input we find what should be minimally and sufficiently present (viz. important object pixels in an image) to justify its classification and analogously what should be minimally and necessarily \emph{absent} (viz. certain background pixels). We argue that such explanations are natural for humans and are used commonly in domains such as health care and criminology. What is minimally but critically \emph{absent} is an important part of an explanation, which to the best of our knowledge, has not been explicitly identified by current explanation methods that explain predictions of neural networks. We validate our approach on three real datasets obtained from diverse domains; namely, a handwritten digits dataset MNIST, a large procurement fraud dataset and a brain activity strength dataset. In all three cases, we witness the power of our approach in generating precise explanations that are also easy for human experts to understand and evaluate.

We investigate whether the standard dimensionality reduction technique of PCA inadvertently produces data representations with different fidelity for two different populations. We show on several real-world data sets, PCA has higher reconstruction error on population A than on B (for example, women versus men or lower- versus higher-educated individuals). This can happen even when the data set has a similar number of samples from A and B. This motivates our study of dimensionality reduction techniques which maintain similar fidelity for A and B. We define the notion of Fair PCA and give a polynomial-time algorithm for finding a low dimensional representation of the data which is nearly-optimal with respect to this measure. Finally, we show on real-world data sets that our algorithm can be used to efficiently generate a fair low dimensional representation of the data.

We study the fundamental problems of identity testing (goodness of fit), and closeness testing (two sample test) of distributions over $k$ elements, under differential privacy. While the problems have a long history in statistics, finite sample bounds for these problems have only been established recently. In this work, we derive upper and lower bounds on the sample complexity of both the problems under $(\varepsilon, \delta)$-differential privacy. We provide optimal sample complexity algorithms for identity testing problem for all parameter ranges, and the first results for closeness testing. Our closeness testing bounds are optimal in the sparse regime where the number of samples is at most $k$. Our upper bounds are obtained by privatizing non-private estimators for these problems. The non-private estimators are chosen to have small sensitivity. We propose a general framework to establish lower bounds on the sample complexity of statistical tasks under differential privacy. We show a bound on differentially private algorithms in terms of a coupling between the two hypothesis classes we aim to test. By constructing carefully chosen priors over the hypothesis classes, and using Le Cam's two point theorem we provide a general mechanism for proving lower bounds. We believe that the framework can be used to obtain strong lower bounds for other statistical tasks under privacy.

Distributed learning allows a group of independent data owners to collaboratively learn a model over their data sets without exposing their private data. We present a distributed learning approach that combines differential privacy with secure multi-party computation. We explore two popular methods of differential privacy, output perturbation and gradient perturbation, and advance the state-of-the-art for both methods in the distributed learning setting. In our output perturbation method, the parties combine local models within a secure computation and then add the required differential privacy noise before revealing the model. In our gradient perturbation method, the data owners collaboratively train a global model via an iterative learning algorithm. At each iteration, the parties aggregate their local gradients within a secure computation, adding sufficient noise to ensure privacy before the gradient updates are revealed. For both methods, we show that the noise can be reduced in the multi-party setting by adding the noise inside the secure computation after aggregation, asymptotically improving upon the best previous results. Experiments on real world data sets demonstrate that our methods provide substantial utility gains for typical privacy requirements.

Given the apparent difficulty of learning models that are robust to adversarial perturbations, we propose tackling the simpler problem of developing adversarially robust features. Specifically, given a dataset and metric of interest, the goal is to return a function (or multiple functions) that 1) is robust to adversarial perturbations, and 2) has significant variation across the datapoints. We establish strong connections between adversarially robust features and a natural spectral property of the geometry of the dataset and metric of interest. This connection can be leveraged to provide both robust features, and a lower bound on the robustness of any function that has significant variance across the dataset. Finally, we provide empirical evidence that the adversarially robust features given by this spectral approach can be fruitfully leveraged to learn a robust (and accurate) model.

Neural networks are increasingly deployed in real-world safety-critical domains such as autonomous driving, aircraft collision avoidance, and malware detection. However, these networks have been shown to often mispredict on inputs with minor adversarial or even accidental perturbations. Consequences of such errors can be disastrous and even potentially fatal as shown by the recent Tesla autopilot crash. Thus, there is an urgent need for formal analysis systems that can rigorously check neural networks for violations of different safety properties such as robustness against adversarial perturbations within a certain L-norm of a given image. An effective safety analysis system for a neural network must be able to either ensure that a safety property is satisfied by the network or find a counterexample, i.e., an input for which the network will violate the property. Unfortunately, most existing techniques for performing such analysis struggle to scale beyond very small networks and the ones that can scale to larger networks suffer from high false positives and cannot produce concrete counterexamples in case of a property violation. In this paper, we present a new efficient approach for rigorously checking different safety properties of neural networks that significantly outperforms existing approaches by multiple orders of magnitude. Our approach can check different safety properties and find concrete counterexamples for networks that are 10x larger than the ones supported by existing analysis techniques. We believe that our approach to estimating tight output bounds of a network for a given input range can also help improve the explainability of neural networks and guide the training process of more robust neural networks.

The loss functions of deep neural networks are complex and their geometric properties are not well understood. We show that the optima of these complex loss functions are in fact connected by simple curves, over which training and test accuracy are nearly constant. We introduce a training procedure to discover these high-accuracy pathways between modes. Inspired by this new geometric insight, we also propose a new ensembling method entitled Fast Geometric Ensembling (FGE). Using FGE we can train high-performing ensembles in the time required to train a single model. We achieve improved performance compared to the recent state-of-the-art Snapshot Ensembles, on CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and ImageNet.

We have seen significant achievements with deep reinforcement learning in recent years. Yet reproducing results for state-of-the-art deep RL methods is seldom straightforward. High variance of some methods can make learning particularly difficult when environments or rewards are strongly stochastic. Furthermore, results can be brittle to even minor perturbations in the domain or experimental procedure. In this talk, I will review challenges that arise in experimental techniques and reporting procedures in deep RL. I will also describe several recent results and guidelines designed to make future results more reproducible, reusable and robust.

Bandit learning is characterized by the tension between long-term exploration and short-term exploitation. However, as has recently been noted, in settings in which the choices of the learning algorithm correspond to important decisions about individual people (such as criminal recidivism prediction, lending, and sequential drug trials), exploration corresponds to explicitly sacrificing the well-being of one individual for the potential future benefit of others. In such settings, one might like to run a ``greedy'' algorithm, which always makes the optimal decision for the individuals at hand --- but doing this can result in a catastrophic failure to learn. In this paper, we consider the linear contextual bandit problem and revisit the performance of the greedy algorithm. We give a smoothed analysis, showing that even when contexts may be chosen by an adversary, small perturbations of the adversary's choices suffice for the algorithm to achieve ``no regret'', perhaps (depending on the specifics of the setting) with a constant amount of initial training data. This suggests that in slightly perturbed environments, exploration and exploitation need not be in conflict in the linear setting.

We present MubyNet -- a feed-forward, multitask, bottom up system for the integrated localization, as well as 3d pose and shape estimation, of multiple people in monocular images. The challenge is the formal modeling of the problem that intrinsically requires discrete and continuous computation, e.g. grouping people vs. predicting 3d pose. The model identifies human body structures (joints and limbs) in images, groups them based on 2d and 3d information fused using learned scoring functions, and optimally aggregates such responses into partial or complete 3d human skeleton hypotheses under kinematic tree constraints, but without knowing in advance the number of people in the scene and their visibility relations. We design a multi-task deep neural network with differentiable stages where the person grouping problem is formulated as an integer program based on learned body part scores parameterized by both 2d and 3d information. This avoids suboptimality resulting from separate 2d and 3d reasoning, with grouping performed based on the combined representation. The final stage of 3d pose and shape prediction is based on a learned attention process where information from different human body parts is optimally integrated. State-of-the-art results are obtained in large scale datasets like Human3.6M and Panoptic, and qualitatively by reconstructing the 3d shape and pose of multiple people, under occlusion, in difficult monocular images.

Similarity learning is an active research area in machine learning that tackles the problem of finding a similarity function tailored to an observable data sample in order to achieve efficient classification. This learning scenario has been generally formalized by the means of a $(\epsilon, \gamma, \tau)-$good similarity learning framework in the context of supervised classification and has been shown to have strong theoretical guarantees. In this paper, we propose to extend the theoretical analysis of similarity learning to the domain adaptation setting, a particular situation occurring when the similarity is learned and then deployed on samples following different probability distributions. We give a new definition of an $(\epsilon, \gamma)-$good similarity for domain adaptation and prove several results quantifying the performance of a similarity function on a target domain after it has been trained on a source domain. We particularly show that if the source distribution dominates the target one, then principally new domain adaptation learning bounds can be proved.

In linear stochastic bandits, it is commonly assumed that payoffs are with sub-Gaussian noises. In this paper, under a weaker assumption on noises, we study the problem of \underline{lin}ear stochastic {\underline b}andits with h{\underline e}avy-{\underline t}ailed payoffs (LinBET), where the distributions have finite moments of order $1+\epsilon$, for some $\epsilon\in (0,1]$. We rigorously analyze the regret lower bound of LinBET as $\Omega(T^{\frac{1}{1+\epsilon}})$, implying that finite moments of order 2 (i.e., finite variances) yield the bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{T})$, with $T$ being the total number of rounds to play bandits. The provided lower bound also indicates that the state-of-the-art algorithms for LinBET are far from optimal. By adopting median of means with a well-designed allocation of decisions and truncation based on historical information, we develop two novel bandit algorithms, where the regret upper bounds match the lower bound up to polylogarithmic factors. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to solve LinBET optimally in the sense of the polynomial order on $T$. Our proposed algorithms are evaluated based on synthetic datasets, and outperform the state-of-the-art results.

Learning to classify new categories based on just one or a few examples is a long-standing challenge in modern computer vision. In this work, we propose a simple yet effective method for few-shot (and one-shot) object recognition. Our approach is based on a modified auto-encoder, denoted delta-encoder, that learns to synthesize new samples for an unseen category just by seeing few examples from it. The synthesized samples are then used to train a classifier. The proposed approach learns to both extract transferable intra-class deformations, or "deltas", between same-class pairs of training examples, and to apply those deltas to the few provided examples of a novel class (unseen during training) in order to efficiently synthesize samples from that new class. The proposed method improves the state-of-the-art of one-shot object-recognition and performs comparably in the few-shot case.

Suppose an n x d design matrix in a linear regression problem is given, but the response for each point is hidden unless explicitly requested. The goal is to sample only a small number k << n of the responses, and then produce a weight vector whose sum of squares loss over *all* points is at most 1+epsilon times the minimum. When k is very small (e.g., k=d), jointly sampling diverse subsets of points is crucial. One such method called "volume sampling" has a unique and desirable property that the weight vector it produces is an unbiased estimate of the optimum. It is therefore natural to ask if this method offers the optimal unbiased estimate in terms of the number of responses k needed to achieve a 1+epsilon loss approximation. Surprisingly we show that volume sampling can have poor behavior when we require a very accurate approximation -- indeed worse than some i.i.d. sampling techniques whose estimates are biased, such as leverage score sampling. We then develop a new rescaled variant of volume sampling that produces an unbiased estimate which avoids this bad behavior and has at least as good a tail bound as leverage score sampling: sample size k=O(d log d + d/epsilon) suffices to guarantee total loss at most 1+epsilon times the minimum with high probability. Thus, we improve on the best previously known sample size for an unbiased estimator, k=O(d^2/epsilon). Our rescaling procedure leads to a new efficient algorithm for volume sampling which is based on a "determinantal rejection sampling" technique with potentially broader applications to determinantal point processes. Other contributions include introducing the combinatorics needed for rescaled volume sampling and developing tail bounds for sums of dependent random matrices which arise in the process.

We present a differentiable physics engine that can be integrated as a module in deep neural networks for end-to-end learning. As a result, structured physics knowledge can be embedded into larger systems, allowing them, for example, to match observations by performing precise simulations, while achieves high sample efficiency. Specifically, in this paper we demonstrate how to perform backpropagation analytically through a physical simulator defined via a linear complementarity problem. Unlike traditional finite difference methods, such gradients can be computed analytically, which allows for greater flexibility of the engine. Through experiments in diverse domains, we highlight the system's ability to learn physical parameters from data, efficiently match and simulate observed visual behavior, and readily enable control via gradient-based planning methods. Code for the engine and experiments is included with the paper.

This paper addresses the problem of manipulating images using natural language description. Our task aims to semantically modify visual attributes of an object in an image according to the text describing the new visual appearance. Although existing methods synthesize images having new attributes, they do not fully preserve text-irrelevant contents of the original image. In this paper, we propose the text-adaptive generative adversarial network (TAGAN) to generate semantically manipulated images while preserving text-irrelevant contents. The key to our method is the text-adaptive discriminator that creates word level local discriminators according to input text to classify fine-grained attributes independently. With this discriminator, the generator learns to generate images where only regions that correspond to the given text is modified. Experimental results show that our method outperforms existing methods on CUB and Oxford-102 datasets, and our results were mostly preferred on a user study. Extensive analysis shows that our method is able to effectively disentangle visual attributes and produce pleasing outputs.

The ability to transfer in reinforcement learning is key towards building an agent of general artificial intelligence. In this paper, we consider the problem of learning to simultaneously transfer across both environments and tasks, probably more importantly, by learning from only sparse (environment, task) pairs out of all the possible combinations. We propose a novel compositional neural network architecture which depicts a meta rule for composing policies from environment and task embeddings. Notably, one of the main challenges is to learn the embeddings jointly with the meta rule. We further propose new training methods to disentangle the embeddings, making them both distinctive signatures of the environments and tasks and effective building blocks for composing the policies. Experiments on GridWorld and THOR, of which the agent takes as input an egocentric view, show that our approach gives rise to high success rates on all the (environment, task) pairs after learning from only 40% of them.

While designing the state space of an MDP, it is common to include states that are transient or not reachable by any policy (e.g., in mountain car, the product space of speed and position contains configurations that are not physically reachable). This results in weakly-communicating or multi-chain MDPs. In this paper, we introduce TUCRL, the first algorithm able to perform efficient exploration-exploitation in any finite Markov Decision Process (MDP) without requiring any form of prior knowledge. In particular, for any MDP with $S^c$ communicating states, $A$ actions and $\Gamma^c \leq S^c$ possible communicating next states, we derive a $O(D^c \sqrt{\Gamma^c S^c A T})$ regret bound, where $D^c$ is the diameter (i.e., the length of the longest shortest path between any two states) of the communicating part of the MDP. This is in contrast with optimistic algorithms (e.g., UCRL, Optimistic PSRL) that suffer linear regret in weakly-communicating MDPs, as well as posterior sampling or regularised algorithms (e.g., REGAL), which require prior knowledge on the bias span of the optimal policy to bias the exploration to achieve sub-linear regret. We also prove that in weakly-communicating MDPs, no algorithm can ever achieve a logarithmic growth of the regret without first suffering a linear regret for a number of steps that is exponential in the parameters of the MDP. Finally, we report numerical simulations supporting our theoretical findings and showing how TUCRL overcomes the limitations of the state-of-the-art.

We address the problem of finding reliable dense correspondences between a pair of images. This is a challenging task due to strong appearance differences between the corresponding scene elements and ambiguities generated by repetitive patterns. The contributions of this work are threefold. First, inspired by the classic idea of disambiguating feature matches using semi-local constraints, we develop an end-to-end trainable convolutional neural network architecture that identifies sets of spatially consistent matches by analyzing neighbourhood consensus patterns in the 4D space of all possible correspondences between a pair of images without the need for a global geometric model. Second, we demonstrate that the model can be trained effectively from weak supervision in the form of matching and non-matching image pairs without the need for costly manual annotation of point to point correspondences. Third, we show the proposed neighbourhood consensus network can be applied to a range of matching tasks including both category- and instance-level matching, obtaining the state-of-the-art results on the PF Pascal dataset and the InLoc indoor visual localization benchmark.

Let $\PP=\{ p_1, p_2, \ldots p_n \}$ and $\QQ = \{ q_1, q_2 \ldots q_m \}$ be two point sets in an arbitrary metric space. Let $\AA$ represent the $m\times n$ pairwise distance matrix with $\AA_{i,j} = d(p_i, q_j)$. Such distance matrices are commonly computed in software packages and have applications to learning image manifolds, handwriting recognition, and multi-dimensional unfolding, among other things. In an attempt to reduce their description size, we study low rank approximation of such matrices. Our main result is to show that for any underlying distance metric $d$, it is possible to achieve an additive error low rank approximation in sublinear time. We note that it is provably impossible to achieve such a guarantee in sublinear time for arbitrary matrices $\AA$, and our proof exploits special properties of distance matrices. We develop a recursive algorithm based on additive projection-cost preserving sampling. We then show that in general, relative error approximation in sublinear time is impossible for distance matrices, even if one allows for bicriteria solutions. Additionally, we show that if $\PP = \QQ$ and $d$ is the squared Euclidean distance, which is not a metric but rather the square of a metric, then a relative error bicriteria solution can be found in sublinear time. Finally, we empirically compare our algorithm with the SVD and input sparsity time algorithms. Our algorithm is several hundred times faster than the SVD, and about $8$-$20$ times faster than input sparsity methods on real-world and and synthetic datasets of size $10^8$. Accuracy-wise, our algorithm is only slightly worse than that of the SVD (optimal) and input-sparsity time algorithms.

We consider the problem of minimizing a smooth convex function by reducing the optimization to computing the Nash equilibrium of a particular zero-sum convex-concave game. Zero-sum games can be solved using online learning dynamics, where a classical technique involves simulating two no-regret algorithms that play against each other and, after $T$ rounds, the average iterate is guaranteed to solve the original optimization problem with error decaying as $O(\log T/T)$. In this paper we show that the technique can be enhanced to a rate of $O(1/T^2)$ by extending recent work \cite{RS13,SALS15} that leverages \textit{optimistic learning} to speed up equilibrium computation. The resulting optimization algorithm derived from this analysis coincides \textit{exactly} with the well-known \NA \cite{N83a} method, and indeed the same story allows us to recover several variants of the Nesterov's algorithm via small tweaks. We are also able to establish the accelerated linear rate for a function which is both strongly-convex and smooth. This methodology unifies a number of different iterative optimization methods: we show that the \HB algorithm is precisely the non-optimistic variant of \NA, and recent prior work already established a similar perspective on \FW \cite{AW17,ALLW18}.

We present recurrent transformer networks (RTNs) for obtaining dense correspondences between semantically similar images. Our networks accomplish this through an iterative process of estimating spatial transformations between the input images and using these transformations to generate aligned convolutional activations. By directly estimating the transformations between an image pair, rather than employing spatial transformer networks to independently normalize each individual image, we show that greater accuracy can be achieved. This process is conducted in a recursive manner to refine both the transformation estimates and the feature representations. In addition, a technique is presented for weakly-supervised training of RTNs that is based on a proposed classification loss. With RTNs, state-of-the-art performance is attained on several benchmarks for semantic correspondence.

As opposed to standard empirical risk minimization (ERM), distributionally robust optimization aims to minimize the worst-case risk over a larger ambiguity set containing the original empirical distribution of the training data. In this work, we describe a minimax framework for statistical learning with ambiguity sets given by balls in Wasserstein space. In particular, we prove generalization bounds that involve the covering number properties of the original ERM problem. As an illustrative example, we provide generalization guarantees for transport-based domain adaptation problems where the Wasserstein distance between the source and target domain distributions can be reliably estimated from unlabeled samples.

We study the computational tractability of PAC reinforcement learning with rich observations. We present new provably sample-efficient algorithms for environments with deterministic hidden state dynamics and stochastic rich observations. These methods operate in an oracle model of computation -- accessing policy and value function classes exclusively through standard optimization primitives -- and therefore represent computationally efficient alternatives to prior algorithms that require enumeration. With stochastic hidden state dynamics, we prove that the only known sample-efficient algorithm, OLIVE, cannot be implemented in the oracle model. We also present several examples that illustrate fundamental challenges of tractable PAC reinforcement learning in such general settings.

We present Sequential Attend, Infer, Repeat (SQAIR), an interpretable deep generative model for image sequences. It can reliably discover and track objects through the sequence; it can also conditionally generate future frames, thereby simulating expected motion of objects. This is achieved by explicitly encoding object numbers, locations and appearances in the latent variables of the model. SQAIR retains all strengths of its predecessor, Attend, Infer, Repeat (AIR, Eslami et. al. 2016), including unsupervised learning, made possible by inductive biases present in the model structure. We use a moving multi-\textsc{mnist} dataset to show limitations of AIR in detecting overlapping or partially occluded objects, and show how \textsc{sqair} overcomes them by leveraging temporal consistency of objects. Finally, we also apply SQAIR to real-world pedestrian CCTV data, where it learns to reliably detect, track and generate walking pedestrians with no supervision.

Uniform stability of a learning algorithm is a classical notion of algorithmic stability introduced to derive high-probability bounds on the generalization error (Bousquet and Elisseeff, 2002). Specifically, for a loss function with range bounded in $[0,1]$, the generalization error of $\gamma$-uniformly stable learning algorithm on $n$ samples is known to be at most $O((\gamma +1/n) \sqrt{n \log(1/\delta)})$ with probability at least $1-\delta$. Unfortunately, this bound does not lead to meaningful generalization bounds in many common settings where $\gamma \geq 1/\sqrt{n}$. At the same time the bound is known to be tight only when $\gamma = O(1/n)$. Here we prove substantially stronger generalization bounds for uniformly stable algorithms without any additional assumptions. First, we show that the generalization error in this setting is at most $O(\sqrt{(\gamma + 1/n) \log(1/\delta)})$ with probability at least $1-\delta$. In addition, we prove a tight bound of $O(\gamma^2 + 1/n)$ on the second moment of the generalization error. The best previous bound on the second moment of the generalization error is $O(\gamma + 1/n)$. Our proofs are based on new analysis techniques and our results imply substantially stronger generalization guarantees for several well-studied algorithms.

We consider the setting of prediction with expert advice; a learner makes predictions by aggregating those of a group of experts. Under this setting, and for the right choice of loss function and ``mixing'' algorithm, it is possible for the learner to achieve a constant regret regardless of the number of prediction rounds. For example, a constant regret can be achieved for \emph{mixable} losses using the \emph{aggregating algorithm}. The \emph{Generalized Aggregating Algorithm} (GAA) is a name for a family of algorithms parameterized by convex functions on simplices (entropies), which reduce to the aggregating algorithm when using the \emph{Shannon entropy} $\operatorname{S}$. For a given entropy $\Phi$, losses for which a constant regret is possible using the \textsc{GAA} are called $\Phi$-mixable. Which losses are $\Phi$-mixable was previously left as an open question. We fully characterize $\Phi$-mixability and answer other open questions posed by \cite{Reid2015}. We show that the Shannon entropy $\operatorname{S}$ is fundamental in nature when it comes to mixability; any $\Phi$-mixable loss is necessarily $\operatorname{S}$-mixable, and the lowest worst-case regret of the \textsc{GAA} is achieved using the Shannon entropy. Finally, by leveraging the connection between the \emph{mirror descent algorithm} and the update step of the GAA, we suggest a new \emph{adaptive} generalized aggregating algorithm and analyze its performance in terms of the regret bound.

Saliency methods have emerged as a popular tool to highlight features in an input deemed relevant for the prediction of a learned model. Several saliency methods have been proposed, often guided by visual appeal on image data. In this work, we propose an actionable methodology to evaluate what kinds of explanations a given method can and cannot provide. We find that reliance, solely, on visual assessment can be misleading. Through extensive experiments we show that some existing saliency methods are independent both of the model and of the data generating process. Consequently, methods that fail the proposed tests are inadequate for tasks that are sensitive to either data or model, such as, finding outliers in the data, explaining the relationship between inputs and outputs that the model learned, and debugging the model. We interpret our findings through an analogy with edge detection in images, a technique that requires neither training data nor model. Theory in the case of a linear model and a single-layer convolutional neural network supports our experimental findings.

Given samples from a probability distribution, anomaly detection is the problem of determining if a given point lies in a low-density region. This paper concerns calibrated anomaly detection, which is the practically relevant extension where we additionally wish to produce a confidence score for a point being anomalous. Building on a classification framework for anomaly detection, we show how minimisation of a suitably modified proper loss produces density estimates only for anomalous instances. We then show how to incorporate quantile control by relating our objective to a generalised version of the pinball loss. Finally, we show how to efficiently optimise the objective with kernelised scorer, by leveraging a recent result from the point process literature. The resulting objective captures a close relative of the one-class SVM as a special case.

We study the decades-old problem of online portfolio management and propose the first algorithm with logarithmic regret that is not based on Cover's Universal Portfolio algorithm and admits much faster implementation. Specifically Universal Portfolio enjoys optimal regret $\mathcal{O}(N\ln T)$ for $N$ financial instruments over $T$ rounds, but requires log-concave sampling and has a large polynomial running time. Our algorithm, on the other hand, ensures a slightly larger but still logarithmic regret of $\mathcal{O}(N^2(\ln T)^4)$, and is based on the well-studied Online Mirror Descent framework with a novel regularizer that can be implemented via standard optimization methods in time $\mathcal{O}(TN^{2.5})$ per round. The regret of all other existing works is either polynomial in $T$ or has a potentially unbounded factor such as the inverse of the smallest price relative.

Many real-world vision problems suffer from inherent ambiguities. In clinical applications for example, it might not be clear from a CT scan alone which particular region is cancer tissue. Therefore a group of graders typically produces a set of diverse but plausible segmentations. We consider the task of learning a distribution over segmentations given an input. To this end we propose a generative segmentation model based on a combination of a U-Net with a conditional variational autoencoder that is capable of efficiently producing an unlimited number of plausible hypotheses. We show on a lung abnormalities segmentation task and on a Cityscapes segmentation task that our model reproduces the possible segmentation variants as well as the frequencies with which they occur, doing so significantly better than published approaches. These models could have a high impact in real-world applications, such as being used as clinical decision-making algorithms accounting for multiple plausible semantic segmentation hypotheses to provide possible diagnoses and recommend further actions to resolve the present ambiguities.

We study the problem of generalized uniformity testing of a discrete probability distribution: Given samples from a probability distribution p over an unknown size discrete domain Ω, we want to distinguish, with probability at least 2/3, between the case that p is uniform on some subset of Ω versus ε-far, in total variation distance, from any such uniform distribution. We establish tight bounds on the sample complexity of generalized uniformity testing. In more detail, we present a computationally efficient tester whose sample complexity is optimal, within constant factors, and a matching worst-case information-theoretic lower bound. Specifically, we show that the sample complexity of generalized uniformity testing is Θ(1/(ε^(4/3) ||p||_3) + 1/(ε^2 ||p||_2 )).

