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Poster Session 7


Newton-LESS: Sparsification without Trade-offs for the Sketched Newton Update

Michal Derezinski · Jonathan Lacotte · Mert Pilanci · Michael Mahoney

In second-order optimization, a potential bottleneck can be computing the Hessian matrix of the optimized function at every iteration. Randomized sketching has emerged as a powerful technique for constructing estimates of the Hessian which can be used to perform approximate Newton steps. This involves multiplication by a random sketching matrix, which introduces a trade-off between the computational cost of sketching and the convergence rate of the optimization. A theoretically desirable but practically much too expensive choice is to use a dense Gaussian sketching matrix, which produces unbiased estimates of the exact Newton step and offers strong problem-independent convergence guarantees. We show that the Gaussian matrix can be drastically sparsified, substantially reducing the computational cost, without affecting its convergence properties in any way. This approach, called Newton-LESS, is based on a recently introduced sketching technique: LEverage Score Sparsified (LESS) embeddings. We prove that Newton-LESS enjoys nearly the same problem-independent local convergence rate as Gaussian embeddings for a large class of functions. In particular, this leads to a new state-of-the-art convergence result for an iterative least squares solver. Finally, we substantially extend LESS embeddings to include uniformly sparsified random sign matrices which can be implemented efficiently and perform well in numerical experiments.

Episodic Multi-agent Reinforcement Learning with Curiosity-driven Exploration

Lulu Zheng · Jiarui Chen · Jianhao Wang · Jiamin He · Yujing Hu · Yingfeng Chen · Changjie Fan · Yang Gao · Chongjie Zhang

Efficient exploration in deep cooperative multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) still remains challenging in complex coordination problems. In this paper, we introduce a novel Episodic Multi-agent reinforcement learning with Curiosity-driven exploration, called EMC. We leverage an insight of popular factorized MARL algorithms that the ``induced" individual Q-values, i.e., the individual utility functions used for local execution, are the embeddings of local action-observation histories, and can capture the interaction between agents due to reward backpropagation during centralized training. Therefore, we use prediction errors of individual Q-values as intrinsic rewards for coordinated exploration and utilize episodic memory to exploit explored informative experience to boost policy training. As the dynamics of an agent's individual Q-value function captures the novelty of states and the influence from other agents, our intrinsic reward can induce coordinated exploration to new or promising states. We illustrate the advantages of our method by didactic examples, and demonstrate its significant outperformance over state-of-the-art MARL baselines on challenging tasks in the StarCraft II micromanagement benchmark.

RLlib Flow: Distributed Reinforcement Learning is a Dataflow Problem

Eric Liang · Zhanghao Wu · Michael Luo · Sven Mika · Joseph Gonzalez · Ion Stoica

Researchers and practitioners in the field of reinforcement learning (RL) frequently leverage parallel computation, which has led to a plethora of new algorithms and systems in the last few years. In this paper, we re-examine the challenges posed by distributed RL and try to view it through the lens of an old idea: distributed dataflow. We show that viewing RL as a dataflow problem leads to highly composable and performant implementations. We propose RLlib Flow, a hybrid actor-dataflow programming model for distributed RL, and validate its practicality by porting the full suite of algorithms in RLlib, a widely adopted distributed RL library. Concretely, RLlib Flow provides 2-9$\times$ code savings in real production code and enables the composition of multi-agent algorithms not possible by end users before. The open-source code is available as part of RLlib at

VQ-GNN: A Universal Framework to Scale up Graph Neural Networks using Vector Quantization

Mucong Ding · Kezhi Kong · Jingling Li · Chen Zhu · John Dickerson · Furong Huang · Tom Goldstein

Most state-of-the-art Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) can be defined as a form of graph convolution which can be realized by message passing between direct neighbors or beyond. To scale such GNNs to large graphs, various neighbor-, layer-, or subgraph-sampling techniques are proposed to alleviate the "neighbor explosion" problem by considering only a small subset of messages passed to the nodes in a mini-batch. However, sampling-based methods are difficult to apply to GNNs that utilize many-hops-away or global context each layer, show unstable performance for different tasks and datasets, and do not speed up model inference. We propose a principled and fundamentally different approach, VQ-GNN, a universal framework to scale up any convolution-based GNNs using Vector Quantization (VQ) without compromising the performance. In contrast to sampling-based techniques, our approach can effectively preserve all the messages passed to a mini-batch of nodes by learning and updating a small number of quantized reference vectors of global node representations, using VQ within each GNN layer. Our framework avoids the "neighbor explosion" problem of GNNs using quantized representations combined with a low-rank version of the graph convolution matrix. We show that such a compact low-rank version of the gigantic convolution matrix is sufficient both theoretically and experimentally. In company with VQ, we design a novel approximated message passing algorithm and a nontrivial back-propagation rule for our framework. Experiments on various types of GNN backbones demonstrate the scalability and competitive performance of our framework on large-graph node classification and link prediction benchmarks.

SUPER-ADAM: Faster and Universal Framework of Adaptive Gradients

Feihu Huang · Junyi Li · Heng Huang

Adaptive gradient methods have shown excellent performances for solving many machine learning problems. Although multiple adaptive gradient methods were recently studied, they mainly focus on either empirical or theoretical aspects and also only work for specific problems by using some specific adaptive learning rates. Thus, it is desired to design a universal framework for practical algorithms of adaptive gradients with theoretical guarantee to solve general problems. To fill this gap, we propose a faster and universal framework of adaptive gradients (i.e., SUPER-ADAM) by introducing a universal adaptive matrix that includes most existing adaptive gradient forms. Moreover, our framework can flexibly integrate the momentum and variance reduced techniques. In particular, our novel framework provides the convergence analysis support for adaptive gradient methods under the nonconvex setting. In theoretical analysis, we prove that our SUPER-ADAM algorithm can achieve the best known gradient (i.e., stochastic first-order oracle (SFO)) complexity of $\tilde{O}(\epsilon^{-3})$ for finding an $\epsilon$-stationary point of nonconvex optimization, which matches the lower bound for stochastic smooth nonconvex optimization. In numerical experiments, we employ various deep learning tasks to validate that our algorithm consistently outperforms the existing adaptive algorithms. Code is available at

Differentially Private Federated Bayesian Optimization with Distributed Exploration

Zhongxiang Dai · Bryan Kian Hsiang Low · Patrick Jaillet

Bayesian optimization (BO) has recently been extended to the federated learning (FL) setting by the federated Thompson sampling (FTS) algorithm, which has promising applications such as federated hyperparameter tuning. However, FTS is not equipped with a rigorous privacy guarantee which is an important consideration in FL. Recent works have incorporated differential privacy (DP) into the training of deep neural networks through a general framework for adding DP to iterative algorithms. Following this general DP framework, our work here integrates DP into FTS to preserve user-level privacy. We also leverage the ability of this general DP framework to handle different parameter vectors, as well as the technique of local modeling for BO, to further improve the utility of our algorithm through distributed exploration (DE). The resulting differentially private FTS with DE (DP-FTS-DE) algorithm is endowed with theoretical guarantees for both the privacy and utility and is amenable to interesting theoretical insights about the privacy-utility trade-off. We also use real-world experiments to show that DP-FTS-DE achieves high utility (competitive performance) with a strong privacy guarantee (small privacy loss) and induces a trade-off between privacy and utility.

Robust Visual Reasoning via Language Guided Neural Module Networks

Arjun Akula · Varun Jampani · Soravit Changpinyo · Song-Chun Zhu

Neural module networks (NMN) are a popular approach for solving multi-modal tasks such as visual question answering (VQA) and visual referring expression recognition (REF). A key limitation in prior implementations of NMN is that the neural modules do not effectively capture the association between the visual input and the relevant neighbourhood context of the textual input. This limits their generalizability. For instance, NMN fail to understand new concepts such as “yellow sphere to the left" even when it is a combination of known concepts from train data: “blue sphere", “yellow cube", and “metallic cube to the left". In this paper, we address this limitation by introducing a language-guided adaptive convolution layer (LG-Conv) into NMN, in which the filter weights of convolutions are explicitly multiplied with a spatially varying language-guided kernel. Our model allows the neural module to adaptively co-attend over potential objects of interest from the visual and textual inputs. Extensive experiments on VQA and REF tasks demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach. Additionally, we propose a new challenging out-of-distribution test split for REF task, which we call C3-Ref+, for explicitly evaluating the NMN’s ability to generalize well to adversarial perturbations and unseen combinations of known concepts. Experiments on C3-Ref+ further demonstrate the generalization capabilities of our approach.

Stochastic optimization under time drift: iterate averaging, step-decay schedules, and high probability guarantees

Joshua Cutler · Dmitriy Drusvyatskiy · Zaid Harchaoui

We consider the problem of minimizing a convex function that is evolving in time according to unknown and possibly stochastic dynamics. Such problems abound in the machine learning and signal processing literature, under the names of concept drift and stochastic tracking. We provide novel non-asymptotic convergence guarantees for stochastic algorithms with iterate averaging, focusing on bounds valid both in expectation and with high probability. Notably, we show that the tracking efficiency of the proximal stochastic gradient method depends only logarithmically on the initialization quality when equipped with a step-decay schedule.

Learnable Fourier Features for Multi-dimensional Spatial Positional Encoding

Yang Li · Si Si · Gang Li · Cho-Jui Hsieh · Samy Bengio

Attentional mechanisms are order-invariant. Positional encoding is a crucial component to allow attention-based deep model architectures such as Transformer to address sequences or images where the position of information matters. In this paper, we propose a novel positional encoding method based on learnable Fourier features. Instead of hard-coding each position as a token or a vector, we represent each position, which can be multi-dimensional, as a trainable encoding based on learnable Fourier feature mapping, modulated with a multi-layer perceptron. The representation is particularly advantageous for a spatial multi-dimensional position, e.g., pixel positions on an image, where $L_2$ distances or more complex positional relationships need to be captured. Our experiments based on several public benchmark tasks show that our learnable Fourier feature representation for multi-dimensional positional encoding outperforms existing methods by both improving the accuracy and allowing faster convergence.

CAPE: Encoding Relative Positions with Continuous Augmented Positional Embeddings

Tatiana Likhomanenko · Qiantong Xu · Gabriel Synnaeve · Ronan Collobert · Alex Rogozhnikov

Without positional information, attention-based Transformer neural networks are permutation-invariant. Absolute or relative positional embeddings are the most popular ways to feed Transformer models with positional information. Absolute positional embeddings are simple to implement, but suffer from generalization issues when evaluating on sequences longer than seen at training time. Relative positions are more robust to input length change, but are more complex to implement and yield inferior model throughput due to extra computational and memory costs. In this paper, we propose an augmentation-based approach (CAPE) for absolute positional embeddings, which keeps the advantages of both absolute (simplicity and speed) and relative positional embeddings (better generalization). In addition, our empirical evaluation on state-of-the-art models in machine translation, image and speech recognition demonstrates that CAPE leads to better generalization performance as well as increased stability with respect to training hyper-parameters.

Conflict-Averse Gradient Descent for Multi-task learning

Bo Liu · Xingchao Liu · Xiaojie Jin · Peter Stone · Qiang Liu

The goal of multi-task learning is to enable more efficient learning than single task learning by sharing model structures for a diverse set of tasks. A standard multi-task learning objective is to minimize the average loss across all tasks. While straightforward, using this objective often results in much worse final performance for each task than learning them independently. A major challenge in optimizing a multi-task model is the conflicting gradients, where gradients of different task objectives are not well aligned so that following the average gradient direction can be detrimental to specific tasks' performance. Previous work has proposed several heuristics to manipulate the task gradients for mitigating this problem. But most of them lack convergence guarantee and/or could converge to any Pareto-stationary point.In this paper, we introduce Conflict-Averse Gradient descent (CAGrad) which minimizes the average loss function, while leveraging the worst local improvement of individual tasks to regularize the algorithm trajectory. CAGrad balances the objectives automatically and still provably converges to a minimum over the average loss. It includes the regular gradient descent (GD) and the multiple gradient descent algorithm (MGDA) in the multi-objective optimization (MOO) literature as special cases. On a series of challenging multi-task supervised learning and reinforcement learning tasks, CAGrad achieves improved performance over prior state-of-the-art multi-objective gradient manipulation methods.

Optimal Underdamped Langevin MCMC Method

Zhengmian Hu · Feihu Huang · Heng Huang

In the paper, we study the underdamped Langevin diffusion (ULD) with strongly-convex potential consisting of finite summation of $N$ smooth components, and propose an efficient discretization method, which requires $O(N+d^\frac{1}{3}N^\frac{2}{3}/\varepsilon^\frac{2}{3})$ gradient evaluations to achieve $\varepsilon$-error (in $\sqrt{\mathbb{E}{\lVert{\cdot}\rVert_2^2}}$ distance) for approximating $d$-dimensional ULD. Moreover, we prove a lower bound of gradient complexity as $\Omega(N+d^\frac{1}{3}N^\frac{2}{3}/\varepsilon^\frac{2}{3})$, which indicates that our method is optimal in dependence of $N$, $\varepsilon$, and $d$. In particular, we apply our method to sample the strongly-log-concave distribution and obtain gradient complexity better than all existing gradient based sampling algorithms. Experimental results on both synthetic and real-world data show that our new method consistently outperforms the existing ULD approaches.

Decoupling the Depth and Scope of Graph Neural Networks

Hanqing Zeng · Muhan Zhang · Yinglong Xia · Ajitesh Srivastava · Andrey Malevich · Rajgopal Kannan · Viktor Prasanna · Long Jin · Ren Chen

State-of-the-art Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) have limited scalability with respect to the graph and model sizes. On large graphs, increasing the model depth often means exponential expansion of the scope (i.e., receptive field). Beyond just a few layers, two fundamental challenges emerge: 1. degraded expressivity due to oversmoothing, and 2. expensive computation due to neighborhood explosion. We propose a design principle to decouple the depth and scope of GNNs – to generate representation of a target entity (i.e., a node or an edge), we first extract a localized subgraph as the bounded-size scope, and then apply a GNN of arbitrary depth on top of the subgraph. A properly extracted subgraph consists of a small number of critical neighbors, while excluding irrelevant ones. The GNN, no matter how deep it is, smooths the local neighborhood into informative representation rather than oversmoothing the global graph into “white noise”. Theoretically, decoupling improves the GNN expressive power from the perspectives of graph signal processing (GCN), function approximation (GraphSAGE) and topological learning (GIN). Empirically, on seven graphs (with up to 110M nodes) and six backbone GNN architectures, our design achieves significant accuracy improvement with orders of magnitude reduction in computation and hardware cost.

Auditing Black-Box Prediction Models for Data Minimization Compliance

Bashir Rastegarpanah · Krishna Gummadi · Mark Crovella

In this paper, we focus on auditing black-box prediction models for compliance with the GDPR’s data minimization principle. This principle restricts prediction models to use the minimal information that is necessary for performing the task at hand. Given the challenge of the black-box setting, our key idea is to check if each of the prediction model’s input features is individually necessary by assigning it some constant value (i.e., applying a simple imputation) across all prediction instances, and measuring the extent to which the model outcomes would change. We introduce a metric for data minimization that is based on model instability under simple imputations. We extend the applicability of this metric from a finite sample model to a distributional setting by introducing a probabilistic data minimization guarantee, which we derive using a Bayesian approach. Furthermore, we address the auditing problem under a constraint on the number of queries to the prediction system. We formulate the problem of allocating a budget of system queries to feasible simple imputations (for investigating model instability) as a multi-armed bandit framework with probabilistic success metrics. We define two bandit problems for providing a probabilistic data minimization guarantee at a given confidence level: a decision problem given a data minimization level, and a measurement problem given a fixed query budget. We design efficient algorithms for these auditing problems using novel exploration strategies that expand classical bandit strategies. Our experiments with real-world prediction systems show that our auditing algorithms significantly outperform simpler benchmarks in both measurement and decision problems.

Adaptive wavelet distillation from neural networks through interpretations

Wooseok Ha · Chandan Singh · Francois Lanusse · Srigokul Upadhyayula · Bin Yu

Recent deep-learning models have achieved impressive prediction performance, but often sacrifice interpretability and computational efficiency. Interpretability is crucial in many disciplines, such as science and medicine, where models must be carefully vetted or where interpretation is the goal itself. Moreover, interpretable models are concise and often yield computational efficiency. Here, we propose adaptive wavelet distillation (AWD), a method which aims to distill information from a trained neural network into a wavelet transform. Specifically, AWD penalizes feature attributions of a neural network in the wavelet domain to learn an effective multi-resolution wavelet transform. The resulting model is highly predictive, concise, computationally efficient, and has properties (such as a multi-scale structure) which make it easy to interpret. In close collaboration with domain experts, we showcase how AWD addresses challenges in two real-world settings: cosmological parameter inference and molecular-partner prediction. In both cases, AWD yields a scientifically interpretable and concise model which gives predictive performance better than state-of-the-art neural networks. Moreover, AWD identifies predictive features that are scientifically meaningful in the context of respective domains. All code and models are released in a full-fledged package available on Github.

Safe Policy Optimization with Local Generalized Linear Function Approximations

Akifumi Wachi · Yunyue Wei · Yanan Sui

Safe exploration is a key to applying reinforcement learning (RL) in safety-critical systems. Existing safe exploration methods guaranteed safety under the assumption of regularity, and it has been difficult to apply them to large-scale real problems. We propose a novel algorithm, SPO-LF, that optimizes an agent's policy while learning the relation between a locally available feature obtained by sensors and environmental reward/safety using generalized linear function approximations. We provide theoretical guarantees on its safety and optimality. We experimentally show that our algorithm is 1) more efficient in terms of sample complexity and computational cost and 2) more applicable to large-scale problems than previous safe RL methods with theoretical guarantees, and 3) comparably sample-efficient and safer compared with existing advanced deep RL methods with safety constraints.

On the Equivalence between Neural Network and Support Vector Machine

Yilan Chen · Wei Huang · Lam Nguyen · Tsui-Wei Weng

Recent research shows that the dynamics of an infinitely wide neural network (NN) trained by gradient descent can be characterized by Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) \citep{jacot2018neural}. Under the squared loss, the infinite-width NN trained by gradient descent with an infinitely small learning rate is equivalent to kernel regression with NTK \citep{arora2019exact}. However, the equivalence is only known for ridge regression currently \citep{arora2019harnessing}, while the equivalence between NN and other kernel machines (KMs), e.g. support vector machine (SVM), remains unknown. Therefore, in this work, we propose to establish the equivalence between NN and SVM, and specifically, the infinitely wide NN trained by soft margin loss and the standard soft margin SVM with NTK trained by subgradient descent. Our main theoretical results include establishing the equivalence between NN and a broad family of $\ell_2$ regularized KMs with finite-width bounds, which cannot be handled by prior work, and showing that every finite-width NN trained by such regularized loss functions is approximately a KM. Furthermore, we demonstrate our theory can enable three practical applications, including (i) \textit{non-vacuous} generalization bound of NN via the corresponding KM; (ii) \textit{nontrivial} robustness certificate for the infinite-width NN (while existing robustness verification methods would provide vacuous bounds); (iii) intrinsically more robust infinite-width NNs than those from previous kernel regression.

Successor Feature Landmarks for Long-Horizon Goal-Conditioned Reinforcement Learning

Christopher Hoang · Sungryull Sohn · Jongwook Choi · Wilka Carvalho · Honglak Lee

Operating in the real-world often requires agents to learn about a complex environment and apply this understanding to achieve a breadth of goals. This problem, known as goal-conditioned reinforcement learning (GCRL), becomes especially challenging for long-horizon goals. Current methods have tackled this problem by augmenting goal-conditioned policies with graph-based planning algorithms. However, they struggle to scale to large, high-dimensional state spaces and assume access to exploration mechanisms for efficiently collecting training data. In this work, we introduce Successor Feature Landmarks (SFL), a framework for exploring large, high-dimensional environments so as to obtain a policy that is proficient for any goal. SFL leverages the ability of successor features (SF) to capture transition dynamics, using it to drive exploration by estimating state-novelty and to enable high-level planning by abstracting the state-space as a non-parametric landmark-based graph. We further exploit SF to directly compute a goal-conditioned policy for inter-landmark traversal, which we use to execute plans to "frontier" landmarks at the edge of the explored state space. We show in our experiments on MiniGrid and ViZDoom that SFL enables efficient exploration of large, high-dimensional state spaces and outperforms state-of-the-art baselines on long-horizon GCRL tasks.

Stronger NAS with Weaker Predictors

Junru Wu · Xiyang Dai · Dongdong Chen · Yinpeng Chen · Mengchen Liu · Ye Yu · Zhangyang Wang · Zicheng Liu · Mei Chen · Lu Yuan

Neural Architecture Search (NAS) often trains and evaluates a large number of architectures. Recent predictor-based NAS approaches attempt to alleviate such heavy computation costs with two key steps: sampling some architecture-performance pairs and fitting a proxy accuracy predictor. Given limited samples, these predictors, however, are far from accurate to locate top architectures due to the difficulty of fitting the huge search space. This paper reflects on a simple yet crucial question: if our final goal is to find the best architecture, do we really need to model the whole space well?. We propose a paradigm shift from fitting the whole architecture space using one strong predictor, to progressively fitting a search path towards the high-performance sub-space through a set of weaker predictors. As a key property of the weak predictors, their probabilities of sampling better architectures keep increasing. Hence we only sample a few well-performed architectures guided by the previously learned predictor and estimate a new better weak predictor. This embarrassingly easy framework, dubbed WeakNAS, produces coarse-to-fine iteration to gradually refine the ranking of sampling space. Extensive experiments demonstrate that WeakNAS costs fewer samples to find top-performance architectures on NAS-Bench-101 and NAS-Bench-201. Compared to state-of-the-art (SOTA) predictor-based NAS methods, WeakNAS outperforms all with notable margins, e.g., requiring at least 7.5x less samples to find global optimal on NAS-Bench-101. WeakNAS can also absorb their ideas to boost performance more. Further, WeakNAS strikes the new SOTA result of 81.3% in the ImageNet MobileNet Search Space. The code is available at:

Dynamic Trace Estimation

Prathamesh Dharangutte · Christopher Musco

We study a dynamic version of the implicit trace estimation problem. Given access to an oracle for computing matrix-vector multiplications with a dynamically changing matrix A, our goal is to maintain an accurate approximation to A's trace using as few multiplications as possible. We present a practical algorithm for solving this problem and prove that, in a natural setting, its complexity is quadratically better than the standard solution of repeatedly applying Hutchinson's stochastic trace estimator. We also provide an improved algorithm assuming additional common assumptions on A's dynamic updates. We support our theory with empirical results, showing significant computational improvements on three applications in machine learning and network science: tracking moments of the Hessian spectral density during neural network optimization, counting triangles and estimating natural connectivity in a dynamically changing graph.

On the Generative Utility of Cyclic Conditionals

Chang Liu · Haoyue Tang · Tao Qin · Jintao Wang · Tie-Yan Liu

We study whether and how can we model a joint distribution $p(x,z)$ using two conditional models $p(x|z)$ and $q(z|x)$ that form a cycle. This is motivated by the observation that deep generative models, in addition to a likelihood model $p(x|z)$, often also use an inference model $q(z|x)$ for extracting representation, but they rely on a usually uninformative prior distribution $p(z)$ to define a joint distribution, which may render problems like posterior collapse and manifold mismatch. To explore the possibility to model a joint distribution using only $p(x|z)$ and $q(z|x)$, we study their compatibility and determinacy, corresponding to the existence and uniqueness of a joint distribution whose conditional distributions coincide with them. We develop a general theory for operable equivalence criteria for compatibility, and sufficient conditions for determinacy. Based on the theory, we propose a novel generative modeling framework CyGen that only uses the two cyclic conditional models. We develop methods to achieve compatibility and determinacy, and to use the conditional models to fit and generate data. With the prior constraint removed, CyGen better fits data and captures more representative features, supported by both synthetic and real-world experiments.

Learning to Select Exogenous Events for Marked Temporal Point Process

Ping Zhang · Rishabh Iyer · Ashish Tendulkar · Gaurav Aggarwal · Abir De

Marked temporal point processes (MTPPs) have emerged as a powerful modelingtool for a wide variety of applications which are characterized using discreteevents localized in continuous time. In this context, the events are of two typesendogenous events which occur due to the influence of the previous events andexogenous events which occur due to the effect of the externalities. However, inpractice, the events do not come with endogenous or exogenous labels. To thisend, our goal in this paper is to identify the set of exogenous events from a set ofunlabelled events. To do so, we first formulate the parameter estimation problemin conjunction with exogenous event set selection problem and show that thisproblem is NP hard. Next, we prove that the underlying objective is a monotoneand \alpha-submodular set function, with respect to the candidate set of exogenousevents. Such a characterization subsequently allows us to use a stochastic greedyalgorithm which was originally proposed in~\cite{greedy}for submodular maximization.However, we show that it also admits an approximation guarantee for maximizing\alpha-submodular set function, even when the learning algorithm provides an imperfectestimates of the trained parameters. Finally, our experiments with synthetic andreal data show that our method performs better than the existing approaches builtupon superposition of endogenous and exogenous MTPPs.

A Contrastive Learning Approach for Training Variational Autoencoder Priors

Jyoti Aneja · Alex Schwing · Jan Kautz · Arash Vahdat

Variational autoencoders (VAEs) are one of the powerful likelihood-based generative models with applications in many domains. However, they struggle to generate high-quality images, especially when samples are obtained from the prior without any tempering. One explanation for VAEs' poor generative quality is the prior hole problem: the prior distribution fails to match the aggregate approximate posterior. Due to this mismatch, there exist areas in the latent space with high density under the prior that do not correspond to any encoded image. Samples from those areas are decoded to corrupted images. To tackle this issue, we propose an energy-based prior defined by the product of a base prior distribution and a reweighting factor, designed to bring the base closer to the aggregate posterior. We train the reweighting factor by noise contrastive estimation, and we generalize it to hierarchical VAEs with many latent variable groups. Our experiments confirm that the proposed noise contrastive priors improve the generative performance of state-of-the-art VAEs by a large margin on the MNIST, CIFAR-10, CelebA 64, and CelebA HQ 256 datasets. Our method is simple and can be applied to a wide variety of VAEs to improve the expressivity of their prior distribution.

What training reveals about neural network complexity

Andreas Loukas · Marinos Poiitis · Stefanie Jegelka

This work explores the Benevolent Training Hypothesis (BTH) which argues that the complexity of the function a deep neural network (NN) is learning can be deduced by its training dynamics. Our analysis provides evidence for BTH by relating the NN's Lipschitz constant at different regions of the input space with the behavior of the stochastic training procedure. We first observe that the Lipschitz constant close to the training data affects various aspects of the parameter trajectory, with more complex networks having a longer trajectory, bigger variance, and often veering further from their initialization. We then show that NNs whose 1st layer bias is trained more steadily (i.e., slowly and with little variation) have bounded complexity even in regions of the input space that are far from any training point. Finally, we find that steady training with Dropout implies a training- and data-dependent generalization bound that grows poly-logarithmically with the number of parameters. Overall, our results support the intuition that good training behavior can be a useful bias towards good generalization.

Combining Recurrent, Convolutional, and Continuous-time Models with Linear State Space Layers

Albert Gu · Isys Johnson · Karan Goel · Khaled Saab · Tri Dao · Atri Rudra · Christopher Ré

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs), temporal convolutions, and neural differential equations (NDEs) are popular families of deep learning models for time-series data, each with unique strengths and tradeoffs in modeling power and computational efficiency. We introduce a simple sequence model inspired by control systems that generalizes these approaches while addressing their shortcomings. The Linear State-Space Layer (LSSL) maps a sequence $u \mapsto y$ by simply simulating a linear continuous-time state-space representation $\dot{x} = Ax + Bu, y = Cx + Du$. Theoretically, we show that LSSL models are closely related to the three aforementioned families of models and inherit their strengths. For example, they generalize convolutions to continuous-time, explain common RNN heuristics, and share features of NDEs such as time-scale adaptation. We then incorporate and generalize recent theory on continuous-time memorization to introduce a trainable subset of structured matrices $A$ that endow LSSLs with long-range memory. Empirically, stacking LSSL layers into a simple deep neural network obtains state-of-the-art results across time series benchmarks for long dependencies in sequential image classification, real-world healthcare regression tasks, and speech. On a difficult speech classification task with length-16000 sequences, LSSL outperforms prior approaches by 24 accuracy points, and even outperforms baselines that use hand-crafted features on 100x shorter sequences.

Learning Domain Invariant Representations in Goal-conditioned Block MDPs

Beining Han · Chongyi Zheng · Harris Chan · Keiran Paster · Michael Zhang · Jimmy Ba

Deep Reinforcement Learning (RL) is successful in solving many complex Markov Decision Processes (MDPs) problems. However, agents often face unanticipated environmental changes after deployment in the real world. These changes are often spurious and unrelated to the underlying problem, such as background shifts for visual input agents. Unfortunately, deep RL policies are usually sensitive to these changes and fail to act robustly against them. This resembles the problem of domain generalization in supervised learning. In this work, we study this problem for goal-conditioned RL agents. We propose a theoretical framework in the Block MDP setting that characterizes the generalizability of goal-conditioned policies to new environments. Under this framework, we develop a practical method PA-SkewFit that enhances domain generalization. The empirical evaluation shows that our goal-conditioned RL agent can perform well in various unseen test environments, improving by 50\% over baselines.

