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Learning in Matrix Games can be Arbitrarily Complex
Gabriel Andrade · Rafael Frongillo · Georgios Piliouras

A growing number of machine learning architectures, such as Generative Adversarial Networks, rely on the design of games which implement a desired functionality via a Nash equilibrium. In practice these games have an implicit complexity (e.g.~from underlying datasets and the deep networks used) that makes directly computing a Nash equilibrium impractical or impossible. For this reason, numerous learning algorithms have been developed with the goal of iteratively converging to a Nash equilibrium. Unfortunately, the dynamics generated by the learning process can be very intricate and instances of training failure hard to interpret. In this paper we show that, in a strong sense, this dynamic complexity is inherent to games. Specifically, we prove that replicator dynamics, the continuous-time analogue of Multiplicative Weights Update, even when applied in a very restricted class of games---known as finite matrix games---is rich enough to be able to approximate arbitrary dynamical systems. Our results are positive in the sense that they show the nearly boundless dynamic modelling capabilities of current machine learning practices, but also negative in implying that these capabilities may come at the cost of interpretability. As a concrete example, we show how replicator dynamics can effectively reproduce the well-known strange attractor of Lonrenz dynamics (the "butterfly effect") while achieving no regret.

Author Information

Gabriel Andrade (University of Colorado Boulder)
Rafael Frongillo (University of Colorado Boulder)
Georgios Piliouras (Singapore University of Technology and Design)

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