There has been tremendous recent progress on equilibrium-finding algorithms for zero-sum imperfect-information extensive-form games, but there has been a puzzling gap between theory and practice. \emph{First-order methods} have significantly better theoretical convergence rates than any \emph{counterfactual-regret minimization (CFR)} variant. Despite this, CFR variants have been favored in practice. Experiments with first-order methods have only been conducted on small- and medium-sized games because those methods are complicated to implement in this setting, and because CFR variants have been enhanced extensively for over a decade they perform well in practice. In this paper we show that a particular first-order method, a state-of-the-art variant of the \emph{excessive gap technique}---instantiated with the \emph{dilated entropy distance function}---can efficiently solve large real-world problems competitively with CFR and its variants. We show this on large endgames encountered by the \emph{Libratus} poker AI, which recently beat top human poker specialist professionals at no-limit Texas hold'em. We show experimental results on our variant of the excessive gap technique as well as a prior version. We introduce a numerically friendly implementation of the smoothed best response computation associated with first-order methods for extensive-form game solving. We present, to our knowledge, the first GPU implementation of a first-order method for extensive-form games. We present comparisons of several excessive gap technique and CFR variants.

Recently, learning discriminative features to improve the recognition performances gradually becomes the primary goal of deep learning, and numerous remarkable works have emerged. In this paper, we propose a novel yet extremely simple method Virtual Softmax to enhance the discriminative property of learned features by injecting a dynamic virtual negative class into the original softmax. Injecting virtual class aims to enlarge inter-class margin and compress intra-class distribution by strengthening the decision boundary constraint. Although it seems weird to optimize with this additional virtual class, we show that our method derives from an intuitive and clear motivation, and it indeed encourages the features to be more compact and separable. This paper empirically and experimentally demonstrates the superiority of Virtual Softmax, improving the performances on a variety of object classification and face verification tasks.

A property or statistic of a distribution is said to be elicitable if it can be expressed as the minimizer of some loss function in expectation. Recent work shows that continuous real-valued properties are elicitable if and only if they are identifiable, meaning the set of distributions with the same property value can be described by linear constraints. From a practical standpoint, one may ask for which such properties do there exist convex loss functions. In this paper, in a finite-outcome setting, we show that in fact every elicitable real-valued property can be elicited by a convex loss function. Our proof is constructive, and leads to convex loss functions for new properties.

Variational Auto-Encoders (VAE) have become very popular techniques to perform inference and learning in latent variable models as they allow us to leverage the rich representational power of neural networks to obtain flexible approximations of the posterior of latent variables as well as tight evidence lower bounds (ELBO). Com- bined with stochastic variational inference, this provides a methodology scaling to large datasets. However, for this methodology to be practically efficient, it is neces- sary to obtain low-variance unbiased estimators of the ELBO and its gradients with respect to the parameters of interest. While the use of Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) techniques such as Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC) has been previously suggested to achieve this [23, 26], the proposed methods require specifying reverse kernels which have a large impact on performance. Additionally, the resulting unbiased estimator of the ELBO for most MCMC kernels is typically not amenable to the reparameterization trick. We show here how to optimally select reverse kernels in this setting and, by building upon Hamiltonian Importance Sampling (HIS) [17], we obtain a scheme that provides low-variance unbiased estimators of the ELBO and its gradients using the reparameterization trick. This allows us to develop a Hamiltonian Variational Auto-Encoder (HVAE). This method can be re-interpreted as a target-informed normalizing flow [20] which, within our context, only requires a few evaluations of the gradient of the sampled likelihood and trivial Jacobian calculations at each iteration.

Huge scale machine learning problems are nowadays tackled by distributed optimization algorithms, i.e. algorithms that leverage the compute power of many devices for training. The communication overhead is a key bottleneck that hinders perfect scalability. Various recent works proposed to use quantization or sparsification techniques to reduce the amount of data that needs to be communicated, for instance by only sending the most significant entries of the stochastic gradient (top-k sparsification). Whilst such schemes showed very promising performance in practice, they have eluded theoretical analysis so far. In this work we analyze Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) with k-sparsification or compression (for instance top-k or random-k) and show that this scheme converges at the same rate as vanilla SGD when equipped with error compensation (keeping track of accumulated errors in memory). That is, communication can be reduced by a factor of the dimension of the problem (sometimes even more) whilst still converging at the same rate. We present numerical experiments to illustrate the theoretical findings and the good scalability for distributed applications.

We study the set of continuous functions that admit no spurious local optima (i.e. local minima that are not global minima) which we term global functions. They satisfy various powerful properties for analyzing nonconvex and nonsmooth optimization problems. For instance, they satisfy a theorem akin to the fundamental uniform limit theorem in the analysis regarding continuous functions. Global functions are also endowed with useful properties regarding the composition of functions and change of variables. Using these new results, we show that a class of non-differentiable nonconvex optimization problems arising in tensor decomposition applications are global functions. This is the first result concerning nonconvex methods for nonsmooth objective functions. Our result provides a theoretical guarantee for the widely-used $\ell_1$ norm to avoid outliers in nonconvex optimization.

We present Sequential Attend, Infer, Repeat (SQAIR), an interpretable deep generative model for image sequences. It can reliably discover and track objects through the sequence; it can also conditionally generate future frames, thereby simulating expected motion of objects. This is achieved by explicitly encoding object numbers, locations and appearances in the latent variables of the model. SQAIR retains all strengths of its predecessor, Attend, Infer, Repeat (AIR, Eslami et. al. 2016), including unsupervised learning, made possible by inductive biases present in the model structure. We use a moving multi-\textsc{mnist} dataset to show limitations of AIR in detecting overlapping or partially occluded objects, and show how \textsc{sqair} overcomes them by leveraging temporal consistency of objects. Finally, we also apply SQAIR to real-world pedestrian CCTV data, where it learns to reliably detect, track and generate walking pedestrians with no supervision.

Learning to classify new categories based on just one or a few examples is a long-standing challenge in modern computer vision. In this work, we propose a simple yet effective method for few-shot (and one-shot) object recognition. Our approach is based on a modified auto-encoder, denoted delta-encoder, that learns to synthesize new samples for an unseen category just by seeing few examples from it. The synthesized samples are then used to train a classifier. The proposed approach learns to both extract transferable intra-class deformations, or "deltas", between same-class pairs of training examples, and to apply those deltas to the few provided examples of a novel class (unseen during training) in order to efficiently synthesize samples from that new class. The proposed method improves the state-of-the-art of one-shot object-recognition and performs comparably in the few-shot case.

We present a differentiable physics engine that can be integrated as a module in deep neural networks for end-to-end learning. As a result, structured physics knowledge can be embedded into larger systems, allowing them, for example, to match observations by performing precise simulations, while achieves high sample efficiency. Specifically, in this paper we demonstrate how to perform backpropagation analytically through a physical simulator defined via a linear complementarity problem. Unlike traditional finite difference methods, such gradients can be computed analytically, which allows for greater flexibility of the engine. Through experiments in diverse domains, we highlight the system's ability to learn physical parameters from data, efficiently match and simulate observed visual behavior, and readily enable control via gradient-based planning methods. Code for the engine and experiments is included with the paper.

Stochastic regularisation is an important weapon in the arsenal of a deep learning practitioner. However, despite recent theoretical advances, our understanding of how noise influences signal propagation in deep neural networks remains limited. By extending recent work based on mean field theory, we develop a new framework for signal propagation in stochastic regularised neural networks. Our \textit{noisy signal propagation} theory can incorporate several common noise distributions, including additive and multiplicative Gaussian noise as well as dropout. We use this framework to investigate initialisation strategies for noisy ReLU networks. We show that no critical initialisation strategy exists using additive noise, with signal propagation exploding regardless of the selected noise distribution. For multiplicative noise (e.g.\ dropout), we identify alternative critical initialisation strategies that depend on the second moment of the noise distribution. Simulations and experiments on real-world data confirm that our proposed initialisation is able to stably propagate signals in deep networks, while using an initialisation disregarding noise fails to do so. Furthermore, we analyse correlation dynamics between inputs. Stronger noise regularisation is shown to reduce the depth to which discriminatory information about the inputs to a noisy ReLU network is able to propagate, even when initialised at criticality. We support our theoretical predictions for these trainable depths with simulations, as well as with experiments on MNIST and CIFAR-10.

We consider the problem of learning optimal reserve price in repeated auctions against non-myopic bidders, who may bid strategically in order to gain in future rounds even if the single-round auctions are truthful. Previous algorithms, e.g., empirical pricing, do not provide non-trivial regret rounds in this setting in general. We introduce algorithms that obtain small regret against non-myopic bidders either when the market is large, i.e., no bidder appears in a constant fraction of the rounds, or when the bidders are impatient, i.e., they discount future utility by some factor mildly bounded away from one. Our approach carefully controls what information is revealed to each bidder, and builds on techniques from differentially private online learning as well as the recent line of works on jointly differentially private algorithms.

A key task in Bayesian machine learning is sampling from distributions that are only specified up to a partition function (i.e., constant of proportionality). One prevalent example of this is sampling posteriors in parametric distributions, such as latent-variable generative models. However sampling (even very approximately) can be #P-hard. Classical results (going back to Bakry and Emery) on sampling focus on log-concave distributions, and show a natural Markov chain called Langevin diffusion mix in polynomial time. However, all log-concave distributions are uni-modal, while in practice it is very common for the distribution of interest to have multiple modes. In this case, Langevin diffusion suffers from torpid mixing. We address this problem by combining Langevin diffusion with simulated tempering. The result is a Markov chain that mixes more rapidly by transitioning between different temperatures of the distribution. We analyze this Markov chain for a mixture of (strongly) log-concave distributions of the same shape. In particular, our technique applies to the canonical multi-modal distribution: a mixture of gaussians (of equal variance). Our algorithm efficiently samples from these distributions given only access to the gradient of the log-pdf. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first result that proves fast mixing for multimodal distributions.

The design of codes for communicating reliably over a statistically well defined channel is an important endeavor involving deep mathematical research and wide- ranging practical applications. In this work, we present the first family of codes obtained via deep learning, which significantly beats state-of-the-art codes designed over several decades of research. The communication channel under consideration is the Gaussian noise channel with feedback, whose study was initiated by Shannon; feedback is known theoretically to improve reliability of communication, but no practical codes that do so have ever been successfully constructed. We break this logjam by integrating information theoretic insights harmoniously with recurrent-neural-network based encoders and decoders to create novel codes that outperform known codes by 3 orders of magnitude in reliability. We also demonstrate several desirable properties in the codes: (a) generalization to larger block lengths; (b) composability with known codes; (c) adaptation to practical constraints. This result also presents broader ramifications to coding theory: even when the channel has a clear mathematical model, deep learning methodologies, when combined with channel specific information-theoretic insights, can potentially beat state-of-the-art codes, constructed over decades of mathematical research.

Nash equilibrium strategies have the known weakness that they do not prescribe rational play in situations that are reached with zero probability according to the strategies themselves, for example, if players have made mistakes. Trembling-hand refinements---such as extensive-form perfect equilibria and quasi-perfect equilibria---remedy this problem in sound ways. Despite their appeal, they have not received attention in practice since no known algorithm for computing them scales beyond toy instances. In this paper, we design an exact polynomial-time algorithm for finding trembling-hand equilibria in zero-sum extensive-form games. It is several orders of magnitude faster than the best prior ones, numerically stable, and quickly solves game instances with tens of thousands of nodes in the game tree. It enables, for the first time, the use of trembling-hand refinements in practice.

We consider a high dimensional linear regression problem where the goal is to efficiently recover an unknown vector \beta^* from n noisy linear observations Y=X \beta^*+W in R^n, for known X in R^{n \times p} and unknown W in R^n. Unlike most of the literature on this model we make no sparsity assumption on \beta^*. Instead we adopt a regularization based on assuming that the underlying vectors \beta^* have rational entries with the same denominator Q. We call this Q-rationality assumption. We propose a new polynomial-time algorithm for this task which is based on the seminal Lenstra-Lenstra-Lovasz (LLL) lattice basis reduction algorithm. We establish that under the Q-rationality assumption, our algorithm recovers exactly the vector \beta^* for a large class of distributions for the iid entries of X and non-zero noise W. We prove that it is successful under small noise, even when the learner has access to only one observation (n=1). Furthermore, we prove that in the case of the Gaussian white noise for W, n=o(p/\log p) and Q sufficiently large, our algorithm tolerates a nearly optimal information-theoretic level of the noise.

In this paper, we investigate Dimensionality reduction (DR) maps in an information retrieval setting from a quantitative topology point of view. In particular, we show that no DR maps can achieve perfect precision and perfect recall simultaneously. Thus a continuous DR map must have imperfect precision. We further prove an upper bound on the precision of Lipschitz continuous DR maps. While precision is a natural measure in an information retrieval setting, it does not measure `how' wrong the retrieved data is. We therefore propose a new measure based on Wasserstein distance that comes with similar theoretical guarantee. A key technical step in our proofs is a particular optimization problem of the $L_2$-Wasserstein distance over a constrained set of distributions. We provide a complete solution to this optimization problem, which can be of independent interest on the technical side.

We study consistency properties of machine learning methods based on minimizing convex surrogates. We extend the recent framework of Osokin et al. (2017) for the quantitative analysis of consistency properties to the case of inconsistent surrogates. Our key technical contribution consists in a new lower bound on the calibration function for the quadratic surrogate, which is non-trivial (not always zero) for inconsistent cases. The new bound allows to quantify the level of inconsistency of the setting and shows how learning with inconsistent surrogates can have guarantees on sample complexity and optimization difficulty. We apply our theory to two concrete cases: multi-class classification with the tree-structured loss and ranking with the mean average precision loss. The results show the approximation-computation trade-offs caused by inconsistent surrogates and their potential benefits.

We study adversarial perturbations when the instances are uniformly distributed over {0,1}^n. We study both "inherent" bounds that apply to any problem and any classifier for such a problem as well as bounds that apply to specific problems and specific hypothesis classes. As the current literature contains multiple definitions of adversarial risk and robustness, we start by giving a taxonomy for these definitions based on their direct goals; we identify one of them as the one guaranteeing misclassification by pushing the instances to the error region. We then study some classic algorithms for learning monotone conjunctions and compare their adversarial risk and robustness under different definitions by attacking the hypotheses using instances drawn from the uniform distribution. We observe that sometimes these definitions lead to significantly different bounds. Thus, this study advocates for the use of the error-region definition, even though other definitions, in other contexts with context-dependent assumptions, may coincide with the error-region definition. Using the error-region definition of adversarial perturbations, we then study inherent bounds on risk and robustness of any classifier for any classification problem whose instances are uniformly distributed over {0,1}^n. Using the isoperimetric inequality for the Boolean hypercube, we show that for initial error 0.01, there always exists an adversarial perturbation that changes O(√n) bits of the instances to increase the risk to 0.5, making classifier's decisions meaningless. Furthermore, by also using the central limit theorem we show that when n→∞, at most c√n bits of perturbations, for a universal constant c<1.17, suffice for increasing the risk to 0.5, and the same c√n bits of perturbations on average suffice to increase the risk to 1, hence bounding the robustness by c√n.

We identify and study two common failure modes for early training in deep ReLU nets. For each, we give a rigorous proof of when it occurs and how to avoid it, for fully connected, convolutional, and residual architectures. We show that the first failure mode, exploding or vanishing mean activation length, can be avoided by initializing weights from a symmetric distribution with variance 2/fan-in and, for ResNets, by correctly scaling the residual modules. We prove that the second failure mode, exponentially large variance of activation length, never occurs in residual nets once the first failure mode is avoided. In contrast, for fully connected nets, we prove that this failure mode can happen and is avoided by keeping constant the sum of the reciprocals of layer widths. We demonstrate empirically the effectiveness of our theoretical results in predicting when networks are able to start training. In particular, we note that many popular initializations fail our criteria, whereas correct initialization and architecture allows much deeper networks to be trained.

We present an unsupervised approach for learning to estimate three dimensional (3D) facial structure from a single image while also predicting 3D viewpoint transformations that match a desired pose and facial geometry. We achieve this by inferring the depth of facial keypoints of an input image in an unsupervised manner, without using any form of ground-truth depth information. We show how it is possible to use these depths as intermediate computations within a new backpropable loss to predict the parameters of a 3D affine transformation matrix that maps inferred 3D keypoints of an input face to the corresponding 2D keypoints on a desired target facial geometry or pose. Our resulting approach, called DepthNets, can therefore be used to infer plausible 3D transformations from one face pose to another, allowing faces to be frontalized, transformed into 3D models or even warped to another pose and facial geometry. Lastly, we identify certain shortcomings with our formulation, and explore adversarial image translation techniques as a post-processing step to re-synthesize complete head shots for faces re-targeted to different poses or identities.

We address the problem of finding reliable dense correspondences between a pair of images. This is a challenging task due to strong appearance differences between the corresponding scene elements and ambiguities generated by repetitive patterns. The contributions of this work are threefold. First, inspired by the classic idea of disambiguating feature matches using semi-local constraints, we develop an end-to-end trainable convolutional neural network architecture that identifies sets of spatially consistent matches by analyzing neighbourhood consensus patterns in the 4D space of all possible correspondences between a pair of images without the need for a global geometric model. Second, we demonstrate that the model can be trained effectively from weak supervision in the form of matching and non-matching image pairs without the need for costly manual annotation of point to point correspondences. Third, we show the proposed neighbourhood consensus network can be applied to a range of matching tasks including both category- and instance-level matching, obtaining the state-of-the-art results on the PF Pascal dataset and the InLoc indoor visual localization benchmark.

We present MubyNet -- a feed-forward, multitask, bottom up system for the integrated localization, as well as 3d pose and shape estimation, of multiple people in monocular images. The challenge is the formal modeling of the problem that intrinsically requires discrete and continuous computation, e.g. grouping people vs. predicting 3d pose. The model identifies human body structures (joints and limbs) in images, groups them based on 2d and 3d information fused using learned scoring functions, and optimally aggregates such responses into partial or complete 3d human skeleton hypotheses under kinematic tree constraints, but without knowing in advance the number of people in the scene and their visibility relations. We design a multi-task deep neural network with differentiable stages where the person grouping problem is formulated as an integer program based on learned body part scores parameterized by both 2d and 3d information. This avoids suboptimality resulting from separate 2d and 3d reasoning, with grouping performed based on the combined representation. The final stage of 3d pose and shape prediction is based on a learned attention process where information from different human body parts is optimally integrated. State-of-the-art results are obtained in large scale datasets like Human3.6M and Panoptic, and qualitatively by reconstructing the 3d shape and pose of multiple people, under occlusion, in difficult monocular images.

Our goal is to predict future video frames given a sequence of input frames. Despite large amounts of video data, this remains a challenging task because of the high-dimensionality of video frames. We address this challenge by proposing the Decompositional Disentangled Predictive Auto-Encoder (DDPAE), a framework that combines structured probabilistic models and deep networks to automatically (i) decompose the high-dimensional video that we aim to predict into components, and (ii) disentangle each component to have low-dimensional temporal dynamics that are easier to predict. Crucially, with an appropriately specified generative model of video frames, our DDPAE is able to learn both the latent decomposition and disentanglement without explicit supervision. For the Moving MNIST dataset, we show that DDPAE is able to recover the underlying components (individual digits) and disentanglement (appearance and location) as we would intuitively do. We further demonstrate that DDPAE can be applied to the Bouncing Balls dataset involving complex interactions between multiple objects to predict the video frame directly from the pixels and recover physical states without explicit supervision.

Many real-world vision problems suffer from inherent ambiguities. In clinical applications for example, it might not be clear from a CT scan alone which particular region is cancer tissue. Therefore a group of graders typically produces a set of diverse but plausible segmentations. We consider the task of learning a distribution over segmentations given an input. To this end we propose a generative segmentation model based on a combination of a U-Net with a conditional variational autoencoder that is capable of efficiently producing an unlimited number of plausible hypotheses. We show on a lung abnormalities segmentation task and on a Cityscapes segmentation task that our model reproduces the possible segmentation variants as well as the frequencies with which they occur, doing so significantly better than published approaches. These models could have a high impact in real-world applications, such as being used as clinical decision-making algorithms accounting for multiple plausible semantic segmentation hypotheses to provide possible diagnoses and recommend further actions to resolve the present ambiguities.

We draw attention to an important, yet largely overlooked aspect of evaluating fairness for automated decision making systems---namely risk and welfare considerations. Our proposed family of measures corresponds to the long-established formulations of cardinal social welfare in economics, and is justified by the Rawlsian conception of fairness behind a veil of ignorance. The convex formulation of our welfare-based measures of fairness allows us to integrate them as a constraint into any convex loss minimization pipeline. Our empirical analysis reveals interesting trade-offs between our proposal and (a) prediction accuracy, (b) group discrimination, and (c) Dwork et al's notion of individual fairness. Furthermore and perhaps most importantly, our work provides both heuristic justification and empirical evidence suggesting that a lower-bound on our measures often leads to bounded inequality in algorithmic outcomes; hence presenting the first computationally feasible mechanism for bounding individual-level inequality.

In linear stochastic bandits, it is commonly assumed that payoffs are with sub-Gaussian noises. In this paper, under a weaker assumption on noises, we study the problem of \underline{lin}ear stochastic {\underline b}andits with h{\underline e}avy-{\underline t}ailed payoffs (LinBET), where the distributions have finite moments of order $1+\epsilon$, for some $\epsilon\in (0,1]$. We rigorously analyze the regret lower bound of LinBET as $\Omega(T^{\frac{1}{1+\epsilon}})$, implying that finite moments of order 2 (i.e., finite variances) yield the bound of $\Omega(\sqrt{T})$, with $T$ being the total number of rounds to play bandits. The provided lower bound also indicates that the state-of-the-art algorithms for LinBET are far from optimal. By adopting median of means with a well-designed allocation of decisions and truncation based on historical information, we develop two novel bandit algorithms, where the regret upper bounds match the lower bound up to polylogarithmic factors. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to solve LinBET optimally in the sense of the polynomial order on $T$. Our proposed algorithms are evaluated based on synthetic datasets, and outperform the state-of-the-art results.

We propose a framework for ensuring safe behavior of a reinforcement learning agent when the reward function may be difficult to specify. In order to do this, we rely on the existence of demonstrations from expert policies, and we provide a theoretical framework for the agent to optimize in the space of rewards consistent with its existing knowledge. We propose two methods to solve the resulting optimization: an exact ellipsoid-based method and a method in the spirit of the "follow-the-perturbed-leader" algorithm. Our experiments demonstrate the behavior of our algorithm in both discrete and continuous problems. The trained agent safely avoids states with potential negative effects while imitating the behavior of the expert in the other states.

In this paper we consider the problem of computing an $\epsilon$-optimal policy of a discounted Markov Decision Process (DMDP) provided we can only access its transition function through a generative sampling model that given any state-action pair samples from the transition function in $O(1)$ time. Given such a DMDP with states $\states$, actions $\actions$, discount factor $\gamma\in(0,1)$, and rewards in range $[0, 1]$ we provide an algorithm which computes an $\epsilon$-optimal policy with probability $1 - \delta$ where {\it both} the run time spent and number of sample taken is upper bounded by \[ O\left[\frac{|\cS||\cA|}{(1-\gamma)^3 \epsilon^2} \log \left(\frac{|\cS||\cA|}{(1-\gamma)\delta \epsilon} \right) \log\left(\frac{1}{(1-\gamma)\epsilon}\right)\right] ~. \] For fixed values of $\epsilon$, this improves upon the previous best known bounds by a factor of $(1 - \gamma)^{-1}$ and matches the sample complexity lower bounds proved in \cite{azar2013minimax} up to logarithmic factors. We also extend our method to computing $\epsilon$-optimal policies for finite-horizon MDP with a generative model and provide a nearly matching sample complexity lower bound.

As intelligent systems become more fully interactive with humans during the performance of our day- to-day activities, the role of trust must be examined more carefully. Trust conveys the concept that when interacting with intelligent systems, humans tend to exhibit similar behaviors as when interacting with other humans and thus may misunderstand the risks associated with deferring their decisions to a machine. Bias further impacts this potential risk for trust, or overtrust, in that these systems are learning by mimicking our own thinking processes, inheriting our own implicit biases. In this talk, we will discuss this phenomenon through the lens of intelligent systems that interact with people in scenarios that are realizable in the near-term.

We consider the off-policy estimation problem of estimating the expected reward of a target policy using samples collected by a different behavior policy. Importance sampling (IS) has been a key technique to derive (nearly) unbiased estimators, but is known to suffer from an excessively high variance in long-horizon problems. In the extreme case of in infinite-horizon problems, the variance of an IS-based estimator may even be unbounded. In this paper, we propose a new off-policy estimation method that applies IS directly on the stationary state-visitation distributions to avoid the exploding variance issue faced by existing estimators.Our key contribution is a novel approach to estimating the density ratio of two stationary distributions, with trajectories sampled from only the behavior distribution. We develop a mini-max loss function for the estimation problem, and derive a closed-form solution for the case of RKHS. We support our method with both theoretical and empirical analyses.

Can evolving networks be inferred and modeled without directly observing their nodes and edges? In many applications, the edges of a dynamic network might not be observed, but one can observe the dynamics of stochastic cascading processes (e.g., information diffusion, virus propagation) occurring over the unobserved network. While there have been efforts to infer networks based on such data, providing a generative probabilistic model that is able to identify the underlying time-varying network remains an open question. Here we consider the problem of inferring generative dynamic network models based on network cascade diffusion data. We propose a novel framework for providing a non-parametric dynamic network model---based on a mixture of coupled hierarchical Dirichlet processes---based on data capturing cascade node infection times. Our approach allows us to infer the evolving community structure in networks and to obtain an explicit predictive distribution over the edges of the underlying network---including those that were not involved in transmission of any cascade, or are likely to appear in the future. We show the effectiveness of our approach using extensive experiments on synthetic as well as real-world networks.

We analyze the Kozachenko–Leonenko (KL) fixed k-nearest neighbor estimator for the differential entropy. We obtain the first uniform upper bound on its performance for any fixed k over H\"{o}lder balls on a torus without assuming any conditions on how close the density could be from zero. Accompanying a recent minimax lower bound over the H\"{o}lder ball, we show that the KL estimator for any fixed k is achieving the minimax rates up to logarithmic factors without cognizance of the smoothness parameter s of the H\"{o}lder ball for $s \in (0,2]$ and arbitrary dimension d, rendering it the first estimator that provably satisfies this property.