Sample Selection for Fair and Robust Training

Yuji Roh · Kangwook Lee · Steven Whang · Changho Suh

Fairness and robustness are critical elements of Trustworthy AI that need to be addressed together. Fairness is about learning an unbiased model while robustness is about learning from corrupted data, and it is known that addressing only one of them may have an adverse affect on the other. In this work, we propose a sample selection-based algorithm for fair and robust training. To this end, we formulate a combinatorial optimization problem for the unbiased selection of samples in the presence of data corruption. Observing that solving this optimization problem is strongly NP-hard, we propose a greedy algorithm that is efficient and effective in practice. Experiments show that our method obtains fairness and robustness that are better than or comparable to the state-of-the-art technique, both on synthetic and benchmark real datasets. Moreover, unlike other fair and robust training baselines, our algorithm can be used by only modifying the sampling step in batch selection without changing the training algorithm or leveraging additional clean data.

Dynamic Visual Reasoning by Learning Differentiable Physics Models from Video and Language

Mingyu Ding · Zhenfang Chen · Tao Du · Ping Luo · Josh Tenenbaum · Chuang Gan

In this work, we propose a unified framework, called Visual Reasoning with Differ-entiable Physics (VRDP), that can jointly learn visual concepts and infer physics models of objects and their interactions from videos and language. This is achieved by seamlessly integrating three components: a visual perception module, a concept learner, and a differentiable physics engine. The visual perception module parses each video frame into object-centric trajectories and represents them as latent scene representations. The concept learner grounds visual concepts (e.g., color, shape, and material) from these object-centric representations based on the language, thus providing prior knowledge for the physics engine. The differentiable physics model, implemented as an impulse-based differentiable rigid-body simulator, performs differentiable physical simulation based on the grounded concepts to infer physical properties, such as mass, restitution, and velocity, by fitting the simulated trajectories into the video observations. Consequently, these learned concepts and physical models can explain what we have seen and imagine what is about to happen in future and counterfactual scenarios. Integrating differentiable physics into the dynamic reasoning framework offers several appealing benefits. More accurate dynamics prediction in learned physics models enables state-of-the-art performance on both synthetic and real-world benchmarks while still maintaining high transparency and interpretability; most notably, VRDP improves the accuracy of predictive and counterfactual questions by 4.5% and 11.5% compared to its best counterpart. VRDP is also highly data-efficient: physical parameters can be optimized from very few videos, and even a single video can be sufficient. Finally, with all physical parameters inferred, VRDP can quickly learn new concepts from a few examples.

BatchQuant: Quantized-for-all Architecture Search with Robust Quantizer

Haoping Bai · Meng Cao · Ping Huang · Jiulong Shan

As the applications of deep learning models on edge devices increase at an accelerating pace, fast adaptation to various scenarios with varying resource constraints has become a crucial aspect of model deployment. As a result, model optimization strategies with adaptive configuration are becoming increasingly popular. While single-shot quantized neural architecture search enjoys flexibility in both model architecture and quantization policy, the combined search space comes with many challenges, including instability when training the weight-sharing supernet and difficulty in navigating the exponentially growing search space. Existing methods tend to either limit the architecture search space to a small set of options or limit the quantization policy search space to fixed precision policies. To this end, we propose BatchQuant, a robust quantizer formulation that allows fast and stable training of a compact, single-shot, mixed-precision, weight-sharing supernet. We employ BatchQuant to train a compact supernet (offering over $10^{76}$ quantized subnets) within substantially fewer GPU hours than previous methods. Our approach, Quantized-for-all (QFA), is the first to seamlessly extend one-shot weight-sharing NAS supernet to support subnets with arbitrary ultra-low bitwidth mixed-precision quantization policies without retraining. QFA opens up new possibilities in joint hardware-aware neural architecture search and quantization. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on ImageNet and achieve SOTA Top-1 accuracy under a low complexity constraint (<20 MFLOPs).

Long Short-Term Transformer for Online Action Detection

Mingze Xu · Yuanjun Xiong · Hao Chen · Xinyu Li · Wei Xia · Zhuowen Tu · Stefano Soatto

We present Long Short-term TRansformer (LSTR), a temporal modeling algorithm for online action detection, which employs a long- and short-term memory mechanism to model prolonged sequence data. It consists of an LSTR encoder that dynamically leverages coarse-scale historical information from an extended temporal window (e.g., 2048 frames spanning of up to 8 minutes), together with an LSTR decoder that focuses on a short time window (e.g., 32 frames spanning 8 seconds) to model the fine-scale characteristics of the data. Compared to prior work, LSTR provides an effective and efficient method to model long videos with fewer heuristics, which is validated by extensive empirical analysis. LSTR achieves state-of-the-art performance on three standard online action detection benchmarks, THUMOS'14, TVSeries, and HACS Segment. Code has been made available at:

Learning Optimal Predictive Checklists

Haoran Zhang · Quaid Morris · Berk Ustun · Marzyeh Ghassemi

Checklists are simple decision aids that are often used to promote safety and reliability in clinical applications. In this paper, we present a method to learn checklists for clinical decision support. We represent predictive checklists as discrete linear classifiers with binary features and unit weights. We then learn globally optimal predictive checklists from data by solving an integer programming problem. Our method allows users to customize checklists to obey complex constraints, including constraints to enforce group fairness and to binarize real-valued features at training time. In addition, it pairs models with an optimality gap that can inform model development and determine the feasibility of learning sufficiently accurate checklists on a given dataset. We pair our method with specialized techniques that speed up its ability to train a predictive checklist that performs well and has a small optimality gap. We benchmark the performance of our method on seven clinical classification problems, and demonstrate its practical benefits by training a short-form checklist for PTSD screening. Our results show that our method can fit simple predictive checklists that perform well and that can easily be customized to obey a rich class of custom constraints.

Understanding Deflation Process in Over-parametrized Tensor Decomposition

Rong Ge · Yunwei Ren · Xiang Wang · Mo Zhou

In this paper we study the training dynamics for gradient flow on over-parametrized tensor decomposition problems. Empirically, such training process often first fits larger components and then discovers smaller components, which is similar to a tensor deflation process that is commonly used in tensor decomposition algorithms. We prove that for orthogonally decomposable tensor, a slightly modified version of gradient flow would follow a tensor deflation process and recover all the tensor components. Our proof suggests that for orthogonal tensors, gradient flow dynamics works similarly as greedy low-rank learning in the matrix setting, which is a first step towards understanding the implicit regularization effect of over-parametrized models for low-rank tensors.

Systematic Generalization with Edge Transformers

Leon Bergen · Timothy O'Donnell · Dzmitry Bahdanau

Recent research suggests that systematic generalization in natural language understanding remains a challenge for state-of-the-art neural models such as Transformers and Graph Neural Networks. To tackle this challenge, we propose Edge Transformer, a new model that combines inspiration from Transformers and rule-based symbolic AI. The first key idea in Edge Transformers is to associate vector states with every edge, that is, with every pair of input nodes---as opposed to just every node, as it is done in the Transformer model. The second major innovation is a triangular attention mechanism that updates edge representations in a way that is inspired by unification from logic programming. We evaluate Edge Transformer on compositional generalization benchmarks in relational reasoning, semantic parsing, and dependency parsing. In all three settings, the Edge Transformer outperforms Relation-aware, Universal and classical Transformer baselines.

Uniform Sampling over Episode Difficulty

Sébastien Arnold · Guneet Dhillon · Avinash Ravichandran · Stefano Soatto

Episodic training is a core ingredient of few-shot learning to train models on tasks with limited labelled data. Despite its success, episodic training remains largely understudied, prompting us to ask the question: what is the best way to sample episodes? In this paper, we first propose a method to approximate episode sampling distributions based on their difficulty. Building on this method, we perform an extensive analysis and find that sampling uniformly over episode difficulty outperforms other sampling schemes, including curriculum and easy-/hard-mining. As the proposed sampling method is algorithm agnostic, we can leverage these insights to improve few-shot learning accuracies across many episodic training algorithms. We demonstrate the efficacy of our method across popular few-shot learning datasets, algorithms, network architectures, and protocols.

Grounding Representation Similarity Through Statistical Testing

Frances Ding · Jean-Stanislas Denain · Jacob Steinhardt

To understand neural network behavior, recent works quantitatively compare different networks' learned representations using canonical correlation analysis (CCA), centered kernel alignment (CKA), and other dissimilarity measures. Unfortunately, these widely used measures often disagree on fundamental observations, such as whether deep networks differing only in random initialization learn similar representations. These disagreements raise the question: which, if any, of these dissimilarity measures should we believe? We provide a framework to ground this question through a concrete test: measures should have \emph{sensitivity} to changes that affect functional behavior, and \emph{specificity} against changes that do not. We quantify this through a variety of functional behaviors including probing accuracy and robustness to distribution shift, and examine changes such as varying random initialization and deleting principal components. We find that current metrics exhibit different weaknesses, note that a classical baseline performs surprisingly well, and highlight settings where all metrics appear to fail, thus providing a challenge set for further improvement.

Revealing and Protecting Labels in Distributed Training

Trung Dang · Om Thakkar · Swaroop Ramaswamy · Rajiv Mathews · Peter Chin · Françoise Beaufays

Distributed learning paradigms such as federated learning often involve transmission of model updates, or gradients, over a network, thereby avoiding transmission of private data. However, it is possible for sensitive information about the training data to be revealed from such gradients. Prior works have demonstrated that labels can be revealed analytically from the last layer of certain models (e.g., ResNet), or they can be reconstructed jointly with model inputs by using Gradients Matching [Zhu et al.] with additional knowledge about the current state of the model. In this work, we propose a method to discover the set of labels of training samples from only the gradient of the last layer and the id to label mapping. Our method is applicable to a wide variety of model architectures across multiple domains. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method for model training in two domains - image classification, and automatic speech recognition. Furthermore, we show that existing reconstruction techniques improve their efficacy when used in conjunction with our method. Conversely, we demonstrate that gradient quantization and sparsification can significantly reduce the success of the attack.

Evolution Gym: A Large-Scale Benchmark for Evolving Soft Robots

Jagdeep Bhatia · Holly Jackson · Yunsheng Tian · Jie Xu · Wojciech Matusik

Both the design and control of a robot play equally important roles in its task performance. However, while optimal control is well studied in the machine learning and robotics community, less attention is placed on finding the optimal robot design. This is mainly because co-optimizing design and control in robotics is characterized as a challenging problem, and more importantly, a comprehensive evaluation benchmark for co-optimization does not exist. In this paper, we propose Evolution Gym, the first large-scale benchmark for co-optimizing the design and control of soft robots. In our benchmark, each robot is composed of different types of voxels (e.g., soft, rigid, actuators), resulting in a modular and expressive robot design space. Our benchmark environments span a wide range of tasks, including locomotion on various types of terrains and manipulation. Furthermore, we develop several robot co-evolution algorithms by combining state-of-the-art design optimization methods and deep reinforcement learning techniques. Evaluating the algorithms on our benchmark platform, we observe robots exhibiting increasingly complex behaviors as evolution progresses, with the best evolved designs solving many of our proposed tasks. Additionally, even though robot designs are evolved autonomously from scratch without prior knowledge, they often grow to resemble existing natural creatures while outperforming hand-designed robots. Nevertheless, all tested algorithms fail to find robots that succeed in our hardest environments. This suggests that more advanced algorithms are required to explore the high-dimensional design space and evolve increasingly intelligent robots -- an area of research in which we hope Evolution Gym will accelerate progress. Our website with code, environments, documentation, and tutorials is available at

Continuous-time edge modelling using non-parametric point processes

Xuhui Fan · Bin Li · Feng Zhou · Scott SIsson

The mutually-exciting Hawkes process (ME-HP) is a natural choice to model reciprocity, which is an important attribute of continuous-time edge (dyadic) data. However, existing ways of implementing the ME-HP for such data are either inflexible, as the exogenous (background) rate functions are typically constant and the endogenous (excitation) rate functions are specified parametrically, or inefficient, as inference usually relies on Markov chain Monte Carlo methods with high computational costs. To address these limitations, we discuss various approaches to model design, and develop three variants of non-parametric point processes for continuous-time edge modelling (CTEM). The resulting models are highly adaptable as they generate intensity functions through sigmoidal Gaussian processes, and so provide greater modelling flexibility than parametric forms. The models are implemented via a fast variational inference method enabled by a novel edge modelling construction. The superior performance of the proposed CTEM models is demonstrated through extensive experimental evaluations on four real-world continuous-time edge data sets.

Understanding Instance-based Interpretability of Variational Auto-Encoders

Zhifeng Kong · Kamalika Chaudhuri

Instance-based interpretation methods have been widely studied for supervised learning methods as they help explain how black box neural networks predict. However, instance-based interpretations remain ill-understood in the context of unsupervised learning. In this paper, we investigate influence functions [Koh and Liang, 2017], a popular instance-based interpretation method, for a class of deep generative models called variational auto-encoders (VAE). We formally frame the counter-factual question answered by influence functions in this setting, and through theoretical analysis, examine what they reveal about the impact of training samples on classical unsupervised learning methods. We then introduce VAE- TracIn, a computationally efficient and theoretically sound solution based on Pruthi et al. [2020], for VAEs. Finally, we evaluate VAE-TracIn on several real world datasets with extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Why Lottery Ticket Wins? A Theoretical Perspective of Sample Complexity on Sparse Neural Networks

Shuai Zhang · Meng Wang · Sijia Liu · Pin-Yu Chen · Jinjun Xiong

The lottery ticket hypothesis (LTH) states that learning on a properly pruned network (the winning ticket) has improved test accuracy over the original unpruned network. Although LTH has been justified empirically in a broad range of deep neural network (DNN) involved applications like computer vision and natural language processing, the theoretical validation of the improved generalization of a winning ticket remains elusive. To the best of our knowledge, our work, for the first time, characterizes the performance of training a pruned neural network by analyzing the geometric structure of the objective function and the sample complexity to achieve zero generalization error. We show that the convex region near a desirable model with guaranteed generalization enlarges as the neural network model is pruned, indicating the structural importance of a winning ticket. Moreover, as the algorithm for training a pruned neural network is specified as an (accelerated) stochastic gradient descent algorithm, we theoretically show that the number of samples required for achieving zero generalization error is proportional to the number of the non-pruned weights in the hidden layer. With a fixed number of samples, training a pruned neural network enjoys a faster convergence rate to the desired model than training the original unpruned one, providing a formal justification of the improved generalization of the winning ticket. Our theoretical results are acquired from learning a pruned neural network of one hidden layer, while experimental results are further provided to justify the implications in pruning multi-layer neural networks.

Constrained Robust Submodular Partitioning

Shengjie Wang · Tianyi Zhou · Chandrashekhar Lavania · Jeff A Bilmes

In the robust submodular partitioning problem, we aim to allocate a set of items into $m$ blocks, so that the evaluation of the minimum block according to a submodular function is maximized. Robust submodular partitioning promotes the diversity of every block in the partition. It has many applications in machine learning, e.g., partitioning data for distributed training so that the gradients computed on every block are consistent. We study an extension of the robust submodular partition problem with additional constraints (e.g., cardinality, multiple matroids, and/or knapsack) on every block. For example, when partitioning data for distributed training, we can add a constraint that the number of samples of each class is the same in each partition block, ensuring data balance. We present two classes of algorithms, i.e., Min-Block Greedy based algorithms (with an $\Omega(1/m)$ bound), and Round-Robin Greedy based algorithms (with a constant bound) and show that under various constraints, they still have good approximation guarantees. Interestingly, while normally the latter runs in only weakly polynomial time, we show that using the two together yields strongly polynomial running time while preserving the approximation guarantee. Lastly, we apply the algorithms on a real-world machine learning data partitioning problem showing good results.

UCB-based Algorithms for Multinomial Logistic Regression Bandits

Sanae Amani · Christos Thrampoulidis

Out of the rich family of generalized linear bandits, perhaps the most well studied ones are logistic bandits that are used in problems with binary rewards: for instance, when the learner aims to maximize the profit over a user that can select one of two possible outcomes (e.g., `click' vs `no-click'). Despite remarkable recent progress and improved algorithms for logistic bandits, existing works do not address practical situations where the number of outcomes that can be selected by the user is larger than two (e.g., `click', `show me later', `never show again', `no click'). In this paper, we study such an extension. We use multinomial logit (MNL) to model the probability of each one of $K+1\geq 2$ possible outcomes (+1 stands for the `not click' outcome): we assume that for a learner's action $\mathbf{x}_t$, the user selects one of $K+1\geq 2$ outcomes, say outcome $i$, with a MNL probabilistic model with corresponding unknown parameter $\bar{\boldsymbol{\theta}}_{\ast i}$. Each outcome $i$ is also associated with a revenue parameter $\rho_i$ and the goal is to maximize the expected revenue. For this problem, we present MNL-UCB, an upper confidence bound (UCB)-based algorithm, that achieves regret $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(dK\sqrt{T})$ with small dependency on problem-dependent constants that can otherwise be arbitrarily large and lead to loose regret bounds. We present numerical simulations that corroborate our theoretical results.

AutoBalance: Optimized Loss Functions for Imbalanced Data

Mingchen Li · Xuechen Zhang · Christos Thrampoulidis · Jiasi Chen · Samet Oymak

Imbalanced datasets are commonplace in modern machine learning problems. The presence of under-represented classes or groups with sensitive attributes results in concerns about generalization and fairness. Such concerns are further exacerbated by the fact that large capacity deep nets can perfectly fit the training data and appear to achieve perfect accuracy and fairness during training, but perform poorly during test. To address these challenges, we propose AutoBalance, a bi-level optimization framework that automatically designs a training loss function to optimize a blend of accuracy and fairness-seeking objectives. Specifically, a lower-level problem trains the model weights, and an upper-level problem tunes the loss function by monitoring and optimizing the desired objective over the validation data. Our loss design enables personalized treatment for classes/groups by employing a parametric cross-entropy loss and individualized data augmentation schemes. We evaluate the benefits and performance of our approach for the application scenarios of imbalanced and group-sensitive classification. Extensive empirical evaluations demonstrate the benefits of AutoBalance over state-of-the-art approaches. Our experimental findings are complemented with theoretical insights on loss function design and the benefits of the train-validation split. All code is available open-source.

VigDet: Knowledge Informed Neural Temporal Point Process for Coordination Detection on Social Media

Yizhou Zhang · Karishma Sharma · Yan Liu

Recent years have witnessed an increasing use of coordinated accounts on social media, operated by misinformation campaigns to influence public opinion and manipulate social outcomes. Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop an effective methodology for coordinated group detection to combat the misinformation on social media. However, existing works suffer from various drawbacks, such as, either limited performance due to extreme reliance on predefined signatures of coordination, or instead an inability to address the natural sparsity of account activities on social media with useful prior domain knowledge. Therefore, in this paper, we propose a coordination detection framework incorporating neural temporal point process with prior knowledge such as temporal logic or pre-defined filtering functions. Specifically, when modeling the observed data from social media with neural temporal point process, we jointly learn a Gibbs-like distribution of group assignment based on how consistent an assignment is to (1) the account embedding space and (2) the prior knowledge. To address the challenge that the distribution is hard to be efficiently computed and sampled from, we design a theoretically guaranteed variational inference approach to learn a mean-field approximation for it. Experimental results on a real-world dataset show the effectiveness of our proposed method compared to the SOTA model in both unsupervised and semi-supervised settings. We further apply our model on a COVID-19 Vaccine Tweets dataset. The detection result suggests the presence of suspicious coordinated efforts on spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Looking Beyond Single Images for Contrastive Semantic Segmentation Learning

FEIHU ZHANG · Philip Torr · Rene Ranftl · Stephan Richter

We present an approach to contrastive representation learning for semantic segmentation. Our approach leverages the representational power of existing feature extractors to find corresponding regions across images. These cross-image correspondences are used as auxiliary labels to guide the pixel-level selection of positive and negative samples for more effective contrastive learning in semantic segmentation. We show that auxiliary labels can be generated from a variety of feature extractors, ranging from image classification networks that have been trained using unsupervised contrastive learning to segmentation models that have been trained on a small amount of labeled data. We additionally introduce a novel metric for rapidly judging the quality of a given auxiliary-labeling strategy, and empirically analyze various factors that influence the performance of contrastive learning for semantic segmentation. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method both in the low-data as well as the high-data regime on various datasets. Our experiments show that contrastive learning with our auxiliary-labeling approach consistently boosts semantic segmentation accuracy when compared to standard ImageNet pretraining and outperforms existing approaches of contrastive and semi-supervised semantic segmentation.

Dynamic Distillation Network for Cross-Domain Few-Shot Recognition with Unlabeled Data

Ashraful Islam · Chun-Fu (Richard) Chen · Rameswar Panda · Leonid Karlinsky · Rogerio Feris · Richard J. Radke

Most existing works in few-shot learning rely on meta-learning the network on a large base dataset which is typically from the same domain as the target dataset. We tackle the problem of cross-domain few-shot learning where there is a large shift between the base and target domain. The problem of cross-domain few-shot recognition with unlabeled target data is largely unaddressed in the literature. STARTUP was the first method that tackles this problem using self-training. However, it uses a fixed teacher pretrained on a labeled base dataset to create soft labels for the unlabeled target samples. As the base dataset and unlabeled dataset are from different domains, projecting the target images in the class-domain of the base dataset with a fixed pretrained model might be sub-optimal. We propose a simple dynamic distillation-based approach to facilitate unlabeled images from the novel/base dataset. We impose consistency regularization by calculating predictions from the weakly-augmented versions of the unlabeled images from a teacher network and matching it with the strongly augmented versions of the same images from a student network. The parameters of the teacher network are updated as exponential moving average of the parameters of the student network. We show that the proposed network learns representation that can be easily adapted to the target domain even though it has not been trained with target-specific classes during the pretraining phase. Our model outperforms the current state-of-the art method by 4.4% for 1-shot and 3.6% for 5-shot classification in the BSCD-FSL benchmark, and also shows competitive performance on traditional in-domain few-shot learning task.

Associative Memories via Predictive Coding

Tommaso Salvatori · Yuhang Song · Yujian Hong · Lei Sha · Simon Frieder · Zhenghua Xu · Rafal Bogacz · Thomas Lukasiewicz

Associative memories in the brain receive and store patterns of activity registered by the sensory neurons, and are able to retrieve them when necessary. Due to their importance in human intelligence, computational models of associative memories have been developed for several decades now. In this paper, we present a novel neural model for realizing associative memories, which is based on a hierarchical generative network that receives external stimuli via sensory neurons. It is trained using predictive coding, an error-based learning algorithm inspired by information processing in the cortex. To test the model's capabilities, we perform multiple retrieval experiments from both corrupted and incomplete data points. In an extensive comparison, we show that this new model outperforms in retrieval accuracy and robustness popular associative memory models, such as autoencoders trained via backpropagation, and modern Hopfield networks. In particular, in completing partial data points, our model achieves remarkable results on natural image datasets, such as ImageNet, with a surprisingly high accuracy, even when only a tiny fraction of pixels of the original images is presented. Our model provides a plausible framework to study learning and retrieval of memories in the brain, as it closely mimics the behavior of the hippocampus as a memory index and generative model.

Robust and differentially private mean estimation

Xiyang Liu · Weihao Kong · Sham Kakade · Sewoong Oh

In statistical learning and analysis from shared data, which is increasingly widely adopted in platforms such as federated learning and meta-learning, there are two major concerns: privacy and robustness. Each participating individual should be able to contribute without the fear of leaking one's sensitive information. At the same time, the system should be robust in the presence of malicious participants inserting corrupted data. Recent algorithmic advances in learning from shared data focus on either one of these threats, leaving the system vulnerable to the other. We bridge this gap for the canonical problem of estimating the mean from i.i.d.~samples. We introduce PRIME, which is the first efficient algorithm that achieves both privacy and robustness for a wide range of distributions. We further complement this result with a novel exponential time algorithm that improves the sample complexity of PRIME, achieving a near-optimal guarantee and matching that of a known lower bound for (non-robust) private mean estimation. This proves that there is no extra statistical cost to simultaneously guaranteeing privacy and robustness.

CoAtNet: Marrying Convolution and Attention for All Data Sizes

Zihang Dai · Hanxiao Liu · Quoc V Le · Mingxing Tan

Transformers have attracted increasing interests in computer vision, but they still fall behind state-of-the-art convolutional networks. In this work, we show that while Transformers tend to have larger model capacity, their generalization can be worse than convolutional networks due to the lack of the right inductive bias. To effectively combine the strengths from both architectures, we present CoAtNets(pronounced "coat" nets), a family of hybrid models built from two key insights: (1) depthwise Convolution and self-Attention can be naturally unified via simple relative attention; (2) vertically stacking convolution layers and attention layers in a principled way is surprisingly effective in improving generalization, capacity and efficiency. Experiments show that our CoAtNets achieve state-of-the-art performance under different resource constraints across various datasets: Without extra data, CoAtNet achieves 86.0% ImageNet top-1 accuracy; When pre-trained with 13M images from ImageNet-21K, our CoAtNet achieves 88.56% top-1 accuracy, matching ViT-huge pre-trained with 300M images from JFT-300M while using 23x less data; Notably, when we further scale up CoAtNet with JFT-3B, it achieves 90.88% top-1 accuracy on ImageNet, establishing a new state-of-the-art result.

Deep Synoptic Monte-Carlo Planning in Reconnaissance Blind Chess

Gregory Clark

This paper introduces deep synoptic Monte Carlo planning (DSMCP) for large imperfect information games. The algorithm constructs a belief state with an unweighted particle filter and plans via playouts that start at samples drawn from the belief state. The algorithm accounts for uncertainty by performing inference on "synopses," a novel stochastic abstraction of information states. DSMCP is the basis of the program Penumbra, which won the official 2020 reconnaissance blind chess competition versus 33 other programs. This paper also evaluates algorithm variants that incorporate caution, paranoia, and a novel bandit algorithm. Furthermore, it audits the synopsis features used in Penumbra with per-bit saliency statistics.

Reducing Collision Checking for Sampling-Based Motion Planning Using Graph Neural Networks

Chenning Yu · Sicun Gao

Sampling-based motion planning is a popular approach in robotics for finding paths in continuous configuration spaces. Checking collision with obstacles is the major computational bottleneck in this process. We propose new learning-based methods for reducing collision checking to accelerate motion planning by training graph neural networks (GNNs) that perform path exploration and path smoothing. Given random geometric graphs (RGGs) generated from batch sampling, the path exploration component iteratively predicts collision-free edges to prioritize their exploration. The path smoothing component then optimizes paths obtained from the exploration stage. The methods benefit from the ability of GNNs of capturing geometric patterns from RGGs through batch sampling and generalize better to unseen environments. Experimental results show that the learned components can significantly reduce collision checking and improve overall planning efficiency in challenging high-dimensional motion planning tasks.

Stability and Generalization of Bilevel Programming in Hyperparameter Optimization

Fan Bao · Guoqiang Wu · Chongxuan LI · Jun Zhu · Bo Zhang

The (gradient-based) bilevel programming framework is widely used in hyperparameter optimization and has achieved excellent performance empirically. Previous theoretical work mainly focuses on its optimization properties, while leaving the analysis on generalization largely open. This paper attempts to address the issue by presenting an expectation bound w.r.t. the validation set based on uniform stability. Our results can explain some mysterious behaviours of the bilevel programming in practice, for instance, overfitting to the validation set. We also present an expectation bound for the classical cross-validation algorithm. Our results suggest that gradient-based algorithms can be better than cross-validation under certain conditions in a theoretical perspective. Furthermore, we prove that regularization terms in both the outer and inner levels can relieve the overfitting problem in gradient-based algorithms. In experiments on feature learning and data reweighting for noisy labels, we corroborate our theoretical findings.

Self-Adaptable Point Processes with Nonparametric Time Decays

Zhimeng Pan · Zheng Wang · Jeff M Phillips · Shandian Zhe

Many applications involve multi-type event data. Understanding the complex influences of the events on each other is critical to discover useful knowledge and to predict future events and their types. Existing methods either ignore or partially account for these influences. Recent works use recurrent neural networks to model the event rate. While being highly expressive, they couple all the temporal dependencies in a black-box and can hardly extract meaningful knowledge. More important, most methods assume an exponential time decay of the influence strength, which is over-simplified and can miss many important strength varying patterns. To overcome these limitations, we propose SPRITE, a $\underline{S}$elf-adaptable $\underline{P}$oint p$\underline{R}$ocess w$\underline{I}$th nonparametric $\underline{T}$ime d$\underline{E}$cays, which can decouple the influences between every pair of the events and capture various time decays of the influence strengths. Specifically, we use an embedding to represent each event type and model the event influence as an unknown function of the embeddings and time span. We derive a general construction that can cover all possible time decaying functions. By placing Gaussian process (GP) priors over the latent functions and using Gauss-Legendre quadrature to obtain the integral in the construction, we can flexibly estimate all kinds of time-decaying influences, without restricting to any specific form or imposing derivative constraints that bring learning difficulties. We then use weight space augmentation of GPs to develop an efficient stochastic variational learning algorithm. We show the advantages of our approach in both the ablation study and real-world applications.

Generalized Shape Metrics on Neural Representations

Alex H Williams · Erin Kunz · Simon Kornblith · Scott Linderman

Understanding the operation of biological and artificial networks remains a difficult and important challenge. To identify general principles, researchers are increasingly interested in surveying large collections of networks that are trained on, or biologically adapted to, similar tasks. A standardized set of analysis tools is now needed to identify how network-level covariates---such as architecture, anatomical brain region, and model organism---impact neural representations (hidden layer activations). Here, we provide a rigorous foundation for these analyses by defining a broad family of metric spaces that quantify representational dissimilarity. Using this framework, we modify existing representational similarity measures based on canonical correlation analysis and centered kernel alignment to satisfy the triangle inequality, formulate a novel metric that respects the inductive biases in convolutional layers, and identify approximate Euclidean embeddings that enable network representations to be incorporated into essentially any off-the-shelf machine learning method. We demonstrate these methods on large-scale datasets from biology (Allen Institute Brain Observatory) and deep learning (NAS-Bench-101). In doing so, we identify relationships between neural representations that are interpretable in terms of anatomical features and model performance.

High-probability Bounds for Non-Convex Stochastic Optimization with Heavy Tails

Ashok Cutkosky · Harsh Mehta

We consider non-convex stochastic optimization using first-order algorithms for which the gradient estimates may have heavy tails. We show that a combination of gradient clipping, momentum, and normalized gradient descent yields convergence to critical points in high-probability with best-known rates for smooth losses when the gradients only have bounded $\mathfrak{p}$th moments for some $\mathfrak{p}\in(1,2]$. We then consider the case of second-order smooth losses, which to our knowledge have not been studied in this setting, and again obtain high-probability bounds for any $\mathfrak{p}$. Moreover, our results hold for arbitrary smooth norms, in contrast to the typical SGD analysis which requires a Hilbert space norm. Further, we show that after a suitable "burn-in" period, the objective value will monotonically decrease for every iteration until a critical point is identified, which provides intuition behind the popular practice of learning rate "warm-up'' and also yields a last-iterate guarantee.

Matrix encoding networks for neural combinatorial optimization

Yeong-Dae Kwon · Jinho Choo · Iljoo Yoon · Minah Park · Duwon Park · Youngjune Gwon

Machine Learning (ML) can help solve combinatorial optimization (CO) problems better. A popular approach is to use a neural net to compute on the parameters of a given CO problem and extract useful information that guides the search for good solutions. Many CO problems of practical importance can be specified in a matrix form of parameters quantifying the relationship between two groups of items. There is currently no neural net model, however, that takes in such matrix-style relationship data as an input. Consequently, these types of CO problems have been out of reach for ML engineers. In this paper, we introduce Matrix Encoding Network (MatNet) and show how conveniently it takes in and processes parameters of such complex CO problems. Using an end-to-end model based on MatNet, we solve asymmetric traveling salesman (ATSP) and flexible flow shop (FFSP) problems as the earliest neural approach. In particular, for a class of FFSP we have tested MatNet on, we demonstrate a far superior empirical performance to any methods (neural or not) known to date.

Continuous Latent Process Flows

Ruizhi Deng · Marcus Brubaker · Greg Mori · Andreas Lehrmann

Partial observations of continuous time-series dynamics at arbitrary time stamps exist in many disciplines. Fitting this type of data using statistical models with continuous dynamics is not only promising at an intuitive level but also has practical benefits, including the ability to generate continuous trajectories and to perform inference on previously unseen time stamps. Despite exciting progress in this area, the existing models still face challenges in terms of their representational power and the quality of their variational approximations. We tackle these challenges with continuous latent process flows (CLPF), a principled architecture decoding continuous latent processes into continuous observable processes using a time-dependent normalizing flow driven by a stochastic differential equation. To optimize our model using maximum likelihood, we propose a novel piecewise construction of a variational posterior process and derive the corresponding variational lower bound using trajectory re-weighting. Our ablation studies demonstrate the effectiveness of our contributions in various inference tasks on irregular time grids. Comparisons to state-of-the-art baselines show our model's favourable performance on both synthetic and real-world time-series data.

Dataset Distillation with Infinitely Wide Convolutional Networks

Timothy Nguyen · Roman Novak · Lechao Xiao · Jaehoon Lee

The effectiveness of machine learning algorithms arises from being able to extract useful features from large amounts of data. As model and dataset sizes increase, dataset distillation methods that compress large datasets into significantly smaller yet highly performant ones will become valuable in terms of training efficiency and useful feature extraction. To that end, we apply a novel distributed kernel-based meta-learning framework to achieve state-of-the-art results for dataset distillation using infinitely wide convolutional neural networks. For instance, using only 10 datapoints (0.02% of original dataset), we obtain over 65% test accuracy on CIFAR-10 image classification task, a dramatic improvement over the previous best test accuracy of 40%. Our state-of-the-art results extend across many other settings for MNIST, Fashion-MNIST, CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100, and SVHN. Furthermore, we perform some preliminary analyses of our distilled datasets to shed light on how they differ from naturally occurring data.

Imitation with Neural Density Models

Kuno Kim · Akshat Jindal · Yang Song · Jiaming Song · Yanan Sui · Stefano Ermon

We propose a new framework for Imitation Learning (IL) via density estimation of the expert's occupancy measure followed by Maximum Occupancy Entropy Reinforcement Learning (RL) using the density as a reward. Our approach maximizes a non-adversarial model-free RL objective that provably lower bounds reverse Kullback–Leibler divergence between occupancy measures of the expert and imitator. We present a practical IL algorithm, Neural Density Imitation (NDI), which obtains state-of-the-art demonstration efficiency on benchmark control tasks.

The Benefits of Implicit Regularization from SGD in Least Squares Problems

Difan Zou · Jingfeng Wu · Vladimir Braverman · Quanquan Gu · Dean Foster · Sham Kakade

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) exhibits strong algorithmic regularization effects in practice, which has been hypothesized to play an important role in the generalization of modern machine learning approaches. In this work, we seek to understand these issues in the simpler setting of linear regression (including both underparameterized and overparameterized regimes), where our goal is to make sharp instance-based comparisons of the implicit regularization afforded by (unregularized) average SGD with the explicit regularization of ridge regression. For a broad class of least squares problem instances (that are natural in high-dimensional settings), we show: (1) for every problem instance and for every ridge parameter, (unregularized) SGD, when provided with \emph{logarithmically} more samples than that provided to the ridge algorithm, generalizes no worse than the ridge solution (provided SGD uses a tuned constant stepsize); (2) conversely, there exist instances (in this wide problem class) where optimally-tuned ridge regression requires \emph{quadratically} more samples than SGD in order to have the same generalization performance. Taken together, our results show that, up to the logarithmic factors, the generalization performance of SGD is always no worse than that of ridge regression in a wide range of overparameterized problems, and, in fact, could be much better for some problem instances. More generally, our results show how algorithmic regularization has important consequences even in simpler (overparameterized) convex settings.

Robust Counterfactual Explanations on Graph Neural Networks

Mohit Bajaj · Lingyang Chu · Zi Yu Xue · Jian Pei · Lanjun Wang · Peter Cho-Ho Lam · Yong Zhang

Massive deployment of Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) in high-stake applications generates a strong demand for explanations that are robust to noise and align well with human intuition. Most existing methods generate explanations by identifying a subgraph of an input graph that has a strong correlation with the prediction. These explanations are not robust to noise because independently optimizing the correlation for a single input can easily overfit noise. Moreover, they are not counterfactual because removing an identified subgraph from an input graph does not necessarily change the prediction result. In this paper, we propose a novel method to generate robust counterfactual explanations on GNNs by explicitly modelling the common decision logic of GNNs on similar input graphs. Our explanations are naturally robust to noise because they are produced from the common decision boundaries of a GNN that govern the predictions of many similar input graphs. The explanations are also counterfactual because removing the set of edges identified by an explanation from the input graph changes the prediction significantly. Exhaustive experiments on many public datasets demonstrate the superior performance of our method.

Dissecting the Diffusion Process in Linear Graph Convolutional Networks

Yifei Wang · Yisen Wang · Jiansheng Yang · Zhouchen Lin

Graph Convolutional Networks (GCNs) have attracted more and more attentions in recent years. A typical GCN layer consists of a linear feature propagation step and a nonlinear transformation step. Recent works show that a linear GCN can achieve comparable performance to the original non-linear GCN while being much more computationally efficient. In this paper, we dissect the feature propagation steps of linear GCNs from a perspective of continuous graph diffusion, and analyze why linear GCNs fail to benefit from more propagation steps. Following that, we propose Decoupled Graph Convolution (DGC) that decouples the terminal time and the feature propagation steps, making it more flexible and capable of exploiting a very large number of feature propagation steps. Experiments demonstrate that our proposed DGC improves linear GCNs by a large margin and makes them competitive with many modern variants of non-linear GCNs.

Data Sharing and Compression for Cooperative Networked Control

Jiangnan Cheng · Marco Pavone · Sachin Katti · Sandeep Chinchali · Ao Tang

Sharing forecasts of network timeseries data, such as cellular or electricity load patterns, can improve independent control applications ranging from traffic scheduling to power generation. Typically, forecasts are designed without knowledge of a downstream controller's task objective, and thus simply optimize for mean prediction error. However, such task-agnostic representations are often too large to stream over a communication network and do not emphasize salient temporal features for cooperative control. This paper presents a solution to learn succinct, highly-compressed forecasts that are co-designed with a modular controller's task objective. Our simulations with real cellular, Internet-of-Things (IoT), and electricity load data show we can improve a model predictive controller's performance by at least 25% while transmitting 80% less data than the competing method. Further, we present theoretical compression results for a networked variant of the classical linear quadratic regulator (LQR) control problem.

STEM: A Stochastic Two-Sided Momentum Algorithm Achieving Near-Optimal Sample and Communication Complexities for Federated Learning

Prashant Khanduri · PRANAY SHARMA · Haibo Yang · Mingyi Hong · Jia Liu · Ketan Rajawat · Pramod Varshney

Federated Learning (FL) refers to the paradigm where multiple worker nodes (WNs) build a joint model by using local data. Despite extensive research, for a generic non-convex FL problem, it is not clear, how to choose the WNs' and the server's update directions, the minibatch sizes, and the local update frequency, so that the WNs use the minimum number of samples and communication rounds to achieve the desired solution. This work addresses the above question and considers a class of stochastic algorithms where the WNs perform a few local updates before communication. We show that when both the WN's and the server's directions are chosen based on certain stochastic momentum estimator, the algorithm requires $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\epsilon^{-3/2})$ samples and $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(\epsilon^{-1})$ communication rounds to compute an $\epsilon$-stationary solution. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first FL algorithm that achieves such {\it near-optimal} sample and communication complexities simultaneously. Further, we show that there is a trade-off curve between local update frequencies and local minibatch sizes, on which the above sample and communication complexities can be maintained. {Finally, we show that for the classical FedAvg (a.k.a. Local SGD, which is a momentum-less special case of the STEM), a similar trade-off curve exists, albeit with worse sample and communication complexities. Our insights on this trade-off provides guidelines for choosing the four important design elements for FL algorithms, the update frequency, directions, and minibatch sizes to achieve the best performance.}

On the Representation of Solutions to Elliptic PDEs in Barron Spaces

Ziang Chen · Jianfeng Lu · Yulong Lu

Numerical solutions to high-dimensional partial differential equations (PDEs) based on neural networks have seen exciting developments. This paper derives complexity estimates of the solutions of $d$-dimensional second-order elliptic PDEs in the Barron space, that is a set of functions admitting the integral of certain parametric ridge function against a probability measure on the parameters. We prove under some appropriate assumptions that if the coefficients and the source term of the elliptic PDE lie in Barron spaces, then the solution of the PDE is $\epsilon$-close with respect to the $H^1$ norm to a Barron function. Moreover, we prove dimension-explicit bounds for the Barron norm of this approximate solution, depending at most polynomially on the dimension $d$ of the PDE. As a direct consequence of the complexity estimates, the solution of the PDE can be approximated on any bounded domain by a two-layer neural network with respect to the $H^1$ norm with a dimension-explicit convergence rate.

Learning 3D Dense Correspondence via Canonical Point Autoencoder

An-Chieh Cheng · Xueting Li · Min Sun · Ming-Hsuan Yang · Sifei Liu

We propose a canonical point autoencoder (CPAE) that predicts dense correspondences between 3D shapes of the same category. The autoencoder performs two key functions: (a) encoding an arbitrarily ordered point cloud to a canonical primitive, e.g., a sphere, and (b) decoding the primitive back to the original input instance shape. As being placed in the bottleneck, this primitive plays a key role to map all the unordered point clouds on the canonical surface, and to be reconstructed in an ordered fashion. Once trained, points from different shape instances that are mapped to the same locations on the primitive surface are determined to be a pair of correspondence. Our method does not require any form of annotation or self-supervised part segmentation network and can handle unaligned input point clouds within a certain rotation range. Experimental results on 3D semantic keypoint transfer and part segmentation transfer show that our model performs favorably against state-of-the-art correspondence learning methods.

Subgraph Federated Learning with Missing Neighbor Generation

Ke ZHANG · Carl Yang · Xiaoxiao Li · Lichao Sun · Siu Ming Yiu

Graphs have been widely used in data mining and machine learning due to their unique representation of real-world objects and their interactions. As graphs are getting bigger and bigger nowadays, it is common to see their subgraphs separately collected and stored in multiple local systems. Therefore, it is natural to consider the subgraph federated learning setting, where each local system holds a small subgraph that may be biased from the distribution of the whole graph. Hence, the subgraph federated learning aims to collaboratively train a powerful and generalizable graph mining model without directly sharing their graph data. In this work, towards the novel yet realistic setting of subgraph federated learning, we propose two major techniques: (1) FedSage, which trains a GraphSage model based on FedAvg to integrate node features, link structures, and task labels on multiple local subgraphs; (2) FedSage+, which trains a missing neighbor generator along FedSage to deal with missing links across local subgraphs. Empirical results on four real-world graph datasets with synthesized subgraph federated learning settings demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of our proposed techniques. At the same time, consistent theoretical implications are made towards their generalization ability on the global graphs.

Inverse Reinforcement Learning in a Continuous State Space with Formal Guarantees

Gregory Dexter · Kevin Bello · Jean Honorio

Inverse Reinforcement Learning (IRL) is the problem of finding a reward function which describes observed/known expert behavior. The IRL setting is remarkably useful for automated control, in situations where the reward function is difficult to specify manually or as a means to extract agent preference. In this work, we provide a new IRL algorithm for the continuous state space setting with unknown transition dynamics by modeling the system using a basis of orthonormal functions. Moreover, we provide a proof of correctness and formal guarantees on the sample and time complexity of our algorithm. Finally, we present synthetic experiments to corroborate our theoretical guarantees.

Regulating algorithmic filtering on social media

Sarah Cen · Devavrat Shah

By filtering the content that users see, social media platforms have the ability to influence users' perceptions and decisions, from their dining choices to their voting preferences. This influence has drawn scrutiny, with many calling for regulations on filtering algorithms, but designing and enforcing regulations remains challenging. In this work, we examine three questions. First, given a regulation, how would one design an audit to enforce it? Second, does the audit impose a performance cost on the platform? Third, how does the audit affect the content that the platform is incentivized to filter? In response to these questions, we propose a method such that, given a regulation, an auditor can test whether that regulation is met with only black-box access to the filtering algorithm. We then turn to the platform's perspective. The platform's goal is to maximize an objective function while meeting regulation. We find that there are conditions under which the regulation does not place a high performance cost on the platform and, notably, that content diversity can play a key role in aligning the interests of the platform and regulators.

Information-constrained optimization: can adaptive processing of gradients help?

Jayadev Acharya · Clement Canonne · Prathamesh Mayekar · Himanshu Tyagi

We revisit first-order optimization under local information constraints such as local privacy, gradient quantization, and computational constraints limiting access to a few coordinates of the gradient. In this setting, the optimization algorithm is not allowed to directly access the complete output of the gradient oracle, but only gets limited information about it subject to the local information constraints. We study the role of adaptivity in processing the gradient output to obtain this limited information from it, and obtain tight or nearly tight bounds for both convex and strongly convex optimization when adaptive gradient processing is allowed.

Online Robust Reinforcement Learning with Model Uncertainty

Yue Wang · Shaofeng Zou

Robust reinforcement learning (RL) is to find a policy that optimizes the worst-case performance over an uncertainty set of MDPs. In this paper, we focus on model-free robust RL, where the uncertainty set is defined to be centering at a misspecified MDP that generates samples, and is assumed to be unknown. We develop a sample-based approach to estimate the unknown uncertainty set, and design robust Q-learning algorithm (tabular case) and robust TDC algorithm (function approximation setting), which can be implemented in an online and incremental fashion. For the robust Q-learning algorithm, we prove that it converges to the optimal robust Q function, and for the robust TDC algorithm, we prove that it converges asymptotically to some stationary points. Unlike the results in [Roy et al., 2017], our algorithms do not need any additional conditions on the discount factor to guarantee the convergence. We further characterize the finite-time error bounds of the two algorithms, and show that both the robust Q-learning and robust TDC algorithms converge as fast as their vanilla counterparts (within a constant factor). Our numerical experiments further demonstrate the robustness of our algorithms. Our approach can be readily extended to robustify many other algorithms, e.g., TD, SARSA, and other GTD algorithms.

Deeply Shared Filter Bases for Parameter-Efficient Convolutional Neural Networks

Woochul Kang · Daeyeon Kim

Modern convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have massive identical convolution blocks, and, hence, recursive sharing of parameters across these blocks has been proposed to reduce the amount of parameters. However, naive sharing of parameters poses many challenges such as limited representational power and the vanishing/exploding gradients problem of recursively shared parameters. In this paper, we present a recursive convolution block design and training method, in which a recursively shareable part, or a filter basis, is separated and learned while effectively avoiding the vanishing/exploding gradients problem during training. We show that the unwieldy vanishing/exploding gradients problem can be controlled by enforcing the elements of the filter basis orthonormal, and empirically demonstrate that the proposed orthogonality regularization improves the flow of gradients during training. Experimental results on image classification and object detection show that our approach, unlike previous parameter-sharing approaches, does not trade performance to save parameters and consistently outperforms over parameterized counterpart networks. This superior performance demonstrates that the proposed recursive convolution block design and the orthogonality regularization not only prevent performance degradation, but also consistently improve the representation capability while a significant amount of parameters are recursively shared.

Uncertainty-Based Offline Reinforcement Learning with Diversified Q-Ensemble

Gaon An · Seungyong Moon · Jang-Hyun Kim · Hyun Oh Song

Offline reinforcement learning (offline RL), which aims to find an optimal policy from a previously collected static dataset, bears algorithmic difficulties due to function approximation errors from out-of-distribution (OOD) data points. To this end, offline RL algorithms adopt either a constraint or a penalty term that explicitly guides the policy to stay close to the given dataset. However, prior methods typically require accurate estimation of the behavior policy or sampling from OOD data points, which themselves can be a non-trivial problem. Moreover, these methods under-utilize the generalization ability of deep neural networks and often fall into suboptimal solutions too close to the given dataset. In this work, we propose an uncertainty-based offline RL method that takes into account the confidence of the Q-value prediction and does not require any estimation or sampling of the data distribution. We show that the clipped Q-learning, a technique widely used in online RL, can be leveraged to successfully penalize OOD data points with high prediction uncertainties. Surprisingly, we find that it is possible to substantially outperform existing offline RL methods on various tasks by simply increasing the number of Q-networks along with the clipped Q-learning. Based on this observation, we propose an ensemble-diversified actor-critic algorithm that reduces the number of required ensemble networks down to a tenth compared to the naive ensemble while achieving state-of-the-art performance on most of the D4RL benchmarks considered.

Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning in Stochastic Networked Systems

Yiheng Lin · Guannan Qu · Longbo Huang · Adam Wierman

We study multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) in a stochastic network of agents. The objective is to find localized policies that maximize the (discounted) global reward. In general, scalability is a challenge in this setting because the size of the global state/action space can be exponential in the number of agents. Scalable algorithms are only known in cases where dependencies are static, fixed and local, e.g., between neighbors in a fixed, time-invariant underlying graph. In this work, we propose a Scalable Actor Critic framework that applies in settings where the dependencies can be non-local and stochastic, and provide a finite-time error bound that shows how the convergence rate depends on the speed of information spread in the network. Additionally, as a byproduct of our analysis, we obtain novel finite-time convergence results for a general stochastic approximation scheme and for temporal difference learning with state aggregation, which apply beyond the setting of MARL in networked systems.

The future is log-Gaussian: ResNets and their infinite-depth-and-width limit at initialization

Mufan Li · Mihai Nica · Dan Roy

Theoretical results show that neural networks can be approximated by Gaussian processes in the infinite-width limit. However, for fully connected networks, it has been previously shown that for any fixed network width, $n$, the Gaussian approximation gets worse as the network depth, $d$, increases. Given that modern networks are deep, this raises the question of how well modern architectures, like ResNets, are captured by the infinite-width limit. To provide a better approximation, we study ReLU ResNets in the infinite-depth-and-width limit, where \emph{both} depth and width tend to infinity as their ratio, $d/n$, remains constant. In contrast to the Gaussian infinite-width limit, we show theoretically that the network exhibits log-Gaussian behaviour at initialization in the infinite-depth-and-width limit, with parameters depending on the ratio $d/n$. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we demonstrate that even basic properties of standard ResNet architectures are poorly captured by the Gaussian limit, but remarkably well captured by our log-Gaussian limit. Moreover, our analysis reveals that ReLU ResNets at initialization are hypoactivated: fewer than half of the ReLUs are activated. Additionally, we calculate the interlayer correlations, which have the effect of exponentially increasing the variance of the network output. Based on our analysis, we introduce \emph{Balanced ResNets}, a simple architecture modification, which eliminates hypoactivation and interlayer correlations and is more amenable to theoretical analysis.

Proxy Convexity: A Unified Framework for the Analysis of Neural Networks Trained by Gradient Descent

Spencer Frei · Quanquan Gu

Although the optimization objectives for learning neural networks are highly non-convex, gradient-based methods have been wildly successful at learning neural networks in practice. This juxtaposition has led to a number of recent studies on provable guarantees for neural networks trained by gradient descent. Unfortunately, the techniques in these works are often highly specific to the particular setup in each problem, making it difficult to generalize across different settings. To address this drawback in the literature, we propose a unified non-convex optimization framework for the analysis of neural network training. We introduce the notions of proxy convexity and proxy Polyak-Lojasiewicz (PL) inequalities, which are satisfied if the original objective function induces a proxy objective function that is implicitly minimized when using gradient methods. We show that stochastic gradient descent (SGD) on objectives satisfying proxy convexity or the proxy PL inequality leads to efficient guarantees for proxy objective functions. We further show that many existing guarantees for neural networks trained by gradient descent can be unified through proxy convexity and proxy PL inequalities.

Approximate optimization of convex functions with outlier noise

Anindya De · Sanjeev Khanna · Huan Li · MohammadHesam NikpeySalekde

We study the problem of minimizing a convex function given by a zeroth order oracle that is possibly corrupted by {\em outlier noise}. Specifically, we assume the function values at some points of the domain are corrupted arbitrarily by an adversary, with the only restriction being that the total volume of corrupted points is bounded. The goal then is to find a point close to the function's minimizer using access to the corrupted oracle.We first prove a lower bound result showing that, somewhat surprisingly, one cannot hope to approximate the minimizer {\em nearly as well} as one might expect, even if one is allowed {\em an unbounded number} of queries to the oracle. Complementing this negative result, we then develop an efficient algorithm that outputs a point close to the minimizer of the convex function, where the specific distance matches {\em exactly}, up to constant factors, the distance bound shown in our lower bound result.

Functionally Regionalized Knowledge Transfer for Low-resource Drug Discovery

Huaxiu Yao · Ying Wei · Long-Kai Huang · Ding Xue · Junzhou Huang · Zhenhui (Jessie) Li

More recently, there has been a surge of interest in employing machine learning approaches to expedite the drug discovery process where virtual screening for hit discovery and ADMET prediction for lead optimization play essential roles. One of the main obstacles to the wide success of machine learning approaches in these two tasks is that the number of compounds labeled with activities or ADMET properties is too small to build an effective predictive model. This paper seeks to remedy the problem by transferring the knowledge from previous assays, namely in-vivo experiments, by different laboratories and against various target proteins. To accommodate these wildly different assays and capture the similarity between assays, we propose a functional rationalized meta-learning algorithm FRML for such knowledge transfer. FRML constructs the predictive model with layers of neural sub-networks or so-called functional regions. Building on this, FRML shares an initialization for the weights of the predictive model across all assays, while customizes it to each assay with a region localization network choosing the pertinent regions. The compositionality of the model improves the capacity of generalization to various and even out-of-distribution tasks. Empirical results on both virtual screening and ADMET prediction validate the superiority of FRML over state-of-the-art baselines powered with interpretability in assay relationship.

Learning Signal-Agnostic Manifolds of Neural Fields

Yilun Du · Katie Collins · Josh Tenenbaum · Vincent Sitzmann

Deep neural networks have been used widely to learn the latent structure of datasets, across modalities such as images, shapes, and audio signals. However, existing models are generally modality-dependent, requiring custom architectures and objectives to process different classes of signals. We leverage neural fields to capture the underlying structure in image, shape, audio and cross-modal audiovisual domains in a modality-independent manner. We cast our task as one of learning a manifold, where we aim to infer a low-dimensional, locally linear subspace in which our data resides. By enforcing coverage of the manifold, local linearity, and local isometry, our model -- dubbed GEM -- learns to capture the underlying structure of datasets across modalities. We can then travel along linear regions of our manifold to obtain perceptually consistent interpolations between samples, and can further use GEM to recover points on our manifold and glean not only diverse completions of input images, but cross-modal hallucinations of audio or image signals. Finally, we show that by walking across the underlying manifold of GEM, we may generate new samples in our signal domains.

HyperSPNs: Compact and Expressive Probabilistic Circuits

Andy Shih · Dorsa Sadigh · Stefano Ermon

Probabilistic circuits (PCs) are a family of generative models which allows for the computation of exact likelihoods and marginals of its probability distributions. PCs are both expressive and tractable, and serve as popular choices for discrete density estimation tasks. However, large PCs are susceptible to overfitting, and only a few regularization strategies (e.g., dropout, weight-decay) have been explored. We propose HyperSPNs: a new paradigm of generating the mixture weights of large PCs using a small-scale neural network. Our framework can be viewed as a soft weight-sharing strategy, which combines the greater expressiveness of large models with the better generalization and memory-footprint properties of small models. We show the merits of our regularization strategy on two state-of-the-art PC families introduced in recent literature -- RAT-SPNs and EiNETs -- and demonstrate generalization improvements in both models on a suite of density estimation benchmarks in both discrete and continuous domains.

A Biased Graph Neural Network Sampler with Near-Optimal Regret

Qingru Zhang · David Wipf · Quan Gan · Le Song

Graph neural networks (GNN) have recently emerged as a vehicle for applying deep network architectures to graph and relational data. However, given the increasing size of industrial datasets, in many practical situations, the message passing computations required for sharing information across GNN layers are no longer scalable. Although various sampling methods have been introduced to approximate full-graph training within a tractable budget, there remain unresolved complications such as high variances and limited theoretical guarantees. To address these issues, we build upon existing work and treat GNN neighbor sampling as a multi-armed bandit problem but with a newly-designed reward function that introduces some degree of bias designed to reduce variance and avoid unstable, possibly-unbounded pay outs. And unlike prior bandit-GNN use cases, the resulting policy leads to near-optimal regret while accounting for the GNN training dynamics introduced by SGD. From a practical standpoint, this translates into lower variance estimates and competitive or superior test accuracy across several benchmarks.

Efficient Statistical Assessment of Neural Network Corruption Robustness

Karim TIT · Teddy Furon · Mathias ROUSSET

We quantify the robustness of a trained network to input uncertainties with a stochastic simulation inspired by the field of Statistical Reliability Engineering. The robustness assessment is cast as a statistical hypothesis test: the network is deemed as locally robust if the estimated probability of failure is lower than a critical level.The procedure is based on an Importance Splitting simulation generating samples of rare events. We derive theoretical guarantees that are non-asymptotic w.r.t. sample size. Experiments tackling large scale networks outline the efficiency of our method making a low number of calls to the network function.

Realistic evaluation of transductive few-shot learning

Olivier Veilleux · Malik Boudiaf · Pablo Piantanida · Ismail Ben Ayed

Transductive inference is widely used in few-shot learning, as it leverages the statistics of the unlabeled query set of a few-shot task, typically yielding substantially better performances than its inductive counterpart. The current few-shot benchmarks use perfectly class-balanced tasks at inference. We argue that such an artificial regularity is unrealistic, as it assumes that the marginal label probability of the testing samples is known and fixed to the uniform distribution. In fact, in realistic scenarios, the unlabeled query sets come with arbitrary and unknown label marginals. We introduce and study the effect of arbitrary class distributions within the query sets of few-shot tasks at inference, removing the class-balance artefact. Specifically, we model the marginal probabilities of the classes as Dirichlet-distributed random variables, which yields a principled and realistic sampling within the simplex. This leverages the current few-shot benchmarks, building testing tasks with arbitrary class distributions. We evaluate experimentally state-of-the-art transductive methods over 3 widely used data sets, and observe, surprisingly, substantial performance drops, even below inductive methods in some cases. Furthermore, we propose a generalization of the mutual-information loss, based on α-divergences, which can handle effectively class-distribution variations. Empirically, we show that our transductive α-divergence optimization outperforms state-of-the-art methods across several data sets, models and few-shot settings.