Generating novel graph structures that optimize given objectives while obeying some given underlying rules is fundamental for chemistry, biology and social science research. This is especially important in the task of molecular graph generation, whose goal is to discover novel molecules with desired properties such as drug-likeness and synthetic accessibility, while obeying physical laws such as chemical valency. However, designing models that finds molecules that optimize desired properties while incorporating highly complex and non-differentiable rules remains to be a challenging task. Here we propose Graph Convolutional Policy Network (GCPN), a general graph convolutional network based model for goal-directed graph generation through reinforcement learning. The model is trained to optimize domain-specific rewards and adversarial loss through policy gradient, and acts in an environment that incorporates domain-specific rules. Experimental results show that GCPN can achieve 61% improvement on chemical property optimization over state-of-the-art baselines while resembling known molecules, and achieve 184% improvement on the constrained property optimization task.

Tensor decompositions are fundamental tools for multiway data analysis. Existing approaches, however, ignore the valuable temporal information along with data, or simply discretize them into time steps so that important temporal patterns are easily missed. Moreover, most methods are limited to multilinear decomposition forms, and hence are unable to capture intricate, nonlinear relationships in data. To address these issues, we formulate event-tensors, to preserve the complete temporal information for multiway data, and propose a novel Bayesian nonparametric decomposition model. Our model can (1) fully exploit the time stamps to capture the critical, causal/triggering effects between the interaction events, (2) flexibly estimate the complex relationships between the entities in tensor modes, and (3) uncover hidden structures from their temporal interactions. For scalable inference, we develop a doubly stochastic variational Expectation-Maximization algorithm to conduct an online decomposition. Evaluations on both synthetic and real-world datasets show that our model not only improves upon the predictive performance of existing methods, but also discovers interesting clusters underlying the data.

We provide the first information theoretical tight analysis for inference of latent community structure given a sparse graph along with high dimensional node covariates, correlated with the same latent communities. Our work bridges recent theoretical breakthroughs in detection of latent community structure without nodes covariates and a large body of empirical work using diverse heuristics for combining node covariates with graphs for inference. The tightness of our analysis implies in particular, the information theoretic necessity of combining the different sources of information. Our analysis holds for networks of large degrees as well as for a Gaussian version of the model.

We present Memory Augmented Policy Optimization (MAPO), a simple and novel way to leverage a memory buffer of promising trajectories to reduce the variance of policy gradient estimate. MAPO is applicable to deterministic environments with discrete actions, such as structured prediction and combinatorial optimization tasks. We express the expected return objective as a weighted sum of two terms: an expectation over the high-reward trajectories inside the memory buffer, and a separate expectation over trajectories outside the buffer. To make an efficient algorithm of MAPO, we propose: (1) memory weight clipping to accelerate and stabilize training; (2) systematic exploration to discover high-reward trajectories; (3) distributed sampling from inside and outside of the memory buffer to scale up training. MAPO improves the sample efficiency and robustness of policy gradient, especially on tasks with sparse rewards. We evaluate MAPO on weakly supervised program synthesis from natural language (semantic parsing). On the WikiTableQuestions benchmark, we improve the state-of-the-art by 2.6%, achieving an accuracy of 46.3%. On the WikiSQL benchmark, MAPO achieves an accuracy of 74.9% with only weak supervision, outperforming several strong baselines with full supervision. Our source code is available at https://goo.gl/TXBp4e

A longstanding problem in machine learning is to find unsupervised methods that can learn the statistical structure of high dimensional signals. In recent years, GANs have gained much attention as a possible solution to the problem, and in particular have shown the ability to generate remarkably realistic high resolution sampled images. At the same time, many authors have pointed out that GANs may fail to model the full distribution ("mode collapse") and that using the learned models for anything other than generating samples may be very difficult. In this paper, we examine the utility of GANs in learning statistical models of images by comparing them to perhaps the simplest statistical model, the Gaussian Mixture Model. First, we present a simple method to evaluate generative models based on relative proportions of samples that fall into predetermined bins. Unlike previous automatic methods for evaluating models, our method does not rely on an additional neural network nor does it require approximating intractable computations. Second, we compare the performance of GANs to GMMs trained on the same datasets. While GMMs have previously been shown to be successful in modeling small patches of images, we show how to train them on full sized images despite the high dimensionality. Our results show that GMMs can generate realistic samples (although less sharp than those of GANs) but also capture the full distribution, which GANs fail to do. Furthermore, GMMs allow efficient inference and explicit representation of the underlying statistical structure. Finally, we discuss how GMMs can be used to generate sharp images.

Entropy estimation is one of the prototypical problems in distribution property testing. To consistently estimate the Shannon entropy of a distribution on $S$ elements with independent samples, the optimal sample complexity scales sublinearly with $S$ as $\Theta(\frac{S}{\log S})$ as shown by Valiant and Valiant \cite{Valiant--Valiant2011}. Extending the theory and algorithms for entropy estimation to dependent data, this paper considers the problem of estimating the entropy rate of a stationary reversible Markov chain with $S$ states from a sample path of $n$ observations. We show that \begin{itemize} \item Provided the Markov chain mixes not too slowly, \textit{i.e.}, the relaxation time is at most $O(\frac{S}{\ln^3 S})$, consistent estimation is achievable when $n \gg \frac{S^2}{\log S}$. \item Provided the Markov chain has some slight dependency, \textit{i.e.}, the relaxation time is at least $1+\Omega(\frac{\ln^2 S}{\sqrt{S}})$, consistent estimation is impossible when $n \lesssim \frac{S^2}{\log S}$. \end{itemize} Under both assumptions, the optimal estimation accuracy is shown to be $\Theta(\frac{S^2}{n \log S})$. In comparison, the empirical entropy rate requires at least $\Omega(S^2)$ samples to be consistent, even when the Markov chain is memoryless. In addition to synthetic experiments, we also apply the estimators that achieve the optimal sample complexity to estimate the entropy rate of the English language in the Penn Treebank and the Google One Billion Words corpora, which provides a natural benchmark for language modeling and relates it directly to the widely used perplexity measure.

Exploration is a fundamental challenge in reinforcement learning (RL). Many current exploration methods for deep RL use task-agnostic objectives, such as information gain or bonuses based on state visitation. However, many practical applications of RL involve learning more than a single task, and prior tasks can be used to inform how exploration should be performed in new tasks. In this work, we study how prior tasks can inform an agent about how to explore effectively in new situations. We introduce a novel gradient-based fast adaptation algorithm – model agnostic exploration with structured noise (MAESN) – to learn exploration strategies from prior experience. The prior experience is used both to initialize a policy and to acquire a latent exploration space that can inject structured stochasticity into a policy, producing exploration strategies that are informed by prior knowledge and are more effective than random action-space noise. We show that MAESN is more effective at learning exploration strategies when compared to prior meta-RL methods, RL without learned exploration strategies, and task-agnostic exploration methods. We evaluate our method on a variety of simulated tasks: locomotion with a wheeled robot, locomotion with a quadrupedal walker, and object manipulation.

We propose a simple, tractable lower bound on the mutual information contained in the joint generative density of any latent variable generative model: the GILBO (Generative Information Lower BOund). It offers a data-independent measure of the complexity of the learned latent variable description, giving the log of the effective description length. It is well-defined for both VAEs and GANs. We compute the GILBO for 800 GANs and VAEs each trained on four datasets (MNIST, FashionMNIST, CIFAR-10 and CelebA) and discuss the results.

We consider the task of recovering two real or complex $m$-vectors from phaseless Fourier measurements of their circular convolution. Our method is a novel convex relaxation that is based on a lifted matrix recovery formulation that allows a nontrivial convex relaxation of the bilinear measurements from convolution. We prove that if the two signals belong to known random subspaces of dimensions $k$ and $n$, then they can be recovered up to the inherent scaling ambiguity with $m >> (k+n) \log^2 m$ phaseless measurements. Our method provides the first theoretical recovery guarantee for this problem by a computationally efficient algorithm and does not require a solution estimate to be computed for initialization. Our proof is based Rademacher complexity estimates. Additionally, we provide an ADMM implementation of the method and provide numerical experiments that verify the theory.

Generative adversarial training for imitation learning has shown promising results on high-dimensional and continuous control tasks. This paradigm is based on reducing the imitation learning problem to the density matching problem, where the agent iteratively refines the policy to match the empirical state-action visitation frequency of the expert demonstration. Although this approach has shown to robustly learn to imitate even with scarce demonstration, one must still address the inherent challenge that collecting trajectory samples in each iteration is a costly operation. To address this issue, we first propose a Bayesian formulation of generative adversarial imitation learning (GAIL), where the imitation policy and the cost function are represented as stochastic neural networks. Then, we show that we can significantly enhance the sample efficiency of GAIL leveraging the predictive density of the cost, on an extensive set of imitation learning tasks with high-dimensional states and actions.

We study finite-sum nonconvex optimization problems, where the objective function is an average of $n$ nonconvex functions. We propose a new stochastic gradient descent algorithm based on nested variance reduction. Compared with conventional stochastic variance reduced gradient (SVRG) algorithm that uses two reference points to construct a semi-stochastic gradient with diminishing variance in each epoch, our algorithm uses $K+1$ nested reference points to build an semi-stochastic gradient to further reduce its variance in each epoch. For smooth functions, the proposed algorithm converges to an approximate first order stationary point (i.e., $\|\nabla F(\xb)\|_2\leq \epsilon$) within $\tO(n\land \epsilon^{-2}+\epsilon^{-3}\land n^{1/2}\epsilon^{-2})$\footnote{$\tO(\cdot)$ hides the logarithmic factors} number of stochastic gradient evaluations, where $n$ is the number of component functions, and $\epsilon$ is the optimization error. This improves the best known gradient complexity of SVRG $O(n+n^{2/3}\epsilon^{-2})$ and the best gradient complexity of SCSG $O(\epsilon^{-5/3}\land n^{2/3}\epsilon^{-2})$. For gradient dominated functions, our algorithm achieves $\tO(n\land \tau\epsilon^{-1}+\tau\cdot (n^{1/2}\land (\tau\epsilon^{-1})^{1/2})$ gradient complexity, which again beats the existing best gradient complexity $\tO(n\land \tau\epsilon^{-1}+\tau\cdot (n^{1/2}\land (\tau\epsilon^{-1})^{2/3})$ achieved by SCSG. Thorough experimental results on different nonconvex optimization problems back up our theory.

For an autonomous agent to fulfill a wide range of user-specified goals at test time, it must be able to learn broadly applicable and general-purpose skill repertoires. Furthermore, to provide the requisite level of generality, these skills must handle raw sensory input such as images. In this paper, we propose an algorithm that acquires such general-purpose skills by combining unsupervised representation learning and reinforcement learning of goal-conditioned policies. Since the particular goals that might be required at test-time are not known in advance, the agent performs a self-supervised "practice" phase where it imagines goals and attempts to achieve them. We learn a visual representation with three distinct purposes: sampling goals for self-supervised practice, providing a structured transformation of raw sensory inputs, and computing a reward signal for goal reaching. We also propose a retroactive goal relabeling scheme to further improve the sample-efficiency of our method. Our off-policy algorithm is efficient enough to learn policies that operate on raw image observations and goals in a real-world physical system, and substantially outperforms prior techniques.

We develop an efficient and provably no-regret Bayesian optimization (BO) algorithm for optimization of black-box functions in high dimensions. We assume a generalized additive model with possibly overlapping variable groups. When the groups do not overlap, we are able to provide the first provably no-regret \emph{polynomial time} (in the number of evaluations of the acquisition function) algorithm for solving high dimensional BO. To make the optimization efficient and feasible, we introduce a novel deterministic Fourier Features approximation based on numerical integration with detailed analysis for the squared exponential kernel. The error of this approximation decreases \emph{exponentially} with the number of features, and allows for a precise approximation of both posterior mean and variance. In addition, the kernel matrix inversion improves in its complexity from cubic to essentially linear in the number of data points measured in basic arithmetic operations.

Population risk is always of primary interest in machine learning; however, learning algorithms only have access to the empirical risk. Even for applications with nonconvex non-smooth losses (such as modern deep networks), the population risk is generally significantly more well behaved from an optimization point of view than the empirical risk. In particular, sampling can create many spurious local minima. We consider a general framework which aims to optimize a smooth nonconvex function $F$ (population risk) given only access to an approximation $f$ (empirical risk) that is pointwise close to $F$ (i.e., $\norm{F-f}_{\infty} \le \nu$). Our objective is to find the $\epsilon$-approximate local minima of the underlying function $F$ while avoiding the shallow local minima---arising because of the tolerance $\nu$---which exist only in $f$. We propose a simple algorithm based on stochastic gradient descent (SGD) on a smoothed version of $f$ that is guaranteed to achieve our goal as long as $\nu \le O(\epsilon^{1.5}/d)$. We also provide an almost matching lower bound showing that our algorithm achieves optimal error tolerance $\nu$ among all algorithms making a polynomial number of queries of $f$. As a concrete example, we show that our results can be directly used to give sample complexities for learning a ReLU unit.

Dealing with uncertainty is essential for efficient reinforcement learning. There is a growing literature on uncertainty estimation for deep learning from fixed datasets, but many of the most popular approaches are poorly-suited to sequential decision problems. Other methods, such as bootstrap sampling, have no mechanism for uncertainty that does not come from the observed data. We highlight why this can be a crucial shortcoming and propose a simple remedy through addition of a randomized untrainable `prior' network to each ensemble member. We prove that this approach is efficient with linear representations, provide simple illustrations of its efficacy with nonlinear representations and show that this approach scales to large-scale problems far better than previous attempts.

Bayesian optimization usually assumes that a Bayesian prior is given. However, the strong theoretical guarantees in Bayesian optimization are often regrettably compromised in practice because of unknown parameters in the prior. In this paper, we adopt a variant of empirical Bayes and show that, by estimating the Gaussian process prior from offline data sampled from the same prior and constructing unbiased estimators of the posterior, variants of both GP-UCB and \emph{probability of improvement} achieve a near-zero regret bound, which decreases to a constant proportional to the observational noise as the number of offline data and the number of online evaluations increase. Empirically, we have verified our approach on challenging simulated robotic problems featuring task and motion planning.

When the linear measurements of an instance of low-rank matrix recovery satisfy a restricted isometry property (RIP) --- i.e. they are approximately norm-preserving --- the problem is known to contain no spurious local minima, so exact recovery is guaranteed. In this paper, we show that moderate RIP is not enough to eliminate spurious local minima, so existing results can only hold for near-perfect RIP. In fact, counterexamples are ubiquitous: every $x$ is the spurious local minimum of a rank-1 instance of matrix recovery that satisfies RIP. One specific counterexample has RIP constant $\delta=1/2$, but causes randomly initialized stochastic gradient descent (SGD) to fail 12\% of the time. SGD is frequently able to avoid and escape spurious local minima, but this empirical result shows that it can occasionally be defeated by their existence. Hence, while exact recovery guarantees will likely require a proof of no spurious local minima, arguments based solely on norm preservation will only be applicable to a narrow set of nearly-isotropic instances.

Deep reinforcement learning methods traditionally struggle with tasks where environment rewards are particularly sparse. One successful method of guiding exploration in these domains is to imitate trajectories provided by a human demonstrator. However, these demonstrations are typically collected under artificial conditions, i.e. with access to the agent’s exact environment setup and the demonstrator’s action and reward trajectories. Here we propose a method that overcomes these limitations in two stages. First, we learn to map unaligned videos from multiple sources to a common representation using self-supervised objectives constructed over both time and modality (i.e. vision and sound). Second, we embed a single YouTube video in this representation to learn a reward function that encourages an agent to imitate human gameplay. This method of one-shot imitation allows our agent to convincingly exceed human-level performance on the infamously hard exploration games Montezuma’s Revenge, Pitfall! and Private Eye for the first time, even if the agent is not presented with any environment rewards.

In this paper, we consider the problem of Gaussian process (GP) optimization with an added robustness requirement: The returned point may be perturbed by an adversary, and we require the function value to remain as high as possible even after this perturbation. This problem is motivated by settings in which the underlying functions during optimization and implementation stages are different, or when one is interested in finding an entire region of good inputs rather than only a single point. We show that standard GP optimization algorithms do not exhibit the desired robustness properties, and provide a novel confidence-bound based algorithm StableOpt for this purpose. We rigorously establish the required number of samples for StableOpt to find a near-optimal point, and we complement this guarantee with an algorithm-independent lower bound. We experimentally demonstrate several potential applications of interest using real-world data sets, and we show that StableOpt consistently succeeds in finding a stable maximizer where several baseline methods fail.

In this paper, we propose a new technique named \textit{Stochastic Path-Integrated Differential EstimatoR} (SPIDER), which can be used to track many deterministic quantities of interests with significantly reduced computational cost. Combining SPIDER with the method of normalized gradient descent, we propose SPIDER-SFO that solve non-convex stochastic optimization problems using stochastic gradients only. We provide a few error-bound results on its convergence rates. Specially, we prove that the SPIDER-SFO algorithm achieves a gradient computation cost of $\mathcal{O}\left( \min( n^{1/2} \epsilon^{-2}, \epsilon^{-3} ) \right)$ to find an $\epsilon$-approximate first-order stationary point. In addition, we prove that SPIDER-SFO nearly matches the algorithmic lower bound for finding stationary point under the gradient Lipschitz assumption in the finite-sum setting. Our SPIDER technique can be further applied to find an $(\epsilon, \mathcal{O}(\epsilon^{0.5}))$-approximate second-order stationary point at a gradient computation cost of $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}\left( \min( n^{1/2} \epsilon^{-2}+\epsilon^{-2.5}, \epsilon^{-3} ) \right)$.

Agnostophobia, the fear of the unknown, can be experienced by deep learning engineers while applying their networks to real-world applications. Unfortunately, network behavior is not well defined for inputs far from a networks training set. In an uncontrolled environment, networks face many instances that are not of interest to them and have to be rejected in order to avoid a false positive. This problem has previously been tackled by researchers by either a) thresholding softmax, which by construction cannot return "none of the known classes", or b) using an additional background or garbage class. In this paper, we show that both of these approaches help, but are generally insufficient when previously unseen classes are encountered. We also introduce a new evaluation metric that focuses on comparing the performance of multiple approaches in scenarios where such unseen classes or unknowns are encountered. Our major contributions are simple yet effective Entropic Open-Set and Objectosphere losses that train networks using negative samples from some classes. These novel losses are designed to maximize entropy for unknown inputs while increasing separation in deep feature space by modifying magnitudes of known and unknown samples. Experiments on networks trained to classify classes from MNIST and CIFAR-10 show that our novel loss functions are significantly better at dealing with unknown inputs from datasets such as Devanagari, NotMNIST, CIFAR-100 and SVHN.

Estimating the structure of directed acyclic graphs (DAGs, also known as Bayesian networks) is a challenging problem since the search space of DAGs is combinatorial and scales superexponentially with the number of nodes. Existing approaches rely on various local heuristics for enforcing the acyclicity constraint. In this paper, we introduce a fundamentally different strategy: we formulate the structure learning problem as a purely continuous optimization problem over real matrices that avoids this combinatorial constraint entirely. This is achieved by a novel characterization of acyclicity that is not only smooth but also exact. The resulting problem can be efficiently solved by standard numerical algorithms, which also makes implementation effortless. The proposed method outperforms existing ones, without imposing any structural assumptions on the graph such as bounded treewidth or in-degree.

We design a stochastic algorithm to find $\varepsilon$-approximate local minima of any smooth nonconvex function in rate $O(\varepsilon^{-3.25})$, with only oracle access to stochastic gradients. The best result before this work was $O(\varepsilon^{-4})$ by stochastic gradient descent (SGD).

Intelligent behaviour in the real-world requires the ability to acquire new knowledge from an ongoing sequence of experiences while preserving and reusing past knowledge. We propose a novel algorithm for unsupervised representation learning from piece-wise stationary visual data: Variational Autoencoder with Shared Embeddings (VASE). Based on the Minimum Description Length principle, VASE automatically detects shifts in the data distribution and allocates spare representational capacity to new knowledge, while simultaneously protecting previously learnt representations from catastrophic forgetting. Our approach encourages the learnt representations to be disentangled, which imparts a number of desirable properties: VASE can deal sensibly with ambiguous inputs, it can enhance its own representations through imagination-based exploration, and most importantly, it exhibits semantically meaningful sharing of latents between different datasets. Compared to baselines with entangled representations, our approach is able to reason beyond surface-level statistics and perform semantically meaningful cross-domain inference.

Event datasets include events that occur irregularly over the timeline and are prevalent in numerous domains. We introduce proximal graphical event models (PGEM) as a representation of such datasets. PGEMs belong to a broader family of models that characterize relationships between various types of events, where the rate of occurrence of an event type depends only on whether or not its parents have occurred in the most recent history. The main advantage over the state of the art models is that they are entirely data driven and do not require additional inputs from the user, which can require knowledge of the domain such as choice of basis functions or hyperparameters in graphical event models. We theoretically justify our learning of optimal windows for parental history and the choices of parental sets, and the algorithm are sound and complete in terms of parent structure learning. We present additional efficient heuristics for learning PGEMs from data, demonstrating their effectiveness on synthetic and real datasets.

In this paper, we study the problem of escaping from saddle points in smooth nonconvex optimization problems subject to a convex set $\mathcal{C}$. We propose a generic framework that yields convergence to a second-order stationary point of the problem, if the convex set $\mathcal{C}$ is simple for a quadratic objective function. Specifically, our results hold if one can find a $\rho$-approximate solution of a quadratic program subject to $\mathcal{C}$ in polynomial time, where $\rho<1$ is a positive constant that depends on the structure of the set $\mathcal{C}$. Under this condition, we show that the sequence of iterates generated by the proposed framework reaches an $(\epsilon,\gamma)$-second order stationary point (SOSP) in at most $\mathcal{O}(\max\{\epsilon^{-2},\rho^{-3}\gamma^{-3}\})$ iterations. We further characterize the overall complexity of reaching an SOSP when the convex set $\mathcal{C}$ can be written as a set of quadratic constraints and the objective function Hessian has a specific structure over the convex $\mathcal{C}$. Finally, we extend our results to the stochastic setting and characterize the number of stochastic gradient and Hessian evaluations to reach an $(\epsilon,\gamma)$-SOSP.

Monte Carlo sampling in high-dimensional, low-sample settings is important in many machine learning tasks. We improve current methods for sampling in Euclidean spaces by avoiding independence, and instead consider ways to couple samples. We show fundamental connections to optimal transport theory, leading to novel sampling algorithms, and providing new theoretical grounding for existing strategies. We compare our new strategies against prior methods for improving sample efficiency, including QMC, by studying discrepancy. We explore our findings empirically, and observe benefits of our sampling schemes for reinforcement learning and generative modelling.

We present a novel extension of multi-output Gaussian processes for handling heterogeneous outputs. We assume that each output has its own likelihood function and use a vector-valued Gaussian process prior to jointly model the parameters in all likelihoods as latent functions. Our multi-output Gaussian process uses a covariance function with a linear model of coregionalisation form. Assuming conditional independence across the underlying latent functions together with an inducing variable framework, we are able to obtain tractable variational bounds amenable to stochastic variational inference. We illustrate the performance of the model on synthetic data and two real datasets: a human behavioral study and a demographic high-dimensional dataset.

Coresets are one of the central methods to facilitate the analysis of large data. We continue a recent line of research applying the theory of coresets to logistic regression. First, we show the negative result that no strongly sublinear sized coresets exist for logistic regression. To deal with intractable worst-case instances we introduce a complexity measure $\mu(X)$, which quantifies the hardness of compressing a data set for logistic regression. $\mu(X)$ has an intuitive statistical interpretation that may be of independent interest. For data sets with bounded $\mu(X)$-complexity, we show that a novel sensitivity sampling scheme produces the first provably sublinear $(1\pm\eps)$-coreset. We illustrate the performance of our method by comparing to uniform sampling as well as to state of the art methods in the area. The experiments are conducted on real world benchmark data for logistic regression.

We advocate Laplacian K-modes for joint clustering and density mode finding, and propose a concave-convex relaxation of the problem, which yields a parallel algorithm that scales up to large datasets and high dimensions. We optimize a tight bound (auxiliary function) of our relaxation, which, at each iteration, amounts to computing an independent update for each cluster-assignment variable, with guar- anteed convergence. Therefore, our bound optimizer can be trivially distributed for large-scale data sets. Furthermore, we show that the density modes can be obtained as byproducts of the assignment variables via simple maximum-value operations whose additional computational cost is linear in the number of data points. Our formulation does not need storing a full affinity matrix and computing its eigenvalue decomposition, neither does it perform expensive projection steps and Lagrangian-dual inner iterates for the simplex constraints of each point. Fur- thermore, unlike mean-shift, our density-mode estimation does not require inner- loop gradient-ascent iterates. It has a complexity independent of feature-space dimension, yields modes that are valid data points in the input set and is appli- cable to discrete domains as well as arbitrary kernels. We report comprehensive experiments over various data sets, which show that our algorithm yields very competitive performances in term of optimization quality (i.e., the value of the discrete-variable objective at convergence) and clustering accuracy.

Despite advances in scalable models, the inference tools used for Gaussian processes (GPs) have yet to fully capitalize on developments in computing hardware. We present an efficient and general approach to GP inference based on Blackbox Matrix-Matrix multiplication (BBMM). BBMM inference uses a modified batched version of the conjugate gradients algorithm to derive all terms for training and inference in a single call. BBMM reduces the asymptotic complexity of exact GP inference from O(n^3) to O(n^2). Adapting this algorithm to scalable approximations and complex GP models simply requires a routine for efficient matrix-matrix multiplication with the kernel and its derivative. In addition, BBMM uses a specialized preconditioner to substantially speed up convergence. In experiments we show that BBMM effectively uses GPU hardware to dramatically accelerate both exact GP inference and scalable approximations. Additionally, we provide GPyTorch, a software platform for scalable GP inference via BBMM, built on PyTorch.

We present a novel nonnegative tensor decomposition method, called Legendre decomposition, which factorizes an input tensor into a multiplicative combination of parameters. Thanks to the well-developed theory of information geometry, the reconstructed tensor is unique and always minimizes the KL divergence from an input tensor. We empirically show that Legendre decomposition can more accurately reconstruct tensors than other nonnegative tensor decomposition methods.

Causal discovery from a set of observations is one of the fundamental problems across several disciplines. For continuous variables, recently a number of causal discovery methods have demonstrated their effectiveness in distinguishing the cause from effect by exploring certain properties of the conditional distribution, but causal discovery on categorical data still remains to be a challenging problem, because it is generally not easy to find a compact description of the causal mechanism for the true causal direction. In this paper we make an attempt to find a way to solve this problem by assuming a two-stage causal process: the first stage maps the cause to a hidden variable of a lower cardinality, and the second stage generates the effect from the hidden representation. In this way, the causal mechanism admits a simple yet compact representation. We show that under this model, the causal direction is identifiable under some weak conditions on the true causal mechanism. We also provide an effective solution to recover the above hidden compact representation within the likelihood framework. Empirical studies verify the effectiveness of the proposed approach on both synthetic and real-world data.