Qu-ANTI-zation: Exploiting Quantization Artifacts for Achieving Adversarial Outcomes

Sanghyun Hong · Michael-Andrei Panaitescu-Liess · Yigitcan Kaya · Tudor Dumitras

Quantization is a popular technique that transforms the parameter representation of a neural network from floating-point numbers into lower-precision ones (e.g., 8-bit integers). It reduces the memory footprint and the computational cost at inference, facilitating the deployment of resource-hungry models. However, the parameter perturbations caused by this transformation result in behavioral disparities between the model before and after quantization. For example, a quantized model can misclassify some test-time samples that are otherwise classified correctly. It is not known whether such differences lead to a new security vulnerability. We hypothesize that an adversary may control this disparity to introduce specific behaviors that activate upon quantization. To study this hypothesis, we weaponize quantization-aware training and propose a new training framework to implement adversarial quantization outcomes. Following this framework, we present three attacks we carry out with quantization: (i) an indiscriminate attack for significant accuracy loss; (ii) a targeted attack against specific samples; and (iii) a backdoor attack for controlling the model with an input trigger. We further show that a single compromised model defeats multiple quantization schemes, including robust quantization techniques. Moreover, in a federated learning scenario, we demonstrate that a set of malicious participants who conspire can inject our quantization-activated backdoor. Lastly, we discuss potential counter-measures and show that only re-training consistently removes the attack artifacts. Our code is available at

Reliable Post hoc Explanations: Modeling Uncertainty in Explainability

Dylan Slack · Anna Hilgard · Sameer Singh · Himabindu Lakkaraju

As black box explanations are increasingly being employed to establish model credibility in high stakes settings, it is important to ensure that these explanations are accurate and reliable. However, prior work demonstrates that explanations generated by state-of-the-art techniques are inconsistent, unstable, and provide very little insight into their correctness and reliability. In addition, these methods are also computationally inefficient, and require significant hyper-parameter tuning. In this paper, we address the aforementioned challenges by developing a novel Bayesian framework for generating local explanations along with their associated uncertainty. We instantiate this framework to obtain Bayesian versions of LIME and KernelSHAP which output credible intervals for the feature importances, capturing the associated uncertainty. The resulting explanations not only enable us to make concrete inferences about their quality (e.g., there is a 95% chance that the feature importance lies within the given range), but are also highly consistent and stable. We carry out a detailed theoretical analysis that leverages the aforementioned uncertainty to estimate how many perturbations to sample, and how to sample for faster convergence. This work makes the first attempt at addressing several critical issues with popular explanation methods in one shot, thereby generating consistent, stable, and reliable explanations with guarantees in a computationally efficient manner. Experimental evaluation with multiple real world datasets and user studies demonstrate that the efficacy of the proposed framework.

An Exponential Lower Bound for Linearly Realizable MDP with Constant Suboptimality Gap

Yuanhao Wang · Ruosong Wang · Sham Kakade

A fundamental question in the theory of reinforcement learning is: suppose the optimal $Q$-function lies in the linear span of a given $d$ dimensional feature mapping, is sample-efficient reinforcement learning (RL) possible? The recent and remarkable result of Weisz et al. (2020) resolves this question in the negative, providing an exponential (in $d$) sample size lower bound, which holds even if the agent has access to a generative model of the environment. One may hope that such a lower can be circumvented with an even stronger assumption that there is a \emph{constant gap} between the optimal $Q$-value of the best action and that of the second-best action (for all states); indeed, the construction in Weisz et al. (2020) relies on having an exponentially small gap. This work resolves this subsequent question, showing that an exponential sample complexity lower bound still holds even if a constant gap is assumed. Perhaps surprisingly, this result implies an exponential separation between the online RL setting and the generative model setting, where sample-efficient RL is in fact possible in the latter setting with a constant gap. Complementing our negative hardness result, we give two positive results showing that provably sample-efficient RL is possible either under an additional low-variance assumption or under a novel hypercontractivity assumption.

Permutation-Invariant Variational Autoencoder for Graph-Level Representation Learning

Robin Winter · Frank Noe · Djork-Arné Clevert

Recently, there has been great success in applying deep neural networks on graph structured data. Most work, however, focuses on either node- or graph-level supervised learning, such as node, link or graph classification or node-level unsupervised learning (e.g. node clustering). Despite its wide range of possible applications, graph-level unsupervised learning has not received much attention yet. This might be mainly attributed to the high representation complexity of graphs, which can be represented by $n!$ equivalent adjacency matrices, where $n$ is the number of nodes.In this work we address this issue by proposing a permutation-invariant variational autoencoder for graph structured data. Our proposed model indirectly learns to match the node ordering of input and output graph, without imposing a particular node ordering or performing expensive graph matching. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed model for graph reconstruction, generation and interpolation and evaluate the expressive power of extracted representations for downstream graph-level classification and regression.

Causal Abstractions of Neural Networks

Atticus Geiger · Hanson Lu · Thomas Icard · Christopher Potts

Structural analysis methods (e.g., probing and feature attribution) are increasingly important tools for neural network analysis. We propose a new structural analysis method grounded in a formal theory of causal abstraction that provides rich characterizations of model-internal representations and their roles in input/output behavior. In this method, neural representations are aligned with variables in interpretable causal models, and then interchange interventions are used to experimentally verify that the neural representations have the causal properties of their aligned variables. We apply this method in a case study to analyze neural models trained on Multiply Quantified Natural Language Inference (MQNLI) corpus, a highly complex NLI dataset that was constructed with a tree-structured natural logic causal model. We discover that a BERT-based model with state-of-the-art performance successfully realizes parts of the natural logic model’s causal structure, whereas a simpler baseline model fails to show any such structure, demonstrating that neural representations encode the compositional structure of MQNLI examples.

Mean-based Best Arm Identification in Stochastic Bandits under Reward Contamination

Arpan Mukherjee · Ali Tajer · Pin-Yu Chen · Payel Das

This paper investigates the problem of best arm identification in {\sl contaminated} stochastic multi-arm bandits. In this setting, the rewards obtained from any arm are replaced by samples from an adversarial model with probability $\varepsilon$. A fixed confidence (infinite-horizon) setting is considered, where the goal of the learner is to identify the arm with the largest mean. Owing to the adversarial contamination of the rewards, each arm's mean is only partially identifiable. This paper proposes two algorithms, a gap-based algorithm and one based on the successive elimination, for best arm identification in sub-Gaussian bandits. These algorithms involve mean estimates that achieve the optimal error guarantee on the deviation of the true mean from the estimate asymptotically. Furthermore, these algorithms asymptotically achieve the optimal sample complexity. Specifically, for the gap-based algorithm, the sample complexity is asymptotically optimal up to constant factors, while for the successive elimination-based algorithm, it is optimal up to logarithmic factors. Finally, numerical experiments are provided to illustrate the gains of the algorithms compared to the existing baselines.

TriBERT: Human-centric Audio-visual Representation Learning

Tanzila Rahman · Mengyu Yang · Leonid Sigal

The recent success of transformer models in language, such as BERT, has motivated the use of such architectures for multi-modal feature learning and tasks. However, most multi-modal variants (e.g., ViLBERT) have limited themselves to visual-linguistic data. Relatively few have explored its use in audio-visual modalities, and none, to our knowledge, illustrate them in the context of granular audio-visual detection or segmentation tasks such as sound source separation and localization. In this work, we introduce TriBERT -- a transformer-based architecture, inspired by ViLBERT, which enables contextual feature learning across three modalities: vision, pose, and audio, with the use of flexible co-attention. The use of pose keypoints is inspired by recent works that illustrate that such representations can significantly boost performance in many audio-visual scenarios where often one or more persons are responsible for the sound explicitly (e.g., talking) or implicitly (e.g., sound produced as a function of human manipulating an object). From a technical perspective, as part of the TriBERT architecture, we introduce a learned visual tokenization scheme based on spatial attention and leverage weak-supervision to allow granular cross-modal interactions for visual and pose modalities. Further, we supplement learning with sound-source separation loss formulated across all three streams. We pre-train our model on the large MUSIC21 dataset and demonstrate improved performance in audio-visual sound source separation on that dataset as well as other datasets through fine-tuning. In addition, we show that the learned TriBERT representations are generic and significantly improve performance on other audio-visual tasks such as cross-modal audio-visual-pose retrieval by as much as 66.7% in top-1 accuracy.

Meta-Adaptive Nonlinear Control: Theory and Algorithms

Guanya Shi · Kamyar Azizzadenesheli · Michael O'Connell · Soon-Jo Chung · Yisong Yue

We present an online multi-task learning approach for adaptive nonlinear control, which we call Online Meta-Adaptive Control (OMAC). The goal is to control a nonlinear system subject to adversarial disturbance and unknown \emph{environment-dependent} nonlinear dynamics, under the assumption that the environment-dependent dynamics can be well captured with some shared representation. Our approach is motivated by robot control, where a robotic system encounters a sequence of new environmental conditions that it must quickly adapt to. A key emphasis is to integrate online representation learning with established methods from control theory, in order to arrive at a unified framework that yields both control-theoretic and learning-theoretic guarantees. We provide instantiations of our approach under varying conditions, leading to the first non-asymptotic end-to-end convergence guarantee for multi-task nonlinear control. OMAC can also be integrated with deep representation learning. Experiments show that OMAC significantly outperforms conventional adaptive control approaches which do not learn the shared representation, in inverted pendulum and 6-DoF drone control tasks under varying wind conditions.

Contrastively Disentangled Sequential Variational Autoencoder

Junwen Bai · Weiran Wang · Carla Gomes

Self-supervised disentangled representation learning is a critical task in sequence modeling. The learnt representations contribute to better model interpretability as well as the data generation, and improve the sample efficiency for downstream tasks. We propose a novel sequence representation learning method, named Contrastively Disentangled Sequential Variational Autoencoder (C-DSVAE), to extract and separate the static (time-invariant) and dynamic (time-variant) factors in the latent space. Different from previous sequential variational autoencoder methods, we use a novel evidence lower bound which maximizes the mutual information between the input and the latent factors, while penalizes the mutual information between the static and dynamic factors. We leverage contrastive estimations of the mutual information terms in training, together with simple yet effective augmentation techniques, to introduce additional inductive biases. Our experiments show that C-DSVAE significantly outperforms the previous state-of-the-art methods on multiple metrics.

Towards understanding retrosynthesis by energy-based models

Ruoxi Sun · Hanjun Dai · Li Li · Steven Kearnes · Bo Dai

Retrosynthesis is the process of identifying a set of reactants to synthesize a target molecule. It is of vital importance to material design and drug discovery. Existing machine learning approaches based on language models and graph neural networks have achieved encouraging results. However, the inner connections of these models are rarely discussed, and rigorous evaluations of these models are largely in need. In this paper, we propose a framework that unifies sequence- and graph-based methods as energy-based models (EBMs) with different energy functions. This unified view establishes connections and reveals the differences between models, thereby enhancing our understanding of model design. We also provide a comprehensive assessment of performance to the community. Moreover, we present a novel dual variant within the framework that performs consistent training to induce the agreement between forward- and backward-prediction. This model improves the state-of-the-art of template-free methods with or without reaction types.

Believe What You See: Implicit Constraint Approach for Offline Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning

Yiqin Yang · Xiaoteng Ma · Chenghao Li · Zewu Zheng · Qiyuan Zhang · Gao Huang · Jun Yang · Qianchuan Zhao

Learning from datasets without interaction with environments (Offline Learning) is an essential step to apply Reinforcement Learning (RL) algorithms in real-world scenarios.However, compared with the single-agent counterpart, offline multi-agent RL introduces more agents with the larger state and action space, which is more challenging but attracts little attention. We demonstrate current offline RL algorithms are ineffective in multi-agent systems due to the accumulated extrapolation error. In this paper, we propose a novel offline RL algorithm, named Implicit Constraint Q-learning (ICQ), which effectively alleviates the extrapolation error by only trusting the state-action pairs given in the dataset for value estimation. Moreover, we extend ICQ to multi-agent tasks by decomposing the joint-policy under the implicit constraint. Experimental results demonstrate that the extrapolation error is successfully controlled within a reasonable range and insensitive to the number of agents. We further show that ICQ achieves the state-of-the-art performance in the challenging multi-agent offline tasks (StarCraft II). Our code is public online at

Universal Graph Convolutional Networks

Di Jin · Zhizhi Yu · Cuiying Huo · Rui Wang · Xiao Wang · Dongxiao He · Jiawei Han

Graph Convolutional Networks (GCNs), aiming to obtain the representation of a node by aggregating its neighbors, have demonstrated great power in tackling various analytics tasks on graph (network) data. The remarkable performance of GCNs typically relies on the homophily assumption of networks, while such assumption cannot always be satisfied, since the heterophily or randomness are also widespread in real-world. This gives rise to one fundamental question: whether networks with different structural properties should adopt different propagation mechanisms? In this paper, we first conduct an experimental investigation. Surprisingly, we discover that there are actually segmentation rules for the propagation mechanism, i.e., 1-hop, 2-hop and $k$-nearest neighbor ($k$NN) neighbors are more suitable as neighborhoods of network with complete homophily, complete heterophily and randomness, respectively. However, the real-world networks are complex, and may present diverse structural properties, e.g., the network dominated by homophily may contain a small amount of randomness. So can we reasonably utilize these segmentation rules to design a universal propagation mechanism independent of the network structural assumption? To tackle this challenge, we develop a new universal GCN framework, namely U-GCN. It first introduces a multi-type convolution to extract information from 1-hop, 2-hop and $k$NN networks simultaneously, and then designs a discriminative aggregation to sufficiently fuse them aiming to given learning objectives. Extensive experiments demonstrate the superiority of U-GCN over state-of-the-arts. The code and data are available at

Extracting Deformation-Aware Local Features by Learning to Deform

Guilherme Potje · Renato Martins · Felipe Chamone · Erickson Nascimento

Despite the advances in extracting local features achieved by handcrafted and learning-based descriptors, they are still limited by the lack of invariance to non-rigid transformations. In this paper, we present a new approach to compute features from still images that are robust to non-rigid deformations to circumvent the problem of matching deformable surfaces and objects. Our deformation-aware local descriptor, named DEAL, leverages a polar sampling and a spatial transformer warping to provide invariance to rotation, scale, and image deformations. We train the model architecture end-to-end by applying isometric non-rigid deformations to objects in a simulated environment as guidance to provide highly discriminative local features. The experiments show that our method outperforms state-of-the-art handcrafted, learning-based image, and RGB-D descriptors in different datasets with both real and realistic synthetic deformable objects in still images. The source code and trained model of the descriptor are publicly available at

Dynamic Inference with Neural Interpreters

Nasim Rahaman · Muhammad Waleed Gondal · Shruti Joshi · Peter Gehler · Yoshua Bengio · Francesco Locatello · Bernhard Schölkopf

Modern neural network architectures can leverage large amounts of data to generalize well within the training distribution. However, they are less capable of systematic generalization to data drawn from unseen but related distributions, a feat that is hypothesized to require compositional reasoning and reuse of knowledge. In this work, we present Neural Interpreters, an architecture that factorizes inference in a self-attention network as a system of modules, which we call functions. Inputs to the model are routed through a sequence of functions in a way that is end-to-end learned. The proposed architecture can flexibly compose computation along width and depth, and lends itself well to capacity extension after training. To demonstrate the versatility of Neural Interpreters, we evaluate it in two distinct settings: image classification and visual abstract reasoning on Raven Progressive Matrices. In the former, we show that Neural Interpreters perform on par with the vision transformer using fewer parameters, while being transferrable to a new task in a sample efficient manner. In the latter, we find that Neural Interpreters are competitive with respect to the state-of-the-art in terms of systematic generalization.

True Few-Shot Learning with Language Models

Ethan Perez · Douwe Kiela · Kyunghyun Cho

Pretrained language models (LMs) perform well on many tasks even when learning from a few examples, but prior work uses many held-out examples to tune various aspects of learning, such as hyperparameters, training objectives, and natural language templates ("prompts"). Here, we evaluate the few-shot ability of LMs when such held-out examples are unavailable, a setting we call true few-shot learning. We test two model selection criteria, cross-validation and minimum description length, for choosing LM prompts and hyperparameters in the true few-shot setting. On average, both marginally outperform random selection and greatly underperform selection based on held-out examples. Moreover, selection criteria often prefer models that perform significantly worse than randomly-selected ones. We find similar results even when taking into account our uncertainty in a model's true performance during selection, as well as when varying the amount of computation and number of examples used for selection. Overall, our findings suggest that prior work significantly overestimated the true few-shot ability of LMs given the difficulty of few-shot model selection.

Controlling Neural Networks with Rule Representations

Sungyong Seo · Sercan Arik · Jinsung Yoon · Xiang Zhang · Kihyuk Sohn · Tomas Pfister

We propose a novel training method that integrates rules into deep learning, in a way the strengths of the rules are controllable at inference. Deep Neural Networks with Controllable Rule Representations (DeepCTRL) incorporates a rule encoder into the model coupled with a rule-based objective, enabling a shared representation for decision making. DeepCTRL is agnostic to data type and model architecture. It can be applied to any kind of rule defined for inputs and outputs. The key aspect of DeepCTRL is that it does not require retraining to adapt the rule strength -- at inference, the user can adjust it based on the desired operation point on accuracy vs. rule verification ratio. In real-world domains where incorporating rules is critical -- such as Physics, Retail and Healthcare -- we show the effectiveness of DeepCTRL in teaching rules for deep learning. DeepCTRL improves the trust and reliability of the trained models by significantly increasing their rule verification ratio, while also providing accuracy gains at downstream tasks. Additionally, DeepCTRL enables novel use cases such as hypothesis testing of the rules on data samples, and unsupervised adaptation based on shared rules between datasets.

Fairness in Ranking under Uncertainty

Ashudeep Singh · David Kempe · Thorsten Joachims

Fairness has emerged as an important consideration in algorithmic decision making. Unfairness occurs when an agent with higher merit obtains a worse outcome than an agent with lower merit. Our central point is that a primary cause of unfairness is uncertainty. A principal or algorithm making decisions never has access to the agents' true merit, and instead uses proxy features that only imperfectly predict merit (e.g., GPA, star ratings, recommendation letters). None of these ever fully capture an agent's merit; yet existing approaches have mostly been defining fairness notions directly based on observed features and outcomes.Our primary point is that it is more principled to acknowledge and model the uncertainty explicitly. The role of observed features is to give rise to a posterior distribution of the agents' merits. We use this viewpoint to define a notion of approximate fairness in ranking. We call an algorithm $\phi$-fair (for $\phi \in [0,1]$) if it has the following property for all agents $x$ and all $k$: if agent $x$ is among the top $k$ agents with respect to merit with probability at least $\rho$ (according to the posterior merit distribution), then the algorithm places the agent among the top $k$ agents in its ranking with probability at least $\phi \rho$.We show how to compute rankings that optimally trade off approximate fairness against utility to the principal. In addition to the theoretical characterization, we present an empirical analysis of the potential impact of the approach in simulation studies. For real-world validation, we applied the approach in the context of a paper recommendation system that we built and fielded at the KDD 2020 conference.

Fairness via Representation Neutralization

Mengnan Du · Subhabrata Mukherjee · Guanchu Wang · Ruixiang Tang · Ahmed Awadallah · Xia Hu

Existing bias mitigation methods for DNN models primarily work on learning debiased encoders. This process not only requires a lot of instance-level annotations for sensitive attributes, it also does not guarantee that all fairness sensitive information has been removed from the encoder. To address these limitations, we explore the following research question: Can we reduce the discrimination of DNN models by only debiasing the classification head, even with biased representations as inputs? To this end, we propose a new mitigation technique, namely, Representation Neutralization for Fairness (RNF) that achieves fairness by debiasing only the task-specific classification head of DNN models. To this end, we leverage samples with the same ground-truth label but different sensitive attributes, and use their neutralized representations to train the classification head of the DNN model. The key idea of RNF is to discourage the classification head from capturing spurious correlation between fairness sensitive information in encoder representations with specific class labels. To address low-resource settings with no access to sensitive attribute annotations, we leverage a bias-amplified model to generate proxy annotations for sensitive attributes. Experimental results over several benchmark datasets demonstrate our RNF framework to effectively reduce discrimination of DNN models with minimal degradation in task-specific performance.

Learning to Assimilate in Chaotic Dynamical Systems

John McCabe · Jed Brown

The accuracy of simulation-based forecasting in chaotic systems is heavily dependent on high-quality estimates of the system state at the beginning of the forecast. Data assimilation methods are used to infer these initial conditions by systematically combining noisy, incomplete observations and numerical models of system dynamics to produce highly effective estimation schemes. We introduce a self-supervised framework, which we call \textit{amortized assimilation}, for learning to assimilate in dynamical systems. Amortized assimilation combines deep learning-based denoising with differentiable simulation, using independent neural networks to assimilate specific observation types while connecting the gradient flow between these sub-tasks with differentiable simulation and shared recurrent memory. This hybrid architecture admits a self-supervised training objective which is minimized by an unbiased estimator of the true system state even in the presence of only noisy training data. Numerical experiments across several chaotic benchmark systems highlight the improved effectiveness of our approach compared to widely-used data assimilation methods.

Differential Privacy Over Riemannian Manifolds

Matthew Reimherr · Karthik Bharath · Carlos Soto

In this work we consider the problem of releasing a differentially private statistical summary that resides on a Riemannian manifold. We present an extension of the Laplace or K-norm mechanism that utilizes intrinsic distances and volumes on the manifold. We also consider in detail the specific case where the summary is the Fr\'echet mean of data residing on a manifold. We demonstrate that our mechanism is rate optimal and depends only on the dimension of the manifold, not on the dimension of any ambient space, while also showing how ignoring the manifold structure can decrease the utility of the sanitized summary. We illustrate our framework in two examples of particular interest in statistics: the space of symmetric positive definite matrices, which is used for covariance matrices, and the sphere, which can be used as a space for modeling discrete distributions.

How can classical multidimensional scaling go wrong?

Rishi Sonthalia · Greg Van Buskirk · Benjamin Raichel · Anna Gilbert

Given a matrix $D$ describing the pairwise dissimilarities of a data set, a common task is to embed the data points into Euclidean space. The classical multidimensional scaling (cMDS) algorithm is a widespread method to do this. However, theoretical analysis of the robustness of the algorithm and an in-depth analysis of its performance on non-Euclidean metrics is lacking. In this paper, we derive a formula, based on the eigenvalues of a matrix obtained from $D$, for the Frobenius norm of the difference between $D$ and the metric $D_{\text{cmds}}$ returned by cMDS. This error analysis leads us to the conclusion that when the derived matrix has a significant number of negative eigenvalues, then $\|D-D_{\text{cmds}}\|_F$, after initially decreasing, willeventually increase as we increase the dimension. Hence, counterintuitively, the quality of the embedding degrades as we increase the dimension. We empirically verify that the Frobenius norm increases as we increase the dimension for a variety of non-Euclidean metrics. We also show on several benchmark datasets that this degradation in the embedding results in the classification accuracy of both simple (e.g., 1-nearest neighbor) and complex (e.g., multi-layer neural nets) classifiers decreasing as we increase the embedding dimension.Finally, our analysis leads us to a new efficiently computable algorithm that returns a matrix $D_l$ that is at least as close to the original distances as $D_t$ (the Euclidean metric closest in $\ell_2$ distance). While $D_l$ is not metric, when given as input to cMDS instead of $D$, it empirically results in solutions whose distance to $D$ does not increase when we increase the dimension and the classification accuracy degrades less than the cMDS solution.

Modeling Heterogeneous Hierarchies with Relation-specific Hyperbolic Cones

Yushi Bai · Zhitao Ying · Hongyu Ren · Jure Leskovec

Hierarchical relations are prevalent and indispensable for organizing human knowledge captured by a knowledge graph (KG). The key property of hierarchical relations is that they induce a partial ordering over the entities, which needs to be modeled in order to allow for hierarchical reasoning. However, current KG embeddings can model only a single global hierarchy (single global partial ordering) and fail to model multiple heterogeneous hierarchies that exist in a single KG. Here we present ConE (Cone Embedding), a KG embedding model that is able to simultaneously model multiple hierarchical as well as non-hierarchical relations in a knowledge graph. ConE embeds entities into hyperbolic cones and models relations as transformations between the cones. In particular, ConE uses cone containment constraints in different subspaces of the hyperbolic embedding space to capture multiple heterogeneous hierarchies. Experiments on standard knowledge graph benchmarks show that ConE obtains state-of-the-art performance on hierarchical reasoning tasks as well as knowledge graph completion task on hierarchical graphs. In particular, our approach yields new state-of-the-art Hits@1 of 45.3% on WN18RR and 16.1% on DDB14 (0.231 MRR). As for hierarchical reasoning task, our approach outperforms previous best results by an average of 20% across the three datasets.

An Exponential Improvement on the Memorization Capacity of Deep Threshold Networks

Shashank Rajput · Kartik Sreenivasan · Dimitris Papailiopoulos · Amin Karbasi

It is well known that modern deep neural networks are powerful enough to memorize datasets even when the labels have been randomized. Recently, Vershynin(2020) settled a long standing question by Baum(1988), proving that deep threshold networks can memorize $n$ points in $d$ dimensions using $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(e^{1/\delta^2}+\sqrt{n})$ neurons and $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(e^{1/\delta^2}(d+\sqrt{n})+n)$ weights, where $\delta$ is the minimum distance between the points. In this work, we improve the dependence on $\delta$ from exponential to almost linear, proving that $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\frac{1}{\delta}+\sqrt{n})$ neurons and $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\frac{d}{\delta}+n)$ weights are sufficient. Our construction uses Gaussian random weights only in the first layer, while all the subsequent layers use binary or integer weights. We also prove new lower bounds by connecting memorization in neural networks to the purely geometric problem of separating $n$ points on a sphere using hyperplanes.

Learning in Multi-Stage Decentralized Matching Markets

Xiaowu Dai · Michael Jordan

Matching markets are often organized in a multi-stage and decentralized manner. Moreover, participants in real-world matching markets often have uncertain preferences. This article develops a framework for learning optimal strategies in such settings, based on a nonparametric statistical approach and variational analysis. We propose an efficient algorithm, built upon concepts of "lower uncertainty bound" and "calibrated decentralized matching," for maximizing the participants' expected payoff. We show that there exists a welfare-versus-fairness trade-off that is characterized by the uncertainty level of acceptance. Participants will strategically act in favor of a low uncertainty level to reduce competition and increase expected payoff. We prove that participants can be better off with multi-stage matching compared to single-stage matching. We demonstrate aspects of the theoretical predictions through simulations and an experiment using real data from college admissions.

Understanding Interlocking Dynamics of Cooperative Rationalization

Mo Yu · Yang Zhang · Shiyu Chang · Tommi Jaakkola

Selective rationalization explains the prediction of complex neural networks by finding a small subset of the input that is sufficient to predict the neural model output. The selection mechanism is commonly integrated into the model itself by specifying a two-component cascaded system consisting of a rationale generator, which makes a binary selection of the input features (which is the rationale), and a predictor, which predicts the output based only on the selected features. The components are trained jointly to optimize prediction performance. In this paper, we reveal a major problem with such cooperative rationalization paradigm --- model interlocking. Inter-locking arises when the predictor overfits to the features selected by the generator thus reinforcing the generator's selection even if the selected rationales are sub-optimal. The fundamental cause of the interlocking problem is that the rationalization objective to be minimized is concave with respect to the generator’s selection policy. We propose a new rationalization framework, called A2R, which introduces a third component into the architecture, a predictor driven by soft attention as opposed to selection. The generator now realizes both soft and hard attention over the features and these are fed into the two different predictors. While the generator still seeks to support the original predictor performance, it also minimizes a gap between the two predictors. As we will show theoretically, since the attention-based predictor exhibits a better convexity property, A2R can overcome the concavity barrier. Our experiments on two synthetic benchmarks and two real datasets demonstrate that A2R can significantly alleviate the interlock problem and find explanations that better align with human judgments.

Divergence Frontiers for Generative Models: Sample Complexity, Quantization Effects, and Frontier Integrals

Lang Liu · Krishna Pillutla · Sean Welleck · Sewoong Oh · Yejin Choi · Zaid Harchaoui

The spectacular success of deep generative models calls for quantitative tools to measure their statistical performance. Divergence frontiers have recently been proposed as an evaluation framework for generative models, due to their ability to measure the quality-diversity trade-off inherent to deep generative modeling. We establish non-asymptotic bounds on the sample complexity of divergence frontiers. We also introduce frontier integrals which provide summary statistics of divergence frontiers. We show how smoothed estimators such as Good-Turing or Krichevsky-Trofimov can overcome the missing mass problem and lead to faster rates of convergence. We illustrate the theoretical results with numerical examples from natural language processing and computer vision.

Learning to Learn Dense Gaussian Processes for Few-Shot Learning

Ze Wang · Zichen Miao · Xiantong Zhen · Qiang Qiu

Gaussian processes with deep neural networks demonstrate to be a strong learner for few-shot learning since they combine the strength of deep learning and kernels while being able to well capture uncertainty. However, it remains an open problem to leverage the shared knowledge provided by related tasks. In this paper, we propose to learn Gaussian processes with dense inducing variables by meta-learning for few-shot learning. In contrast to sparse Gaussian processes, we define a set of dense inducing variables to be of a much larger size than the support set in each task, which collects prior knowledge from experienced tasks. The dense inducing variables specify a shared Gaussian process prior over prediction functions of all tasks, which are learned in a variational inference framework and offer a strong inductive bias for learning new tasks. To achieve task-specific prediction functions, we propose to adapt the inducing variables to each task by efficient gradient descent. We conduct extensive experiments on common benchmark datasets for a variety of few-shot learning tasks. Our dense Gaussian processes present significant improvements over vanilla Gaussian processes and comparable or even better performance with state-of-the-art methods.