Can evolving networks be inferred and modeled without directly observing their nodes and edges? In many applications, the edges of a dynamic network might not be observed, but one can observe the dynamics of stochastic cascading processes (e.g., information diffusion, virus propagation) occurring over the unobserved network. While there have been efforts to infer networks based on such data, providing a generative probabilistic model that is able to identify the underlying time-varying network remains an open question. Here we consider the problem of inferring generative dynamic network models based on network cascade diffusion data. We propose a novel framework for providing a non-parametric dynamic network model---based on a mixture of coupled hierarchical Dirichlet processes---based on data capturing cascade node infection times. Our approach allows us to infer the evolving community structure in networks and to obtain an explicit predictive distribution over the edges of the underlying network---including those that were not involved in transmission of any cascade, or are likely to appear in the future. We show the effectiveness of our approach using extensive experiments on synthetic as well as real-world networks.

Asynchronous Gibbs sampling has been recently shown to be fast-mixing and an accurate method for estimating probabilities of events on a small number of variables of a graphical model satisfying Dobrushin's condition~\cite{DeSaOR16}. We investigate whether it can be used to accurately estimate expectations of functions of {\em all the variables} of the model. Under the same condition, we show that the synchronous (sequential) and asynchronous Gibbs samplers can be coupled so that the expected Hamming distance between their (multivariate) samples remains bounded by $O(\tau \log n),$ where $n$ is the number of variables in the graphical model, and $\tau$ is a measure of the asynchronicity. A similar bound holds for any constant power of the Hamming distance. Hence, the expectation of any function that is Lipschitz with respect to a power of the Hamming distance, can be estimated with a bias that grows logarithmically in $n$. Going beyond Lipschitz functions, we consider the bias arising from asynchronicity in estimating the expectation of polynomial functions of all variables in the model. Using recent concentration of measure results~\cite{DaskalakisDK17,GheissariLP17,GotzeSS18}, we show that the bias introduced by the asynchronicity is of smaller order than the standard deviation of the function value already present in the true model. We perform experiments on a multi-processor machine to empirically illustrate our theoretical findings.

Variational approximation has been widely used in large-scale Bayesian inference recently, the simplest kind of which involves imposing a mean field assumption to approximate complicated latent structures. Despite the computational scalability of mean field, theoretical studies of its loss function surface and the convergence behavior of iterative updates for optimizing the loss are far from complete. In this paper, we focus on the problem of community detection for a simple two-class Stochastic Blockmodel (SBM). Using batch co-ordinate ascent (BCAVI) for updates, we give a complete characterization of all the critical points and show different convergence behaviors with respect to initializations. When the parameters are known, we show a significant proportion of random initializations will converge to ground truth. On the other hand, when the parameters themselves need to be estimated, a random initialization will converge to an uninformative local optimum.

We present a novel extension of multi-output Gaussian processes for handling heterogeneous outputs. We assume that each output has its own likelihood function and use a vector-valued Gaussian process prior to jointly model the parameters in all likelihoods as latent functions. Our multi-output Gaussian process uses a covariance function with a linear model of coregionalisation form. Assuming conditional independence across the underlying latent functions together with an inducing variable framework, we are able to obtain tractable variational bounds amenable to stochastic variational inference. We illustrate the performance of the model on synthetic data and two real datasets: a human behavioral study and a demographic high-dimensional dataset.

While a typical supervised learning framework assumes that the inputs and the outputs are measured at the same levels of granularity, many applications, including global mapping of disease, only have access to outputs at a much coarser level than that of the inputs. Aggregation of outputs makes generalization to new inputs much more difficult. We consider an approach to this problem based on variational learning with a model of output aggregation and Gaussian processes, where aggregation leads to intractability of the standard evidence lower bounds. We propose new bounds and tractable approximations, leading to improved prediction accuracy and scalability to large datasets, while explicitly taking uncertainty into account. We develop a framework which extends to several types of likelihoods, including the Poisson model for aggregated count data. We apply our framework to a challenging and important problem, the fine-scale spatial modelling of malaria incidence, with over 1 million observations.

Coordinate descent methods minimize a cost function by updating a single decision variable (corresponding to one coordinate) at a time. Ideally, we would update the decision variable that yields the largest marginal decrease in the cost function. However, finding this coordinate would require checking all of them, which is not computationally practical. Therefore, we propose a new adaptive method for coordinate descent. First, we define a lower bound on the decrease of the cost function when a coordinate is updated and, instead of calculating this lower bound for all coordinates, we use a multi-armed bandit algorithm to learn which coordinates result in the largest marginal decrease and simultaneously perform coordinate descent. We show that our approach improves the convergence of the coordinate methods both theoretically and experimentally.

We study finite-sum nonconvex optimization problems, where the objective function is an average of $n$ nonconvex functions. We propose a new stochastic gradient descent algorithm based on nested variance reduction. Compared with conventional stochastic variance reduced gradient (SVRG) algorithm that uses two reference points to construct a semi-stochastic gradient with diminishing variance in each epoch, our algorithm uses $K+1$ nested reference points to build an semi-stochastic gradient to further reduce its variance in each epoch. For smooth functions, the proposed algorithm converges to an approximate first order stationary point (i.e., $\|\nabla F(\xb)\|_2\leq \epsilon$) within $\tO(n\land \epsilon^{-2}+\epsilon^{-3}\land n^{1/2}\epsilon^{-2})$\footnote{$\tO(\cdot)$ hides the logarithmic factors} number of stochastic gradient evaluations, where $n$ is the number of component functions, and $\epsilon$ is the optimization error. This improves the best known gradient complexity of SVRG $O(n+n^{2/3}\epsilon^{-2})$ and the best gradient complexity of SCSG $O(\epsilon^{-5/3}\land n^{2/3}\epsilon^{-2})$. For gradient dominated functions, our algorithm achieves $\tO(n\land \tau\epsilon^{-1}+\tau\cdot (n^{1/2}\land (\tau\epsilon^{-1})^{1/2})$ gradient complexity, which again beats the existing best gradient complexity $\tO(n\land \tau\epsilon^{-1}+\tau\cdot (n^{1/2}\land (\tau\epsilon^{-1})^{2/3})$ achieved by SCSG. Thorough experimental results on different nonconvex optimization problems back up our theory.

When the linear measurements of an instance of low-rank matrix recovery satisfy a restricted isometry property (RIP) --- i.e. they are approximately norm-preserving --- the problem is known to contain no spurious local minima, so exact recovery is guaranteed. In this paper, we show that moderate RIP is not enough to eliminate spurious local minima, so existing results can only hold for near-perfect RIP. In fact, counterexamples are ubiquitous: every $x$ is the spurious local minimum of a rank-1 instance of matrix recovery that satisfies RIP. One specific counterexample has RIP constant $\delta=1/2$, but causes randomly initialized stochastic gradient descent (SGD) to fail 12\% of the time. SGD is frequently able to avoid and escape spurious local minima, but this empirical result shows that it can occasionally be defeated by their existence. Hence, while exact recovery guarantees will likely require a proof of no spurious local minima, arguments based solely on norm preservation will only be applicable to a narrow set of nearly-isotropic instances.

We study the implicit regularization imposed by gradient descent for learning multi-layer homogeneous functions including feed-forward fully connected and convolutional deep neural networks with linear, ReLU or Leaky ReLU activation. We rigorously prove that gradient flow (i.e. gradient descent with infinitesimal step size) effectively enforces the differences between squared norms across different layers to remain invariant without any explicit regularization. This result implies that if the weights are initially small, gradient flow automatically balances the magnitudes of all layers. Using a discretization argument, we analyze gradient descent with positive step size for the non-convex low-rank asymmetric matrix factorization problem without any regularization. Inspired by our findings for gradient flow, we prove that gradient descent with step sizes $\eta_t=O(t^{−(1/2+\delta)}) (0<\delta\le1/2)$ automatically balances two low-rank factors and converges to a bounded global optimum. Furthermore, for rank-1 asymmetric matrix factorization we give a finer analysis showing gradient descent with constant step size converges to the global minimum at a globally linear rate. We believe that the idea of examining the invariance imposed by first order algorithms in learning homogeneous models could serve as a fundamental building block for studying optimization for learning deep models.

Learning a decision tree from data is a difficult optimization problem. The most widespread algorithm in practice, dating to the 1980s, is based on a greedy growth of the tree structure by recursively splitting nodes, and possibly pruning back the final tree. The parameters (decision function) of an internal node are approximately estimated by minimizing an impurity measure. We give an algorithm that, given an input tree (its structure and the parameter values at its nodes), produces a new tree with the same or smaller structure but new parameter values that provably lower or leave unchanged the misclassification error. This can be applied to both axis-aligned and oblique trees and our experiments show it consistently outperforms various other algorithms while being highly scalable to large datasets and trees. Further, the same algorithm can handle a sparsity penalty, so it can learn sparse oblique trees, having a structure that is a subset of the original tree and few nonzero parameters. This combines the best of axis-aligned and oblique trees: flexibility to model correlated data, low generalization error, fast inference and interpretable nodes that involve only a few features in their decision.

Recurrent networks of spiking neurons (RSNNs) underlie the astounding computing and learning capabilities of the brain. But computing and learning capabilities of RSNN models have remained poor, at least in comparison with ANNs. We address two possible reasons for that. One is that RSNNs in the brain are not randomly connected or designed according to simple rules, and they do not start learning as a tabula rasa network. Rather, RSNNs in the brain were optimized for their tasks through evolution, development, and prior experience. Details of these optimization processes are largely unknown. But their functional contribution can be approximated through powerful optimization methods, such as backpropagation through time (BPTT). A second major mismatch between RSNNs in the brain and models is that the latter only show a small fraction of the dynamics of neurons and synapses in the brain. We include neurons in our RSNN model that reproduce one prominent dynamical process of biological neurons that takes place at the behaviourally relevant time scale of seconds: neuronal adaptation. We denote these networks as LSNNs because of their Long short-term memory. The inclusion of adapting neurons drastically increases the computing and learning capability of RSNNs if they are trained and configured by deep learning (BPTT combined with a rewiring algorithm that optimizes the network architecture). In fact, the computational performance of these RSNNs approaches for the first time that of LSTM networks. In addition RSNNs with adapting neurons can acquire abstract knowledge from prior learning in a Learning-to-Learn (L2L) scheme, and transfer that knowledge in order to learn new but related tasks from very few examples. We demonstrate this for supervised learning and reinforcement learning.

Infants are experts at playing, with an amazing ability to generate novel structured behaviors in unstructured environments that lack clear extrinsic reward signals. We seek to mathematically formalize these abilities using a neural network that implements curiosity-driven intrinsic motivation. Using a simple but ecologically naturalistic simulated environment in which an agent can move and interact with objects it sees, we propose a "world-model" network that learns to predict the dynamic consequences of the agent's actions. Simultaneously, we train a separate explicit "self-model" that allows the agent to track the error map of its world-model. It then uses the self-model to adversarially challenge the developing world-model. We demonstrate that this policy causes the agent to explore novel and informative interactions with its environment, leading to the generation of a spectrum of complex behaviors, including ego-motion prediction, object attention, and object gathering. Moreover, the world-model that the agent learns supports improved performance on object dynamics prediction, detection, localization and recognition tasks. Taken together, our results are initial steps toward creating flexible autonomous agents that self-supervise in realistic physical environments.

Information theoretic quantities play an important role in various settings in machine learning, including causality testing, structure inference in graphical models, time-series problems, feature selection as well as in providing privacy guarantees. A key quantity of interest is the mutual information and generalizations thereof, including conditional mutual information, multivariate mutual information, total correlation and directed information. While the aforementioned information quantities are well defined in arbitrary probability spaces, existing estimators employ a $\Sigma H$ method, which can only work in purely discrete space or purely continuous case since entropy (or differential entropy) is well defined only in that regime. In this paper, we define a general graph divergence measure ($\mathbb{GDM}$), generalizing the aforementioned information measures and we construct a novel estimator via a coupling trick that directly estimates these multivariate information measures using the Radon-Nikodym derivative. These estimators are proven to be consistent in a general setting which includes several cases where the existing estimators fail, thus providing the only known estimators for the following settings: (1) the data has some discrete and some continuous valued components (2) some (or all) of the components themselves are discrete-continuous \textit{mixtures} (3) the data is real-valued but does not have a joint density on the entire space, rather is supported on a low-dimensional manifold. We show that our proposed estimators significantly outperform known estimators on synthetic and real datasets.

We consider the task of recovering two real or complex $m$-vectors from phaseless Fourier measurements of their circular convolution. Our method is a novel convex relaxation that is based on a lifted matrix recovery formulation that allows a nontrivial convex relaxation of the bilinear measurements from convolution. We prove that if the two signals belong to known random subspaces of dimensions $k$ and $n$, then they can be recovered up to the inherent scaling ambiguity with $m >> (k+n) \log^2 m$ phaseless measurements. Our method provides the first theoretical recovery guarantee for this problem by a computationally efficient algorithm and does not require a solution estimate to be computed for initialization. Our proof is based Rademacher complexity estimates. Additionally, we provide an ADMM implementation of the method and provide numerical experiments that verify the theory.

A fundamental challenge in imperfect-information games is that states do not have well-defined values. As a result, depth-limited search algorithms used in single-agent settings and perfect-information games do not apply. This paper introduces a principled way to conduct depth-limited solving in imperfect-information games by allowing the opponent to choose among a number of strategies for the remainder of the game at the depth limit. Each one of these strategies results in a different set of values for leaf nodes. This forces an agent to be robust to the different strategies an opponent may employ. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach by building a master-level heads-up no-limit Texas hold'em poker AI that defeats two prior top agents using only a 4-core CPU and 16 GB of memory. Developing such a powerful agent would have previously required a supercomputer.

We use differential equations based approaches to provide some {\it \textbf{physics}} insights into analyzing the dynamics of popular optimization algorithms in machine learning. In particular, we study gradient descent, proximal gradient descent, coordinate gradient descent, proximal coordinate gradient, and Newton's methods as well as their Nesterov's accelerated variants in a unified framework motivated by a natural connection of optimization algorithms to physical systems. Our analysis is applicable to more general algorithms and optimization problems {\it \textbf{beyond}} convexity and strong convexity, e.g. Polyak-\L ojasiewicz and error bound conditions (possibly nonconvex).

In this paper, we propose a new method called ProfWeight for transferring information from a pre-trained deep neural network that has a high test accuracy to a simpler interpretable model or a very shallow network of low complexity and a priori low test accuracy. We are motivated by applications in interpretability and model deployment in severely memory constrained environments (like sensors). Our method uses linear probes to generate confidence scores through flattened intermediate representations. Our transfer method involves a theoretically justified weighting of samples during the training of the simple model using confidence scores of these intermediate layers. The value of our method is first demonstrated on CIFAR-10, where our weighting method significantly improves (3-4\%) networks with only a fraction of the number of Resnet blocks of a complex Resnet model. We further demonstrate operationally significant results on a real manufacturing problem, where we dramatically increase the test accuracy of a CART model (the domain standard) by roughly $13\%$.

We present a novel nonnegative tensor decomposition method, called Legendre decomposition, which factorizes an input tensor into a multiplicative combination of parameters. Thanks to the well-developed theory of information geometry, the reconstructed tensor is unique and always minimizes the KL divergence from an input tensor. We empirically show that Legendre decomposition can more accurately reconstruct tensors than other nonnegative tensor decomposition methods.

We advocate Laplacian K-modes for joint clustering and density mode finding, and propose a concave-convex relaxation of the problem, which yields a parallel algorithm that scales up to large datasets and high dimensions. We optimize a tight bound (auxiliary function) of our relaxation, which, at each iteration, amounts to computing an independent update for each cluster-assignment variable, with guar- anteed convergence. Therefore, our bound optimizer can be trivially distributed for large-scale data sets. Furthermore, we show that the density modes can be obtained as byproducts of the assignment variables via simple maximum-value operations whose additional computational cost is linear in the number of data points. Our formulation does not need storing a full affinity matrix and computing its eigenvalue decomposition, neither does it perform expensive projection steps and Lagrangian-dual inner iterates for the simplex constraints of each point. Fur- thermore, unlike mean-shift, our density-mode estimation does not require inner- loop gradient-ascent iterates. It has a complexity independent of feature-space dimension, yields modes that are valid data points in the input set and is appli- cable to discrete domains as well as arbitrary kernels. We report comprehensive experiments over various data sets, which show that our algorithm yields very competitive performances in term of optimization quality (i.e., the value of the discrete-variable objective at convergence) and clustering accuracy.

Monte Carlo sampling in high-dimensional, low-sample settings is important in many machine learning tasks. We improve current methods for sampling in Euclidean spaces by avoiding independence, and instead consider ways to couple samples. We show fundamental connections to optimal transport theory, leading to novel sampling algorithms, and providing new theoretical grounding for existing strategies. We compare our new strategies against prior methods for improving sample efficiency, including QMC, by studying discrepancy. We explore our findings empirically, and observe benefits of our sampling schemes for reinforcement learning and generative modelling.

Motivated by the success of reinforcement learning (RL) for discrete-time tasks such as AlphaGo and Atari games, there has been a recent surge of interest in using RL for continuous-time control of physical systems (cf. many challenging tasks in OpenAI Gym and DeepMind Control Suite). Since discretization of time is susceptible to error, it is methodologically more desirable to handle the system dynamics directly in continuous time. However, very few techniques exist for continuous-time RL and they lack flexibility in value function approximation. In this paper, we propose a novel framework for model-based continuous-time value function approximation in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. The resulting framework is so flexible that it can accommodate any kind of kernel-based approach, such as Gaussian processes and kernel adaptive filters, and it allows us to handle uncertainties and nonstationarity without prior knowledge about the environment or what basis functions to employ. We demonstrate the validity of the presented framework through experiments.

Agnostophobia, the fear of the unknown, can be experienced by deep learning engineers while applying their networks to real-world applications. Unfortunately, network behavior is not well defined for inputs far from a networks training set. In an uncontrolled environment, networks face many instances that are not of interest to them and have to be rejected in order to avoid a false positive. This problem has previously been tackled by researchers by either a) thresholding softmax, which by construction cannot return "none of the known classes", or b) using an additional background or garbage class. In this paper, we show that both of these approaches help, but are generally insufficient when previously unseen classes are encountered. We also introduce a new evaluation metric that focuses on comparing the performance of multiple approaches in scenarios where such unseen classes or unknowns are encountered. Our major contributions are simple yet effective Entropic Open-Set and Objectosphere losses that train networks using negative samples from some classes. These novel losses are designed to maximize entropy for unknown inputs while increasing separation in deep feature space by modifying magnitudes of known and unknown samples. Experiments on networks trained to classify classes from MNIST and CIFAR-10 show that our novel loss functions are significantly better at dealing with unknown inputs from datasets such as Devanagari, NotMNIST, CIFAR-100 and SVHN.

We present an end-to-end framework for solving the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP) using reinforcement learning. In this approach, we train a single policy model that finds near-optimal solutions for a broad range of problem instances of similar size, only by observing the reward signals and following feasibility rules. We consider a parameterized stochastic policy, and by applying a policy gradient algorithm to optimize its parameters, the trained model produces the solution as a sequence of consecutive actions in real time, without the need to re-train for every new problem instance. On capacitated VRP, our approach outperforms classical heuristics and Google's OR-Tools on medium-sized instances in solution quality with comparable computation time (after training). We demonstrate how our approach can handle problems with split delivery and explore the effect of such deliveries on the solution quality. Our proposed framework can be applied to other variants of the VRP such as the stochastic VRP, and has the potential to be applied more generally to combinatorial optimization problems

Domain-independent probabilistic planners input an MDP description in a factored representation language such as PPDDL or RDDL, and exploit the specifics of the representation for faster planning. Traditional algorithms operate on each problem instance independently, and good methods for transferring experience from policies of other instances of a domain to a new instance do not exist. Recently, researchers have begun exploring the use of deep reactive policies, trained via deep reinforcement learning (RL), for MDP planning domains. One advantage of deep reactive policies is that they are more amenable to transfer learning. In this paper, we present the first domain-independent transfer algorithm for MDP planning domains expressed in an RDDL representation. Our architecture exploits the symbolic state configuration and transition function of the domain (available via RDDL) to learn a shared embedding space for states and state-action pairs for all problem instances of a domain. We then learn an RL agent in the embedding space, making a near zero-shot transfer possible, i.e., without much training on the new instance, and without using the domain simulator at all. Experiments on three different benchmark domains underscore the value of our transfer algorithm. Compared against planning from scratch, and a state-of-the-art RL transfer algorithm, our transfer solution has significantly superior learning curves.

We study the problem of off-policy policy evaluation (OPPE) in RL. In contrast to prior work, we consider how to estimate both the individual policy value and average policy value accurately. We draw inspiration from recent work in causal reasoning, and propose a new finite sample generalization error bound for value estimates from MDP models. Using this upper bound as an objective, we develop a learning algorithm of an MDP model with a balanced representation, and show that our approach can yield substantially lower MSE in common synthetic benchmarks and a HIV treatment simulation domain.

Inverse reinforcement learning (IRL) attempts to infer human rewards or preferences from observed behavior. Since human planning systematically deviates from rationality, several approaches have been tried to account for specific human shortcomings. However, the general problem of inferring the reward function of an agent of unknown rationality has received little attention. Unlike the well-known ambiguity problems in IRL, this one is practically relevant but cannot be resolved by observing the agent's policy in enough environments. This paper shows (1) that a No Free Lunch result implies it is impossible to uniquely decompose a policy into a planning algorithm and reward function, and (2) that even with a reasonable simplicity prior/Occam's razor on the set of decompositions, we cannot distinguish between the true decomposition and others that lead to high regret. To address this, we need simple `normative' assumptions, which cannot be deduced exclusively from observations.

The growing prospect of deep reinforcement learning (DRL) being used in cyber-physical systems has raised concerns around safety and robustness of autonomous agents. Recent work on generating adversarial attacks have shown that it is computationally feasible for a bad actor to fool a DRL policy into behaving sub optimally. Although certain adversarial attacks with specific attack models have been addressed, most studies are only interested in off-line optimization in the data space (e.g., example fitting, distillation). This paper introduces a Meta-Learned Advantage Hierarchy (MLAH) framework that is attack model-agnostic and more suited to reinforcement learning, via handling the attacks in the decision space (as opposed to data space) and directly mitigating learned bias introduced by the adversary. In MLAH, we learn separate sub-policies (nominal and adversarial) in an online manner, as guided by a supervisory master agent that detects the presence of the adversary by leveraging the advantage function for the sub-policies. We demonstrate that the proposed algorithm enables policy learning with significantly lower bias as compared to the state-of-the-art policy learning approaches even in the presence of heavy state information attacks. We present algorithm analysis and simulation results using popular OpenAI Gym environments.

In a wide variety of applications, humans interact with a complex environment by means of asynchronous stochastic discrete events in continuous time. Can we design online interventions that will help humans achieve certain goals in such asynchronous setting? In this paper, we address the above problem from the perspective of deep reinforcement learning of marked temporal point processes, where both the actions taken by an agent and the feedback it receives from the environment are asynchronous stochastic discrete events characterized using marked temporal point processes. In doing so, we define the agent's policy using the intensity and mark distribution of the corresponding process and then derive a flexible policy gradient method, which embeds the agent's actions and the feedback it receives into real-valued vectors using deep recurrent neural networks. Our method does not make any assumptions on the functional form of the intensity and mark distribution of the feedback and it allows for arbitrarily complex reward functions. We apply our methodology to two different applications in viral marketing and personalized teaching and, using data gathered from Twitter and Duolingo, we show that it may be able to find interventions to help marketers and learners achieve their goals more effectively than alternatives.

Efficient exploration remains a challenging research problem in reinforcement learning, especially when an environment contains large state spaces, deceptive local optima, or sparse rewards. To tackle this problem, we present a diversity-driven approach for exploration, which can be easily combined with both off- and on-policy reinforcement learning algorithms. We show that by simply adding a distance measure to the loss function, the proposed methodology significantly enhances an agent's exploratory behaviors, and thus preventing the policy from being trapped in local optima. We further propose an adaptive scaling method for stabilizing the learning process. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method in huge 2D gridworlds and a variety of benchmark environments, including Atari 2600 and MuJoCo. Experimental results show that our method outperforms baseline approaches in most tasks in terms of mean scores and exploration efficiency.

We present Memory Augmented Policy Optimization (MAPO), a simple and novel way to leverage a memory buffer of promising trajectories to reduce the variance of policy gradient estimate. MAPO is applicable to deterministic environments with discrete actions, such as structured prediction and combinatorial optimization tasks. We express the expected return objective as a weighted sum of two terms: an expectation over the high-reward trajectories inside the memory buffer, and a separate expectation over trajectories outside the buffer. To make an efficient algorithm of MAPO, we propose: (1) memory weight clipping to accelerate and stabilize training; (2) systematic exploration to discover high-reward trajectories; (3) distributed sampling from inside and outside of the memory buffer to scale up training. MAPO improves the sample efficiency and robustness of policy gradient, especially on tasks with sparse rewards. We evaluate MAPO on weakly supervised program synthesis from natural language (semantic parsing). On the WikiTableQuestions benchmark, we improve the state-of-the-art by 2.6%, achieving an accuracy of 46.3%. On the WikiSQL benchmark, MAPO achieves an accuracy of 74.9% with only weak supervision, outperforming several strong baselines with full supervision. Our source code is available at https://goo.gl/TXBp4e

Deep reinforcement learning could be used to learn dexterous robotic policies but it is challenging to transfer them to new robots with vastly different hardware properties. It is also prohibitively expensive to learn a new policy from scratch for each robot hardware due to the high sample complexity of modern state-of-the-art algorithms. We propose a novel approach called Hardware Conditioned Policies where we train a universal policy conditioned on a vector representation of robot hardware. We considered robots in simulation with varied dynamics, kinematic structure, kinematic lengths and degrees-of-freedom. First, we use the kinematic structure directly as the hardware encoding and show great zero-shot transfer to completely novel robots not seen during training. For robots with lower zero-shot success rate, we also demonstrate that fine-tuning the policy network is significantly more sample-efficient than training a model from scratch. In tasks where knowing the agent dynamics is important for success, we learn an embedding for robot hardware and show that policies conditioned on the encoding of hardware tend to generalize and transfer well. Videos of experiments are available at: https://sites.google.com/view/robot-transfer-hcp.

Deep reinforcement learning methods traditionally struggle with tasks where environment rewards are particularly sparse. One successful method of guiding exploration in these domains is to imitate trajectories provided by a human demonstrator. However, these demonstrations are typically collected under artificial conditions, i.e. with access to the agent’s exact environment setup and the demonstrator’s action and reward trajectories. Here we propose a method that overcomes these limitations in two stages. First, we learn to map unaligned videos from multiple sources to a common representation using self-supervised objectives constructed over both time and modality (i.e. vision and sound). Second, we embed a single YouTube video in this representation to learn a reward function that encourages an agent to imitate human gameplay. This method of one-shot imitation allows our agent to convincingly exceed human-level performance on the infamously hard exploration games Montezuma’s Revenge, Pitfall! and Private Eye for the first time, even if the agent is not presented with any environment rewards.