Implicit Transformer Network for Screen Content Image Continuous Super-Resolution

Jingyu Yang · Sheng Shen · Huanjing Yue · Kun Li

Nowadays, there is an explosive growth of screen contents due to the wide application of screen sharing, remote cooperation, and online education. To match the limited terminal bandwidth, high-resolution (HR) screen contents may be downsampled and compressed. At the receiver side, the super-resolution (SR)of low-resolution (LR) screen content images (SCIs) is highly demanded by the HR display or by the users to zoom in for detail observation. However, image SR methods mostly designed for natural images do not generalize well for SCIs due to the very different image characteristics as well as the requirement of SCI browsing at arbitrary scales. To this end, we propose a novel Implicit Transformer Super-Resolution Network (ITSRN) for SCISR. For high-quality continuous SR at arbitrary ratios, pixel values at query coordinates are inferred from image features at key coordinates by the proposed implicit transformer and an implicit position encoding scheme is proposed to aggregate similar neighboring pixel values to the query one. We construct benchmark SCI1K and SCI1K-compression datasets withLR and HR SCI pairs. Extensive experiments show that the proposed ITSRN significantly outperforms several competitive continuous and discrete SR methods for both compressed and uncompressed SCIs.

Efficient Algorithms for Learning Depth-2 Neural Networks with General ReLU Activations

Pranjal Awasthi · Alex Tang · Aravindan Vijayaraghavan

We present polynomial time and sample efficient algorithms for learning an unknown depth-2 feedforward neural network with general ReLU activations, under mild non-degeneracy assumptions. In particular, we consider learning an unknown network of the form $f(x) = {a}^{\mathsf{T}}\sigma({W}^\mathsf{T}x+b)$, where $x$ is drawn from the Gaussian distribution, and $\sigma(t) = \max(t,0)$ is the ReLU activation. Prior works for learning networks with ReLU activations assume that the bias ($b$) is zero. In order to deal with the presence of the bias terms, our proposed algorithm consists of robustly decomposing multiple higher order tensors arising from the Hermite expansion of the function $f(x)$. Using these ideas we also establish identifiability of the network parameters under very mild assumptions.

Heuristic-Guided Reinforcement Learning

Ching-An Cheng · Andrey Kolobov · Adith Swaminathan

We provide a framework to accelerate reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms by heuristics that are constructed by domain knowledge or offline data. Tabula rasa RL algorithms require environment interactions or computation that scales with the horizon of the sequential decision-making task. Using our framework, we show how heuristic-guided RL induces a much shorter horizon sub-problem that provably solves the original task. Our framework can be viewed as a horizon-based regularization for controlling bias and variance in RL under a finite interaction budget. In theory, we characterize the properties of a good heuristic and the resulting impact on RL acceleration. In particular, we introduce the novel concept of an improvable heuristic that can allow any RL agent to conservatively extrapolate beyond its prior knowledge. In practice, we instantiate our framework to accelerate several state-of-the-art algorithms in simulated robotic control tasks and procedurally generated games. Our framework complements the rich literature on warm-starting RL using expert demonstrations or exploratory data-sets, and creates a unified channel to inject prior knowledge into RL.

Revisiting Smoothed Online Learning

Lijun Zhang · Wei Jiang · Shiyin Lu · Tianbao Yang

In this paper, we revisit the problem of smoothed online learning, in which the online learner suffers both a hitting cost and a switching cost, and target two performance metrics: competitive ratio and dynamic regret with switching cost. To bound the competitive ratio, we assume the hitting cost is known to the learner in each round, and investigate the simple idea of balancing the two costs by an optimization problem. Surprisingly, we find that minimizing the hitting cost alone is $\max(1, \frac{2}{\alpha})$-competitive for $\alpha$-polyhedral functions and $1 + \frac{4}{\lambda}$-competitive for $\lambda$-quadratic growth functions, both of which improve state-of-the-art results significantly. Moreover, when the hitting cost is both convex and $\lambda$-quadratic growth, we reduce the competitive ratio to $1 + \frac{2}{\sqrt{\lambda}}$ by minimizing the weighted sum of the hitting cost and the switching cost. To bound the dynamic regret with switching cost, we follow the standard setting of online convex optimization, in which the hitting cost is convex but hidden from the learner before making predictions. We modify Ader, an existing algorithm designed for dynamic regret, slightly to take into account the switching cost when measuring the performance. The proposed algorithm, named as Smoothed Ader, attains an optimal $O(\sqrt{T(1+P_T)})$ bound for dynamic regret with switching cost, where $P_T$ is the path-length of the comparator sequence. Furthermore, if the hitting cost is accessible in the beginning of each round, we obtain a similar guarantee without the bounded gradient condition, and establish an $\Omega(\sqrt{T(1+P_T)})$ lower bound to confirm the optimality.

Dimension-free empirical entropy estimation

Doron Cohen · Aryeh Kontorovich · Aaron Koolyk · Geoffrey Wolfer

We seek an entropy estimator for discrete distributions with fully empirical accuracy bounds. As stated, this goal is infeasible without some prior assumptions on the distribution. We discover that a certain information moment assumption renders the problem feasible. We argue that the moment assumption is natural and, in some sense, {\em minimalistic} --- weaker than finite support or tail decay conditions. Under the moment assumption, we provide the first finite-sample entropy estimates for infinite alphabets, nearly recovering the known minimax rates. Moreover, we demonstrate that our empirical bounds are significantly sharper than the state-of-the-art bounds, for various natural distributions and non-trivial sample regimes. Along the way, we give a dimension-free analogue of the Cover-Thomas result on entropy continuity (with respect to total variation distance) for finite alphabets, which may be of independent interest.

Deep Extrapolation for Attribute-Enhanced Generation

Alvin Chan · Ali Madani · Ben Krause · Nikhil Naik

Attribute extrapolation in sample generation is challenging for deep neural networks operating beyond the training distribution. We formulate a new task for extrapolation in sequence generation, focusing on natural language and proteins, and propose GENhance, a generative framework that enhances attributes through a learned latent space. Trained on movie reviews and a computed protein stability dataset, GENhance can generate strongly-positive text reviews and highly stable protein sequences without being exposed to similar data during training. We release our benchmark tasks and models to contribute to the study of generative modeling extrapolation and data-driven design in biology and chemistry.

Uniform-PAC Bounds for Reinforcement Learning with Linear Function Approximation

Jiafan He · Dongruo Zhou · Quanquan Gu

We study reinforcement learning (RL) with linear function approximation. Existing algorithms for this problem only have high-probability regret and/or Probably Approximately Correct (PAC) sample complexity guarantees, which cannot guarantee the convergence to the optimal policy. In this paper, in order to overcome the limitation of existing algorithms, we propose a new algorithm called FLUTE, which enjoys uniform-PAC convergence to the optimal policy with high probability. The uniform-PAC guarantee is the strongest possible guarantee for reinforcement learning in the literature, which can directly imply both PAC and high probability regret bounds, making our algorithm superior to all existing algorithms with linear function approximation. At the core of our algorithm is a novel minimax value function estimator and a multi-level partition scheme to select the training samples from historical observations. Both of these techniques are new and of independent interest.

Online Selective Classification with Limited Feedback

Aditya Gangrade · Anil Kag · Ashok Cutkosky · Venkatesh Saligrama

Motivated by applications to resource-limited and safety-critical domains, we study selective classification in the online learning model, wherein a predictor may abstain from classifying an instance. For example, this may model an adaptive decision to invoke more resources on this instance. Two salient aspects of the setting we consider are that the data may be non-realisable, due to which abstention may be a valid long-term action, and that feedback is only received when the learner abstains, which models the fact that reliable labels are only available when the resource intensive processing is invoked.Within this framework, we explore strategies that make few mistakes, while not abstaining too many times more than the best-in-hindsight error-free classifier from a given class. That is, the one that makes no mistakes, while abstaining the fewest number of times. We construct simple versioning-based schemes for any $\mu \in (0,1],$ that make most $T^\mu$ mistakes while incurring $\tilde{O}(T^{1-\mu})$ excess abstention against adaptive adversaries. We further show that this dependence on $T$ is tight, and provide illustrative experiments on realistic datasets.

Embedding Principle of Loss Landscape of Deep Neural Networks

Yaoyu Zhang · Zhongwang Zhang · Tao Luo · Zhiqin J Xu

Understanding the structure of loss landscape of deep neural networks (DNNs) is obviously important. In this work, we prove an embedding principle that the loss landscape of a DNN "contains" all the critical points of all the narrower DNNs. More precisely, we propose a critical embedding such that any critical point, e.g., local or global minima, of a narrower DNN can be embedded to a critical point/affine subspace of the target DNN with higher degeneracy and preserving the DNN output function. Note that, given any training data, differentiable loss function and differentiable activation function, this embedding structure of critical points holds.This general structure of DNNs is starkly different from other nonconvex problems such as protein-folding.Empirically, we find that a wide DNN is often attracted by highly-degenerate critical points that are embedded from narrow DNNs. The embedding principle provides a new perspective to study the general easy optimization of wide DNNs and unravels a potential implicit low-complexity regularization during the training.Overall, our work provides a skeleton for the study of loss landscape of DNNs and its implication, by which a more exact and comprehensive understanding can be anticipated in the near future.

Exploiting Chain Rule and Bayes' Theorem to Compare Probability Distributions

Huangjie Zheng · Mingyuan Zhou

To measure the difference between two probability distributions, referred to as the source and target, respectively, we exploit both the chain rule and Bayes' theorem to construct conditional transport (CT), which is constituted by both a forward component and a backward one. The forward CT is the expected cost of moving a source data point to a target one, with their joint distribution defined by the product of the source probability density function (PDF) and a source-dependent conditional distribution, which is related to the target PDF via Bayes' theorem. The backward CT is defined by reversing the direction. The CT cost can be approximated by replacing the source and target PDFs with their discrete empirical distributions supported on mini-batches, making it amenable to implicit distributions and stochastic gradient descent-based optimization. When applied to train a generative model, CT is shown to strike a good balance between mode-covering and mode-seeking behaviors and strongly resist mode collapse. On a wide variety of benchmark datasets for generative modeling, substituting the default statistical distance of an existing generative adversarial network with CT is shown to consistently improve the performance. PyTorch code is provided.

Efficient Neural Network Training via Forward and Backward Propagation Sparsification

Xiao Zhou · Weizhong Zhang · Zonghao Chen · SHIZHE DIAO · Tong Zhang

Sparse training is a natural idea to accelerate the training speed of deep neural networks and save the memory usage, especially since large modern neural networks are significantly over-parameterized. However, most of the existing methods cannot achieve this goal in practice because the chain rule based gradient (w.r.t. structure parameters) estimators adopted by previous methods require dense computation at least in the backward propagation step. This paper solves this problem by proposing an efficient sparse training method with completely sparse forward and backward passes. We first formulate the training process as a continuous minimization problem under global sparsity constraint. We then separate the optimization process into two steps, corresponding to weight update and structure parameter update. For the former step, we use the conventional chain rule, which can be sparse via exploiting the sparse structure. For the latter step, instead of using the chain rule based gradient estimators as in existing methods, we propose a variance reduced policy gradient estimator, which only requires two forward passes without backward propagation, thus achieving completely sparse training. We prove that the variance of our gradient estimator is bounded. Extensive experimental results on real-world datasets demonstrate that compared to previous methods, our algorithm is much more effective in accelerating the training process, up to an order of magnitude faster.

Representing Hyperbolic Space Accurately using Multi-Component Floats

Tao Yu · Christopher De Sa

Hyperbolic space is particularly useful for embedding data with hierarchical structure; however, representing hyperbolic space with ordinary floating-point numbers greatly affects the performance due to its \emph{ineluctable} numerical errors. Simply increasing the precision of floats fails to solve the problem and incurs a high computation cost for simulating greater-than-double-precision floats on hardware such as GPUs, which does not support them. In this paper, we propose a simple, feasible-on-GPUs, and easy-to-understand solution for numerically accurate learning on hyperbolic space. We do this with a new approach to represent hyperbolic space using multi-component floating-point (MCF) in the Poincar{\'e} upper-half space model. Theoretically and experimentally we show our model has small numerical error, and on embedding tasks across various datasets, models represented by multi-component floating-points gain more capacity and run significantly faster on GPUs than prior work.

A Computationally Efficient Method for Learning Exponential Family Distributions

Abhin Shah · Devavrat Shah · Gregory Wornell

We consider the question of learning the natural parameters of a $k$ parameter \textit{minimal} exponential family from i.i.d. samples in a computationally and statistically efficient manner. We focus on the setting where the support as well as the natural parameters are appropriately bounded. While the traditional maximum likelihood estimator for this class of exponential family is consistent, asymptotically normal, and asymptotically efficient, evaluating it is computationally hard. In this work, we propose a computationally efficient estimator that is consistent as well as asymptotically normal under mild conditions. We provide finite sample guarantees to achieve an ($\ell_2$) error of $\alpha$ in the parameter estimation with sample complexity $O(\mathrm{poly}(k/\alpha))$ and computational complexity ${O}(\mathrm{poly}(k/\alpha))$. To establish these results, we show that, at the population level, our method can be viewed as the maximum likelihood estimation of a re-parameterized distribution belonging to the same class of exponential family.

Joint inference and input optimization in equilibrium networks

Swaminathan Gurumurthy · Shaojie Bai · Zachary Manchester · J. Zico Kolter

Many tasks in deep learning involve optimizing over the inputs to a network to minimize or maximize some objective; examples include optimization over latent spaces in a generative model to match a target image, or adversarially perturbing an input to worsen classifier performance. Performing such optimization, however, is traditionally quite costly, as it involves a complete forward and backward pass through the network for each gradient step. In a separate line of work, a recent thread of research has developed the deep equilibrium (DEQ) model, a class of models that foregoes traditional network depth and instead computes the output of a network by finding the fixed point of a single nonlinear layer. In this paper, we show that there is a natural synergy between these two settings. Although, naively using DEQs for these optimization problems is expensive (owing to the time needed to compute a fixed point for each gradient step), we can leverage the fact that gradient-based optimization can itself be cast as a fixed point iteration to substantially improve the overall speed. That is, we simultaneously both solve for the DEQ fixed point and optimize over network inputs, all within a single "augmented" DEQ model that jointly encodes both the original network and the optimization process. Indeed, the procedure is fast enough that it allows us to efficiently train DEQ models for tasks traditionally relying on an "inner" optimization loop. We demonstrate this strategy on various tasks such as training generative models while optimizing over latent codes, training models for inverse problems like denoising and inpainting, adversarial training and gradient based meta-learning.

ProTo: Program-Guided Transformer for Program-Guided Tasks

Zelin Zhao · Karan Samel · Binghong Chen · lee song

Programs, consisting of semantic and structural information, play an important role in the communication between humans and agents. Towards learning general program executors to unify perception, reasoning, and decision making, we formulate program-guided tasks which require learning to execute a given program on the observed task specification. Furthermore, we propose Program-Guided Transformers (ProTo), which integrates both semantic and structural guidance of a program by leveraging cross-attention and masked self-attention to pass messages between the specification and routines in the program. ProTo executes a program in a learned latent space and enjoys stronger representation ability than previous neural-symbolic approaches. We demonstrate that ProTo significantly outperforms the previous state-of-the-art methods on GQA visual reasoning and 2D Minecraft policy learning datasets. Additionally, ProTo demonstrates better generalization to unseen, complex, and human-written programs.

Property-Aware Relation Networks for Few-Shot Molecular Property Prediction

Yaqing Wang · Abulikemu Abuduweili · Quanming Yao · Dejing Dou

Molecular property prediction plays a fundamental role in drug discovery to identify candidate molecules with target properties. However, molecular property prediction is essentially a few-shot problem, which makes it hard to use regular machine learning models. In this paper, we propose Property-Aware Relation networks (PAR) to handle this problem. In comparison to existing works, we leverage the fact that both relevant substructures and relationships among molecules change across different molecular properties. We first introduce a property-aware embedding function to transform the generic molecular embeddings to substructure-aware space relevant to the target property. Further, we design an adaptive relation graph learning module to jointly estimate molecular relation graph and refine molecular embeddings w.r.t. the target property, such that the limited labels can be effectively propagated among similar molecules. We adopt a meta-learning strategy where the parameters are selectively updated within tasks in order to model generic and property-aware knowledge separately. Extensive experiments on benchmark molecular property prediction datasets show that PAR consistently outperforms existing methods and can obtain property-aware molecular embeddings and model molecular relation graph properly.

Differentially Private Learning with Adaptive Clipping

Galen Andrew · Om Thakkar · Brendan McMahan · Swaroop Ramaswamy

Existing approaches for training neural networks with user-level differential privacy (e.g., DP Federated Averaging) in federated learning (FL) settings involve bounding the contribution of each user's model update by {\em clipping} it to some constant value. However there is no good {\em a priori} setting of the clipping norm across tasks and learning settings: the update norm distribution depends on the model architecture and loss, the amount of data on each device, the client learning rate, and possibly various other parameters. We propose a method wherein instead of a fixed clipping norm, one clips to a value at a specified quantile of the update norm distribution, where the value at the quantile is itself estimated online, with differential privacy. The method tracks the quantile closely, uses a negligible amount of privacy budget, is compatible with other federated learning technologies such as compression and secure aggregation, and has a straightforward joint DP analysis with DP-FedAvg. Experiments demonstrate that adaptive clipping to the median update norm works well across a range of federated learning tasks, eliminating the need to tune any clipping hyperparameter.

Diffusion Schrödinger Bridge with Applications to Score-Based Generative Modeling

Valentin De Bortoli · James Thornton · Jeremy Heng · Arnaud Doucet

Progressively applying Gaussian noise transforms complex data distributions to approximately Gaussian. Reversing this dynamic defines a generative model. When the forward noising process is given by a Stochastic Differential Equation (SDE), Song et al (2021) demonstrate how the time inhomogeneous drift of the associated reverse-time SDE may be estimated using score-matching. A limitation of this approach is that the forward-time SDE must be run for a sufficiently long time for the final distribution to be approximately Gaussian. In contrast, solving the Schrödinger Bridge (SB) problem, i.e. an entropy-regularized optimal transport problem on path spaces, yields diffusions which generate samples from the data distribution in finite time. We present Diffusion SB (DSB), an original approximation of the Iterative Proportional Fitting (IPF) procedure to solve the SB problem, and provide theoretical analysis along with generative modeling experiments. The first DSB iteration recovers the methodology proposed by Song et al. (2021), with the flexibility of using shorter time intervals, as subsequent DSB iterations reduce the discrepancy between the final-time marginal of the forward (resp. backward) SDE with respect to the prior (resp. data) distribution. Beyond generative modeling, DSB offers a widely applicable computational optimal transport tool as the continuous state-space analogue of the popular Sinkhorn algorithm (Cuturi, 2013).

Pessimism Meets Invariance: Provably Efficient Offline Mean-Field Multi-Agent RL

Minshuo Chen · Yan Li · Ethan Wang · Zhuoran Yang · Zhaoran Wang · Tuo Zhao

Mean-Field Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MF-MARL) is attractive in the applications involving a large population of homogeneous agents, as it exploits the permutation invariance of agents and avoids the curse of many agents. Most existing results only focus on online settings, in which agents can interact with the environment during training. In some applications such as social welfare optimization, however, the interaction during training can be prohibitive or even unethical in the societal systems. To bridge such a gap, we propose a SAFARI (peSsimistic meAn-Field vAlue iteRatIon) algorithm for off-line MF-MARL, which only requires a handful of pre-collected experience data. Theoretically, under a weak coverage assumption that the experience dataset contains enough information about the optimal policy, we prove that for an episodic mean-field MDP with a horizon $H$ and $N$ training trajectories, SAFARI attains a sub-optimality gap of $\mathcal{O}(H^2d_{\rm eff} /\sqrt{N})$, where $d_{\rm eff}$ is the effective dimension of the function class for parameterizing the value function, but independent on the number of agents. Numerical experiments are provided.

Locality Sensitive Teaching

Zhaozhuo Xu · Beidi Chen · Chaojian Li · Weiyang Liu · Le Song · Yingyan Lin · Anshumali Shrivastava

The emergence of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) sheds light on applying the machine teaching (MT) algorithms for online personalized education on home devices. This direction becomes more promising during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person education becomes infeasible. However, as one of the most influential and practical MT paradigms, iterative machine teaching (IMT) is prohibited on IoT devices due to its inefficient and unscalable algorithms. IMT is a paradigm where a teacher feeds examples iteratively and intelligently based on the learner's status. In each iteration, current IMT algorithms greedily traverse the whole training set to find an example for the learner, which is computationally expensive in practice. We propose a novel teaching framework, Locality Sensitive Teaching (LST), based on locality sensitive sampling, to overcome these challenges. LST has provable near-constant time complexity, which is exponentially better than the existing baseline. With at most 425.12x speedups and 99.76% energy savings over IMT, LST is the first algorithm that enables energy and time efficient machine teaching on IoT devices. Owing to LST's substantial efficiency and scalability, it is readily applicable in real-world education scenarios.

SalKG: Learning From Knowledge Graph Explanations for Commonsense Reasoning

Aaron Chan · Jiashu Xu · Boyuan Long · Soumya Sanyal · Tanishq Gupta · Xiang Ren

Augmenting pre-trained language models with knowledge graphs (KGs) has achieved success on various commonsense reasoning tasks. However, for a given task instance, the KG, or certain parts of the KG, may not be useful. Although KG-augmented models often use attention to focus on specific KG components, the KG is still always used, and the attention mechanism is never explicitly taught which KG components should be used. Meanwhile, saliency methods can measure how much a KG feature (e.g., graph, node, path) influences the model to make the correct prediction, thus explaining which KG features are useful. This paper explores how saliency explanations can be used to improve KG-augmented models' performance. First, we propose to create coarse (Is the KG useful?) and fine (Which nodes/paths in the KG are useful?) saliency explanations. Second, to motivate saliency-based supervision, we analyze oracle KG-augmented models which directly use saliency explanations as extra inputs for guiding their attention. Third, we propose SalKG, a framework for KG-augmented models to learn from coarse and/or fine saliency explanations. Given saliency explanations created from a task's training set, SalKG jointly trains the model to predict the explanations, then solve the task by attending to KG features highlighted by the predicted explanations. On three popular commonsense QA benchmarks (CSQA, OBQA, CODAH) and a range of KG-augmented models, we show that SalKG can yield considerable performance gains --- up to 2.76% absolute improvement on CSQA.

Knowledge-inspired 3D Scene Graph Prediction in Point Cloud

Shoulong Zhang · shuai li · Aimin Hao · Hong Qin

Prior knowledge integration helps identify semantic entities and their relationships in a graphical representation, however, its meaningful abstraction and intervention remain elusive. This paper advocates a knowledge-inspired 3D scene graph prediction method solely based on point clouds. At the mathematical modeling level, we formulate the task as two sub-problems: knowledge learning and scene graph prediction with learned prior knowledge. Unlike conventional methods that learn knowledge embedding and regular patterns from encoded visual information, we propose to suppress the misunderstandings caused by appearance similarities and other perceptual confusion. At the network design level, we devise a graph auto-encoder to automatically extract class-dependent representations and topological patterns from the one-hot class labels and their intrinsic graphical structures, so that the prior knowledge can avoid perceptual errors and noises. We further devise a scene graph prediction model to predict credible relationship triplets by incorporating the related prototype knowledge with perceptual information. Comprehensive experiments confirm that, our method can successfully learn representative knowledge embedding, and the obtained prior knowledge can effectively enhance the accuracy of relationship predictions. Our thorough evaluations indicate the new method can achieve the state-of-the-art performance compared with other scene graph prediction methods.

Lower Bounds on Metropolized Sampling Methods for Well-Conditioned Distributions

Yin Tat Lee · Ruoqi Shen · Kevin Tian

We give lower bounds on the performance of two of the most popular sampling methods in practice, the Metropolis-adjusted Langevin algorithm (MALA) and multi-step Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC) with a leapfrog integrator, when applied to well-conditioned distributions. Our main result is a nearly-tight lower bound of $\widetilde{\Omega}(\kappa d)$ on the mixing time of MALA from an exponentially warm start, matching a line of algorithmic results \cite{DwivediCW018, ChenDWY19, LeeST20a} up to logarithmic factors and answering an open question of \cite{ChewiLACGR20}. We also show that a polynomial dependence on dimension is necessary for the relaxation time of HMC under any number of leapfrog steps, and bound the gains achievable by changing the step count. Our HMC analysis draws upon a novel connection between leapfrog integration and Chebyshev polynomials, which may be of independent interest.

Distributed Estimation with Multiple Samples per User: Sharp Rates and Phase Transition

Jayadev Acharya · Clement Canonne · Yuhan Liu · Ziteng Sun · Himanshu Tyagi

We obtain tight minimax rates for the problem of distributed estimation of discrete distributions under communication constraints, where $n$ users observing $m $ samples each can broadcast only $\ell$ bits. Our main result is a tight characterization (up to logarithmic factors) of the error rate as a function of $m$, $\ell$, the domain size, and the number of users under most regimes of interest. While previous work focused on the setting where each user only holds one sample, we show that as $m$ grows the $\ell_1$ error rate gets reduced by a factor of $\sqrt{m}$ for small $m$. However, for large $m$ we observe an interesting phase transition: the dependence of the error rate on the communication constraint $\ell$ changes from $1/\sqrt{2^{\ell}}$ to $1/\sqrt{\ell}$.

Backdoor Attack with Imperceptible Input and Latent Modification

Khoa Doan · Yingjie Lao · Ping Li

Recent studies have shown that deep neural networks (DNN) are vulnerable to various adversarial attacks. In particular, an adversary can inject a stealthy backdoor into a model such that the compromised model will behave normally without the presence of the trigger. Techniques for generating backdoor images that are visually imperceptible from clean images have also been developed recently, which further enhance the stealthiness of the backdoor attacks from the input space. Along with the development of attacks, defense against backdoor attacks is also evolving. Many existing countermeasures found that backdoor tends to leave tangible footprints in the latent or feature space, which can be utilized to mitigate backdoor attacks.In this paper, we extend the concept of imperceptible backdoor from the input space to the latent representation, which significantly improves the effectiveness against the existing defense mechanisms, especially those relying on the distinguishability between clean inputs and backdoor inputs in latent space. In the proposed framework, the trigger function will learn to manipulate the input by injecting imperceptible input noise while matching the latent representations of the clean and manipulated inputs via a Wasserstein-based regularization of the corresponding empirical distributions. We formulate such an objective as a non-convex and constrained optimization problem and solve the problem with an efficient stochastic alternating optimization procedure. We name the proposed backdoor attack as Wasserstein Backdoor (WB), which achieves a high attack success rate while being stealthy from both the input and latent spaces, as tested in several benchmark datasets, including MNIST, CIFAR10, GTSRB, and TinyImagenet.

Functional Regularization for Reinforcement Learning via Learned Fourier Features

Alex Li · Deepak Pathak

We propose a simple architecture for deep reinforcement learning by embedding inputs into a learned Fourier basis and show that it improves the sample efficiency of both state-based and image-based RL. We perform infinite-width analysis of our architecture using the Neural Tangent Kernel and theoretically show that tuning the initial variance of the Fourier basis is equivalent to functional regularization of the learned deep network. That is, these learned Fourier features allow for adjusting the degree to which networks underfit or overfit different frequencies in the training data, and hence provide a controlled mechanism to improve the stability and performance of RL optimization. Empirically, this allows us to prioritize learning low-frequency functions and speed up learning by reducing networks' susceptibility to noise in the optimization process, such as during Bellman updates. Experiments on standard state-based and image-based RL benchmarks show clear benefits of our architecture over the baselines.

Unifying Width-Reduced Methods for Quasi-Self-Concordant Optimization

Deeksha Adil · Brian Bullins · Sushant Sachdeva

We provide several algorithms for constrained optimization of a large class of convex problems, including softmax, $\ell_p$ regression, and logistic regression. Central to our approach is the notion of width reduction, a technique which has proven immensely useful in the context of maximum flow [Christiano et al., STOC'11] and, more recently, $\ell_p$ regression [Adil et al., SODA'19], in terms of improving the iteration complexity from $O(m^{1/2})$ to $\tilde{O}(m^{1/3})$, where $m$ is the number of rows of the design matrix, and where each iteration amounts to a linear system solve. However, a considerable drawback is that these methods require both problem-specific potentials and individually tailored analyses.As our main contribution, we initiate a new direction of study by presenting the first \emph{unified} approach to achieving $m^{1/3}$-type rates. Notably, our method goes beyond these previously considered problems to more broadly capture \emph{quasi-self-concordant} losses, a class which has recently generated much interest and includes the well-studied problem of logistic regression, among others. In order to do so, we develop a unified width reduction method for carefully handling these losses based on a more general set of potentials. Additionally, we directly achieve $m^{1/3}$-type rates in the constrained setting without the need for any explicit acceleration schemes, thus naturally complementing recent work based on a ball-oracle approach [Carmon et al., NeurIPS'20].