We present a new technique for deep reinforcement learning that automatically detects moving objects and uses the relevant information for action selection. The detection of moving objects is done in an unsupervised way by exploiting structure from motion. Instead of directly learning a policy from raw images, the agent first learns to detect and segment moving objects by exploiting flow information in video sequences. The learned representation is then used to focus the policy of the agent on the moving objects. Over time, the agent identifies which objects are critical for decision making and gradually builds a policy based on relevant moving objects. This approach, which we call Motion-Oriented REinforcement Learning (MOREL), is demonstrated on a suite of Atari games where the ability to detect moving objects reduces the amount of interaction needed with the environment to obtain a good policy. Furthermore, the resulting policy is more interpretable than policies that directly map images to actions or values with a black box neural network. We can gain insight into the policy by inspecting the segmentation and motion of each object detected by the agent. This allows practitioners to confirm whether a policy is making decisions based on sensible information. Our code is available at https://github.com/vik-goel/MOREL.

Navigating through unstructured environments is a basic capability of intelligent creatures, and thus is of fundamental interest in the study and development of artificial intelligence. Long-range navigation is a complex cognitive task that relies on developing an internal representation of space, grounded by recognisable landmarks and robust visual processing, that can simultaneously support continuous self-localisation ("I am here") and a representation of the goal ("I am going there"). Building upon recent research that applies deep reinforcement learning to maze navigation problems, we present an end-to-end deep reinforcement learning approach that can be applied on a city scale. Recognising that successful navigation relies on integration of general policies with locale-specific knowledge, we propose a dual pathway architecture that allows locale-specific features to be encapsulated, while still enabling transfer to multiple cities. A key contribution of this paper is an interactive navigation environment that uses Google Street View for its photographic content and worldwide coverage. Our baselines demonstrate that deep reinforcement learning agents can learn to navigate in multiple cities and to traverse to target destinations that may be kilometres away. A video summarizing our research and showing the trained agent in diverse city environments as well as on the transfer task is available at: https://sites.google.com/view/learn-navigate-cities-nips18

Object-oriented representations in reinforcement learning have shown promise in transfer learning, with previous research introducing a propositional object-oriented framework that has provably efficient learning bounds with respect to sample complexity. However, this framework has limitations in terms of the classes of tasks it can efficiently learn. In this paper we introduce a novel deictic object-oriented framework that has provably efficient learning bounds and can solve a broader range of tasks. Additionally, we show that this framework is capable of zero-shot transfer of transition dynamics across tasks and demonstrate this empirically for the Taxi and Sokoban domains.

Dealing with uncertainty is essential for efficient reinforcement learning. There is a growing literature on uncertainty estimation for deep learning from fixed datasets, but many of the most popular approaches are poorly-suited to sequential decision problems. Other methods, such as bootstrap sampling, have no mechanism for uncertainty that does not come from the observed data. We highlight why this can be a crucial shortcoming and propose a simple remedy through addition of a randomized untrainable `prior' network to each ensemble member. We prove that this approach is efficient with linear representations, provide simple illustrations of its efficacy with nonlinear representations and show that this approach scales to large-scale problems far better than previous attempts.

We consider a team of reinforcement learning agents that concurrently operate in a common environment, and we develop an approach to efficient coordinated exploration that is suitable for problems of practical scale. Our approach builds on the seed sampling concept introduced in Dimakopoulou and Van Roy (2018) and on a randomized value function learning algorithm from Osband et al. (2016). We demonstrate that, for simple tabular contexts, the approach is competitive with those previously proposed in Dimakopoulou and Van Roy (2018) and with a higher-dimensional problem and a neural network value function representation, the approach learns quickly with far fewer agents than alternative exploration schemes.

Real-world applications often naturally decompose into several sub-tasks. In many settings (e.g., robotics) demonstrations provide a natural way to specify the sub-tasks. However, most methods for learning from demonstrations either do not provide guarantees that the artifacts learned for the sub-tasks can be safely recombined or limit the types of composition available. Motivated by this deficit, we consider the problem of inferring Boolean non-Markovian rewards (also known as logical trace properties or specifications) from demonstrations provided by an agent operating in an uncertain, stochastic environment. Crucially, specifications admit well-defined composition rules that are typically easy to interpret. In this paper, we formulate the specification inference task as a maximum a posteriori (MAP) probability inference problem, apply the principle of maximum entropy to derive an analytic demonstration likelihood model and give an efficient approach to search for the most likely specification in a large candidate pool of specifications. In our experiments, we demonstrate how learning specifications can help avoid common problems that often arise due to ad-hoc reward composition.

It is well known that the problems of stochastic planning and probabilistic inference are closely related. This paper makes two contributions in this context. The first is to provide an analysis of the recently developed SOGBOFA heuristic planning algorithm that was shown to be effective for problems with large factored state and action spaces. It is shown that SOGBOFA can be seen as a specialized inference algorithm that computes its solutions through a combination of a symbolic variant of belief propagation and gradient ascent. The second contribution is a new solver for Marginal MAP (MMAP) inference. We introduce a new reduction from MMAP to maximum expected utility problems which are suitable for the symbolic computation in SOGBOFA. This yields a novel algebraic gradient-based solver (AGS) for MMAP. An experimental evaluation illustrates the potential of AGS in solving difficult MMAP problems.

The demand for transparency, explainability and empirical validation of automated advice systems is not new. Back in the 1980s there were (occasionally acrimonious) discussions between proponents of rule-based systems and those based on statistical models, partly based on which were more transparent. A four-stage process of evaluation of medical advice systems was established, based on that used in drug development. More recently, EU legislation has focused attention on the ability of algorithms to, if required, show their workings. Inspired by Onora O'Neill's emphasis on demonstrating trustworthiness, and her idea of 'intelligent transparency', we should ideally be able to check (a) the empirical basis for the algorithm, (b) its past performance, (c) the reasoning behind its current claim, including tipping points and what-ifs (d) the uncertainty around its current claim, including whether the latest case comes within its remit. Furthermore, these explanations should be open to different levels of expertise. These ideas will be illustrated by the Predict 2.1 system for women choosing adjuvant therapy following surgery for breast cancer, which is based on a competing-risks survival regression model, and has been developed in collaboration with professional psychologists in close cooperation with clinicians and patients. Predict 2.1 has four levels of explanation of the claimed potential benefits and harms of alternative treatments, and is currently used in around 25,000 clinical decisions a month worldwide.

Sketching and stochastic gradient methods are arguably the most common techniques to derive efficient large scale learning algorithms. In this paper, we investigate their application in the context of nonparametric statistical learning. More precisely, we study the estimator defined by stochastic gradient with mini batches and random features. The latter can be seen as form of nonlinear sketching and used to define approximate kernel methods. The considered estimator is not explicitly penalized/constrained and regularization is implicit. Indeed, our study highlights how different parameters, such as number of features, iterations, step-size and mini-batch size control the learning properties of the solutions. We do this by deriving optimal finite sample bounds, under standard assumptions. The obtained results are corroborated and illustrated by numerical experiments.

Approximate inference in probabilistic graphical models (PGMs) can be grouped into deterministic methods and Monte-Carlo-based methods. The former can often provide accurate and rapid inferences, but are typically associated with biases that are hard to quantify. The latter enjoy asymptotic consistency, but can suffer from high computational costs. In this paper we present a way of bridging the gap between deterministic and stochastic inference. Specifically, we suggest an efficient sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) algorithm for PGMs which can leverage the output from deterministic inference methods. While generally applicable, we show explicitly how this can be done with loopy belief propagation, expectation propagation, and Laplace approximations. The resulting algorithm can be viewed as a post-correction of the biases associated with these methods and, indeed, numerical results show clear improvements over the baseline deterministic methods as well as over "plain" SMC.

This paper considers the learning of Boolean rules in either disjunctive normal form (DNF, OR-of-ANDs, equivalent to decision rule sets) or conjunctive normal form (CNF, AND-of-ORs) as an interpretable model for classification. An integer program is formulated to optimally trade classification accuracy for rule simplicity. Column generation (CG) is used to efficiently search over an exponential number of candidate clauses (conjunctions or disjunctions) without the need for heuristic rule mining. This approach also bounds the gap between the selected rule set and the best possible rule set on the training data. To handle large datasets, we propose an approximate CG algorithm using randomization. Compared to three recently proposed alternatives, the CG algorithm dominates the accuracy-simplicity trade-off in 8 out of 16 datasets. When maximized for accuracy, CG is competitive with rule learners designed for this purpose, sometimes finding significantly simpler solutions that are no less accurate.

We present novel graph kernels for graphs with node and edge labels that have ordered neighborhoods, i.e. when neighbor nodes follow an order. Graphs with ordered neighborhoods are a natural data representation for evolving graphs where edges are created over time, which induces an order. Combining convolutional subgraph kernels and string kernels, we design new scalable algorithms for generation of explicit graph feature maps using sketching techniques. We obtain precise bounds for the approximation accuracy and computational complexity of the proposed approaches and demonstrate their applicability on real datasets. In particular, our experiments demonstrate that neighborhood ordering results in more informative features. For the special case of general graphs, i.e. graphs without ordered neighborhoods, the new graph kernels yield efficient and simple algorithms for the comparison of label distributions between graphs.

Approximating a probability density in a tractable manner is a central task in Bayesian statistics. Variational Inference (VI) is a popular technique that achieves tractability by choosing a relatively simple variational approximation. Borrowing ideas from the classic boosting framework, recent approaches attempt to \emph{boost} VI by replacing the selection of a single density with an iteratively constructed mixture of densities. In order to guarantee convergence, previous works impose stringent assumptions that require significant effort for practitioners. Specifically, they require a custom implementation of the greedy step (called the LMO) for every probabilistic model with respect to an unnatural variational family of truncated distributions. Our work fixes these issues with novel theoretical and algorithmic insights. On the theoretical side, we show that boosting VI satisfies a relaxed smoothness assumption which is sufficient for the convergence of the functional Frank-Wolfe (FW) algorithm. Furthermore, we rephrase the LMO problem and propose to maximize the Residual ELBO (RELBO) which replaces the standard ELBO optimization in VI. These theoretical enhancements allow for black box implementation of the boosting subroutine. Finally, we present a stopping criterion drawn from the duality gap in the classic FW analyses and exhaustive experiments to illustrate the usefulness of our theoretical and algorithmic contributions.

In dictionary selection, several atoms are selected from finite candidates that successfully approximate given data points in the sparse representation. We propose a novel efficient greedy algorithm for dictionary selection. Not only does our algorithm work much faster than the known methods, but it can also handle more complex sparsity constraints, such as average sparsity. Using numerical experiments, we show that our algorithm outperforms the known methods for dictionary selection, achieving competitive performances with dictionary learning algorithms in a smaller running time.

We consider the problem of improving kernel approximation via randomized feature maps. These maps arise as Monte Carlo approximation to integral representations of kernel functions and scale up kernel methods for larger datasets. Based on an efficient numerical integration technique, we propose a unifying approach that reinterprets the previous random features methods and extends to better estimates of the kernel approximation. We derive the convergence behavior and conduct an extensive empirical study that supports our hypothesis.

We explore a new research direction in Bayesian variational inference with discrete latent variable priors where we exploit Kronecker matrix algebra for efficient and exact computations of the evidence lower bound (ELBO). The proposed "DIRECT" approach has several advantages over its predecessors; (i) it can exactly compute ELBO gradients (i.e. unbiased, zero-variance gradient estimates), eliminating the need for high-variance stochastic gradient estimators and enabling the use of quasi-Newton optimization methods; (ii) its training complexity is independent of the number of training points, permitting inference on large datasets; and (iii) its posterior samples consist of sparse and low-precision quantized integers which permit fast inference on hardware limited devices. In addition, our DIRECT models can exactly compute statistical moments of the parameterized predictive posterior without relying on Monte Carlo sampling. The DIRECT approach is not practical for all likelihoods, however, we identify a popular model structure which is practical, and demonstrate accurate inference using latent variables discretized as extremely low-precision 4-bit quantized integers. While the ELBO computations considered in the numerical studies require over 10^2352 log-likelihood evaluations, we train on datasets with over two-million points in just seconds.

In this paper, we consider the $k$-center/median/means clustering with outliers problems (or the $(k, z)$-center/median/means problems) in the distributed setting. Most previous distributed algorithms have their communication costs linearly depending on $z$, the number of outliers. Recently Guha et al.[10] overcame this dependence issue by considering bi-criteria approximation algorithms that output solutions with $2z$ outliers. For the case where $z$ is large, the extra $z$ outliers discarded by the algorithms might be too large, considering that the data gathering process might be costly. In this paper, we improve the number of outliers to the best possible $(1+\epsilon)z$, while maintaining the $O(1)$-approximation ratio and independence of communication cost on $z$. The problems we consider include the $(k, z)$-center problem, and $(k, z)$-median/means problems in Euclidean metrics. Implementation of the our algorithm for $(k, z)$-center shows that it outperforms many previous algorithms, both in terms of the communication cost and quality of the output solution.

We investigate the efficiency of k-means in terms of both statistical and computational requirements. More precisely, we study a Nystr\"om approach to kernel k-means. We analyze the statistical properties of the proposed method and show that it achieves the same accuracy of exact kernel k-means with only a fraction of computations. Indeed, we prove under basic assumptions that sampling $\sqrt{n}$ Nystr\"om landmarks allows to greatly reduce computational costs without incurring in any loss of accuracy. To the best of our knowledge this is the first result showing in this kind for unsupervised learning.

By providing a simple and efficient way of computing low-variance gradients of continuous random variables, the reparameterization trick has become the technique of choice for training a variety of latent variable models. However, it is not applicable to a number of important continuous distributions. We introduce an alternative approach to computing reparameterization gradients based on implicit differentiation and demonstrate its broader applicability by applying it to Gamma, Beta, Dirichlet, and von Mises distributions, which cannot be used with the classic reparameterization trick. Our experiments show that the proposed approach is faster and more accurate than the existing gradient estimators for these distributions.

In this paper, we develop the first one-pass streaming algorithm for submodular maximization that does not evaluate the entire stream even once. By carefully subsampling each element of the data stream, our algorithm enjoys the tightest approximation guarantees in various settings while having the smallest memory footprint and requiring the lowest number of function evaluations. More specifically, for a monotone submodular function and a $p$-matchoid constraint, our randomized algorithm achieves a $4p$ approximation ratio (in expectation) with $O(k)$ memory and $O(km/p)$ queries per element ($k$ is the size of the largest feasible solution and $m$ is the number of matroids used to define the constraint). For the non-monotone case, our approximation ratio increases only slightly to $4p+2-o(1)$. To the best or our knowledge, our algorithm is the first that combines the benefits of streaming and subsampling in a novel way in order to truly scale submodular maximization to massive machine learning problems. To showcase its practicality, we empirically evaluated the performance of our algorithm on a video summarization application and observed that it outperforms the state-of-the-art algorithm by up to fifty-fold while maintaining practically the same utility. We also evaluated the scalability of our algorithm on a large dataset of Uber pick up locations.

Recent attempts to achieve fairness in predictive models focus on the balance between fairness and accuracy. In sensitive applications such as healthcare or criminal justice, this trade-off is often undesirable as any increase in prediction error could have devastating consequences. In this work, we argue that the fairness of predictions should be evaluated in context of the data, and that unfairness induced by inadequate samples sizes or unmeasured predictive variables should be addressed through data collection, rather than by constraining the model. We decompose cost-based metrics of discrimination into bias, variance, and noise, and propose actions aimed at estimating and reducing each term. Finally, we perform case-studies on prediction of income, mortality, and review ratings, confirming the value of this analysis. We find that data collection is often a means to reduce discrimination without sacrificing accuracy.

We consider the problem of sampling from constrained distributions, which has posed significant challenges to both non-asymptotic analysis and algorithmic design. We propose a unified framework, which is inspired by the classical mirror descent, to derive novel first-order sampling schemes. We prove that, for a general target distribution with strongly convex potential, our framework implies the existence of a first-order algorithm achieving O~(\epsilon^{-2}d) convergence, suggesting that the state-of-the-art O~(\epsilon^{-6}d^5) can be vastly improved. With the important Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) application in mind, we specialize our algorithm to sample from Dirichlet posteriors, and derive the first non-asymptotic O~(\epsilon^{-2}d^2) rate for first-order sampling. We further extend our framework to the mini-batch setting and prove convergence rates when only stochastic gradients are available. Finally, we report promising experimental results for LDA on real datasets.

People belong to multiple communities, words belong to multiple topics, and books cover multiple genres; overlapping clusters are commonplace. Many existing overlapping clustering methods model each person (or word, or book) as a non-negative weighted combination of "exemplars" who belong solely to one community, with some small noise. Geometrically, each person is a point on a cone whose corners are these exemplars. This basic form encompasses the widely used Mixed Membership Stochastic Blockmodel of networks and its degree-corrected variants, as well as topic models such as LDA. We show that a simple one-class SVM yields provably consistent parameter inference for all such models, and scales to large datasets. Experimental results on several simulated and real datasets show our algorithm (called SVM-cone) is both accurate and scalable.

We often desire our models to be interpretable as well as accurate. Prior work on optimizing models for interpretability has relied on easy-to-quantify proxies for interpretability, such as sparsity or the number of operations required. In this work, we optimize for interpretability by directly including humans in the optimization loop. We develop an algorithm that minimizes the number of user studies to find models that are both predictive and interpretable and demonstrate our approach on several data sets. Our human subjects results show trends towards different proxy notions of interpretability on different datasets, which suggests that different proxies are preferred on different tasks.

We present a unified framework to analyze the global convergence of Langevin dynamics based algorithms for nonconvex finite-sum optimization with $n$ component functions. At the core of our analysis is a direct analysis of the ergodicity of the numerical approximations to Langevin dynamics, which leads to faster convergence rates. Specifically, we show that gradient Langevin dynamics (GLD) and stochastic gradient Langevin dynamics (SGLD) converge to the \textit{almost minimizer}\footnote{Following \citet{raginsky2017non}, an almost minimizer is defined to be a point which is within the ball of the global minimizer with radius $O(d\log(\beta+1)/\beta)$, where $d$ is the problem dimension and $\beta$ is the inverse temperature parameter.} within $\tilde O\big(nd/(\lambda\epsilon) \big)$\footnote{$\tilde O(\cdot)$ notation hides polynomials of logarithmic terms and constants.} and $\tilde O\big(d^7/(\lambda^5\epsilon^5) \big)$ stochastic gradient evaluations respectively, where $d$ is the problem dimension, and $\lambda$ is the spectral gap of the Markov chain generated by GLD. Both results improve upon the best known gradient complexity\footnote{Gradient complexity is defined as the total number of stochastic gradient evaluations of an algorithm, which is the number of stochastic gradients calculated per iteration times the total number of iterations.} results \citep{raginsky2017non}. Furthermore, for the first time we prove the global convergence guarantee for variance reduced stochastic gradient Langevin dynamics (VR-SGLD) to the almost minimizer within $\tilde O\big(\sqrt{n}d^5/(\lambda^4\epsilon^{5/2})\big)$ stochastic gradient evaluations, which outperforms the gradient complexities of GLD and SGLD in a wide regime. Our theoretical analyses shed some light on using Langevin dynamics based algorithms for nonconvex optimization with provable guarantees.

Multiplicative noise, including dropout, is widely used to regularize deep neural networks (DNNs), and is shown to be effective in a wide range of architectures and tasks. From an information perspective, we consider injecting multiplicative noise into a DNN as training the network to solve the task with noisy information pathways, which leads to the observation that multiplicative noise tends to increase the correlation between features, so as to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of information pathways. However, high feature correlation is undesirable, as it increases redundancy in representations. In this work, we propose non-correlating multiplicative noise (NCMN), which exploits batch normalization to remove the correlation effect in a simple yet effective way. We show that NCMN significantly improves the performance of standard multiplicative noise on image classification tasks, providing a better alternative to dropout for batch-normalized networks. Additionally, we present a unified view of NCMN and shake-shake regularization, which explains the performance gain of the latter.

Link prediction is a key problem for network-structured data. Link prediction heuristics use some score functions, such as common neighbors and Katz index, to measure the likelihood of links. They have obtained wide practical uses due to their simplicity, interpretability, and for some of them, scalability. However, every heuristic has a strong assumption on when two nodes are likely to link, which limits their effectiveness on networks where these assumptions fail. In this regard, a more reasonable way should be learning a suitable heuristic from a given network instead of using predefined ones. By extracting a local subgraph around each target link, we aim to learn a function mapping the subgraph patterns to link existence, thus automatically learning a ``heuristic'' that suits the current network. In this paper, we study this heuristic learning paradigm for link prediction. First, we develop a novel $\gamma$-decaying heuristic theory. The theory unifies a wide range of heuristics in a single framework, and proves that all these heuristics can be well approximated from local subgraphs. Our results show that local subgraphs reserve rich information related to link existence. Second, based on the $\gamma$-decaying theory, we propose a new method to learn heuristics from local subgraphs using a graph neural network (GNN). Its experimental results show unprecedented performance, working consistently well on a wide range of problems.

The assumption that data samples are independent and identically distributed (iid) is standard in many areas of statistics and machine learning. Nevertheless, in some settings, such as social networks, infectious disease modeling, and reasoning with spatial and temporal data, this assumption is false. An extensive literature exists on making causal inferences under the iid assumption [12, 8, 21, 16], but, as pointed out in [14], causal inference in non-iid contexts is challenging due to the combination of unobserved confounding bias and data dependence. In this paper we develop a general theory describing when causal inferences are possible in such scenarios. We use segregated graphs [15], a generalization of latent projection mixed graphs [23], to represent causal models of this type and provide a complete algorithm for non-parametric identification in these models. We then demonstrate how statistical inferences may be performed on causal parameters identified by this algorithm, even in cases where parts of the model exhibit full interference, meaning only a single sample is available for parts of the model [19]. We apply these techniques to a synthetic data set which considers the adoption of fake news articles given the social network structure, articles read by each person, and baseline demographics and socioeconomic covariates.

Connectionist Temporal Classification (CTC) is an objective function for end-to-end sequence learning, which adopts dynamic programming algorithms to directly learn the mapping between sequences. CTC has shown promising results in many sequence learning applications including speech recognition and scene text recognition. However, CTC tends to produce highly peaky and overconfident distributions, which is a symptom of overfitting. To remedy this, we propose a regularization method based on maximum conditional entropy which penalizes peaky distributions and encourages exploration. We also introduce an entropy-based pruning method to dramatically reduce the number of CTC feasible paths by ruling out unreasonable alignments. Experiments on scene text recognition show that our proposed methods consistently improve over the CTC baseline without the need to adjust training settings. Code has been made publicly available at: https://github.com/liuhu-bigeye/enctc.crnn.

Semi-supervised learning (SSL) provides a powerful framework for leveraging unlabeled data when labels are limited or expensive to obtain. SSL algorithms based on deep neural networks have recently proven successful on standard benchmark tasks. However, we argue that these benchmarks fail to address many issues that SSL algorithms would face in real-world applications. After creating a unified reimplementation of various widely-used SSL techniques, we test them in a suite of experiments designed to address these issues. We find that the performance of simple baselines which do not use unlabeled data is often underreported, SSL methods differ in sensitivity to the amount of labeled and unlabeled data, and performance can degrade substantially when the unlabeled dataset contains out-of-distribution examples. To help guide SSL research towards real-world applicability, we make our unified reimplemention and evaluation platform publicly available.

Discovering the causal structure among a set of variables is a fundamental problem in many areas of science. In this paper, we propose Kernel Conditional Deviance for Causal Inference (KCDC) a fully nonparametric causal discovery method based on purely observational data. From a novel interpretation of the notion of asymmetry between cause and effect, we derive a corresponding asymmetry measure using the framework of reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. Based on this, we propose three decision rules for causal discovery. We demonstrate the wide applicability and robustness of our method across a range of diverse synthetic datasets. Furthermore, we test our method on real-world time series data and the real-world benchmark dataset Tübingen Cause-Effect Pairs where we outperform state-of-the-art approaches.

We examine a class of stochastic deep learning models with a tractable method to compute information-theoretic quantities. Our contributions are three-fold: (i) We show how entropies and mutual informations can be derived from heuristic statistical physics methods, under the assumption that weight matrices are independent and orthogonally-invariant. (ii) We extend particular cases in which this result is known to be rigorously exact by providing a proof for two-layers networks with Gaussian random weights, using the recently introduced adaptive interpolation method. (iii) We propose an experiment framework with generative models of synthetic datasets, on which we train deep neural networks with a weight constraint designed so that the assumption in (i) is verified during learning. We study the behavior of entropies and mutual information throughout learning and conclude that, in the proposed setting, the relationship between compression and generalization remains elusive.

We review the current state of automatic differentiation (AD) for array programming in machine learning (ML), including the different approaches such as operator overloading (OO) and source transformation (ST) used for AD, graph-based intermediate representations for programs, and source languages. Based on these insights, we introduce a new graph-based intermediate representation (IR) which specifically aims to efficiently support fully-general AD for array programming. Unlike existing dataflow programming representations in ML frameworks, our IR naturally supports function calls, higher-order functions and recursion, making ML models easier to implement. The ability to represent closures allows us to perform AD using ST without a tape, making the resulting derivative (adjoint) program amenable to ahead-of-time optimization using tools from functional language compilers, and enabling higher-order derivatives. Lastly, we introduce a proof of concept compiler toolchain called Myia which uses a subset of Python as a front end.

Observational data is increasingly used as a means for making individual-level causal predictions and intervention recommendations. The foremost challenge of causal inference from observational data is hidden confounding, whose presence cannot be tested in data and can invalidate any causal conclusion. Experimental data does not suffer from confounding but is usually limited in both scope and scale. We introduce a novel method of using limited experimental data to correct the hidden confounding in causal effect models trained on larger observational data, even if the observational data does not fully overlap with the experimental data. Our method makes strictly weaker assumptions than existing approaches, and we prove conditions under which it yields a consistent estimator. We demonstrate our method's efficacy using real-world data from a large educational experiment.

Heuristic tools from statistical physics have been used in the past to compute the optimal learning and generalization errors in the teacher-student scenario in multi- layer neural networks. In this contribution, we provide a rigorous justification of these approaches for a two-layers neural network model called the committee machine. We also introduce a version of the approximate message passing (AMP) algorithm for the committee machine that allows to perform optimal learning in polynomial time for a large set of parameters. We find that there are regimes in which a low generalization error is information-theoretically achievable while the AMP algorithm fails to deliver it; strongly suggesting that no efficient algorithm exists for those cases, and unveiling a large computational gap.