Conservative Offline Distributional Reinforcement Learning

Jason Yecheng Ma · Dinesh Jayaraman · Osbert Bastani

Many reinforcement learning (RL) problems in practice are offline, learning purely from observational data. A key challenge is how to ensure the learned policy is safe, which requires quantifying the risk associated with different actions. In the online setting, distributional RL algorithms do so by learning the distribution over returns (i.e., cumulative rewards) instead of the expected return; beyond quantifying risk, they have also been shown to learn better representations for planning. We proposeConservative Offline Distributional Actor Critic (CODAC), an offline RL algorithm suitable for both risk-neutral and risk-averse domains. CODAC adapts distributional RL to the offline setting by penalizing the predicted quantiles of the return for out-of-distribution actions. We prove that CODAC learns a conservative return distribution---in particular, for finite MDPs, CODAC converges to an uniform lower bound on the quantiles of the return distribution; our proof relies on a novel analysis of the distributional Bellman operator. In our experiments, on two challenging robot navigation tasks, CODAC successfully learns risk-averse policies using offline data collected purely from risk-neutral agents. Furthermore, CODAC is state-of-the-art on the D4RL MuJoCo benchmark in terms of both expected and risk-sensitive performance.

REMIPS: Physically Consistent 3D Reconstruction of Multiple Interacting People under Weak Supervision

Mihai Fieraru · Mihai Zanfir · Teodor Szente · Eduard Bazavan · Vlad Olaru · Cristian Sminchisescu

The three-dimensional reconstruction of multiple interacting humans given a monocular image is crucial for the general task of scene understanding, as capturing the subtleties of interaction is often the very reason for taking a picture. Current 3D human reconstruction methods either treat each person independently, ignoring most of the context, or reconstruct people jointly, but cannot recover interactions correctly when people are in close proximity. In this work, we introduce \textbf{REMIPS}, a model for 3D \underline{Re}construction of \underline{M}ultiple \underline{I}nteracting \underline{P}eople under Weak \underline{S}upervision. \textbf{REMIPS} can reconstruct a variable number of people directly from monocular images. At the core of our methodology stands a novel transformer network that combines unordered person tokens (one for each detected human) with positional-encoded tokens from image features patches. We introduce a novel unified model for self- and interpenetration-collisions based on a mesh approximation computed by applying decimation operators. We rely on self-supervised losses for flexibility and generalisation in-the-wild and incorporate self-contact and interaction-contact losses directly into the learning process. With \textbf{REMIPS}, we report state-of-the-art quantitative results on common benchmarks even in cases where no 3D supervision is used. Additionally, qualitative visual results show that our reconstructions are plausible in terms of pose and shape and coherent for challenging images, collected in-the-wild, where people are often interacting.

Bounds all around: training energy-based models with bidirectional bounds

Cong Geng · Jia Wang · Zhiyong Gao · Jes Frellsen · Søren Hauberg

Energy-based models (EBMs) provide an elegant framework for density estimation, but they are notoriously difficult to train. Recent work has established links to generative adversarial networks, where the EBM is trained through a minimax game with a variational value function. We propose a bidirectional bound on the EBM log-likelihood, such that we maximize a lower bound and minimize an upper bound when solving the minimax game. We link one bound to a gradient penalty that stabilizes training, thereby provide grounding for best engineering practice. To evaluate the bounds we develop a new and efficient estimator of the Jacobi-determinant of the EBM generator. We demonstrate that these developments stabilize training and yield high-quality density estimation and sample generation.

Convergence and Alignment of Gradient Descent with Random Backpropagation Weights

Ganlin Song · Ruitu Xu · John Lafferty

Stochastic gradient descent with backpropagation is the workhorse of artificial neural networks. It has long been recognized that backpropagation fails to be a biologically plausible algorithm. Fundamentally, it is a non-local procedure---updating one neuron's synaptic weights requires knowledge of synaptic weights or receptive fields of downstream neurons. This limits the use of artificial neural networks as a tool for understanding the biological principles of information processing in the brain. Lillicrap et al. (2016) propose a more biologically plausible "feedback alignment" algorithm that uses random and fixed backpropagation weights, and show promising simulations. In this paper we study the mathematical properties of the feedback alignment procedure by analyzing convergence and alignment for two-layer networks under squared error loss. In the overparameterized setting, we prove that the error converges to zero exponentially fast, and also that regularization is necessary in order for the  parameters to become aligned with the random backpropagation weights. Simulations are given that are consistent with this analysis and suggest further generalizations. These results contribute to our understanding of how biologically plausible algorithms might carry out weight learning in a manner different from Hebbian learning, with performance that is comparable with the full non-local backpropagation algorithm.

A Shading-Guided Generative Implicit Model for Shape-Accurate 3D-Aware Image Synthesis

Xingang Pan · Xudong XU · Chen Change Loy · Christian Theobalt · Bo Dai

The advancement of generative radiance fields has pushed the boundary of 3D-aware image synthesis. Motivated by the observation that a 3D object should look realistic from multiple viewpoints, these methods introduce a multi-view constraint as regularization to learn valid 3D radiance fields from 2D images. Despite the progress, they often fall short of capturing accurate 3D shapes due to the shape-color ambiguity, limiting their applicability in downstream tasks. In this work, we address this ambiguity by proposing a novel shading-guided generative implicit model that is able to learn a starkly improved shape representation. Our key insight is that an accurate 3D shape should also yield a realistic rendering under different lighting conditions. This multi-lighting constraint is realized by modeling illumination explicitly and performing shading with various lighting conditions. Gradients are derived by feeding the synthesized images to a discriminator. To compensate for the additional computational burden of calculating surface normals, we further devise an efficient volume rendering strategy via surface tracking, reducing the training and inference time by 24% and 48%, respectively. Our experiments on multiple datasets show that the proposed approach achieves photorealistic 3D-aware image synthesis while capturing accurate underlying 3D shapes. We demonstrate improved performance of our approach on 3D shape reconstruction against existing methods, and show its applicability on image relighting. Our code is available at

A Minimalist Approach to Offline Reinforcement Learning

Scott Fujimoto · Shixiang (Shane) Gu

Offline reinforcement learning (RL) defines the task of learning from a fixed batch of data. Due to errors in value estimation from out-of-distribution actions, most offline RL algorithms take the approach of constraining or regularizing the policy with the actions contained in the dataset. Built on pre-existing RL algorithms, modifications to make an RL algorithm work offline comes at the cost of additional complexity. Offline RL algorithms introduce new hyperparameters and often leverage secondary components such as generative models, while adjusting the underlying RL algorithm. In this paper we aim to make a deep RL algorithm work while making minimal changes. We find that we can match the performance of state-of-the-art offline RL algorithms by simply adding a behavior cloning term to the policy update of an online RL algorithm and normalizing the data. The resulting algorithm is a simple to implement and tune baseline, while more than halving the overall run time by removing the additional computational overheads of previous methods.

Simple Stochastic and Online Gradient Descent Algorithms for Pairwise Learning

ZHENHUAN YANG · Yunwen Lei · Puyu Wang · Tianbao Yang · Yiming Ying

Pairwise learning refers to learning tasks where the loss function depends on a pair of instances. It instantiates many important machine learning tasks such as bipartite ranking and metric learning. A popular approach to handle streaming data in pairwise learning is an online gradient descent (OGD) algorithm, where one needs to pair the current instance with a buffering set of previous instances with a sufficiently large size and therefore suffers from a scalability issue. In this paper, we propose simple stochastic and online gradient descent methods for pairwise learning. A notable difference from the existing studies is that we only pair the current instance with the previous one in building a gradient direction, which is efficient in both the storage and computational complexity. We develop novel stability results, optimization, and generalization error bounds for both convex and nonconvex as well as both smooth and nonsmooth problems. We introduce novel techniques to decouple the dependency of models and the previous instance in both the optimization and generalization analysis. Our study resolves an open question on developing meaningful generalization bounds for OGD using a buffering set with a very small fixed size. We also extend our algorithms and stability analysis to develop differentially private SGD algorithms for pairwise learning which significantly improves the existing results.

Exponential Bellman Equation and Improved Regret Bounds for Risk-Sensitive Reinforcement Learning

Yingjie Fei · Zhuoran Yang · Yudong Chen · Zhaoran Wang

We study risk-sensitive reinforcement learning (RL) based on the entropic risk measure. Although existing works have established non-asymptotic regret guarantees for this problem, they leave open an exponential gap between the upper and lower bounds. We identify the deficiencies in existing algorithms and their analysis that result in such a gap. To remedy these deficiencies, we investigate a simple transformation of the risk-sensitive Bellman equations, which we call the exponential Bellman equation. The exponential Bellman equation inspires us to develop a novel analysis of Bellman backup procedures in risk-sensitive RL algorithms, and further motivates the design of a novel exploration mechanism. We show that these analytic and algorithmic innovations together lead to improved regret upper bounds over existing ones.

The best of both worlds: stochastic and adversarial episodic MDPs with unknown transition

Tiancheng Jin · Longbo Huang · Haipeng Luo

We consider the best-of-both-worlds problem for learning an episodic Markov Decision Process through $T$ episodes, with the goal of achieving $\widetilde{\mathcal{O}}(\sqrt{T})$ regret when the losses are adversarial and simultaneously $\mathcal{O}(\log T)$ regret when the losses are (almost) stochastic. Recent work by [Jin and Luo, 2020] achieves this goal when the fixed transition is known, and leaves the case of unknown transition as a major open question. In this work, we resolve this open problem by using the same Follow-the-Regularized-Leader (FTRL) framework together with a set of new techniques. Specifically, we first propose a loss-shifting trick in the FTRL analysis, which greatly simplifies the approach of [Jin and Luo, 2020] and already improves their results for the known transition case. Then, we extend this idea to the unknown transition case and develop a novel analysis which upper bounds the transition estimation error by the regret itself in the stochastic setting, a key property to ensure $\mathcal{O}(\log T)$ regret.

SimiGrad: Fine-Grained Adaptive Batching for Large Scale Training using Gradient Similarity Measurement

Heyang Qin · Samyam Rajbhandari · Olatunji Ruwase · Feng Yan · Lei Yang · Yuxiong He

Large scale training requires massive parallelism to finish the training within a reasonable amount of time. To support massive parallelism, large batch training is the key enabler but often at the cost of generalization performance. Existing works explore adaptive batching or hand-tuned static large batching, in order to strike a balance between the computational efficiency and the performance. However, these methods can provide only coarse-grained adaption (e.g., at a epoch level) due to the intrinsic expensive calculation or hand tuning requirements. In this paper, we propose a fully automated and lightweight adaptive batching methodology to enable fine-grained batch size adaption (e.g., at a mini-batch level) that can achieve state-of-the-art performance with record breaking batch sizes. The core component of our method is a lightweight yet efficient representation of the critical gradient noise information. We open-source the proposed methodology by providing a plugin tool that supports mainstream machine learning frameworks. Extensive evaluations on popular benchmarks (e.g., CIFAR10, ImageNet, and BERT-Large) demonstrate that the proposed methodology outperforms state-of-the-art methodologies using adaptive batching approaches or hand-tuned static strategies in both performance and batch size. Particularly, we achieve a new state-of-the-art batch size of 78k in BERT-Large pretraining with SQuAD score 90.69 compared to 90.58 reported in previous state-of-the-art with 59k batch size.

Uniform Convergence of Interpolators: Gaussian Width, Norm Bounds and Benign Overfitting

Frederic Koehler · Lijia Zhou · Danica J. Sutherland · Nathan Srebro

We consider interpolation learning in high-dimensional linear regression with Gaussian data, and prove a generic uniform convergence guarantee on the generalization error of interpolators in an arbitrary hypothesis class in terms of the class’s Gaussian width. Applying the generic bound to Euclidean norm balls recovers the consistency result of Bartlett et al. (2020) for minimum-norm interpolators, and confirms a prediction of Zhou et al. (2020) for near-minimal-norm interpolators in the special case of Gaussian data. We demonstrate the generality of the bound by applying it to the simplex, obtaining a novel consistency result for minimum $\ell_1$-norm interpolators (basis pursuit). Our results show how norm-based generalization bounds can explain and be used to analyze benign overfitting, at least in some settings.

DominoSearch: Find layer-wise fine-grained N:M sparse schemes from dense neural networks

Wei Sun · Aojun Zhou · Sander Stuijk · Rob Wijnhoven · Andrew Nelson · Hongsheng Li · Henk Corporaal

Neural pruning is a widely-used compression technique for Deep Neural Networks (DNNs). Recent innovations in Hardware Architectures (e.g. Nvidia Ampere Sparse Tensor Core) and N:M fine-grained Sparse Neural Network algorithms (i.e. every M-weights contains N non-zero values) reveal a promising research line of neural pruning. However, the existing N:M algorithms only address the challenge of how to train N:M sparse neural networks in a uniform fashion (i.e. every layer has the same N:M sparsity) and suffer from a significant accuracy drop for high sparsity (i.e. when sparsity > 80\%). To tackle this problem, we present a novel technique -- \textbf{\textit{DominoSearch}} to find mixed N:M sparsity schemes from pre-trained dense deep neural networks to achieve higher accuracy than the uniform-sparsity scheme with equivalent complexity constraints (e.g. model size or FLOPs). For instance, for the same model size with 2.1M parameters (87.5\% sparsity), our layer-wise N:M sparse ResNet18 outperforms its uniform counterpart by 2.1\% top-1 accuracy, on the large-scale ImageNet dataset. For the same computational complexity of 227M FLOPs, our layer-wise sparse ResNet18 outperforms the uniform one by 1.3\% top-1 accuracy. Furthermore, our layer-wise fine-grained N:M sparse ResNet50 achieves 76.7\% top-1 accuracy with 5.0M parameters. {This is competitive to the results achieved by layer-wise unstructured sparsity} that is believed to be the upper-bound of Neural Network pruning with respect to the accuracy-sparsity trade-off. We believe that our work can build a strong baseline for further sparse DNN research and encourage future hardware-algorithm co-design work. Our code and models are publicly available at \url{}.

Techniques for Symbol Grounding with SATNet

Sever Topan · David Rolnick · Xujie Si

Many experts argue that the future of artificial intelligence is limited by the field’s ability to integrate symbolic logical reasoning into deep learning architectures. The recently proposed differentiable MAXSAT solver, SATNet, was a breakthrough in its capacity to integrate with a traditional neural network and solve visual reasoning problems. For instance, it can learn the rules of Sudoku purely from image examples. Despite its success, SATNet was shown to succumb to a key challenge in neurosymbolic systems known as the Symbol Grounding Problem: the inability to map visual inputs to symbolic variables without explicit supervision ("label leakage"). In this work, we present a self-supervised pre-training pipeline that enables SATNet to overcome this limitation, thus broadening the class of problems that SATNet architectures can solve to include datasets where no intermediary labels are available at all. We demonstrate that our method allows SATNet to attain full accuracy even with a harder problem setup that prevents any label leakage. We additionally introduce a proofreading method that further improves the performance of SATNet architectures, beating the state-of-the-art on Visual Sudoku.

Symplectic Adjoint Method for Exact Gradient of Neural ODE with Minimal Memory

Takashi Matsubara · Yuto Miyatake · Takaharu Yaguchi

A neural network model of a differential equation, namely neural ODE, has enabled the learning of continuous-time dynamical systems and probabilistic distributions with high accuracy. The neural ODE uses the same network repeatedly during a numerical integration. The memory consumption of the backpropagation algorithm is proportional to the number of uses times the network size. This is true even if a checkpointing scheme divides the computation graph into sub-graphs. Otherwise, the adjoint method obtains a gradient by a numerical integration backward in time. Although this method consumes memory only for a single network use, it requires high computational cost to suppress numerical errors. This study proposes the symplectic adjoint method, which is an adjoint method solved by a symplectic integrator. The symplectic adjoint method obtains the exact gradient (up to rounding error) with memory proportional to the number of uses plus the network size. The experimental results demonstrate that the symplectic adjoint method consumes much less memory than the naive backpropagation algorithm and checkpointing schemes, performs faster than the adjoint method, and is more robust to rounding errors.

RED : Looking for Redundancies for Data-FreeStructured Compression of Deep Neural Networks

Edouard YVINEC · Arnaud Dapogny · Matthieu Cord · Kevin Bailly

Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) are ubiquitous in today's computer vision landscape, despite involving considerable computational costs. The mainstream approaches for runtime acceleration consist in pruning connections (unstructured pruning) or, better, filters (structured pruning), both often requiring data to retrain the model. In this paper, we present RED, a data-free, unified approach to tackle structured pruning. First, we propose a novel adaptive hashing of the scalar DNN weight distribution densities to increase the number of identical neurons represented by their weight vectors. Second, we prune the network by merging redundant neurons based on their relative similarities, as defined by their distance. Third, we propose a novel uneven depthwise separation technique to further prune convolutional layers. We demonstrate through a large variety of benchmarks that RED largely outperforms other data-free pruning methods, often reaching performance similar to unconstrained, data-driven methods.

Large Scale Learning on Non-Homophilous Graphs: New Benchmarks and Strong Simple Methods

Derek Lim · Felix Hohne · Xiuyu Li · Sijia Linda Huang · Vaishnavi Gupta · Omkar Bhalerao · Ser Nam Lim

Many widely used datasets for graph machine learning tasks have generally been homophilous, where nodes with similar labels connect to each other. Recently, new Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) have been developed that move beyond the homophily regime; however, their evaluation has often been conducted on small graphs with limited application domains. We collect and introduce diverse non-homophilous datasets from a variety of application areas that have up to 384x more nodes and 1398x more edges than prior datasets. We further show that existing scalable graph learning and graph minibatching techniques lead to performance degradation on these non-homophilous datasets, thus highlighting the need for further work on scalable non-homophilous methods. To address these concerns, we introduce LINKX --- a strong simple method that admits straightforward minibatch training and inference. Extensive experimental results with representative simple methods and GNNs across our proposed datasets show that LINKX achieves state-of-the-art performance for learning on non-homophilous graphs. Our codes and data are available at

Reinforcement Learning based Disease Progression Model for Alzheimer’s Disease

Krishnakant Saboo · Anirudh Choudhary · Yurui Cao · Gregory Worrell · David Jones · Ravishankar Iyer

We model Alzheimer’s disease (AD) progression by combining differential equations (DEs) and reinforcement learning (RL) with domain knowledge. DEs provide relationships between some, but not all, factors relevant to AD. We assume that the missing relationships must satisfy general criteria about the working of the brain, for e.g., maximizing cognition while minimizing the cost of supporting cognition. This allows us to extract the missing relationships by using RL to optimize an objective (reward) function that captures the above criteria. We use our model consisting of DEs (as a simulator) and the trained RL agent to predict individualized 10-year AD progression using baseline (year 0) features on synthetic and real data. The model was comparable or better at predicting 10-year cognition trajectories than state-of-the-art learning-based models. Our interpretable model demonstrated, and provided insights into, "recovery/compensatory" processes that mitigate the effect of AD, even though those processes were not explicitly encoded in the model. Our framework combines DEs with RL for modelling AD progression and has broad applicability for understanding other neurological disorders.

Perturbation Theory for the Information Bottleneck

Vudtiwat Ngampruetikorn · David Schwab

Extracting relevant information from data is crucial for all forms of learning. The information bottleneck (IB) method formalizes this, offering a mathematically precise and conceptually appealing framework for understanding learning phenomena. However the nonlinearity of the IB problem makes it computationally expensive and analytically intractable in general. Here we derive a perturbation theory for the IB method and report the first complete characterization of the learning onset, the limit of maximum relevant information per bit extracted from data. We test our results on synthetic probability distributions, finding good agreement with the exact numerical solution near the onset of learning. We explore the difference and subtleties in our derivation and previous attempts at deriving a perturbation theory for the learning onset and attribute the discrepancy to a flawed assumption. Our work also provides a fresh perspective on the intimate relationship between the IB method and the strong data processing inequality.

Deconvolutional Networks on Graph Data

Jia Li · Jiajin Li · Yang Liu · Jianwei Yu · Yueting Li · Hong Cheng

In this paper, we consider an inverse problem in graph learning domain -- "given the graph representations smoothed by Graph Convolutional Network (GCN), how can we reconstruct the input graph signal?" We propose Graph Deconvolutional Network (GDN) and motivate the design of GDN via a combination of inverse filters in spectral domain and de-noising layers in wavelet domain, as the inverse operation results in a high frequency amplifier and may amplify the noise. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method on several tasks including graph feature imputation and graph structure generation.

Supercharging Imbalanced Data Learning With Energy-based Contrastive Representation Transfer

Junya Chen · Zidi Xiu · Benjamin Goldstein · Ricardo Henao · Lawrence Carin · Chenyang Tao

Dealing with severe class imbalance poses a major challenge for many real-world applications, especially when the accurate classification and generalization of minority classes are of primary interest.In computer vision and NLP, learning from datasets with long-tail behavior is a recurring theme, especially for naturally occurring labels. Existing solutions mostly appeal to sampling or weighting adjustments to alleviate the extreme imbalance, or impose inductive bias to prioritize generalizable associations. Here we take a novel perspective to promote sample efficiency and model generalization based on the invariance principles of causality. Our contribution posits a meta-distributional scenario, where the causal generating mechanism for label-conditional features is invariant across different labels. Such causal assumption enables efficient knowledge transfer from the dominant classes to their under-represented counterparts, even if their feature distributions show apparent disparities. This allows us to leverage a causal data augmentation procedure to enlarge the representation of minority classes. Our development is orthogonal to the existing imbalanced data learning techniques thus can be seamlessly integrated. The proposed approach is validated on an extensive set of synthetic and real-world tasks against state-of-the-art solutions.

Robust Learning of Optimal Auctions

Wenshuo Guo · Michael Jordan · Emmanouil Zampetakis

We study the problem of learning revenue-optimal multi-bidder auctions from samples when the samples of bidders' valuations can be adversarially corrupted or drawn from distributions that are adversarially perturbed. First, we prove tight upper bounds on the revenue we can obtain with a corrupted distribution under a population model, for both regular valuation distributions and distributions with monotone hazard rate (MHR). We then propose new algorithms that, given only an ``approximate distribution'' for the bidder's valuation, can learn a mechanism whose revenue is nearly optimal simultaneously for all ``true distributions'' that are $\alpha$-close to the original distribution in Kolmogorov-Smirnov distance. The proposed algorithms operate beyond the setting of bounded distributions that have been studied in prior works, and are guaranteed to obtain a fraction $1-O(\alpha)$ of the optimal revenue under the true distribution when the distributions are MHR. Moreover, they are guaranteed to yield at least a fraction $1-O(\sqrt{\alpha})$ of the optimal revenue when the distributions are regular. We prove that these upper bounds cannot be further improved, by providing matching lower bounds. Lastly, we derive sample complexity upper bounds for learning a near-optimal auction for both MHR and regular distributions.

SOFT: Softmax-free Transformer with Linear Complexity

Jiachen Lu · Jinghan Yao · Junge Zhang · Xiatian Zhu · Hang Xu · Weiguo Gao · Chunjing XU · Tao Xiang · Li Zhang

Vision transformers (ViTs) have pushed the state-of-the-art for various visual recognition tasks by patch-wise image tokenization followed by self-attention. However, the employment of self-attention modules results in a quadratic complexity in both computation and memory usage. Various attempts on approximating the self-attention computation with linear complexity have been made in Natural Language Processing. However, an in-depth analysis in this work shows that they are either theoretically flawed or empirically ineffective for visual recognition. We further identify that their limitations are rooted in keeping the softmax self-attention during approximations. Specifically, conventional self-attention is computed by normalizing the scaled dot-product between token feature vectors. Keeping this softmax operation challenges any subsequent linearization efforts. Based on this insight, for the first time, a softmax-free transformer or SOFT is proposed. To remove softmax in self-attention, Gaussian kernel function is used to replace the dot-product similarity without further normalization. This enables a full self-attention matrix to be approximated via a low-rank matrix decomposition. The robustness of the approximation is achieved by calculating its Moore-Penrose inverse using a Newton-Raphson method. Extensive experiments on ImageNet show that our SOFT significantly improves the computational efficiency of existing ViT variants. Crucially, with a linear complexity, much longer token sequences are permitted in SOFT, resulting in superior trade-off between accuracy and complexity.

Finite-Sample Analysis of Off-Policy TD-Learning via Generalized Bellman Operators

Zaiwei Chen · Siva Theja Maguluri · Sanjay Shakkottai · Karthikeyan Shanmugam

In TD-learning, off-policy sampling is known to be more practical than on-policy sampling, and by decoupling learning from data collection, it enables data reuse. It is known that policy evaluation has the interpretation of solving a generalized Bellman equation. In this paper, we derive finite-sample bounds for any general off-policy TD-like stochastic approximation algorithm that solves for the fixed-point of this generalized Bellman operator. Our key step is to show that the generalized Bellman operator is simultaneously a contraction mapping with respect to a weighted $\ell_p$-norm for each $p$ in $[1,\infty)$, with a common contraction factor. Off-policy TD-learning is known to suffer from high variance due to the product of importance sampling ratios. A number of algorithms (e.g. $Q^\pi(\lambda)$, Tree-Backup$(\lambda)$, Retrace$(\lambda)$, and $Q$-trace) have been proposed in the literature to address this issue. Our results immediately imply finite-sample bounds of these algorithms. In particular, we provide first-known finite-sample guarantees for $Q^\pi(\lambda)$, Tree-Backup$(\lambda)$, and Retrace$(\lambda)$, and improve the best known bounds of $Q$-trace in \citep{chen2021finite}. Moreover, we show the bias-variance trade-offs in each of these algorithms.

A Bi-Level Framework for Learning to Solve Combinatorial Optimization on Graphs

Runzhong Wang · Zhigang Hua · Gan Liu · Jiayi Zhang · Junchi Yan · Feng Qi · Shuang Yang · Jun Zhou · Xiaokang Yang

Combinatorial Optimization (CO) has been a long-standing challenging research topic featured by its NP-hard nature. Traditionally such problems are approximately solved with heuristic algorithms which are usually fast but may sacrifice the solution quality. Currently, machine learning for combinatorial optimization (MLCO) has become a trending research topic, but most existing MLCO methods treat CO as a single-level optimization by directly learning the end-to-end solutions, which are hard to scale up and mostly limited by the capacity of ML models given the high complexity of CO. In this paper, we propose a hybrid approach to combine the best of the two worlds, in which a bi-level framework is developed with an upper-level learning method to optimize the graph (e.g. add, delete or modify edges in a graph), fused with a lower-level heuristic algorithm solving on the optimized graph. Such a bi-level approach simplifies the learning on the original hard CO and can effectively mitigate the demand for model capacity. The experiments and results on several popular CO problems like Directed Acyclic Graph scheduling, Graph Edit Distance and Hamiltonian Cycle Problem show its effectiveness over manually designed heuristics and single-level learning methods.

Few-Shot Segmentation via Cycle-Consistent Transformer

Gengwei Zhang · Guoliang Kang · Yi Yang · Yunchao Wei

Few-shot segmentation aims to train a segmentation model that can fast adapt to novel classes with few exemplars. The conventional training paradigm is to learn to make predictions on query images conditioned on the features from support images. Previous methods only utilized the semantic-level prototypes of support images as the conditional information. These methods cannot utilize all pixel-wise support information for the query predictions, which is however critical for the segmentation task. In this paper, we focus on utilizing pixel-wise relationships between support and target images to facilitate the few-shot semantic segmentation task. We design a novel Cycle-Consistent Transformer (CyCTR) module to aggregate pixel-wise support features into query ones. CyCTR performs cross-attention between features from different images, i.e. support and query images. We observe that there may exist unexpected irrelevant pixel-level support features. Directly performing cross-attention may aggregate these features from support to query and bias the query features. Thus, we propose using a novel cycle-consistent attention mechanism to filter out possible harmful support features and encourage query features to attend to the most informative pixels from support images. Experiments on all few-shot segmentation benchmarks demonstrate that our proposed CyCTR leads to remarkable improvement compared to previous state-of-the-art methods. Specifically, on Pascal-5^i and COCO-20^i datasets, we achieve 66.6% and 45.6% mIoU for 5-shot segmentation, outperforming previous state-of-the-art by 4.6% and 7.1% respectively.

Risk Bounds and Calibration for a Smart Predict-then-Optimize Method

Heyuan Liu · Paul Grigas

The predict-then-optimize framework is fundamental in practical stochastic decision-making problems: first predict unknown parameters of an optimization model, then solve the problem using the predicted values. A natural loss function in this setting is defined by measuring the decision error induced by the predicted parameters, which was named the Smart Predict-then-Optimize (SPO) loss by Elmachtoub and Grigas [2021]. Since the SPO loss is typically nonconvex and possibly discontinuous, Elmachtoub and Grigas [2021] introduced a convex surrogate, called the SPO+ loss, that importantly accounts for the underlying structure of the optimization model. In this paper, we greatly expand upon the consistency results for the SPO+ loss provided by Elmachtoub and Grigas [2021]. We develop risk bounds and uniform calibration results for the SPO+ loss relative to the SPO loss, which provide a quantitative way to transfer the excess surrogate risk to excess true risk. By combining our risk bounds with generalization bounds, we show that the empirical minimizer of the SPO+ loss achieves low excess true risk with high probability. We first demonstrate these results in the case when the feasible region of the underlying optimization problem is a polyhedron, and then we show that the results can be strengthened substantially when the feasible region is a level set of a strongly convex function. We perform experiments to empirically demonstrate the strength of the SPO+ surrogate, as compared to standard $\ell_1$ and squared $\ell_2$ prediction error losses, on portfolio allocation and cost-sensitive multi-class classification problems.

Latent Execution for Neural Program Synthesis Beyond Domain-Specific Languages

Xinyun Chen · Dawn Song · Yuandong Tian

Program synthesis from input-output (IO) examples has been a long-standing challenge. While recent works demonstrated limited success on domain-specific languages (DSL), it remains highly challenging to apply them to real-world programming languages, such as C. Due to complicated syntax and token variation, there are three major challenges: (1) unlike many DSLs, programs in languages like C need to compile first and are not executed via interpreters; (2) the program search space grows exponentially when the syntax and semantics of the programming language become more complex; and (3) collecting a large-scale dataset of real-world programs is non-trivial. As a first step to address these challenges, we propose LaSynth and show its efficacy in a restricted-C domain (i.e., C code with tens of tokens, with sequential, branching, loop and simple arithmetic operations but no library call). More specifically, LaSynth learns the latent representation to approximate the execution of partially generated programs, even if they are incomplete in syntax (addressing (1)). The learned execution significantly improves the performance of next token prediction over existing approaches, facilitating search (addressing (2)). Finally, once trained with randomly generated ground-truth programs and their IO pairs, LaSynth can synthesize more concise programs that resemble human-written code. Furthermore, retraining our model with these synthesized programs yields better performance with fewer samples for both Karel and C program synthesis, indicating the promise of leveraging the learned program synthesizer to improve the dataset quality for input-output program synthesis (addressing (3)). When evaluating on whether the program execution outputs match the IO pairs, LaSynth achieves 55.2% accuracy on generating simple C code with tens of tokens including loops and branches, outperforming existing approaches without executors by around 20%.

Combiner: Full Attention Transformer with Sparse Computation Cost

Hongyu Ren · Hanjun Dai · Zihang Dai · Mengjiao (Sherry) Yang · Jure Leskovec · Dale Schuurmans · Bo Dai

Transformers provide a class of expressive architectures that are extremely effective for sequence modeling. However, the key limitation of transformers is their quadratic memory and time complexity $\mathcal{O}(L^2)$ with respect to the sequence length in attention layers, which restricts application in extremely long sequences. Most existing approaches leverage sparsity or low-rank assumptions in the attention matrix to reduce cost, but sacrifice expressiveness. Instead, we propose Combiner, which provides full attention capability in each attention head while maintaining low computation and memory complexity. The key idea is to treat the self-attention mechanism as a conditional expectation over embeddings at each location, and approximate the conditional distribution with a structured factorization. Each location can attend to all other locations, either via direct attention, or through indirect attention to abstractions, which are again conditional expectations of embeddings from corresponding local regions. We show that most sparse attention patterns used in existing sparse transformers are able to inspire the design of such factorization for full attention, resulting in the same sub-quadratic cost ($\mathcal{O}(L\log(L))$ or $\mathcal{O}(L\sqrt{L})$). Combiner is a drop-in replacement for attention layers in existing transformers and can be easily implemented in common frameworks. An experimental evaluation on both autoregressive and bidirectional sequence tasks demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach, yielding state-of-the-art results on several image and text modeling tasks.

Geometry Processing with Neural Fields

Guandao Yang · Serge Belongie · Bharath Hariharan · Vladlen Koltun

Most existing geometry processing algorithms use meshes as the default shape representation. Manipulating meshes, however, requires one to maintain high quality in the surface discretization. For example, changing the topology of a mesh usually requires additional procedures such as remeshing. This paper instead proposes the use of neural fields for geometry processing. Neural fields can compactly store complicated shapes without spatial discretization. Moreover, neural fields are infinitely differentiable, which allows them to be optimized for objectives that involve higher-order derivatives. This raises the question: can geometry processing be done entirely using neural fields? We introduce loss functions and architectures to show that some of the most challenging geometry processing tasks, such as deformation and filtering, can be done with neural fields. Experimental results show that our methods are on par with the well-established mesh-based methods without committing to a particular surface discretization. Code is available at

Speech Separation Using an Asynchronous Fully Recurrent Convolutional Neural Network

Xiaolin Hu · Kai Li · Weiyi Zhang · Yi Luo · Jean-Marie Lemercier · Timo Gerkmann

Recent advances in the design of neural network architectures, in particular those specialized in modeling sequences, have provided significant improvements in speech separation performance. In this work, we propose to use a bio-inspired architecture called Fully Recurrent Convolutional Neural Network (FRCNN) to solve the separation task. This model contains bottom-up, top-down and lateral connections to fuse information processed at various time-scales represented by stages. In contrast to the traditional approach updating stages in parallel, we propose to first update the stages one by one in the bottom-up direction, then fuse information from adjacent stages simultaneously and finally fuse information from all stages to the bottom stage together. Experiments showed that this asynchronous updating scheme achieved significantly better results with much fewer parameters than the traditional synchronous updating scheme on speech separation. In addition, the proposed model achieved competitive or better results with high efficiency as compared to other state-of-the-art approaches on two benchmark datasets.

Observation-Free Attacks on Stochastic Bandits

Yinglun Xu · Bhuvesh Kumar · Jacob Abernethy

We study data corruption attacks on stochastic multi arm bandit algorithms. Existing attack methodologies assume that the attacker can observe the multi arm bandit algorithm's realized behavior which is in contrast to the adversaries modeled in the robust multi arm bandit algorithms literature. To the best of our knowledge, we develop the first data corruption attack on stochastic multi arm bandit algorithms which works without observing the algorithm's realized behavior. Through this attack, we also discover a sufficient condition for a stochastic multi arm bandit algorithm to be susceptible to adversarial data corruptions. We show that any bandit algorithm that makes decisions just using the empirical mean reward, and the number of times that arm has been pulled in the past can suffer from linear regret under data corruption attacks. We further show that various popular stochastic multi arm bandit algorithms such UCB, $\epsilon$-greedy and Thompson Sampling satisfy this sufficient condition and are thus prone to data corruption attacks. We further analyze the behavior of our attack for these algorithms and show that using only $o(T)$ corruptions, our attack can force these algorithms to select a potentially non-optimal target arm preferred by the attacker for all but $o(T)$ rounds.

Fast Extra Gradient Methods for Smooth Structured Nonconvex-Nonconcave Minimax Problems

Sucheol Lee · Donghwan Kim

Modern minimax problems, such as generative adversarial network and adversarial training, are often under a nonconvex-nonconcave setting, and developing an efficient method for such setting is of interest. Recently, two variants of the extragradient (EG) method are studied in that direction. First, a two-time-scale variant of the EG, named EG+, was proposed under a smooth structured nonconvex-nonconcave setting, with a slow $\mathcal{O}(1/k)$ rate on the squared gradient norm, where $k$ denotes the number of iterations. Second, another variant of EG with an anchoring technique, named extra anchored gradient (EAG), was studied under a smooth convex-concave setting, yielding a fast $\mathcal{O}(1/k^2)$ rate on the squared gradient norm. Built upon EG+ and EAG, this paper proposes a two-time-scale EG with anchoring, named fast extragradient (FEG), that has a fast $\mathcal{O}(1/k^2)$ rate on the squared gradient norm for smooth structured nonconvex-nonconcave problems; the corresponding saddle-gradient operator satisfies the negative comonotonicity condition. This paper further develops its backtracking line-search version, named FEG-A, for the case where the problem parameters are not available. The stochastic analysis of FEG is also provided.

DIB-R++: Learning to Predict Lighting and Material with a Hybrid Differentiable Renderer

Wenzheng Chen · Joey Litalien · Jun Gao · Zian Wang · Clement Fuji Tsang · Sameh Khamis · Or Litany · Sanja Fidler

We consider the challenging problem of predicting intrinsic object properties from a single image by exploiting differentiable renderers. Many previous learning-based approaches for inverse graphics adopt rasterization-based renderers and assume naive lighting and material models, which often fail to account for non-Lambertian, specular reflections commonly observed in the wild. In this work, we propose DIBR++, a hybrid differentiable renderer which supports these photorealistic effects by combining rasterization and ray-tracing, taking the advantage of their respective strengths---speed and realism. Our renderer incorporates environmental lighting and spatially-varying material models to efficiently approximate light transport, either through direct estimation or via spherical basis functions. Compared to more advanced physics-based differentiable renderers leveraging path tracing, DIBR++ is highly performant due to its compact and expressive shading model, which enables easy integration with learning frameworks for geometry, reflectance and lighting prediction from a single image without requiring any ground-truth. We experimentally demonstrate that our approach achieves superior material and lighting disentanglement on synthetic and real data compared to existing rasterization-based approaches and showcase several artistic applications including material editing and relighting.

Minibatch and Momentum Model-based Methods for Stochastic Weakly Convex Optimization

Qi Deng · Wenzhi Gao

Stochastic model-based methods have received increasing attention lately due to their appealing robustness to the stepsize selection and provable efficiency guarantee. We make two important extensions for improving model-based methods on stochastic weakly convex optimization. First, we propose new minibatch model- based methods by involving a set of samples to approximate the model function in each iteration. For the first time, we show that stochastic algorithms achieve linear speedup over the batch size even for non-smooth and non-convex (particularly, weakly convex) problems. To this end, we develop a novel sensitivity analysis of the proximal mapping involved in each algorithm iteration. Our analysis appears to be of independent interests in more general settings. Second, motivated by the success of momentum stochastic gradient descent, we propose a new stochastic extrapolated model-based method, greatly extending the classic Polyak momentum technique to a wider class of stochastic algorithms for weakly convex optimization. The rate of convergence to some natural stationarity condition is established over a fairly flexible range of extrapolation terms.While mainly focusing on weakly convex optimization, we also extend our work to convex optimization. We apply the minibatch and extrapolated model-based methods to stochastic convex optimization, for which we provide a new complexity bound and promising linear speedup in batch size. Moreover, an accelerated model-based method based on Nesterov’s momentum is presented, for which we establish an optimal complexity bound for reaching optimality.

Identity testing for Mallows model

Róbert Busa-Fekete · Dimitris Fotakis · Balazs Szorenyi · Emmanouil Zampetakis

In this paper, we devise identity tests for ranking data that is generated from Mallows model both in the \emph{asymptotic} and \emph{non-asymptotic} settings. First we consider the case when the central ranking is known, and devise two algorithms for testing the spread parameter of the Mallows model. The first one is obtained by constructing a Uniformly Most Powerful Unbiased (UMPU) test in the asymptotic setting and then converting it into a sample-optimal non-asymptotic identity test. The resulting test is, however, impractical even for medium sized data, because it requires computing the distribution of the sufficient statistic. The second non-asymptotic test is derived from an optimal learning algorithm for the Mallows model. This test is both easy to compute and is sample-optimal for a wide range of parameters. Next, we consider testing Mallows models for the unknown central ranking case. This case can be tackled in the asymptotic setting by introducing a bias that exponentially decays with the sample size. We support all our findings with extensive numerical experiments and show that the proposed tests scale gracefully with the number of items to be ranked.

Meta-learning to Improve Pre-training

Aniruddh Raghu · Jonathan Lorraine · Simon Kornblith · Matthew McDermott · David Duvenaud

Pre-training (PT) followed by fine-tuning (FT) is an effective method for training neural networks, and has led to significant performance improvements in many domains. PT can incorporate various design choices such as task and data reweighting strategies, augmentation policies, and noise models, all of which can significantly impact the quality of representations learned. The hyperparameters introduced by these strategies therefore must be tuned appropriately. However, setting the values of these hyperparameters is challenging. Most existing methods either struggle to scale to high dimensions, are too slow and memory-intensive, or cannot be directly applied to the two-stage PT and FT learning process. In this work, we propose an efficient, gradient-based algorithm to meta-learn PT hyperparameters. We formalize the PT hyperparameter optimization problem and propose a novel method to obtain PT hyperparameter gradients by combining implicit differentiation and backpropagation through unrolled optimization. We demonstrate that our method improves predictive performance on two real-world domains. First, we optimize high-dimensional task weighting hyperparameters for multitask pre-training on protein-protein interaction graphs and improve AUROC by up to 3.9%. Second, we optimize a data augmentation neural network for self-supervised PT with SimCLR on electrocardiography data and improve AUROC by up to 1.9%.

Adaptive Diffusion in Graph Neural Networks

Jialin Zhao · Yuxiao Dong · Ming Ding · Evgeny Kharlamov · Jie Tang

The success of graph neural networks (GNNs) largely relies on the process of aggregating information from neighbors defined by the input graph structures. Notably, message passing based GNNs, e.g., graph convolutional networks, leverage the immediate neighbors of each node during the aggregation process, and recently, graph diffusion convolution (GDC) is proposed to expand the propagation neighborhood by leveraging generalized graph diffusion. However, the neighborhood size in GDC is manually tuned for each graph by conducting grid search over the validation set, making its generalization practically limited. To address this issue, we propose the adaptive diffusion convolution (ADC) strategy to automatically learn the optimal neighborhood size from the data. Furthermore, we break the conventional assumption that all GNN layers and feature channels (dimensions) should use the same neighborhood for propagation. We design strategies to enable ADC to learn a dedicated propagation neighborhood for each GNN layer and each feature channel, making the GNN architecture fully coupled with graph structures---the unique property that differs GNNs from traditional neural networks. By directly plugging ADC into existing GNNs, we observe consistent and significant outperformance over both GDC and their vanilla versions across various datasets, demonstrating the improved model capacity brought by automatically learning unique neighborhood size per layer and per channel in GNNs.

Slice Sampling Reparameterization Gradients

David Zoltowski · Diana Cai · Ryan Adams

Many probabilistic modeling problems in machine learning use gradient-based optimization in which the objective takes the form of an expectation. These problems can be challenging when the parameters to be optimized determine the probability distribution under which the expectation is being taken, as the na\"ive Monte Carlo procedure is not differentiable. Reparameterization gradients make it possible to efficiently perform optimization of these Monte Carlo objectives by transforming the expectation to be differentiable, but the approach is typically limited to distributions with simple forms and tractable normalization constants. Here we describe how to differentiate samples from slice sampling to compute \textit{slice sampling reparameterization gradients}, enabling a richer class of Monte Carlo objective functions to be optimized. Slice sampling is a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm for simulating samples from probability distributions; it only requires a density function that can be evaluated point-wise up to a normalization constant, making it applicable to a variety of inference problems and unnormalized models. Our approach is based on the observation that when the slice endpoints are known, the sampling path is a deterministic and differentiable function of the pseudo-random variables, since the algorithm is rejection-free. We evaluate the method on synthetic examples and apply it to a variety of applications with reparameterization of unnormalized probability distributions.

Probabilistic Transformer For Time Series Analysis

Binh Tang · David S Matteson

Generative modeling of multivariate time series has remained challenging partly due to the complex, non-deterministic dynamics across long-distance timesteps. In this paper, we propose deep probabilistic methods that combine state-space models (SSMs) with transformer architectures. In contrast to previously proposed SSMs, our approaches use attention mechanism to model non-Markovian dynamics in the latent space and avoid recurrent neural networks entirely. We also extend our models to include several layers of stochastic variables organized in a hierarchy for further expressiveness. Compared to transformer models, ours are probabilistic, non-autoregressive, and capable of generating diverse long-term forecasts with uncertainty estimates. Extensive experiments show that our models consistently outperform competitive baselines on various tasks and datasets, including time series forecasting and human motion prediction.

Subgame solving without common knowledge

Brian Zhang · Tuomas Sandholm

In imperfect-information games, subgame solving is significantly more challenging than in perfect-information games, but in the last few years, such techniques have been developed. They were the key ingredient to the milestone of superhuman play in no-limit Texas hold'em poker. Current subgame-solving techniques analyze the entire common-knowledge closure of the player's current information set, that is, the smallest set of nodes within which it is common knowledge that the current node lies. While this is acceptable in games like poker where the common-knowledge closure is relatively small, many practical games have more complex information structure, which renders the common-knowledge closure impractically large to enumerate or even reasonably approximate. We introduce an approach that overcomes this obstacle, by instead working with only low-order knowledge. Our approach allows an agent, upon arriving at an infoset, to basically prune any node that is no longer reachable, thereby massively reducing the game tree size relative to the common-knowledge subgame. We prove that, as is, our approach can increase exploitability compared to the blueprint strategy. However, we develop three avenues by which safety can be guaranteed. First, safety is guaranteed if the results of subgame solves are incorporated back into the blueprint. Second, we provide a method where safety is achieved by limiting the infosets at which subgame solving is performed. Third, we prove that our approach, when applied at every infoset reached during play, achieves a weaker notion of equilibrium, which we coin affine equilibrium, and which may be of independent interest. We show that affine equilibria cannot be exploited by any Nash strategy of the opponent, so an opponent who wishes to exploit must open herself to counter-exploitation. Even without the safety-guaranteeing additions, experiments on medium-sized games show that our approach always reduced exploitability in practical games even when applied at every infoset, and a depth-limited version of it led to---to our knowledge---the first strong AI for the challenge problem dark chess.

Multiwavelet-based Operator Learning for Differential Equations

Gaurav Gupta · Xiongye Xiao · Paul Bogdan

The solution of a partial differential equation can be obtained by computing the inverse operator map between the input and the solution space. Towards this end, we introduce a $\textit{multiwavelet-based neural operator learning scheme}$ that compresses the associated operator's kernel using fine-grained wavelets. By explicitly embedding the inverse multiwavelet filters, we learn the projection of the kernel onto fixed multiwavelet polynomial bases. The projected kernel is trained at multiple scales derived from using repeated computation of multiwavelet transform. This allows learning the complex dependencies at various scales and results in a resolution-independent scheme. Compare to the prior works, we exploit the fundamental properties of the operator's kernel which enable numerically efficient representation. We perform experiments on the Korteweg-de Vries (KdV) equation, Burgers' equation, Darcy Flow, and Navier-Stokes equation. Compared with the existing neural operator approaches, our model shows significantly higher accuracy and achieves state-of-the-art in a range of datasets. For the time-varying equations, the proposed method exhibits a ($2X-10X$) improvement ($0.0018$ ($0.0033$) relative $L2$ error for Burgers' (KdV) equation). By learning the mappings between function spaces, the proposed method has the ability to find the solution of a high-resolution input after learning from lower-resolution data.

Efficiently Learning One Hidden Layer ReLU Networks From Queries

Sitan Chen · Adam Klivans · Raghu Meka

While the problem of PAC learning neural networks from samples has received considerable attention in recent years, in certain settings like model extraction attacks, it is reasonable to imagine having more than just the ability to observe random labeled examples. Motivated by this, we consider the following problem: given \emph{black-box query access} to a neural network $F$, recover $F$ up to some error. Formally, we show that if $F$ is an arbitrary one hidden layer neural network with ReLU activations, there is an algorithm with query complexity and runtime polynomial in all parameters which outputs a network $F’$ achieving low square loss relative to $F$ with respect to the Gaussian measure. While a number of works in the security literature have proposed and empirically demonstrated the effectiveness of certain algorithms for this problem, ours is to the best of our knowledge the first provable guarantee in this vein.

Can we globally optimize cross-validation loss? Quasiconvexity in ridge regression

Will Stephenson · Zachary Frangella · Madeleine Udell · Tamara Broderick

Models like LASSO and ridge regression are extensively used in practice due to their interpretability, ease of use, and strong theoretical guarantees. Cross-validation (CV) is widely used for hyperparameter tuning in these models, but do practical methods minimize the true out-of-sample loss? A recent line of research promises to show that the optimum of the CV loss matches the optimum of the out-of-sample loss (possibly after simple corrections). It remains to show how tractable it is to minimize the CV loss.In the present paper, we show that, in the case of ridge regression, the CV loss may fail to be quasiconvex and thus may have multiple local optima. We can guarantee that the CV loss is quasiconvex in at least one case: when the spectrum of the covariate matrix is nearly flat and the noise in the observed responses is not too high. More generally, we show that quasiconvexity status is independent of many properties of the observed data (response norm, covariate-matrix right singular vectors and singular-value scaling) and has a complex dependence on the few that remain. We empirically confirm our theory using simulated experiments.

Discovering and Achieving Goals via World Models

Russell Mendonca · Oleh Rybkin · Kostas Daniilidis · Danijar Hafner · Deepak Pathak

How can artificial agents learn to solve many diverse tasks in complex visual environments without any supervision? We decompose this question into two challenges: discovering new goals and learning to reliably achieve them. Our proposed agent, Latent Explorer Achiever (LEXA), addresses both challenges by learning a world model from image inputs and using it to train an explorer and an achiever policy via imagined rollouts. Unlike prior methods that explore by reaching previously visited states, the explorer plans to discover unseen surprising states through foresight, which are then used as diverse targets for the achiever to practice. After the unsupervised phase, LEXA solves tasks specified as goal images zero-shot without any additional learning. LEXA substantially outperforms previous approaches to unsupervised goal reaching, both on prior benchmarks and on a new challenging benchmark with 40 test tasks spanning across four robotic manipulation and locomotion domains. LEXA further achieves goals that require interacting with multiple objects in sequence. Project page:

Understanding and Improving Early Stopping for Learning with Noisy Labels

Yingbin Bai · Erkun Yang · Bo Han · Yanhua Yang · Jiatong Li · Yinian Mao · Gang Niu · Tongliang Liu

The memorization effect of deep neural network (DNN) plays a pivotal role in many state-of-the-art label-noise learning methods. To exploit this property, the early stopping trick, which stops the optimization at the early stage of training, is usually adopted. Current methods generally decide the early stopping point by considering a DNN as a whole. However, a DNN can be considered as a composition of a series of layers, and we find that the latter layers in a DNN are much more sensitive to label noise, while their former counterparts are quite robust. Therefore, selecting a stopping point for the whole network may make different DNN layers antagonistically affect each other, thus degrading the final performance. In this paper, we propose to separate a DNN into different parts and progressively train them to address this problem. Instead of the early stopping which trains a whole DNN all at once, we initially train former DNN layers by optimizing the DNN with a relatively large number of epochs. During training, we progressively train the latter DNN layers by using a smaller number of epochs with the preceding layers fixed to counteract the impact of noisy labels. We term the proposed method as progressive early stopping (PES). Despite its simplicity, compared with the traditional early stopping, PES can help to obtain more promising and stable results. Furthermore, by combining PES with existing approaches on noisy label training, we achieve state-of-the-art performance on image classification benchmarks. The code is made public at

Structured in Space, Randomized in Time: Leveraging Dropout in RNNs for Efficient Training

Anup Sarma · Sonali Singh · Huaipan Jiang · Rui Zhang · Mahmut Kandemir · Chita Das

Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs), more specifically their Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) variants, have been widely used as a deep learning tool for tackling sequence-based learning tasks in text and speech. Training of such LSTM applications is computationally intensive due to the recurrent nature of hidden state computation that repeats for each time step. While sparsity in Deep Neural Nets has been widely seen as an opportunity for reducing computation time in both training and inference phases, the usage of non-ReLU activation in LSTM RNNs renders the opportunities for such dynamic sparsity associated with neuron activation and gradient values to be limited or non-existent. In this work, we identify dropout induced sparsity for LSTMs as a suitable mode of computation reduction. Dropout is a widely used regularization mechanism, which randomly drops computed neuron values during each iteration of training. We propose to structure dropout patterns, by dropping out the same set of physical neurons within a batch, resulting in column (row) level hidden state sparsity, which are well amenable to computation reduction at run-time in general-purpose SIMD hardware as well as systolic arrays. We provide a detailed analysis of how the dropout-induced sparsity propagates through the different stages of network training and how it can be leveraged in each stage. More importantly, our proposed approach works as a direct replacement for existing dropout-based application settings. We conduct our experiments for three representative NLP tasks: language modelling on the PTB dataset, OpenNMT based machine translation using the IWSLT De-En and En-Vi datasets, and named entity recognition sequence labelling using the CoNLL-2003 shared task. We demonstrate that our proposed approach can be used to translate dropout-based computation reduction into reduced training time, with improvement ranging from 1.23$\times$ to 1.64$\times$, without sacrificing the target metric.

Pointwise Bounds for Distribution Estimation under Communication Constraints

Wei-Ning Chen · Peter Kairouz · Ayfer Ozgur

We consider the problem of estimating a $d$-dimensional discrete distribution from its samples observed under a $b$-bit communication constraint. In contrast to most previous results that largely focus on the global minimax error, we study the local behavior of the estimation error and provide \emph{pointwise} bounds that depend on the target distribution $p$. In particular, we show that the $\ell_2$ error decays with $O\left(\frac{\lVert p\rVert_{1/2}}{n2^b}\vee \frac{1}{n}\right)$ when $n$ is sufficiently large, hence it is governed by the \emph{half-norm} of $p$ instead of the ambient dimension $d$. For the achievability result, we propose a two-round sequentially interactive estimation scheme that achieves this error rate uniformly over all $p$. Our scheme is based on a novel local refinement idea, where we first use a standard global minimax scheme to localize $p$ and then use the remaining samples to locally refine our estimate.We also develop a new local minimax lower bound with (almost) matching $\ell_2$ error, showing that any interactive scheme must admit a $\Omega\left( \frac{\lVert p \rVert_{{(1+\delta)}/{2}}}{n2^b}\right)$ $\ell_2$ error for any $\delta > 0$ when $n$ is sufficiently large. The lower bound is derived by first finding the best parametric sub-model containing $p$, and then upper bounding the quantized Fisher information under this model. Our upper and lower bounds together indicate that the $\mathsf{H}_{1/2}(p) = \log(\lVert p \rVert_{{1}/{2}})$ bits of communication is both sufficient and necessary to achieve the optimal (centralized) performance, where $\mathsf{H}_{{1}/{2}}(p)$ is the R\'enyi entropy of order $2$. Therefore, under the $\ell_2$ loss, the correct measure of the local communication complexity at $p$ is its R\'enyi entropy.

Rot-Pro: Modeling Transitivity by Projection in Knowledge Graph Embedding

Tengwei Song · Jie Luo · Lei Huang

Knowledge graph embedding models learn the representations of entities and relations in the knowledge graphs for predicting missing links (relations) between entities. Their effectiveness are deeply affected by the ability of modeling and inferring different relation patterns such as symmetry, asymmetry, inversion, composition and transitivity. Although existing models are already able to model many of these relations patterns, transitivity, a very common relation pattern, is still not been fully supported. In this paper, we first theoretically show that the transitive relations can be modeled with projections. We then propose the Rot-Pro model which combines the projection and relational rotation together. We prove that Rot-Pro can infer all the above relation patterns. Experimental results show that the proposed Rot-Pro model effectively learns the transitivity pattern and achieves the state-of-the-art results on the link prediction task in the datasets containing transitive relations.

PLUGIn: A simple algorithm for inverting generative models with recovery guarantees

Babhru Joshi · Xiaowei Li · Yaniv Plan · Ozgur Yilmaz

We consider the problem of recovering an unknown latent code vector under a known generative model. For a $d$-layer deep generative network $\mathcal{G}:\mathbb{R}^{n_0}\rightarrow \mathbb{R}^{n_d}$ with ReLU activation functions, let the observation be $\mathcal{G}(x)+\epsilon$ where $\epsilon$ is noise. We introduce a simple novel algorithm, Partially Linearized Update for Generative Inversion (PLUGIn), to estimate $x$ (and thus $\mathcal{G}(x)$). We prove that, when weights are Gaussian and layer widths $n_i \gtrsim 5^i n_0$ (up to log factors), the algorithm converges geometrically to a neighbourhood of $x$ with high probability. Note the inequality on layer widths allows $n_i>n_{i+1}$ when $i\geq 1$. To our knowledge, this is the first such result for networks with some contractive layers. After a sufficient number of iterations, the estimation errors for both $x$ and $\mathcal{G}(x)$ are at most in the order of $\sqrt{4^dn_0/n_d} \|\epsilon\|$. Thus, the algorithm can denoise when the expansion ratio $n_d/n_0$ is large. Numerical experiments on synthetic data and real data are provided to validate our theoretical results and to illustrate that the algorithm can effectively remove artifacts in an image.

Improving Coherence and Consistency in Neural Sequence Models with Dual-System, Neuro-Symbolic Reasoning

Maxwell Nye · Michael Tessler · Josh Tenenbaum · Brenden Lake

Human reasoning can be understood as an interplay between two systems: the intuitive and associative ("System 1") and the deliberative and logical ("System 2"). Neural sequence models---which have been increasingly successful at performing complex, structured tasks---exhibit the advantages and failure modes of System 1: they are fast and learn patterns from data, but are often inconsistent and incoherent. In this work, we seek a lightweight, training-free means of improving existing System 1-like sequence models by adding System 2-inspired logical reasoning. We explore several variations on this theme in which candidate generations from a neural sequence model are examined for logical consistency by a symbolic reasoning module, which can either accept or reject the generations. Our approach uses neural inference to mediate between the neural System 1 and the logical System 2. Results in robust story generation and grounded instruction-following show that this approach can increase the coherence and accuracy of neurally-based generations.

Closing the Gap: Tighter Analysis of Alternating Stochastic Gradient Methods for Bilevel Problems

Tianyi Chen · Yuejiao Sun · Wotao Yin

Stochastic nested optimization, including stochastic compositional, min-max, and bilevel optimization, is gaining popularity in many machine learning applications. While the three problems share a nested structure, existing works often treat them separately, thus developing problem-specific algorithms and analyses. Among various exciting developments, simple SGD-type updates (potentially on multiple variables) are still prevalent in solving this class of nested problems, but they are believed to have a slower convergence rate than non-nested problems. This paper unifies several SGD-type updates for stochastic nested problems into a single SGD approach that we term ALternating Stochastic gradient dEscenT (ALSET) method. By leveraging the hidden smoothness of the problem, this paper presents a tighter analysis of ALSET for stochastic nested problems. Under the new analysis, to achieve an $\epsilon$-stationary point of the nested problem, it requires ${\cal O}(\epsilon^{-2})$ samples in total. Under certain regularity conditions, applying our results to stochastic compositional, min-max, and reinforcement learning problems either improves or matches the best-known sample complexity in the respective cases. Our results explain why simple SGD-type algorithms in stochastic nested problems all work very well in practice without the need for further modifications.