We here focus on the task of learning Granger causality matrices for multivariate point processes. In order to accomplish this task, our work is the first to explore the use of Wold processes. By doing so, we are able to develop asymptotically fast MCMC learning algorithms. With $N$ being the total number of events and $K$ the number of processes, our learning algorithm has a $O(N(\,\log(N)\,+\,\log(K)))$ cost per iteration. This is much faster than the $O(N^3\,K^2)$ or $O(K^3)$ for the state of the art. Our approach, called GrangerBusca, is validated on nine datasets. This is an advance in relation to most prior efforts which focus mostly on subsets of the Memetracker data. Regarding accuracy, GrangerBusca is three times more accurate (in Precision@10) than the state of the art for the commonly explored subsets Memetracker. Due to GrangerBusca's much lower training complexity, our approach is the only one able to train models for larger, full, sets of data.

Multilingual topic models can reveal patterns in cross-lingual document collections. However, existing models lack speed and interactivity, which prevents adoption in everyday corpora exploration or quick moving situations (e.g., natural disasters, political instability). First, we propose a multilingual anchoring algorithm that builds an anchor-based topic model for documents in different languages. Then, we incorporate interactivity to develop MTAnchor (Multilingual Topic Anchors), a system that allows users to refine the topic model. We test our algorithms on labeled English, Chinese, and Sinhalese documents. Within minutes, our methods can produce interpretable topics that are useful for specific classification tasks.

The count-min sketch is a time- and memory-efficient randomized data structure that provides a point estimate of the number of times an item has appeared in a data stream. The count-min sketch and related hash-based data structures are ubiquitous in systems that must track frequencies of data such as URLs, IP addresses, and language n-grams. We present a Bayesian view on the count-min sketch, using the same data structure, but providing a posterior distribution over the frequencies that characterizes the uncertainty arising from the hash-based approximation. In particular, we take a nonparametric approach and consider tokens generated from a Dirichlet process (DP) random measure, which allows for an unbounded number of unique tokens. Using properties of the DP, we show that it is possible to straightforwardly compute posterior marginals of the unknown true counts and that the modes of these marginals recover the count-min sketch estimator, inheriting the associated probabilistic guarantees. Using simulated data with known ground truth, we investigate the properties of these estimators. Lastly, we also study a modified problem in which the observation stream consists of collections of tokens (i.e., documents) arising from a random measure drawn from a stable beta process, which allows for power law scaling behavior in the number of unique tokens.

Stein variational gradient descent (SVGD) was recently proposed as a general purpose nonparametric variational inference algorithm: it minimizes the Kullback–Leibler divergence between the target distribution and its approximation by implementing a form of functional gradient descent on a reproducing kernel Hilbert space [Liu & Wang, NIPS 2016]. In this paper, we accelerate and generalize the SVGD algorithm by including second-order information, thereby approximating a Newton-like iteration in function space. We also show how second-order information can lead to more effective choices of kernel. We observe significant computational gains over the original SVGD algorithm in multiple test cases.

Uncertainty estimation in large deep-learning models is a computationally challenging task, where it is difficult to form even a Gaussian approximation to the posterior distribution. In such situations, existing methods usually resort to a diagonal approximation of the covariance matrix despite the fact that these matrices are known to give poor uncertainty estimates. To address this issue, we propose a new stochastic, low-rank, approximate natural-gradient (SLANG) method for variational inference in large deep models. Our method estimates a “diagonal plus low-rank” structure based solely on back-propagated gradients of the network log-likelihood. This requires strictly less gradient computations than methods that compute the gradient of the whole variational objective. Empirical evaluations on standard benchmarks confirm that SLANG enables faster and more accurate estimation of uncertainty than mean-field methods, and performs comparably to state-of-the-art methods.

We present a representation learning algorithm that learns a low-dimensional latent dynamical system from high-dimensional sequential raw data, e.g., video. The framework builds upon recent advances in amortized inference methods that use both an inference network and a refinement procedure to output samples from a variational distribution given an observation sequence, and takes advantage of the duality between control and inference to approximately solve the intractable inference problem using the path integral control approach. The learned dynamical model can be used to predict and plan the future states; we also present the efficient planning method that exploits the learned low-dimensional latent dynamics. Numerical experiments show that the proposed path-integral control based variational inference method leads to tighter lower bounds in statistical model learning of sequential data. Supplementary video: https://youtu.be/xCp35crUoLQ

We explore a new research direction in Bayesian variational inference with discrete latent variable priors where we exploit Kronecker matrix algebra for efficient and exact computations of the evidence lower bound (ELBO). The proposed "DIRECT" approach has several advantages over its predecessors; (i) it can exactly compute ELBO gradients (i.e. unbiased, zero-variance gradient estimates), eliminating the need for high-variance stochastic gradient estimators and enabling the use of quasi-Newton optimization methods; (ii) its training complexity is independent of the number of training points, permitting inference on large datasets; and (iii) its posterior samples consist of sparse and low-precision quantized integers which permit fast inference on hardware limited devices. In addition, our DIRECT models can exactly compute statistical moments of the parameterized predictive posterior without relying on Monte Carlo sampling. The DIRECT approach is not practical for all likelihoods, however, we identify a popular model structure which is practical, and demonstrate accurate inference using latent variables discretized as extremely low-precision 4-bit quantized integers. While the ELBO computations considered in the numerical studies require over 10^2352 log-likelihood evaluations, we train on datasets with over two-million points in just seconds.

Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC) is a widely deployed method to sample from high-dimensional distributions in Statistics and Machine learning. HMC is known to run very efficiently in practice and its popular second-order ``leapfrog" implementation has long been conjectured to run in $d^{1/4}$ gradient evaluations. Here we show that this conjecture is true when sampling from strongly log-concave target distributions that satisfy a weak third-order regularity property associated with the input data. Our regularity condition is weaker than the Lipschitz Hessian property and allows us to show faster convergence bounds for a much larger class of distributions than would be possible with the usual Lipschitz Hessian constant alone. Important distributions that satisfy our regularity condition include posterior distributions used in Bayesian logistic regression for which the data satisfies an ``incoherence" property. Our result compares favorably with the best available bounds for the class of strongly log-concave distributions, which grow like $d^{{1}/{2}}$ gradient evaluations with the dimension. Moreover, our simulations on synthetic data suggest that, when our regularity condition is satisfied, leapfrog HMC performs better than its competitors -- both in terms of accuracy and in terms of the number of gradient evaluations it requires.

We present a unified framework to analyze the global convergence of Langevin dynamics based algorithms for nonconvex finite-sum optimization with $n$ component functions. At the core of our analysis is a direct analysis of the ergodicity of the numerical approximations to Langevin dynamics, which leads to faster convergence rates. Specifically, we show that gradient Langevin dynamics (GLD) and stochastic gradient Langevin dynamics (SGLD) converge to the \textit{almost minimizer}\footnote{Following \citet{raginsky2017non}, an almost minimizer is defined to be a point which is within the ball of the global minimizer with radius $O(d\log(\beta+1)/\beta)$, where $d$ is the problem dimension and $\beta$ is the inverse temperature parameter.} within $\tilde O\big(nd/(\lambda\epsilon) \big)$\footnote{$\tilde O(\cdot)$ notation hides polynomials of logarithmic terms and constants.} and $\tilde O\big(d^7/(\lambda^5\epsilon^5) \big)$ stochastic gradient evaluations respectively, where $d$ is the problem dimension, and $\lambda$ is the spectral gap of the Markov chain generated by GLD. Both results improve upon the best known gradient complexity\footnote{Gradient complexity is defined as the total number of stochastic gradient evaluations of an algorithm, which is the number of stochastic gradients calculated per iteration times the total number of iterations.} results \citep{raginsky2017non}. Furthermore, for the first time we prove the global convergence guarantee for variance reduced stochastic gradient Langevin dynamics (VR-SGLD) to the almost minimizer within $\tilde O\big(\sqrt{n}d^5/(\lambda^4\epsilon^{5/2})\big)$ stochastic gradient evaluations, which outperforms the gradient complexities of GLD and SGLD in a wide regime. Our theoretical analyses shed some light on using Langevin dynamics based algorithms for nonconvex optimization with provable guarantees.

Gaussian processes (GPs) with derivatives are useful in many applications, including Bayesian optimization, implicit surface reconstruction, and terrain reconstruction. Fitting a GP to function values and derivatives at $n$ points in $d$ dimensions requires linear solves and log determinants with an ${n(d+1) \times n(d+1)}$ positive definite matrix-- leading to prohibitive $\mathcal{O}(n^3d^3)$ computations for standard direct methods. We propose iterative solvers using fast $\mathcal{O}(nd)$ matrix-vector multiplications (MVMs), together with pivoted Cholesky preconditioning that cuts the iterations to convergence by several orders of magnitude, allowing for fast kernel learning and prediction. Our approaches, together with dimensionality reduction, allows us to scale Bayesian optimization with derivatives to high-dimensional problems and large evaluation budgets.

Autoregressive feedback is considered a necessity for successful unconditional text generation using stochastic sequence models. However, such feedback is known to introduce systematic biases into the training process and it obscures a principle of generation: committing to global information and forgetting local nuances. We show that a non-autoregressive deep state space model with a clear separation of global and local uncertainty can be built from only two ingredients: An independent noise source and a deterministic transition function. Recent advances on flow-based variational inference can be used to train an evidence lower-bound without resorting to annealing, auxiliary losses or similar measures. The result is a highly interpretable generative model on par with comparable auto-regressive models on the task of word generation.

Deep Gaussian Processes (DGPs) are hierarchical generalizations of Gaussian Processes that combine well calibrated uncertainty estimates with the high flexibility of multilayer models. One of the biggest challenges with these models is that exact inference is intractable. The current state-of-the-art inference method, Variational Inference (VI), employs a Gaussian approximation to the posterior distribution. This can be a potentially poor unimodal approximation of the generally multimodal posterior. In this work, we provide evidence for the non-Gaussian nature of the posterior and we apply the Stochastic Gradient Hamiltonian Monte Carlo method to generate samples. To efficiently optimize the hyperparameters, we introduce the Moving Window MCEM algorithm. This results in significantly better predictions at a lower computational cost than its VI counterpart. Thus our method establishes a new state-of-the-art for inference in DGPs.

Bayesian optimization is a powerful tool for global optimization of expensive functions. One of its key components is the underlying probabilistic model used for the objective function f. In practice, however, it is often unclear how one should appropriately choose a model, especially when gathering data is expensive. In this work, we introduce a novel automated Bayesian optimization approach that dynamically selects promising models for explaining the observed data using Bayesian Optimization in the model space. Crucially, we account for the uncertainty in the choice of model; our method is capable of using multiple models to represent its current belief about f and subsequently using this information for decision making. We argue, and demonstrate empirically, that our approach automatically finds suitable models for the objective function, which ultimately results in more-efficient optimization.

Gaussian processes provide a flexible framework for forecasting, removing noise, and interpreting long temporal datasets. State space modelling (Kalman filtering) enables these non-parametric models to be deployed on long datasets by reducing the complexity to linear in the number of data points. The complexity is still cubic in the state dimension m which is an impediment to practical application. In certain special cases (Gaussian likelihood, regular spacing) the GP posterior will reach a steady posterior state when the data are very long. We leverage this and formulate an inference scheme for GPs with general likelihoods, where inference is based on single-sweep EP (assumed density filtering). The infinite-horizon model tackles the cubic cost in the state dimensionality and reduces the cost in the state dimension m to O(m^2) per data point. The model is extended to online-learning of hyperparameters. We show examples for large finite-length modelling problems, and present how the method runs in real-time on a smartphone on a continuous data stream updated at 100 Hz.

In this paper, we develop the first one-pass streaming algorithm for submodular maximization that does not evaluate the entire stream even once. By carefully subsampling each element of the data stream, our algorithm enjoys the tightest approximation guarantees in various settings while having the smallest memory footprint and requiring the lowest number of function evaluations. More specifically, for a monotone submodular function and a $p$-matchoid constraint, our randomized algorithm achieves a $4p$ approximation ratio (in expectation) with $O(k)$ memory and $O(km/p)$ queries per element ($k$ is the size of the largest feasible solution and $m$ is the number of matroids used to define the constraint). For the non-monotone case, our approximation ratio increases only slightly to $4p+2-o(1)$. To the best or our knowledge, our algorithm is the first that combines the benefits of streaming and subsampling in a novel way in order to truly scale submodular maximization to massive machine learning problems. To showcase its practicality, we empirically evaluated the performance of our algorithm on a video summarization application and observed that it outperforms the state-of-the-art algorithm by up to fifty-fold while maintaining practically the same utility. We also evaluated the scalability of our algorithm on a large dataset of Uber pick up locations.

Recent progress in deep generative models has led to tremendous breakthroughs in image generation. While being able to synthesize photorealistic images, existing models lack an understanding of our underlying 3D world. Different from previous works built on 2D datasets and models, we present a new generative model, Visual Object Networks (VONs), synthesizing natural images of objects with a disentangled 3D representation. Inspired by classic graphics rendering pipelines, we unravel the image formation process into three conditionally independent factors---shape, viewpoint, and texture---and present an end-to-end adversarial learning framework that jointly models 3D shape and 2D texture. Our model first learns to synthesize 3D shapes that are indistinguishable from real shapes. It then renders the object's 2.5D sketches (i.e., silhouette and depth map) from its shape under a sampled viewpoint. Finally, it learns to add realistic textures to these 2.5D sketches to generate realistic images. The VON not only generates images that are more realistic than the state-of-the-art 2D image synthesis methods but also enables many 3D operations such as changing the viewpoint of a generated image, shape and texture editing, linear interpolation in texture and shape space, and transferring appearance across different objects and viewpoints.

This paper seeks to answer the question: as the (near-) orthogonality of weights is found to be a favorable property for training deep convolutional neural networks, how can we enforce it in more effective and easy-to-use ways? We develop novel orthogonality regularizations on training deep CNNs, utilizing various advanced analytical tools such as mutual coherence and restricted isometry property. These plug-and-play regularizations can be conveniently incorporated into training almost any CNN without extra hassle. We then benchmark their effects on state-of-the-art models: ResNet, WideResNet, and ResNeXt, on several most popular computer vision datasets: CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, SVHN and ImageNet. We observe consistent performance gains after applying those proposed regularizations, in terms of both the final accuracies achieved, and faster and more stable convergences. We have made our codes and pre-trained models publicly available: https://github.com/nbansal90/Can-we-Gain-More-from-Orthogonality.

Channel pruning is one of the predominant approaches for deep model compression. Existing pruning methods either train from scratch with sparsity constraints on channels, or minimize the reconstruction error between the pre-trained feature maps and the compressed ones. Both strategies suffer from some limitations: the former kind is computationally expensive and difficult to converge, whilst the latter kind optimizes the reconstruction error but ignores the discriminative power of channels. To overcome these drawbacks, we investigate a simple-yet-effective method, called discrimination-aware channel pruning, to choose those channels that really contribute to discriminative power. To this end, we introduce additional losses into the network to increase the discriminative power of intermediate layers and then select the most discriminative channels for each layer by considering the additional loss and the reconstruction error. Last, we propose a greedy algorithm to conduct channel selection and parameter optimization in an iterative way. Extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of our method. For example, on ILSVRC-12, our pruned ResNet-50 with 30% reduction of channels even outperforms the original model by 0.39% in top-1 accuracy.

Meta-learning for few-shot learning entails acquiring a prior over previous tasks and experiences, such that new tasks be learned from small amounts of data. However, a critical challenge in few-shot learning is task ambiguity: even when a powerful prior can be meta-learned from a large number of prior tasks, a small dataset for a new task can simply be too ambiguous to acquire a single model (e.g., a classifier) for that task that is accurate. In this paper, we propose a probabilistic meta-learning algorithm that can sample models for a new task from a model distribution. Our approach extends model-agnostic meta-learning, which adapts to new tasks via gradient descent, to incorporate a parameter distribution that is trained via a variational lower bound. At meta-test time, our algorithm adapts via a simple procedure that injects noise into gradient descent, and at meta-training time, the model is trained such that this stochastic adaptation procedure produces samples from the approximate model posterior. Our experimental results show that our method can sample plausible classifiers and regressors in ambiguous few-shot learning problems. We also show how reasoning about ambiguity can also be used for downstream active learning problems.

This paper develops the FastRNN and FastGRNN algorithms to address the twin RNN limitations of inaccurate training and inefficient prediction. Previous approaches have improved accuracy at the expense of prediction costs making them infeasible for resource-constrained and real-time applications. Unitary RNNs have increased accuracy somewhat by restricting the range of the state transition matrix's singular values but have also increased the model size as they require a larger number of hidden units to make up for the loss in expressive power. Gated RNNs have obtained state-of-the-art accuracies by adding extra parameters thereby resulting in even larger models. FastRNN addresses these limitations by adding a residual connection that does not constrain the range of the singular values explicitly and has only two extra scalar parameters. FastGRNN then extends the residual connection to a gate by reusing the RNN matrices to match state-of-the-art gated RNN accuracies but with a 2-4x smaller model. Enforcing FastGRNN's matrices to be low-rank, sparse and quantized resulted in accurate models that could be up to 35x smaller than leading gated and unitary RNNs. This allowed FastGRNN to accurately recognize the "Hey Cortana" wakeword with a 1 KB model and to be deployed on severely resource-constrained IoT microcontrollers too tiny to store other RNN models. FastGRNN's code is available at (https://github.com/Microsoft/EdgeML/).

Batch normalization (BN) is a technique to normalize activations in intermediate layers of deep neural networks. Its tendency to improve accuracy and speed up training have established BN as a favorite technique in deep learning. Yet, despite its enormous success, there remains little consensus on the exact reason and mechanism behind these improvements. In this paper we take a step towards a better understanding of BN, following an empirical approach. We conduct several experiments, and show that BN primarily enables training with larger learning rates, which is the cause for faster convergence and better generalization. For networks without BN we demonstrate how large gradient updates can result in diverging loss and activations growing uncontrollably with network depth, which limits possible learning rates. BN avoids this problem by constantly correcting activations to be zero-mean and of unit standard deviation, which enables larger gradient steps, yields faster convergence and may help bypass sharp local minima. We further show various ways in which gradients and activations of deep unnormalized networks are ill-behaved. We contrast our results against recent findings in random matrix theory, shedding new light on classical initialization schemes and their consequences.

Semi-supervised learning (SSL) provides a powerful framework for leveraging unlabeled data when labels are limited or expensive to obtain. SSL algorithms based on deep neural networks have recently proven successful on standard benchmark tasks. However, we argue that these benchmarks fail to address many issues that SSL algorithms would face in real-world applications. After creating a unified reimplementation of various widely-used SSL techniques, we test them in a suite of experiments designed to address these issues. We find that the performance of simple baselines which do not use unlabeled data is often underreported, SSL methods differ in sensitivity to the amount of labeled and unlabeled data, and performance can degrade substantially when the unlabeled dataset contains out-of-distribution examples. To help guide SSL research towards real-world applicability, we make our unified reimplemention and evaluation platform publicly available.

Language encoding models help explain language processing in the human brain by learning functions that predict brain responses from the language stimuli that elicited them. Current word embedding-based approaches treat each stimulus word independently and thus ignore the influence of context on language understanding. In this work we instead build encoding models using rich contextual representations derived from an LSTM language model. Our models show a significant improvement in encoding performance relative to state-of-the-art embeddings in nearly every brain area. By varying the amount of context used in the models and providing the models with distorted context, we show that this improvement is due to a combination of better word embeddings learned by the LSTM language model and contextual information. We are also able to use our models to map context sensitivity across the cortex. These results suggest that LSTM language models learn high-level representations that are related to representations in the human brain.

We examine a class of stochastic deep learning models with a tractable method to compute information-theoretic quantities. Our contributions are three-fold: (i) We show how entropies and mutual informations can be derived from heuristic statistical physics methods, under the assumption that weight matrices are independent and orthogonally-invariant. (ii) We extend particular cases in which this result is known to be rigorously exact by providing a proof for two-layers networks with Gaussian random weights, using the recently introduced adaptive interpolation method. (iii) We propose an experiment framework with generative models of synthetic datasets, on which we train deep neural networks with a weight constraint designed so that the assumption in (i) is verified during learning. We study the behavior of entropies and mutual information throughout learning and conclude that, in the proposed setting, the relationship between compression and generalization remains elusive.

Heuristic tools from statistical physics have been used in the past to compute the optimal learning and generalization errors in the teacher-student scenario in multi- layer neural networks. In this contribution, we provide a rigorous justification of these approaches for a two-layers neural network model called the committee machine. We also introduce a version of the approximate message passing (AMP) algorithm for the committee machine that allows to perform optimal learning in polynomial time for a large set of parameters. We find that there are regimes in which a low generalization error is information-theoretically achievable while the AMP algorithm fails to deliver it; strongly suggesting that no efficient algorithm exists for those cases, and unveiling a large computational gap.

People belong to multiple communities, words belong to multiple topics, and books cover multiple genres; overlapping clusters are commonplace. Many existing overlapping clustering methods model each person (or word, or book) as a non-negative weighted combination of "exemplars" who belong solely to one community, with some small noise. Geometrically, each person is a point on a cone whose corners are these exemplars. This basic form encompasses the widely used Mixed Membership Stochastic Blockmodel of networks and its degree-corrected variants, as well as topic models such as LDA. We show that a simple one-class SVM yields provably consistent parameter inference for all such models, and scales to large datasets. Experimental results on several simulated and real datasets show our algorithm (called SVM-cone) is both accurate and scalable.

We introduce an approach to convert mono audio recorded by a 360° video camera into spatial audio, a representation of the distribution of sound over the full viewing sphere. Spatial audio is an important component of immersive 360° video viewing, but spatial audio microphones are still rare in current 360° video production. Our system consists of end-to-end trainable neural networks that separate individual sound sources and localize them on the viewing sphere, conditioned on multi-modal analysis from the audio and 360° video frames. We introduce several datasets, including one filmed ourselves, and one collected in-the-wild from YouTube, consisting of 360° videos uploaded with spatial audio. During training, ground truth spatial audio serves as self-supervision and a mixed down mono track forms the input to our network. Using our approach we show that it is possible to infer the spatial localization of sounds based only on a synchronized 360° video and the mono audio track.

There has been growing interest in using neural networks and deep learning techniques to create dialogue systems. Conversational recommendation is an interesting setting for the scientific exploration of dialogue with natural language as the associated discourse involves goal-driven dialogue that often transforms naturally into more free-form chat. This paper provides two contributions. First, until now there has been no publicly available large-scale data set consisting of real-world dialogues centered around recommendations. To address this issue and to facilitate our exploration here, we have collected ReDial, a data set consisting of over 10,000 conversations centered around the theme of providing movie recommendations. We make this data available to the community for further research. Second, we use this dataset to explore multiple facets of conversational recommendations. In particular we explore new neural architectures, mechanisms and methods suitable for composing conversational recommendation systems. Our dataset allows us to systematically probe model sub-components addressing different parts of the overall problem domain ranging from: sentiment analysis and cold-start recommendation generation to detailed aspects of how natural language is used in this setting in the real world. We combine such sub-components into a full-blown dialogue system and examine its behavior.

Recent attempts to achieve fairness in predictive models focus on the balance between fairness and accuracy. In sensitive applications such as healthcare or criminal justice, this trade-off is often undesirable as any increase in prediction error could have devastating consequences. In this work, we argue that the fairness of predictions should be evaluated in context of the data, and that unfairness induced by inadequate samples sizes or unmeasured predictive variables should be addressed through data collection, rather than by constraining the model. We decompose cost-based metrics of discrimination into bias, variance, and noise, and propose actions aimed at estimating and reducing each term. Finally, we perform case-studies on prediction of income, mortality, and review ratings, confirming the value of this analysis. We find that data collection is often a means to reduce discrimination without sacrificing accuracy.

We propose a general, theoretically justified mechanism for processing missing data by neural networks. Our idea is to replace typical neuron's response in the first hidden layer by its expected value. This approach can be applied for various types of networks at minimal cost in their modification. Moreover, in contrast to recent approaches, it does not require complete data for training. Experimental results performed on different types of architectures show that our method gives better results than typical imputation strategies and other methods dedicated for incomplete data.

The classic Mallows model is a widely-used tool to realize distributions on per- mutations. Motivated by common practical situations, in this paper, we generalize Mallows to model distributions on top-k lists by using a suitable distance measure between top-k lists. Unlike many earlier works, our model is both analytically tractable and computationally efficient. We demonstrate this by studying two basic problems in this model, namely, sampling and reconstruction, from both algorithmic and experimental points of view.

We propose a new approach, called cooperative neural networks (CoNN), which use a set of cooperatively trained neural networks to capture latent representations that exploit prior given independence structure. The model is more flexible than traditional graphical models based on exponential family distributions, but incorporates more domain specific prior structure than traditional deep networks or variational autoencoders. The framework is very general and can be used to exploit the independence structure of any graphical model. We illustrate the technique by showing that we can transfer the independence structure of the popular Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) model to a cooperative neural network, CoNN-sLDA. Empirical evaluation of CoNN-sLDA on supervised text classification tasks demonstrate that the theoretical advantages of prior independence structure can be realized in practice - we demonstrate a 23 percent reduction in error on the challenging MultiSent data set compared to state-of-the-art.

Learning interpretable disentangled representations is a crucial yet challenging task. In this paper, we propose a weakly semi-supervised method, termed as Dual Swap Disentangling (DSD), for disentangling using both labeled and unlabeled data. Unlike conventional weakly supervised methods that rely on full annotations on the group of samples, we require only limited annotations on paired samples that indicate their shared attribute like the color. Our model takes the form of a dual autoencoder structure. To achieve disentangling using the labeled pairs, we follow a ``encoding-swap-decoding'' process, where we first swap the parts of their encodings corresponding to the shared attribute, and then decode the obtained hybrid codes to reconstruct the original input pairs. For unlabeled pairs, we follow the ``encoding-swap-decoding'' process twice on designated encoding parts and enforce the final outputs to approximate the input pairs. By isolating parts of the encoding and swapping them back and forth, we impose the dimension-wise modularity and portability of the encodings of the unlabeled samples, which implicitly encourages disentangling under the guidance of labeled pairs. This dual swap mechanism, tailored for semi-supervised setting, turns out to be very effective. Experiments on image datasets from a wide domain show that our model yields state-of-the-art disentangling performances.

Methods for learning from demonstration (LfD) have shown success in acquiring behavior policies by imitating a user. However, even for a single task, LfD may require numerous demonstrations. For versatile agents that must learn many tasks via demonstration, this process would substantially burden the user if each task were learned in isolation. To address this challenge, we introduce the novel problem of lifelong learning from demonstration, which allows the agent to continually build upon knowledge learned from previously demonstrated tasks to accelerate the learning of new tasks, reducing the amount of demonstrations required. As one solution to this problem, we propose the first lifelong learning approach to inverse reinforcement learning, which learns consecutive tasks via demonstration, continually transferring knowledge between tasks to improve performance.

Sum-product networks have recently emerged as an attractive representation due to their dual view as a special type of deep neural network with clear semantics and a special type of probabilistic graphical model for which inference is always tractable. Those properties follow from some conditions (i.e., completeness and decomposability) that must be respected by the structure of the network. As a result, it is not easy to specify a valid sum-product network by hand and therefore structure learning techniques are typically used in practice. This paper describes a new online structure learning technique for feed-forward and recurrent SPNs. The algorithm is demonstrated on real-world datasets with continuous features for which it is not clear what network architecture might be best, including sequence datasets of varying length.

The use of machine learning to generate models from data is replacing traditional software development for many applications. This fundamental shift in how we develop software, known as Software 2.0, has provided dramatic improvements in the quality and ease of deployment for these applications. The continued success and expansion of the Software 2.0 approach must be powered by the availability of powerful, efficient and flexible computer systems that are tailored for machine learning applications. This talk will describe a design approach that optimizes computer systems to match the requirements of machine learning applications. The full-stack design approach integrates machine learning algorithms that are optimized for the characteristics of applications and the strengths of modern hardware, domain-specific languages and advanced compilation technology designed for programmability and performance, and hardware architectures that achieve both high flexibility and high energy efficiency.

We study robust subspace estimation in the streaming and distributed settings. Given a set of n data points {a_i}_{i=1}^n in R^d and an integer k, we wish to find a linear subspace S of dimension k for which sum_i M(dist(S, a_i)) is minimized, where dist(S,x) := min_{y in S} |x-y|_2, and M() is some loss function. When M is the identity function, S gives a subspace that is more robust to outliers than that provided by the truncated SVD. Though the problem is NP-hard, it is approximable within a (1+epsilon) factor in polynomial time when k and epsilon are constant. We give the first sublinear approximation algorithm for this problem in the turnstile streaming and arbitrary partition distributed models, achieving the same time guarantees as in the offline case. Our algorithm is the first based entirely on oblivious dimensionality reduction, and significantly simplifies prior methods for this problem, which held in neither the streaming nor distributed models.

Hyperbolic spaces have recently gained momentum in the context of machine learning due to their high capacity and tree-likeliness properties. However, the representational power of hyperbolic geometry is not yet on par with Euclidean geometry, firstly because of the absence of corresponding hyperbolic neural network layers. Here, we bridge this gap in a principled manner by combining the formalism of Möbius gyrovector spaces with the Riemannian geometry of the Poincaré model of hyperbolic spaces. As a result, we derive hyperbolic versions of important deep learning tools: multinomial logistic regression, feed-forward and recurrent neural networks. This allows to embed sequential data and perform classification in the hyperbolic space. Empirically, we show that, even if hyperbolic optimization tools are limited, hyperbolic sentence embeddings either outperform or are on par with their Euclidean variants on textual entailment and noisy-prefix recognition tasks.

We analyze stochastic gradient algorithms for optimizing nonconvex, nonsmooth finite-sum problems. In particular, the objective function is given by the summation of a differentiable (possibly nonconvex) component, together with a possibly non-differentiable but convex component. We propose a proximal stochastic gradient algorithm based on variance reduction, called ProxSVRG+. Our main contribution lies in the analysis of ProxSVRG+. It recovers several existing convergence results and improves/generalizes them (in terms of the number of stochastic gradient oracle calls and proximal oracle calls). In particular, ProxSVRG+ generalizes the best results given by the SCSG algorithm, recently proposed by [Lei et al., 2017] for the smooth nonconvex case. ProxSVRG+ is also more straightforward than SCSG and yields simpler analysis. Moreover, ProxSVRG+ outperforms the deterministic proximal gradient descent (ProxGD) for a wide range of minibatch sizes, which partially solves an open problem proposed in [Reddi et al., 2016]. Also, ProxSVRG+ uses much less proximal oracle calls than ProxSVRG [Reddi et al., 2016]. Moreover, for nonconvex functions satisfied Polyak-\L{}ojasiewicz condition, we prove that ProxSVRG+ achieves a global linear convergence rate without restart unlike ProxSVRG. Thus, it can \emph{automatically} switch to the faster linear convergence in some regions as long as the objective function satisfies the PL condition locally in these regions. Finally, we conduct several experiments and the experimental results are consistent with the theoretical results.

Active search is a learning paradigm for actively identifying as many members of a given class as possible. A critical target scenario is high-throughput screening for scientific discovery, such as drug or materials discovery. In these settings, specialized instruments can often evaluate \emph{multiple} points simultaneously; however, all existing work on active search focuses on sequential acquisition. We bridge this gap, addressing batch active search from both the theoretical and practical perspective. We first derive the Bayesian optimal policy for this problem, then prove a lower bound on the performance gap between sequential and batch optimal policies: the ``cost of parallelization.'' We also propose novel, efficient batch policies inspired by state-of-the-art sequential policies, and develop an aggressive pruning technique that can dramatically speed up computation. We conduct thorough experiments on data from three application domains: a citation network, material science, and drug discovery, testing all proposed policies (14 total) with a wide range of batch sizes. Our results demonstrate that the empirical performance gap matches our theoretical bound, that nonmyopic policies usually significantly outperform myopic alternatives, and that diversity is an important consideration for batch policy design.

Over the past few years, Batch-Normalization has been commonly used in deep networks, allowing faster training and high performance for a wide variety of applications. However, the reasons behind its merits remained unanswered, with several shortcomings that hindered its use for certain tasks. In this work, we present a novel view on the purpose and function of normalization methods and weight-decay, as tools to decouple weights' norm from the underlying optimized objective. This property highlights the connection between practices such as normalization, weight decay and learning-rate adjustments. We suggest several alternatives to the widely used $L^2$ batch-norm, using normalization in $L^1$ and $L^\infty$ spaces that can substantially improve numerical stability in low-precision implementations as well as provide computational and memory benefits. We demonstrate that such methods enable the first batch-norm alternative to work for half-precision implementations. Finally, we suggest a modification to weight-normalization, which improves its performance on large-scale tasks.

A large class of machine learning techniques requires the solution of optimization problems involving spectral functions of parametric matrices, e.g. log-determinant and nuclear norm. Unfortunately, computing the gradient of a spectral function is generally of cubic complexity, as such gradient descent methods are rather expensive for optimizing objectives involving the spectral function. Thus, one naturally turns to stochastic gradient methods in hope that they will provide a way to reduce or altogether avoid the computation of full gradients. However, here a new challenge appears: there is no straightforward way to compute unbiased stochastic gradients for spectral functions. In this paper, we develop unbiased stochastic gradients for spectral-sums, an important subclass of spectral functions. Our unbiased stochastic gradients are based on combining randomized trace estimators with stochastic truncation of the Chebyshev expansions. A careful design of the truncation distribution allows us to offer distributions that are variance-optimal, which is crucial for fast and stable convergence of stochastic gradient methods. We further leverage our proposed stochastic gradients to devise stochastic methods for objective functions involving spectral-sums, and rigorously analyze their convergence rate. The utility of our methods is demonstrated in numerical experiments.

In this work, we introduce interactive structure learning, a framework that unifies many different interactive learning tasks. We present a generalization of the query-by-committee active learning algorithm for this setting, and we study its consistency and rate of convergence, both theoretically and empirically, with and without noise.

Convolutional neural networks have achieved great success in various vision tasks; however, they incur heavy resource costs. By using deeper and wider networks, network accuracy can be improved rapidly. However, in an environment with limited resources (e.g., mobile applications), heavy networks may not be usable. This study shows that naive convolution can be deconstructed into a shift operation and pointwise convolution. To cope with various convolutions, we propose a new shift operation called active shift layer (ASL) that formulates the amount of shift as a learnable function with shift parameters. This new layer can be optimized end-to-end through backpropagation and it can provide optimal shift values. Finally, we apply this layer to a light and fast network that surpasses existing state-of-the-art networks.

This paper presents a new class of gradient methods for distributed machine learning that adaptively skip the gradient calculations to learn with reduced communication and computation. Simple rules are designed to detect slowly-varying gradients and, therefore, trigger the reuse of outdated gradients. The resultant gradient-based algorithms are termed Lazily Aggregated Gradient --- justifying our acronym LAG used henceforth. Theoretically, the merits of this contribution are: i) the convergence rate is the same as batch gradient descent in strongly-convex, convex, and nonconvex cases; and, ii) if the distributed datasets are heterogeneous (quantified by certain measurable constants), the communication rounds needed to achieve a targeted accuracy are reduced thanks to the adaptive reuse of lagged gradients. Numerical experiments on both synthetic and real data corroborate a significant communication reduction compared to alternatives.

We introduce an algorithm to locate contours of functions that are expensive to evaluate. The problem of locating contours arises in many applications, including classification, constrained optimization, and performance analysis of mechanical and dynamical systems (reliability, probability of failure, stability, etc.). Our algorithm locates contours using information from multiple sources, which are available in the form of relatively inexpensive, biased, and possibly noisy approximations to the original function. Considering multiple information sources can lead to significant cost savings. We also introduce the concept of contour entropy, a formal measure of uncertainty about the location of the zero contour of a function approximated by a statistical surrogate model. Our algorithm locates contours efficiently by maximizing the reduction of contour entropy per unit cost.

Detecting test samples drawn sufficiently far away from the training distribution statistically or adversarially is a fundamental requirement for deploying a good classifier in many real-world machine learning applications. However, deep neural networks with the softmax classifier are known to produce highly overconfident posterior distributions even for such abnormal samples. In this paper, we propose a simple yet effective method for detecting any abnormal samples, which is applicable to any pre-trained softmax neural classifier. We obtain the class conditional Gaussian distributions with respect to (low- and upper-level) features of the deep models under Gaussian discriminant analysis, which result in a confidence score based on the Mahalanobis distance. While most prior methods have been evaluated for detecting either out-of-distribution or adversarial samples, but not both, the proposed method achieves the state-of-the-art performances for both cases in our experiments. Moreover, we found that our proposed method is more robust in harsh cases, e.g., when the training dataset has noisy labels or small number of samples. Finally, we show that the proposed method enjoys broader usage by applying it to class-incremental learning: whenever out-of-distribution samples are detected, our classification rule can incorporate new classes well without further training deep models.

Many applications of machine learning involve the analysis of large data frames -- matrices collecting heterogeneous measurements (binary, numerical, counts, etc.) across samples -- with missing values. Low-rank models, as studied by Udell et al. (2016), are popular in this framework for tasks such as visualization, clustering and missing value imputation. Yet, available methods with statistical guarantees and efficient optimization do not allow explicit modeling of main additive effects such as row and column, or covariate effects. In this paper, we introduce a low-rank interaction and sparse additive effects (LORIS) model which combines matrix regression on a dictionary and low-rank design, to estimate main effects and interactions simultaneously. We provide statistical guarantees in the form of upper bounds on the estimation error of both components. Then, we introduce a mixed coordinate gradient descent (MCGD) method which provably converges sub-linearly to an optimal solution and is computationally efficient for large scale data sets. We show on simulated and survey data that the method has a clear advantage over current practices.

What policy should be employed in a Markov decision process with uncertain parameters? Robust optimization answer to this question is to use rectangular uncertainty sets, which independently reflect available knowledge about each state, and then obtains a decision policy that maximizes expected reward for the worst-case decision process parameters from these uncertainty sets. While this rectangularity is convenient computationally and leads to tractable solutions, it often produces policies that are too conservative in practice, and does not facilitate knowledge transfer between portions of the state space or across related decision processes. In this work, we propose non-rectangular uncertainty sets that bound marginal moments of state-action features defined over entire trajectories through a decision process. This enables generalization to different portions of the state space while retaining appropriate uncertainty of the decision process. We develop algorithms for solving the resulting robust decision problems, which reduce to finding an optimal policy for a mixture of decision processes, and demonstrate the benefits of our approach experimentally.

Successful approaches to program induction require a hand-engineered domain-specific language (DSL), constraining the space of allowed programs and imparting prior knowledge of the domain. We contribute a program induction algorithm that learns a DSL while jointly training a neural network to efficiently search for programs in the learned DSL. We use our model to synthesize functions on lists, edit text, and solve symbolic regression problems, showing how the model learns a domain-specific library of program components for expressing solutions to problems in the domain.

We study gradient-based optimization methods obtained by directly discretizing a second-order ordinary differential equation (ODE) related to the continuous limit of Nesterov's accelerated gradient method. When the function is smooth enough, we show that acceleration can be achieved by a stable discretization of this ODE using standard Runge-Kutta integrators. Specifically, we prove that under Lipschitz-gradient, convexity and order-$(s+2)$ differentiability assumptions, the sequence of iterates generated by discretizing the proposed second-order ODE converges to the optimal solution at a rate of $\mathcal{O}({N^{-2\frac{s}{s+1}}})$, where $s$ is the order of the Runge-Kutta numerical integrator. Furthermore, we introduce a new local flatness condition on the objective, under which rates even faster than $\mathcal{O}(N^{-2})$ can be achieved with low-order integrators and only gradient information. Notably, this flatness condition is satisfied by several standard loss functions used in machine learning. We provide numerical experiments that verify the theoretical rates predicted by our results.

Learning to make decisions from observed data in dynamic environments remains a problem of fundamental importance in a numbers of fields, from artificial intelligence and robotics, to medicine and finance. This paper concerns the problem of learning control policies for unknown linear dynamical systems so as to maximize a quadratic reward function. We present a method to optimize the expected value of the reward over the posterior distribution of the unknown system parameters, given data. The algorithm involves sequential convex programing, and enjoys reliable local convergence and robust stability guarantees. Numerical simulations and stabilization of a real-world inverted pendulum are used to demonstrate the approach, with strong performance and robustness properties observed in both.

A fundamental problem in program verification concerns inferring loop invariants. The problem is undecidable and even practical instances are challenging. Inspired by how human experts construct loop invariants, we propose a reasoning framework Code2Inv that constructs the solution by multi-step decision making and querying an external program graph memory block. By training with reinforcement learning, Code2Inv captures rich program features and avoids the need for ground truth solutions as supervision. Compared to previous learning tasks in domains with graph-structured data, it addresses unique challenges, such as a binary objective function and an extremely sparse reward that is given by an automated theorem prover only after the complete loop invariant is proposed. We evaluate Code2Inv on a suite of 133 benchmark problems and compare it to three state-of-the-art systems. It solves 106 problems compared to 73 by a stochastic search-based system, 77 by a heuristic search-based system, and 100 by a decision tree learning-based system. Moreover, the strategy learned can be generalized to new programs: compared to solving new instances from scratch, the pre-trained agent is more sample efficient in finding solutions.

The original simplicial method (OSM), a variant of the classic Kelley’s cutting plane method, has been shown to converge to the minimizer of a composite convex and submodular objective, though no rate of convergence for this method was known. Moreover, OSM is required to solve subproblems in each iteration whose size grows linearly in the number of iterations. We propose a limited memory version of Kelley’s method (L-KM) and of OSM that requires limited memory (at most n+ 1 constraints for an n-dimensional problem) independent of the iteration. We prove convergence for L-KM when the convex part of the objective g is strongly convex and show it converges linearly when g is also smooth. Our analysis relies on duality between minimization of the composite convex and submodular objective and minimization of a convex function over the submodular base polytope. We introduce a limited memory version, L-FCFW, of the Fully-Corrective Frank-Wolfe (FCFW) method with approximate correction, to solve the dual problem. We show that L-FCFW and L-KM are dual algorithms that produce the same sequence of iterates; hence both converge linearly (when g is smooth and strongly convex) and with limited memory. We propose L-KM to minimize composite convex and submodular objectives; however, our results on L-FCFW hold for general polytopes and may be of independent interest.

Multiple-step lookahead policies have demonstrated high empirical competence in Reinforcement Learning, via the use of Monte Carlo Tree Search or Model Predictive Control. In a recent work (Efroni et al., 2018), multiple-step greedy policies and their use in vanilla Policy Iteration algorithms were proposed and analyzed. In this work, we study multiple-step greedy algorithms in more practical setups. We begin by highlighting a counter-intuitive difficulty, arising with soft-policy updates: even in the absence of approximations, and contrary to the 1-step-greedy case, monotonic policy improvement is not guaranteed unless the update stepsize is sufficiently large. Taking particular care about this difficulty, we formulate and analyze online and approximate algorithms that use such a multi-step greedy operator.

We introduce DeepProbLog, a probabilistic logic programming language that incorporates deep learning by means of neural predicates. We show how existing inference and learning techniques can be adapted for the new language. Our experiments demonstrate that DeepProbLog supports (i) both symbolic and subsymbolic representations and inference, (ii) program induction, (iii) probabilistic (logic) programming, and (iv) (deep) learning from examples. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first to propose a framework where general-purpose neural networks and expressive probabilistic-logical modeling and reasoning are integrated in a way that exploits the full expressiveness and strengths of both worlds and can be trained end-to-end based on examples.

In this paper we address the graph matching problem. Following the recent works of \cite{zaslavskiy2009path,Vestner2017} we analyze and generalize the idea of concave relaxations. We introduce the concepts of \emph{conditionally concave} and \emph{probably conditionally concave} energies on polytopes and show that they encapsulate many instances of the graph matching problem, including matching Euclidean graphs and graphs on surfaces. We further prove that local minima of probably conditionally concave energies on general matching polytopes (\eg, doubly stochastic) are with high probability extreme points of the matching polytope (\eg, permutations).

Model-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can attain excellent sample efficiency, but often lag behind the best model-free algorithms in terms of asymptotic performance. This is especially true with high-capacity parametric function approximators, such as deep networks. In this paper, we study how to bridge this gap, by employing uncertainty-aware dynamics models. We propose a new algorithm called probabilistic ensembles with trajectory sampling (PETS) that combines uncertainty-aware deep network dynamics models with sampling-based uncertainty propagation. Our comparison to state-of-the-art model-based and model-free deep RL algorithms shows that our approach matches the asymptotic performance of model-free algorithms on several challenging benchmark tasks, while requiring significantly fewer samples (e.g. 8 and 125 times fewer samples than Soft Actor Critic and Proximal Policy Optimization respectively on the half-cheetah task).

We introduce a model that learns to convert simple hand drawings into graphics programs written in a subset of \LaTeX.~The model combines techniques from deep learning and program synthesis. We learn a convolutional neural network that proposes plausible drawing primitives that explain an image. These drawing primitives are a specification (spec) of what the graphics program needs to draw. We learn a model that uses program synthesis techniques to recover a graphics program from that spec. These programs have constructs like variable bindings, iterative loops, or simple kinds of conditionals. With a graphics program in hand, we can correct errors made by the deep network and extrapolate drawings.

We suggest a general oracle-based framework that captures parallel stochastic optimization in different parallelization settings described by a dependency graph, and derive generic lower bounds in terms of this graph. We then use the framework and derive lower bounds to study several specific parallel optimization settings, including delayed updates and parallel processing with intermittent communication. We highlight gaps between lower and upper bounds on the oracle complexity, and cases where the ``natural'' algorithms are not known to be optimal.

Regression with group-sparsity penalty plays a central role in high-dimensional prediction problems. Most of existing methods require the group structure to be known a priori. In practice, this may be a too strong assumption, potentially hampering the effectiveness of the regularization method. To circumvent this issue, we present a method to estimate the group structure by means of a continuous bilevel optimization problem where the data is split into training and validation sets. Our approach relies on an approximation scheme where the lower level problem is replaced by a smooth dual forward-backward algorithm with Bregman distances. We provide guarantees regarding the convergence of the approximate procedure to the exact problem and demonstrate the well behaviour of the proposed method on synthetic experiments. Finally, a preliminary application to genes expression data is tackled with the purpose of unveiling functional groups.

The task of program synthesis, or automatically generating programs that are consistent with a provided specification, remains a challenging task in artificial intelligence. As in other fields of AI, deep learning-based end-to-end approaches have made great advances in program synthesis. However, more so than other fields such as computer vision, program synthesis provides greater opportunities to explicitly exploit structured information such as execution traces, which contain a superset of the information input/output pairs. While they are highly useful for program synthesis, as execution traces are more difficult to obtain than input/output pairs, we use the insight that we can split the process into two parts: infer the trace from the input/output example, then infer the program from the trace. This simple modification leads to state-of-the-art results in program synthesis in the Karel domain, improving accuracy to 81.3% from the 77.12% of prior work.

We study a distributionally robust mean square error estimation problem over a nonconvex Wasserstein ambiguity set containing only normal distributions. We show that the optimal estimator and the least favorable distribution form a Nash equilibrium. Despite the non-convex nature of the ambiguity set, we prove that the estimation problem is equivalent to a tractable convex program. We further devise a Frank-Wolfe algorithm for this convex program whose direction-searching subproblem can be solved in a quasi-closed form. Using these ingredients, we introduce a distributionally robust Kalman filter that hedges against model risk.

Can we learn a binary classifier from only positive data, without any negative data or unlabeled data? We show that if one can equip positive data with confidence (positive-confidence), one can successfully learn a binary classifier, which we name positive-confidence (Pconf) classification. Our work is related to one-class classification which is aimed at "describing" the positive class by clustering-related methods, but one-class classification does not have the ability to tune hyper-parameters and their aim is not on "discriminating" positive and negative classes. For the Pconf classification problem, we provide a simple empirical risk minimization framework that is model-independent and optimization-independent. We theoretically establish the consistency and an estimation error bound, and demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed method for training deep neural networks through experiments.

We demonstrate that a very deep ResNet with stacked modules that have one neuron per hidden layer and ReLU activation functions can uniformly approximate any Lebesgue integrable function in d dimensions, i.e. \ell_1(R^d). Due to the identity mapping inherent to ResNets, our network has alternating layers of dimension one and d. This stands in sharp contrast to fully connected networks, which are not universal approximators if their width is the input dimension d [21,11]. Hence, our result implies an increase in representational power for narrow deep networks by the ResNet architecture.

We study the decentralized distributed computation of discrete approximations for the regularized Wasserstein barycenter of a finite set of continuous probability measures distributedly stored over a network. We assume there is a network of agents/machines/computers, and each agent holds a private continuous probability measure and seeks to compute the barycenter of all the measures in the network by getting samples from its local measure and exchanging information with its neighbors. Motivated by this problem, we develop, and analyze, a novel accelerated primal-dual stochastic gradient method for general stochastic convex optimization problems with linear equality constraints. Then, we apply this method to the decen- tralized distributed optimization setting to obtain a new algorithm for the distributed semi-discrete regularized Wasserstein barycenter problem. Moreover, we show explicit non-asymptotic complexity for the proposed algorithm. Finally, we show the effectiveness of our method on the distributed computation of the regularized Wasserstein barycenter of univariate Gaussian and von Mises distributions, as well as some applications to image aggregation.

Feature hashing, also known as {\em the hashing trick}, introduced by Weinberger et al. (2009), is one of the key techniques used in scaling-up machine learning algorithms. Loosely speaking, feature hashing uses a random sparse projection matrix $A : \mathbb{R}^n \to \mathbb{R}^m$ (where $m \ll n$) in order to reduce the dimension of the data from $n$ to $m$ while approximately preserving the Euclidean norm. Every column of $A$ contains exactly one non-zero entry, equals to either $-1$ or $1$. Weinberger et al. showed tail bounds on $\|Ax\|_2^2$. Specifically they showed that for every $\varepsilon, \delta$, if $\|x\|_{\infty} / \|x\|_2$ is sufficiently small, and $m$ is sufficiently large, then \begin{equation*}\Pr[ \; | \;\|Ax\|_2^2 - \|x\|_2^2\; | < \varepsilon \|x\|_2^2 \;] \ge 1 - \delta \;.\end{equation*} These bounds were later extended by Dasgupta et al. (2010) and most recently refined by Dahlgaard et al. (2017), however, the true nature of the performance of this key technique, and specifically the correct tradeoff between the pivotal parameters $\|x\|_{\infty} / \|x\|_2, m, \varepsilon, \delta$ remained an open question. We settle this question by giving tight asymptotic bounds on the exact tradeoff between the central parameters, thus providing a complete understanding of the performance of feature hashing. We complement the asymptotic bound with empirical data, which shows that the constants "hiding" in the asymptotic notation are, in fact, very close to $1$, thus further illustrating the tightness of the presented bounds in practice.

It is widely believed that learning good representations is one of the main reasons for the success of deep neural networks. Although highly intuitive, there is a lack of theory and systematic approach quantitatively characterizing what representations do deep neural networks learn. In this work, we move a tiny step towards a theory and better understanding of the representations. Specifically, we study a simpler problem: How similar are the representations learned by two networks with identical architecture but trained from different initializations. We develop a rigorous theory based on the neuron activation subspace match model. The theory gives a complete characterization of the structure of neuron activation subspace matches, where the core concepts are maximum match and simple match which describe the overall and the finest similarity between sets of neurons in two networks respectively. We also propose efficient algorithms to find the maximum match and simple matches. Finally, we conduct extensive experiments using our algorithms. Experimental results suggest that, surprisingly, representations learned by the same convolutional layers of networks trained from different initializations are not as similar as prevalently expected, at least in terms of subspace match.

We develop a novel computationally efficient and general framework for robust hypothesis testing. The new framework features a new way to construct uncertainty sets under the null and the alternative distributions, which are sets centered around the empirical distribution defined via Wasserstein metric, thus our approach is data-driven and free of distributional assumptions. We develop a convex safe approximation of the minimax formulation and show that such approximation renders a nearly-optimal detector among the family of all possible tests. By exploiting the structure of the least favorable distribution, we also develop a tractable reformulation of such approximation, with complexity independent of the dimension of observation space and can be nearly sample-size-independent in general. Real-data example using human activity data demonstrated the excellent performance of the new robust detector.

This paper studies the problem of sparse regression where the goal is to learn a sparse vector that best optimizes a given objective function. Under the assumption that the objective function satisfies restricted strong convexity (RSC), we analyze orthogonal matching pursuit (OMP), a greedy algorithm that is used heavily in applications, and obtain support recovery result as well as a tight generalization error bound for OMP. Furthermore, we obtain lower bounds for OMP, showing that both our results on support recovery and generalization error are tight up to logarithmic factors. To the best of our knowledge, these support recovery and generalization bounds are the first such matching upper and lower bounds (up to logarithmic factors) for {\em any} sparse regression algorithm under the RSC assumption.

Deep neural networks (DNNs) have achieved tremendous success in a variety of applications across many disciplines. Yet, their superior performance comes with the expensive cost of requiring correctly annotated large-scale datasets. Moreover, due to DNNs' rich capacity, errors in training labels can hamper performance. To combat this problem, mean absolute error (MAE) has recently been proposed as a noise-robust alternative to the commonly-used categorical cross entropy (CCE) loss. However, as we show in this paper, MAE can perform poorly with DNNs and large-scale datasets. Here, we present a theoretically grounded set of noise-robust loss functions that can be seen as a generalization of MAE and CCE. Proposed loss functions can be readily applied with any existing DNN architecture and algorithm, while yielding good performance in a wide range of noisy label scenarios. We report results from experiments conducted with CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100 and FASHION-MNIST datasets and synthetically generated noisy labels.

Cubic-regularized Newton's method (CR) is a popular algorithm that guarantees to produce a second-order stationary solution for solving nonconvex optimization problems. However, existing understandings of convergence rate of CR are conditioned on special types of geometrical properties of the objective function. In this paper, we explore the asymptotic convergence rate of CR by exploiting the ubiquitous Kurdyka-Lojasiewicz (KL) property of the nonconvex objective functions. In specific, we characterize the asymptotic convergence rate of various types of optimality measures for CR including function value gap, variable distance gap, gradient norm and least eigenvalue of the Hessian matrix. Our results fully characterize the diverse convergence behaviors of these optimality measures in the full parameter regime of the KL property. Moreover, we show that the obtained asymptotic convergence rates of CR are order-wise faster than those of first-order gradient descent algorithms under the KL property.

A large class of machine learning techniques requires the solution of optimization problems involving spectral functions of parametric matrices, e.g. log-determinant and nuclear norm. Unfortunately, computing the gradient of a spectral function is generally of cubic complexity, as such gradient descent methods are rather expensive for optimizing objectives involving the spectral function. Thus, one naturally turns to stochastic gradient methods in hope that they will provide a way to reduce or altogether avoid the computation of full gradients. However, here a new challenge appears: there is no straightforward way to compute unbiased stochastic gradients for spectral functions. In this paper, we develop unbiased stochastic gradients for spectral-sums, an important subclass of spectral functions. Our unbiased stochastic gradients are based on combining randomized trace estimators with stochastic truncation of the Chebyshev expansions. A careful design of the truncation distribution allows us to offer distributions that are variance-optimal, which is crucial for fast and stable convergence of stochastic gradient methods. We further leverage our proposed stochastic gradients to devise stochastic methods for objective functions involving spectral-sums, and rigorously analyze their convergence rate. The utility of our methods is demonstrated in numerical experiments.

In this paper we address the graph matching problem. Following the recent works of \cite{zaslavskiy2009path,Vestner2017} we analyze and generalize the idea of concave relaxations. We introduce the concepts of \emph{conditionally concave} and \emph{probably conditionally concave} energies on polytopes and show that they encapsulate many instances of the graph matching problem, including matching Euclidean graphs and graphs on surfaces. We further prove that local minima of probably conditionally concave energies on general matching polytopes (\eg, doubly stochastic) are with high probability extreme points of the matching polytope (\eg, permutations).

We study the decentralized distributed computation of discrete approximations for the regularized Wasserstein barycenter of a finite set of continuous probability measures distributedly stored over a network. We assume there is a network of agents/machines/computers, and each agent holds a private continuous probability measure and seeks to compute the barycenter of all the measures in the network by getting samples from its local measure and exchanging information with its neighbors. Motivated by this problem, we develop, and analyze, a novel accelerated primal-dual stochastic gradient method for general stochastic convex optimization problems with linear equality constraints. Then, we apply this method to the decen- tralized distributed optimization setting to obtain a new algorithm for the distributed semi-discrete regularized Wasserstein barycenter problem. Moreover, we show explicit non-asymptotic complexity for the proposed algorithm. Finally, we show the effectiveness of our method on the distributed computation of the regularized Wasserstein barycenter of univariate Gaussian and von Mises distributions, as well as some applications to image aggregation.

We propose stochastic optimization algorithms that can find local minima faster than existing algorithms for nonconvex optimization problems, by exploiting the third-order smoothness to escape non-degenerate saddle points more efficiently. More specifically, the proposed algorithm only needs $\tilde{O}(\epsilon^{-10/3})$ stochastic gradient evaluations to converge to an approximate local minimum $\mathbf{x}$, which satisfies $\|\nabla f(\mathbf{x})\|_2\leq\epsilon$ and $\lambda_{\min}(\nabla^2 f(\mathbf{x}))\geq -\sqrt{\epsilon}$ in unconstrained stochastic optimization, where $\tilde{O}(\cdot)$ hides logarithm polynomial terms and constants. This improves upon the $\tilde{O}(\epsilon^{-7/2})$ gradient complexity achieved by the state-of-the-art stochastic local minima finding algorithms by a factor of $\tilde{O}(\epsilon^{-1/6})$. Experiments on two nonconvex optimization problems demonstrate the effectiveness of our algorithm and corroborate our theory.

A fundamental problem in program verification concerns inferring loop invariants. The problem is undecidable and even practical instances are challenging. Inspired by how human experts construct loop invariants, we propose a reasoning framework Code2Inv that constructs the solution by multi-step decision making and querying an external program graph memory block. By training with reinforcement learning, Code2Inv captures rich program features and avoids the need for ground truth solutions as supervision. Compared to previous learning tasks in domains with graph-structured data, it addresses unique challenges, such as a binary objective function and an extremely sparse reward that is given by an automated theorem prover only after the complete loop invariant is proposed. We evaluate Code2Inv on a suite of 133 benchmark problems and compare it to three state-of-the-art systems. It solves 106 problems compared to 73 by a stochastic search-based system, 77 by a heuristic search-based system, and 100 by a decision tree learning-based system. Moreover, the strategy learned can be generalized to new programs: compared to solving new instances from scratch, the pre-trained agent is more sample efficient in finding solutions.

Over the past few years, Batch-Normalization has been commonly used in deep networks, allowing faster training and high performance for a wide variety of applications. However, the reasons behind its merits remained unanswered, with several shortcomings that hindered its use for certain tasks. In this work, we present a novel view on the purpose and function of normalization methods and weight-decay, as tools to decouple weights' norm from the underlying optimized objective. This property highlights the connection between practices such as normalization, weight decay and learning-rate adjustments. We suggest several alternatives to the widely used $L^2$ batch-norm, using normalization in $L^1$ and $L^\infty$ spaces that can substantially improve numerical stability in low-precision implementations as well as provide computational and memory benefits. We demonstrate that such methods enable the first batch-norm alternative to work for half-precision implementations. Finally, we suggest a modification to weight-normalization, which improves its performance on large-scale tasks.

We demonstrate that a very deep ResNet with stacked modules that have one neuron per hidden layer and ReLU activation functions can uniformly approximate any Lebesgue integrable function in d dimensions, i.e. \ell_1(R^d). Due to the identity mapping inherent to ResNets, our network has alternating layers of dimension one and d. This stands in sharp contrast to fully connected networks, which are not universal approximators if their width is the input dimension d [21,11]. Hence, our result implies an increase in representational power for narrow deep networks by the ResNet architecture.

Hyperbolic spaces have recently gained momentum in the context of machine learning due to their high capacity and tree-likeliness properties. However, the representational power of hyperbolic geometry is not yet on par with Euclidean geometry, firstly because of the absence of corresponding hyperbolic neural network layers. Here, we bridge this gap in a principled manner by combining the formalism of Möbius gyrovector spaces with the Riemannian geometry of the Poincaré model of hyperbolic spaces. As a result, we derive hyperbolic versions of important deep learning tools: multinomial logistic regression, feed-forward and recurrent neural networks. This allows to embed sequential data and perform classification in the hyperbolic space. Empirically, we show that, even if hyperbolic optimization tools are limited, hyperbolic sentence embeddings either outperform or are on par with their Euclidean variants on textual entailment and noisy-prefix recognition tasks.

Detecting test samples drawn sufficiently far away from the training distribution statistically or adversarially is a fundamental requirement for deploying a good classifier in many real-world machine learning applications. However, deep neural networks with the softmax classifier are known to produce highly overconfident posterior distributions even for such abnormal samples. In this paper, we propose a simple yet effective method for detecting any abnormal samples, which is applicable to any pre-trained softmax neural classifier. We obtain the class conditional Gaussian distributions with respect to (low- and upper-level) features of the deep models under Gaussian discriminant analysis, which result in a confidence score based on the Mahalanobis distance. While most prior methods have been evaluated for detecting either out-of-distribution or adversarial samples, but not both, the proposed method achieves the state-of-the-art performances for both cases in our experiments. Moreover, we found that our proposed method is more robust in harsh cases, e.g., when the training dataset has noisy labels or small number of samples. Finally, we show that the proposed method enjoys broader usage by applying it to class-incremental learning: whenever out-of-distribution samples are detected, our classification rule can incorporate new classes well without further training deep models.

This paper presents KeypointNet, an end-to-end geometric reasoning framework to learn an optimal set of category-specific keypoints, along with their detectors to predict 3D keypoints in a single 2D input image. We demonstrate this framework on 3D pose estimation task by proposing a differentiable pose objective that seeks the optimal set of keypoints for recovering the relative pose between two views of an object. Our network automatically discovers a consistent set of keypoints across viewpoints of a single object as well as across all object instances of a given object class. Importantly, we find that our end-to-end approach using no ground-truth keypoint annotations outperforms a fully supervised baseline using the same neural network architecture for the pose estimation task. The discovered 3D keypoints across the car, chair, and plane categories of ShapeNet are visualized at https://keypoints.github.io/

We present a novel approach for nonparametric regression using wavelet basis functions. Our proposal, waveMesh, can be applied to non-equispaced data with sample size not necessarily a power of 2. We develop an efficient proximal gradient descent algorithm for computing the estimator and establish adaptive minimax convergence rates. The main appeal of our approach is that it naturally extends to additive and sparse additive models for a potentially large number of covariates. We prove minimax optimal convergence rates under a weak compatibility condition for sparse additive models. The compatibility condition holds when we have a small number of covariates. Additionally, we establish convergence rates for when the condition is not met. We complement our theoretical results with empirical studies comparing waveMesh to existing methods.

This paper uses the relationship between graph conductance and spectral clustering to study (i) the failures of spectral clustering and (ii) the benefits of regularization. The explanation is simple. Sparse and stochastic graphs create several ``dangling sets'', or small trees that are connected to the core of the graph by only one edge. Graph conductance is sensitive to these noisy dangling sets and spectral clustering inherits this sensitivity. The second part of the paper starts from a previously proposed form of regularized spectral clustering and shows that it is related to the graph conductance on a ``regularized graph''. When graph conductance is computed on the regularized graph, we call it CoreCut. Based upon previous arguments that relate graph conductance to spectral clustering (e.g. Cheeger inequality), minimizing CoreCut relaxes to regularized spectral clustering. Simple inspection of CoreCut reveals why it is less sensitive to dangling sets. Together, these results show that unbalanced partitions from spectral clustering can be understood as overfitting to noise in the periphery of a sparse and stochastic graph. Regularization fixes this overfitting. In addition to this statistical benefit, these results also demonstrate how regularization can improve the computational speed of spectral clustering. We provide simulations and data examples to illustrate these results.

We consider the problem of approximate $K$-means clustering with outliers and side information provided by same-cluster queries and possibly noisy answers. Our solution shows that, under some mild assumptions on the smallest cluster size, one can obtain an $(1+\epsilon)$-approximation for the optimal potential with probability at least $1-\delta$, where $\epsilon>0$ and $\delta\in(0,1)$, using an expected number of $O(\frac{K^3}{\epsilon \delta})$ noiseless same-cluster queries and comparison-based clustering of complexity $O(ndK + \frac{K^3}{\epsilon \delta})$; here, $n$ denotes the number of points and $d$ the dimension of space. Compared to a handful of other known approaches that perform importance sampling to account for small cluster sizes, the proposed query technique reduces the number of queries by a factor of roughly $O(\frac{K^6}{\epsilon^3})$, at the cost of possibly missing very small clusters. We extend this settings to the case where some queries to the oracle produce erroneous information, and where certain points, termed outliers, do not belong to any clusters. Our proof techniques differ from previous methods used for $K$-means clustering analysis, as they rely on estimating the sizes of the clusters and the number of points needed for accurate centroid estimation and subsequent nontrivial generalizations of the double Dixie cup problem. We illustrate the performance of the proposed algorithm both on synthetic and real datasets, including MNIST and CIFAR $10$.

We propose a sparse and low-rank tensor regression model to relate a univariate outcome to a feature tensor, in which each unit-rank tensor from the CP decomposition of the coefficient tensor is assumed to be sparse. This structure is both parsimonious and highly interpretable, as it implies that the outcome is related to the features through a few distinct pathways, each of which may only involve subsets of feature dimensions. We take a divide-and-conquer strategy to simplify the task into a set of sparse unit-rank tensor regression problems. To make the computation efficient and scalable, for the unit-rank tensor regression, we propose a stagewise estimation procedure to efficiently trace out its entire solution path. We show that as the step size goes to zero, the stagewise solution paths converge exactly to those of the corresponding regularized regression. The superior performance of our approach is demonstrated on various real-world and synthetic examples.

We consider the problem of finding anomalies in high-dimensional data using popular PCA based anomaly scores. The naive algorithms for computing these scores explicitly compute the PCA of the covariance matrix which uses space quadratic in the dimensionality of the data. We give the first streaming algorithms that use space that is linear or sublinear in the dimension. We prove general results showing that \emph{any} sketch of a matrix that satisfies a certain operator norm guarantee can be used to approximate these scores. We instantiate these results with powerful matrix sketching techniques such as Frequent Directions and random projections to derive efficient and practical algorithms for these problems, which we validate over real-world data sets. Our main technical contribution is to prove matrix perturbation inequalities for operators arising in the computation of these measures.

We consider the problem of learning a low dimensional representation for compositional data. Compositional data consists of a collection of nonnegative data that sum to a constant value. Since the parts of the collection are statistically dependent, many standard tools cannot be directly applied. Instead, compositional data must be first transformed before analysis. Focusing on principal component analysis (PCA), we propose an approach that allows low dimensional representation learning directly from the original data. Our approach combines the benefits of the log-ratio transformation from compositional data analysis and exponential family PCA. A key tool in its derivation is a generalization of the scaled Bregman theorem, that relates the perspective transform of a Bregman divergence to the Bregman divergence of a perspective transform and a remainder conformal divergence. Our proposed approach includes a convenient surrogate (upper bound) loss of the exponential family PCA which has an easy to optimize form. We also derive the corresponding form for nonlinear autoencoders. Experiments on simulated data and microbiome data show the promise of our method.

The development of a metric for structural data is a long-term problem in pattern recognition and machine learning. In this paper, we develop a general metric for comparing nonlinear dynamical systems that is defined with Perron-Frobenius operators in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces. Our metric includes the existing fundamental metrics for dynamical systems, which are basically defined with principal angles between some appropriately-chosen subspaces, as its special cases. We also describe the estimation of our metric from finite data. We empirically illustrate our metric with an example of rotation dynamics in a unit disk in a complex plane, and evaluate the performance with real-world time-series data.

Can we learn a binary classifier from only positive data, without any negative data or unlabeled data? We show that if one can equip positive data with confidence (positive-confidence), one can successfully learn a binary classifier, which we name positive-confidence (Pconf) classification. Our work is related to one-class classification which is aimed at "describing" the positive class by clustering-related methods, but one-class classification does not have the ability to tune hyper-parameters and their aim is not on "discriminating" positive and negative classes. For the Pconf classification problem, we provide a simple empirical risk minimization framework that is model-independent and optimization-independent. We theoretically establish the consistency and an estimation error bound, and demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed method for training deep neural networks through experiments.

In this paper, we study the generalization performance of multi-class classification and obtain a shaper data-dependent generalization error bound with fast convergence rate, substantially improving the state-of-art bounds in the existing data-dependent generalization analysis. The theoretical analysis motivates us to devise two effective multi-class kernel learning algorithms with statistical guarantees. Experimental results show that our proposed methods can significantly outperform the existing multi-class classification methods.

We present a framework to train a structured prediction model by performing smoothing on the inference algorithm it builds upon. Smoothing overcomes the non-smoothness inherent to the maximum margin structured prediction objective, and paves the way for the use of fast primal gradient-based optimization algorithms. We illustrate the proposed framework by developing a novel primal incremental optimization algorithm for the structural support vector machine. The proposed algorithm blends an extrapolation scheme for acceleration and an adaptive smoothing scheme and builds upon the stochastic variance-reduced gradient algorithm. We establish its worst-case global complexity bound and study several practical variants. We present experimental results on two real-world problems, namely named entity recognition and visual object localization. The experimental results show that the proposed framework allows us to build upon efficient inference algorithms to develop large-scale optimization algorithms for structured prediction which can achieve competitive performance on the two real-world problems.

This paper presents the key algorithmic techniques behind CatBoost, a new gradient boosting toolkit. Their combination leads to CatBoost outperforming other publicly available boosting implementations in terms of quality on a variety of datasets. Two critical algorithmic advances introduced in CatBoost are the implementation of ordered boosting, a permutation-driven alternative to the classic algorithm, and an innovative algorithm for processing categorical features. Both techniques were created to fight a prediction shift caused by a special kind of target leakage present in all currently existing implementations of gradient boosting algorithms. In this paper, we provide a detailed analysis of this problem and demonstrate that proposed algorithms solve it effectively, leading to excellent empirical results.

Knowledge graphs contain knowledge about the world and provide a structured representation of this knowledge. Current knowledge graphs contain only a small subset of what is true in the world. Link prediction approaches aim at predicting new links for a knowledge graph given the existing links among the entities. Tensor factorization approaches have proved promising for such link prediction problems. Proposed in 1927, Canonical Polyadic (CP) decomposition is among the first tensor factorization approaches. CP generally performs poorly for link prediction as it learns two independent embedding vectors for each entity, whereas they are really tied. We present a simple enhancement of CP (which we call SimplE) to allow the two embeddings of each entity to be learned dependently. The complexity of SimplE grows linearly with the size of embeddings. The embeddings learned through SimplE are interpretable, and certain types of background knowledge can be incorporated into these embeddings through weight tying. We prove SimplE is fully expressive and derive a bound on the size of its embeddings for full expressivity. We show empirically that, despite its simplicity, SimplE outperforms several state-of-the-art tensor factorization techniques. SimplE's code is available on GitHub at https://github.com/Mehran-k/SimplE.

Graph embedding methods represent nodes in a continuous vector space, preserving different types of relational information from the graph. There are many hyper-parameters to these methods (e.g. the length of a random walk) which have to be manually tuned for every graph. In this paper, we replace previously fixed hyper-parameters with trainable ones that we automatically learn via backpropagation. In particular, we propose a novel attention model on the power series of the transition matrix, which guides the random walk to optimize an upstream objective. Unlike previous approaches to attention models, the method that we propose utilizes attention parameters exclusively on the data itself (e.g. on the random walk), and are not used by the model for inference. We experiment on link prediction tasks, as we aim to produce embeddings that best-preserve the graph structure, generalizing to unseen information. We improve state-of-the-art results on a comprehensive suite of real-world graph datasets including social, collaboration, and biological networks, where we observe that our graph attention model can reduce the error by up to 20\%-40\%. We show that our automatically-learned attention parameters can vary significantly per graph, and correspond to the optimal choice of hyper-parameter if we manually tune existing methods.

The recent success in human action recognition with deep learning methods mostly adopt the supervised learning paradigm, which requires significant amount of manually labeled data to achieve good performance. However, label collection is an expensive and time-consuming process. In this work, we propose an unsupervised learning framework, which exploits unlabeled data to learn video representations. Different from previous works in video representation learning, our unsupervised learning task is to predict 3D motion in multiple target views using video representation from a source view. By learning to extrapolate cross-view motions, the representation can capture view-invariant motion dynamics which is discriminative for the action. In addition, we propose a view-adversarial training method to enhance learning of view-invariant features. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the learned representations for action recognition on multiple datasets.

In this paper we present a hybrid active sampling strategy for pairwise preference aggregation, which aims at recovering the underlying rating of the test candidates from sparse and noisy pairwise labeling. Our method employs Bayesian optimization framework and Bradley-Terry model to construct the utility function, then to obtain the Expected Information Gain (EIG) of each pair. For computational efficiency, Gaussian-Hermite quadrature is used for estimation of EIG. In this work, a hybrid active sampling strategy is proposed, either using Global Maximum (GM) EIG sampling or Minimum Spanning Tree (MST) sampling in each trial, which is determined by the test budget. The proposed method has been validated on both simulated and real-world datasets, where it shows higher preference aggregation ability than the state-of-the-art methods.

Active search is a learning paradigm for actively identifying as many members of a given class as possible. A critical target scenario is high-throughput screening for scientific discovery, such as drug or materials discovery. In these settings, specialized instruments can often evaluate \emph{multiple} points simultaneously; however, all existing work on active search focuses on sequential acquisition. We bridge this gap, addressing batch active search from both the theoretical and practical perspective. We first derive the Bayesian optimal policy for this problem, then prove a lower bound on the performance gap between sequential and batch optimal policies: the ``cost of parallelization.'' We also propose novel, efficient batch policies inspired by state-of-the-art sequential policies, and develop an aggressive pruning technique that can dramatically speed up computation. We conduct thorough experiments on data from three application domains: a citation network, material science, and drug discovery, testing all proposed policies (14 total) with a wide range of batch sizes. Our results demonstrate that the empirical performance gap matches our theoretical bound, that nonmyopic policies usually significantly outperform myopic alternatives, and that diversity is an important consideration for batch policy design.

An agent facing sequential decisions that are characterized by partial feedback needs to strike a balance between maximizing immediate payoffs based on available information, and acquiring new information that may be essential for maximizing future payoffs. This trade-off is captured by the multi-armed bandit (MAB) framework that has been studied and applied when at each time epoch payoff observations are collected on the actions that are selected at that epoch. In this paper we introduce a new, generalized MAB formulation in which additional information on each arm may appear arbitrarily throughout the decision horizon, and study the impact of such information flows on the achievable performance and the design of efficient decision-making policies. By obtaining matching lower and upper bounds, we characterize the (regret) complexity of this family of MAB problems as a function of the information flows. We introduce an adaptive exploration policy that, without any prior knowledge of the information arrival process, attains the best performance (in terms of regret rate) that is achievable when the information arrival process is a priori known. Our policy uses dynamically customized virtual time indexes to endogenously control the exploration rate based on the realized information arrival process.

We propose and study the known-compensation multi-arm bandit (KCMAB) problem, where a system controller offers a set of arms to many short-term players for $T$ steps. In each step, one short-term player arrives to the system. Upon arrival, the player greedily selects an arm with the current best average reward and receives a stochastic reward associated with the arm. In order to incentivize players to explore other arms, the controller provides proper payment compensation to players. The objective of the controller is to maximize the total reward collected by players while minimizing the compensation. We first give a compensation lower bound $\Theta(\sum_i {\Delta_i\log T\over KL_i})$, where $\Delta_i$ and $KL_i$ are the expected reward gap and Kullback-Leibler (KL) divergence between distributions of arm $i$ and the best arm, respectively. We then analyze three algorithms to solve the KCMAB problem, and obtain their regrets and compensations. We show that the algorithms all achieve $O(\log T)$ regret and $O(\log T)$ compensation that match the theoretical lower bound. Finally, we use experiments to show the behaviors of those algorithms.

Implicit feedback, such as user clicks, although abundant in online information service systems, does not provide substantial evidence on users' evaluation of system's output. Without proper modeling, such incomplete supervision inevitably misleads model estimation, especially in a bandit learning setting where the feedback is acquired on the fly. In this work, we perform contextual bandit learning with implicit feedback by modeling the feedback as a composition of user result examination and relevance judgment. Since users' examination behavior is unobserved, we introduce latent variables to model it. We perform Thompson sampling on top of variational Bayesian inference for arm selection and model update. Our upper regret bound analysis of the proposed algorithm proves its feasibility of learning from implicit feedback in a bandit setting; and extensive empirical evaluations on click logs collected from a major MOOC platform further demonstrate its learning effectiveness in practice.

In many platforms, user arrivals exhibit a self-reinforcing behavior: future user arrivals are likely to have preferences similar to users who were satisfied in the past. In other words, arrivals exhibit {\em positive externalities}. We study multiarmed bandit (MAB) problems with positive externalities. We show that the self-reinforcing preferences may lead standard benchmark algorithms such as UCB to exhibit linear regret. We develop a new algorithm, Balanced Exploration (BE), which explores arms carefully to avoid suboptimal convergence of arrivals before sufficient evidence is gathered. We also introduce an adaptive variant of BE which successively eliminates suboptimal arms. We analyze their asymptotic regret, and establish optimality by showing that no algorithm can perform better.

Model-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can attain excellent sample efficiency, but often lag behind the best model-free algorithms in terms of asymptotic performance. This is especially true with high-capacity parametric function approximators, such as deep networks. In this paper, we study how to bridge this gap, by employing uncertainty-aware dynamics models. We propose a new algorithm called probabilistic ensembles with trajectory sampling (PETS) that combines uncertainty-aware deep network dynamics models with sampling-based uncertainty propagation. Our comparison to state-of-the-art model-based and model-free deep RL algorithms shows that our approach matches the asymptotic performance of model-free algorithms on several challenging benchmark tasks, while requiring significantly fewer samples (e.g. 8 and 125 times fewer samples than Soft Actor Critic and Proximal Policy Optimization respectively on the half-cheetah task).

Learning to make decisions from observed data in dynamic environments remains a problem of fundamental importance in a numbers of fields, from artificial intelligence and robotics, to medicine and finance. This paper concerns the problem of learning control policies for unknown linear dynamical systems so as to maximize a quadratic reward function. We present a method to optimize the expected value of the reward over the posterior distribution of the unknown system parameters, given data. The algorithm involves sequential convex programing, and enjoys reliable local convergence and robust stability guarantees. Numerical simulations and stabilization of a real-world inverted pendulum are used to demonstrate the approach, with strong performance and robustness properties observed in both.

There is growing interest in combining model-free and model-based approaches in reinforcement learning with the goal of achieving the high performance of model-free algorithms with low sample complexity. This is difficult because an imperfect dynamics model can degrade the performance of the learning algorithm, and in sufficiently complex environments, the dynamics model will always be imperfect. As a result, a key challenge is to combine model-based approaches with model-free learning in such a way that errors in the model do not degrade performance. We propose stochastic ensemble value expansion (STEVE), a novel model-based technique that addresses this issue. By dynamically interpolating between model rollouts of various horizon lengths, STEVE ensures that the model is only utilized when doing so does not introduce significant errors. Our approach outperforms model-free baselines on challenging continuous control benchmarks with an order-of-magnitude increase in sample efficiency.