Fast Training Method for Stochastic Compositional Optimization Problems

Hongchang Gao · Heng Huang

The stochastic compositional optimization problem covers a wide range of machine learning models, such as sparse additive models and model-agnostic meta-learning. Thus, it is necessary to develop efficient methods for its optimization. Existing methods for the stochastic compositional optimization problem only focus on the single machine scenario, which is far from satisfactory when data are distributed on different devices. To address this problem, we propose novel decentralized stochastic compositional gradient descent methods to efficiently train the large-scale stochastic compositional optimization problem. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first one facilitating decentralized training for this kind of problem. Furthermore, we provide the convergence analysis for our methods, which shows that the convergence rate of our methods can achieve linear speedup with respect to the number of devices. At last, we apply our decentralized training methods to the model-agnostic meta-learning problem, and the experimental results confirm the superior performance of our methods.

Noether’s Learning Dynamics: Role of Symmetry Breaking in Neural Networks

Hidenori Tanaka · Daniel Kunin

In nature, symmetry governs regularities, while symmetry breaking brings texture. In artificial neural networks, symmetry has been a central design principle to efficiently capture regularities in the world, but the role of symmetry breaking is not well understood. Here, we develop a theoretical framework to study the "geometry of learning dynamics" in neural networks, and reveal a key mechanism of explicit symmetry breaking behind the efficiency and stability of modern neural networks. To build this understanding, we model the discrete learning dynamics of gradient descent using a continuous-time Lagrangian formulation, in which the learning rule corresponds to the kinetic energy and the loss function corresponds to the potential energy. Then, we identify "kinetic symmetry breaking" (KSB), the condition when the kinetic energy explicitly breaks the symmetry of the potential function. We generalize Noether’s theorem known in physics to take into account KSB and derive the resulting motion of the Noether charge: "Noether's Learning Dynamics" (NLD). Finally, we apply NLD to neural networks with normalization layers and reveal how KSB introduces a mechanism of implicit adaptive optimization, establishing an analogy between learning dynamics induced by normalization layers and RMSProp. Overall, through the lens of Lagrangian mechanics, we have established a theoretical foundation to discover geometric design principles for the learning dynamics of neural networks.

Increasing Liquid State Machine Performance with Edge-of-Chaos Dynamics Organized by Astrocyte-modulated Plasticity

Vladimir Ivanov · Konstantinos Michmizos

The liquid state machine (LSM) combines low training complexity and biological plausibility, which has made it an attractive machine learning framework for edge and neuromorphic computing paradigms. Originally proposed as a model of brain computation, the LSM tunes its internal weights without backpropagation of gradients, which results in lower performance compared to multi-layer neural networks. Recent findings in neuroscience suggest that astrocytes, a long-neglected non-neuronal brain cell, modulate synaptic plasticity and brain dynamics, tuning brain networks to the vicinity of the computationally optimal critical phase transition between order and chaos. Inspired by this disruptive understanding of how brain networks self-tune, we propose the neuron-astrocyte liquid state machine (NALSM) that addresses under-performance through self-organized near-critical dynamics. Similar to its biological counterpart, the astrocyte model integrates neuronal activity and provides global feedback to spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP), which self-organizes NALSM dynamics around a critical branching factor that is associated with the edge-of-chaos. We demonstrate that NALSM achieves state-of-the-art accuracy versus comparable LSM methods, without the need for data-specific hand-tuning. With a top accuracy of $97.61\%$ on MNIST, $97.51\%$ on N-MNIST, and $85.84\%$ on Fashion-MNIST, NALSM achieved comparable performance to current fully-connected multi-layer spiking neural networks trained via backpropagation. Our findings suggest that the further development of brain-inspired machine learning methods has the potential to reach the performance of deep learning, with the added benefits of supporting robust and energy-efficient neuromorphic computing on the edge.

Fast Doubly-Adaptive MCMC to Estimate the Gibbs Partition Function with Weak Mixing Time Bounds

Shahrzad Haddadan · Yue Zhuang · Cyrus Cousins · Eli Upfal

We present a novel method for reducing the computational complexity of rigorously estimating the partition functions of Gibbs (or Boltzmann) distributions, which arise ubiquitously in probabilistic graphical models. A major obstacle to applying the Gibbs distribution in practice is the need to estimate their partition function (normalizing constant). The state of the art in addressing this problem is multi-stage algorithms which consist of a cooling schedule and a mean estimator in each step of the schedule. While the cooling schedule in these algorithms is adaptive, the mean estimate computations use MCMC as a black-box to draw approximately-independent samples. Here we develop a doubly adaptive approach, combining the adaptive cooling schedule with an adaptive MCMC mean estimator, whose number of Markov chain steps adapts dynamically to the underlying chain. Through rigorous theoretical analysis, we prove that our method outperforms the state of the art algorithms in several factors: (1) The computational complexity of our method is smaller; (2) Our method is less sensitive to loose bounds on mixing times, an inherent components in these algorithms; and (3) The improvement obtained by our method is particularly significant in the most challenging regime of high precision estimates. We demonstrate the advantage of our method in experiments run on classic factor graphs, such as voting models and Ising models.

ReLU Regression with Massart Noise

Ilias Diakonikolas · Jong Ho Park · Christos Tzamos

We study the fundamental problem of ReLU regression, where the goal is to fit Rectified Linear Units (ReLUs) to data. This supervised learning task is efficiently solvable in the realizable setting, but is known to be computationally hard with adversarial label noise. In this work, we focus on ReLU regression in the Massart noise model, a natural and well-studied semi-random noise model. In this model, the label of every point is generated according to a function in the class, but an adversary is allowed to change this value arbitrarily with some probability, which is {\em at most} $\eta < 1/2$. We develop an efficient algorithm that achieves exact parameter recovery in this model under mild anti-concentration assumptions on the underlying distribution. Such assumptions are necessary for exact recovery to be information-theoretically possible. We demonstrate that our algorithm significantly outperforms naive applications of $\ell_1$ and $\ell_2$ regression on both synthetic and real data.

Unintended Selection: Persistent Qualification Rate Disparities and Interventions

Reilly Raab · Yang Liu

Realistically---and equitably---modeling the dynamics of group-level disparities in machine learning remains an open problem. In particular, we desire models that do not suppose inherent differences between artificial groups of people---but rather endogenize disparities by appeal to unequal initial conditions of insular subpopulations. In this paper, agents each have a real-valued feature $X$ (e.g., credit score) informed by a ``true'' binary label $Y$ representing qualification (e.g., for a loan). Each agent alternately (1) receives a binary classification label $\hat{Y}$ (e.g., loan approval) from a Bayes-optimal machine learning classifier observing $X$ and (2) may update their qualification $Y$ by imitating successful strategies (e.g., seek a raise) within an isolated group $G$ of agents to which they belong. We consider the disparity of qualification rates $\Pr(Y=1)$ between different groups and how this disparity changes subject to a sequence of Bayes-optimal classifiers repeatedly retrained on the global population. We model the evolving qualification rates of each subpopulation (group) using the replicator equation, which derives from a class of imitation processes. We show that differences in qualification rates between subpopulations can persist indefinitely for a set of non-trivial equilibrium states due to uniformed classifier deployments, even when groups are identical in all aspects except initial qualification densities. We next simulate the effects of commonly proposed fairness interventions on this dynamical system along with a new feedback control mechanism capable of permanently eliminating group-level qualification rate disparities. We conclude by discussing the limitations of our model and findings and by outlining potential future work.

Fast Bayesian Inference for Gaussian Cox Processes via Path Integral Formulation

Hideaki Kim

Gaussian Cox processes are widely-used point process models that use a Gaussian process to describe the Bayesian a priori uncertainty present in latent intensity functions. In this paper, we propose a novel Bayesian inference scheme for Gaussian Cox processes by exploiting a conceptually-intuitive {¥it path integral} formulation. The proposed scheme does not rely on domain discretization, scales linearly with the number of observed events, has a lower complexity than the state-of-the-art variational Bayesian schemes with respect to the number of inducing points, and is applicable to a wide range of Gaussian Cox processes with various types of link functions. Our scheme is especially beneficial under the multi-dimensional input setting, where the number of inducing points tends to be large. We evaluate our scheme on synthetic and real-world data, and show that it achieves comparable predictive accuracy while being tens of times faster than reference methods.

Robust Deep Reinforcement Learning through Adversarial Loss

Tuomas Oikarinen · Wang Zhang · Alexandre Megretski · Luca Daniel · Tsui-Wei Weng

Recent studies have shown that deep reinforcement learning agents are vulnerable to small adversarial perturbations on the agent's inputs, which raises concerns about deploying such agents in the real world. To address this issue, we propose RADIAL-RL, a principled framework to train reinforcement learning agents with improved robustness against $l_p$-norm bounded adversarial attacks. Our framework is compatible with popular deep reinforcement learning algorithms and we demonstrate its performance with deep Q-learning, A3C and PPO. We experiment on three deep RL benchmarks (Atari, MuJoCo and ProcGen) to show the effectiveness of our robust training algorithm. Our RADIAL-RL agents consistently outperform prior methods when tested against attacks of varying strength and are more computationally efficient to train. In addition, we propose a new evaluation method called Greedy-Worst-Case Reward (GWC) to measure attack agnostic robustness of deep RL agents. We show that GWC can be evaluated efficiently and is a good estimate of the reward under the worst possible sequence of adversarial attacks. All code used for our experiments is available at

Learning to delegate for large-scale vehicle routing

Sirui Li · Zhongxia Yan · Cathy Wu

Vehicle routing problems (VRPs) form a class of combinatorial problems with wide practical applications. While previous heuristic or learning-based works achieve decent solutions on small problem instances, their performance deteriorates in large problems. This article presents a novel learning-augmented local search framework to solve large-scale VRP. The method iteratively improves the solution by identifying appropriate subproblems and $delegating$ their improvement to a black box subsolver. At each step, we leverage spatial locality to consider only a linear number of subproblems, rather than exponential. We frame subproblem selection as regression and train a Transformer on a generated training set of problem instances. Our method accelerates state-of-the-art VRP solvers by 10x to 100x while achieving competitive solution qualities for VRPs with sizes ranging from 500 to 3000. Learned subproblem selection offers a 1.5x to 2x speedup over heuristic or random selection. Our results generalize to a variety of VRP distributions, variants, and solvers.

TöRF: Time-of-Flight Radiance Fields for Dynamic Scene View Synthesis

Benjamin Attal · Eliot Laidlaw · Aaron Gokaslan · Changil Kim · Christian Richardt · James Tompkin · Matthew O'Toole

Neural networks can represent and accurately reconstruct radiance fields for static 3D scenes (e.g., NeRF). Several works extend these to dynamic scenes captured with monocular video, with promising performance. However, the monocular setting is known to be an under-constrained problem, and so methods rely on data-driven priors for reconstructing dynamic content. We replace these priors with measurements from a time-of-flight (ToF) camera, and introduce a neural representation based on an image formation model for continuous-wave ToF cameras. Instead of working with processed depth maps, we model the raw ToF sensor measurements to improve reconstruction quality and avoid issues with low reflectance regions, multi-path interference, and a sensor's limited unambiguous depth range. We show that this approach improves robustness of dynamic scene reconstruction to erroneous calibration and large motions, and discuss the benefits and limitations of integrating RGB+ToF sensors now available on modern smartphones.

Which Mutual-Information Representation Learning Objectives are Sufficient for Control?

Kate Rakelly · Abhishek Gupta · Carlos Florensa · Sergey Levine

Mutual information (MI) maximization provides an appealing formalism for learning representations of data. In the context of reinforcement learning (RL), such representations can accelerate learning by discarding irrelevant and redundant information, while retaining the information necessary for control. Much prior work on these methods has addressed the practical difficulties of estimating MI from samples of high-dimensional observations, while comparatively less is understood about which MI objectives yield representations that are sufficient for RL from a theoretical perspective. In this paper, we formalize the sufficiency of a state representation for learning and representing the optimal policy, and study several popular MI based objectives through this lens. Surprisingly, we find that two of these objectives can yield insufficient representations given mild and common assumptions on the structure of the MDP. We corroborate our theoretical results with empirical experiments on a simulated game environment with visual observations.

Unbiased Classification through Bias-Contrastive and Bias-Balanced Learning

Youngkyu Hong · Eunho Yang

Datasets for training machine learning models tend to be biased unless the data is collected with complete care. In such a biased dataset, models are susceptible to making predictions based on the biased features of the data. The biased model fails to generalize to the case where correlations between biases and targets are shifted. To mitigate this, we propose Bias-Contrastive (BiasCon) loss based on the contrastive learning framework, which effectively leverages the knowledge of bias labels. We further suggest Bias-Balanced (BiasBal) regression which trains the classification model toward the data distribution with balanced target-bias correlation. Furthermore, we propose Soft Bias-Contrastive (SoftCon) loss which handles the dataset without bias labels by softening the pair assignment of the BiasCon loss based on the distance in the feature space of the bias-capturing model. Our experiments show that our proposed methods significantly improve previous debiasing methods in various realistic datasets.

Generalized Linear Bandits with Local Differential Privacy

Yuxuan Han · Zhipeng Liang · Yang Wang · Jiheng Zhang

Contextual bandit algorithms are useful in personalized online decision-making. However, many applications such as personalized medicine and online advertising require the utilization of individual-specific information for effective learning, while user's data should remain private from the server due to privacy concerns. This motivates the introduction of local differential privacy (LDP), a stringent notion in privacy, to contextual bandits. In this paper, we design LDP algorithms for stochastic generalized linear bandits to achieve the same regret bound as in non-privacy settings. Our main idea is to develop a stochastic gradient-based estimator and update mechanism to ensure LDP. We then exploit the flexibility of stochastic gradient descent (SGD), whose theoretical guarantee for bandit problems is rarely explored, in dealing with generalized linear bandits. We also develop an estimator and update mechanism based on Ordinary Least Square (OLS) for linear bandits. Finally, we conduct experiments with both simulation and real-world datasets to demonstrate the consistently superb performance of our algorithms under LDP constraints with reasonably small parameters $(\varepsilon, \delta)$ to ensure strong privacy protection.

Efficiently Identifying Task Groupings for Multi-Task Learning

Chris Fifty · Ehsan Amid · Zhe Zhao · Tianhe Yu · Rohan Anil · Chelsea Finn

Multi-task learning can leverage information learned by one task to benefit the training of other tasks. Despite this capacity, naively training all tasks together in one model often degrades performance, and exhaustively searching through combinations of task groupings can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, efficiently identifying the tasks that would benefit from training together remains a challenging design question without a clear solution. In this paper, we suggest an approach to select which tasks should train together in multi-task learning models. Our method determines task groupings in a single run by training all tasks together and quantifying the effect to which one task's gradient would affect another task's loss. On the large-scale Taskonomy computer vision dataset, we find this method can decrease test loss by 10.0% compared to simply training all tasks together while operating 11.6 times faster than a state-of-the-art task grouping method.

A Unified View of cGANs with and without Classifiers

Si-An Chen · Chun-Liang Li · Hsuan-Tien Lin

Conditional Generative Adversarial Networks (cGANs) are implicit generative models which allow to sample from class-conditional distributions. Existing cGANs are based on a wide range of different discriminator designs and training objectives. One popular design in earlier works is to include a classifier during training with the assumption that good classifiers can help eliminate samples generated with wrong classes. Nevertheless, including classifiers in cGANs often comes with a side effect of only generating easy-to-classify samples. Recently, some representative cGANs avoid the shortcoming and reach state-of-the-art performance without having classifiers. Somehow it remains unanswered whether the classifiers can be resurrected to design better cGANs. In this work, we demonstrate that classifiers can be properly leveraged to improve cGANs. We start by using the decomposition of the joint probability distribution to connect the goals of cGANs and classification as a unified framework. The framework, along with a classic energy model to parameterize distributions, justifies the use of classifiers for cGANs in a principled manner. It explains several popular cGAN variants, such as ACGAN, ProjGAN, and ContraGAN, as special cases with different levels of approximations, which provides a unified view and brings new insights to understanding cGANs. Experimental results demonstrate that the design inspired by the proposed framework outperforms state-of-the-art cGANs on multiple benchmark datasets, especially on the most challenging ImageNet. The code is available at

Improving Self-supervised Learning with Automated Unsupervised Outlier Arbitration

Yu Wang · Jingyang Lin · Jingjing Zou · Yingwei Pan · Ting Yao · Tao Mei

Our work reveals a structured shortcoming of the existing mainstream self-supervised learning methods. Whereas self-supervised learning frameworks usually take the prevailing perfect instance level invariance hypothesis for granted, we carefully investigate the pitfalls behind. Particularly, we argue that the existing augmentation pipeline for generating multiple positive views naturally introduces out-of-distribution (OOD) samples that undermine the learning of the downstream tasks. Generating diverse positive augmentations on the input does not always pay off in benefiting downstream tasks. To overcome this inherent deficiency, we introduce a lightweight latent variable model UOTA, targeting the view sampling issue for self-supervised learning. UOTA adaptively searches for the most important sampling region to produce views, and provides viable choice for outlier-robust self-supervised learning approaches. Our method directly generalizes to many mainstream self-supervised learning approaches, regardless of the loss's nature contrastive or not. We empirically show UOTA's advantage over the state-of-the-art self-supervised paradigms with evident margin, which well justifies the existence of the OOD sample issue embedded in the existing approaches. Especially, we theoretically prove that the merits of the proposal boil down to guaranteed estimator variance and bias reduction. Code is available:

Dynamic COVID risk assessment accounting for community virus exposure from a spatial-temporal transmission model

Yuan Chen · Wenbo Fei · Qinxia Wang · Donglin Zeng · Yuanjia Wang

COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented negative impacts on our society, including further exposing inequity and disparity in public health. To study the impact of socioeconomic factors on COVID transmission, we first propose a spatial-temporal model to examine the socioeconomic heterogeneity and spatial correlation of COVID-19 transmission at the community level. Second, to assess the individual risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes after a positive diagnosis, we propose a dynamic, varying-coefficient model that integrates individual-level risk factors from electronic health records (EHRs) with community-level risk factors. The underlying neighborhood prevalence of infections (both symptomatic and pre-symptomatic) predicted from the previous spatial-temporal model is included in the individual risk assessment so as to better capture the background risk of virus exposure for each individual. We design a weighting scheme to mitigate multiple selection biases inherited in EHRs of COVID patients. We analyze COVID transmission data in New York City (NYC, the epicenter of the first surge in the United States) and EHRs from NYC hospitals, where time-varying effects of community risk factors and significant interactions between individual- and community-level risk factors are detected. By examining the socioeconomic disparity of infection risks and interaction among the risk factors, our methods can assist public health decision-making and facilitate better clinical management of COVID patients.

Automated Dynamic Mechanism Design

Hanrui Zhang · Vincent Conitzer

We study Bayesian automated mechanism design in unstructured dynamic environments, where a principal repeatedly interacts with an agent, and takes actions based on the strategic agent's report of the current state of the world. Both the principal and the agent can have arbitrary and potentially different valuations for the actions taken, possibly also depending on the actual state of the world. Moreover, at any time, the state of the world may evolve arbitrarily depending on the action taken by the principal. The goal is to compute an optimal mechanism which maximizes the principal's utility in the face of the self-interested strategic agent.We give an efficient algorithm for computing optimal mechanisms, with or without payments, under different individual-rationality constraints, when the time horizon is constant. Our algorithm is based on a sophisticated linear program formulation, which can be customized in various ways to accommodate richer constraints. For environments with large time horizons, we show that the principal's optimal utility is hard to approximate within a certain constant factor, complementing our algorithmic result. These results paint a relatively complete picture for automated dynamic mechanism design in unstructured environments. We further consider a special case of the problem where the agent is myopic, and give a refined efficient algorithm whose time complexity scales linearly in the time horizon. In the full version of the paper, we show that memoryless mechanisms, which are without loss of generality optimal in Markov decision processes without strategic behavior, do not provide a good solution for our problem, in terms of both optimality and computational tractability. Moreover, we present experimental results where our algorithms are applied to synthetic dynamic environments with different characteristics, which not only serve as a proof of concept for our algorithms, but also exhibit intriguing phenomena in dynamic mechanism design.

Robust Predictable Control

Ben Eysenbach · Russ Salakhutdinov · Sergey Levine

Many of the challenges facing today's reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms, such as robustness, generalization, transfer, and computational efficiency are closely related to compression. Prior work has convincingly argued why minimizing information is useful in the supervised learning setting, but standard RL algorithms lack an explicit mechanism for compression. The RL setting is unique because (1) its sequential nature allows an agent to use past information to avoid looking at future observations and (2) the agent can optimize its behavior to prefer states where decision making requires few bits. We take advantage of these properties to propose a method (RPC) for learning simple policies. This method brings together ideas from information bottlenecks, model-based RL, and bits-back coding into a simple and theoretically-justified algorithm. Our method jointly optimizes a latent-space model and policy to be self-consistent, such that the policy avoids states where the model is inaccurate. We demonstrate that our method achieves much tighter compression than prior methods, achieving up to 5$\times$ higher reward than a standard information bottleneck when constrained to use just 0.3 bits per observation. We also demonstrate that our method learns policies that are more robust and generalize better to new tasks.

Fast Policy Extragradient Methods for Competitive Games with Entropy Regularization

Shicong Cen · Yuting Wei · Yuejie Chi

This paper investigates the problem of computing the equilibrium of competitive games, which is often modeled as a constrained saddle-point optimization problem with probability simplex constraints. Despite recent efforts in understanding the last-iterate convergence of extragradient methods in the unconstrained setting, the theoretical underpinnings of these methods in the constrained settings, especially those using multiplicative updates, remain highly inadequate, even when the objective function is bilinear. Motivated by the algorithmic role of entropy regularization in single-agent reinforcement learning and game theory, we develop provably efficient extragradient methods to find the quantal response equilibrium (QRE)---which are solutions to zero-sum two-player matrix games with entropy regularization---at a linear rate. The proposed algorithms can be implemented in a decentralized manner, where each player executes symmetric and multiplicative updates iteratively using its own payoff without observing the opponent's actions directly. In addition, by controlling the knob of entropy regularization, the proposed algorithms can locate an approximate Nash equilibrium of the unregularized matrix game at a sublinear rate without assuming the Nash equilibrium to be unique. Our methods also lead to efficient policy extragradient algorithms for solving entropy-regularized zero-sum Markov games at a linear rate. All of our convergence rates are nearly dimension-free, which are independent of the size of the state and action spaces up to logarithm factors, highlighting the positive role of entropy regularization for accelerating convergence.

Fair Sequential Selection Using Supervised Learning Models

Mahdi Khalili · Xueru Zhang · Mahed Abroshan

We consider a selection problem where sequentially arrived applicants apply for a limited number of positions/jobs. At each time step, a decision maker accepts or rejects the given applicant using a pre-trained supervised learning model until all the vacant positions are filled. In this paper, we discuss whether the fairness notions (e.g., equal opportunity, statistical parity, etc.) that are commonly used in classification problems are suitable for the sequential selection problems. In particular, we show that even with a pre-trained model that satisfies the common fairness notions, the selection outcomes may still be biased against certain demographic groups. This observation implies that the fairness notions used in classification problems are not suitable for a selection problem where the applicants compete for a limited number of positions. We introduce a new fairness notion, ``Equal Selection (ES),'' suitable for sequential selection problems and propose a post-processing approach to satisfy the ES fairness notion. We also consider a setting where the applicants have privacy concerns, and the decision maker only has access to the noisy version of sensitive attributes. In this setting, we can show that the \textit{perfect} ES fairness can still be attained under certain conditions.

Momentum Centering and Asynchronous Update for Adaptive Gradient Methods

Juntang Zhuang · Yifan Ding · Tommy Tang · Nicha Dvornek · Sekhar C Tatikonda · James Duncan

We propose ACProp (Asynchronous-centering-Prop), an adaptive optimizer which combines centering of second momentum and asynchronous update (e.g. for $t$-th update, denominator uses information up to step $t-1$, while numerator uses gradient at $t$-th step). ACProp has both strong theoretical properties and empirical performance. With the example by Reddi et al. (2018), we show that asynchronous optimizers (e.g. AdaShift, ACProp) have weaker convergence condition than synchronous optimizers (e.g. Adam, RMSProp, AdaBelief); within asynchronous optimizers, we show that centering of second momentum further weakens the convergence condition. We demonstrate that ACProp has a convergence rate of $O(\frac{1}{\sqrt{T}})$ for the stochastic non-convex case, which matches the oracle rate and outperforms the $O(\frac{logT}{\sqrt{T}})$ rate of RMSProp and Adam. We validate ACProp in extensive empirical studies: ACProp outperforms both SGD and other adaptive optimizers in image classification with CNN, and outperforms well-tuned adaptive optimizers in the training of various GAN models, reinforcement learning and transformers. To sum up, ACProp has good theoretical properties including weak convergence condition and optimal convergence rate, and strong empirical performance including good generalization like SGD and training stability like Adam. We provide the implementation at \url{}.

Asymptotically Exact Error Characterization of Offline Policy Evaluation with Misspecified Linear Models

Kohei Miyaguchi

We consider the problem of offline policy evaluation~(OPE) with Markov decision processes~(MDPs), where the goal is to estimate the utility of given decision-making policies based on static datasets. Recently, theoretical understanding of OPE has been rapidly advanced under (approximate) realizability assumptions, i.e., where the environments of interest are well approximated with the given hypothetical models. On the other hand, the OPE under unrealizability has not been well understood as much as in the realizable setting despite its importance in real-world applications.To address this issue, we study the behavior of a simple existing OPE method called the linear direct method~(DM) under the unrealizability. Consequently, we obtain an asymptotically exact characterization of the OPE error in a doubly robust form. Leveraging this result, we also establish the nonparametric consistency of the tile-coding estimators under quite mild assumptions.

Topographic VAEs learn Equivariant Capsules

T. Anderson Keller · Max Welling

In this work we seek to bridge the concepts of topographic organization and equivariance in neural networks. To accomplish this, we introduce the Topographic VAE: a novel method for efficiently training deep generative models with topographically organized latent variables. We show that such a model indeed learns to organize its activations according to salient characteristics such as digit class, width, and style on MNIST. Furthermore, through topographic organization over time (i.e. temporal coherence), we demonstrate how predefined latent space transformation operators can be encouraged for observed transformed input sequences -- a primitive form of unsupervised learned equivariance. We demonstrate that this model successfully learns sets of approximately equivariant features (i.e. "capsules") directly from sequences and achieves higher likelihood on correspondingly transforming test sequences. Equivariance is verified quantitatively by measuring the approximate commutativity of the inference network and the sequence transformations. Finally, we demonstrate approximate equivariance to complex transformations, expanding upon the capabilities of existing group equivariant neural networks.

On Path Integration of Grid Cells: Group Representation and Isotropic Scaling

Ruiqi Gao · Jianwen Xie · Xue-Xin Wei · Song-Chun Zhu · Ying Nian Wu

Understanding how grid cells perform path integration calculations remains a fundamental problem. In this paper, we conduct theoretical analysis of a general representation model of path integration by grid cells, where the 2D self-position is encoded as a higher dimensional vector, and the 2D self-motion is represented by a general transformation of the vector. We identify two conditions on the transformation. One is a group representation condition that is necessary for path integration. The other is an isotropic scaling condition that ensures locally conformal embedding, so that the error in the vector representation translates conformally to the error in the 2D self-position. Then we investigate the simplest transformation, i.e., the linear transformation, uncover its explicit algebraic and geometric structure as matrix Lie group of rotation, and explore the connection between the isotropic scaling condition and a special class of hexagon grid patterns. Finally, with our optimization-based approach, we manage to learn hexagon grid patterns that share similar properties of the grid cells in the rodent brain. The learned model is capable of accurate long distance path integration. Code is available at

COMBO: Conservative Offline Model-Based Policy Optimization

Tianhe Yu · Aviral Kumar · Rafael Rafailov · Aravind Rajeswaran · Sergey Levine · Chelsea Finn

Model-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms, which learn a dynamics model from logged experience and perform conservative planning under the learned model, have emerged as a promising paradigm for offline reinforcement learning (offline RL). However, practical variants of such model-based algorithms rely on explicit uncertainty quantification for incorporating conservatism. Uncertainty estimation with complex models, such as deep neural networks, can be difficult and unreliable. We empirically find that uncertainty estimation is not accurate and leads to poor performance in certain scenarios in offline model-based RL. We overcome this limitation by developing a new model-based offline RL algorithm, COMBO, that trains a value function using both the offline dataset and data generated using rollouts under the model while also additionally regularizing the value function on out-of-support state-action tuples generated via model rollouts. This results in a conservative estimate of the value function for out-of-support state-action tuples, without requiring explicit uncertainty estimation. Theoretically, we show that COMBO satisfies a policy improvement guarantee in the offline setting. Through extensive experiments, we find that COMBO attains greater performance compared to prior offline RL on problems that demand generalization to related but previously unseen tasks, and also consistently matches or outperforms prior offline RL methods on widely studied offline RL benchmarks, including image-based tasks.

Time-series Generation by Contrastive Imitation

Daniel Jarrett · Ioana Bica · Mihaela van der Schaar

Consider learning a generative model for time-series data. The sequential setting poses a unique challenge: Not only should the generator capture the conditional dynamics of (stepwise) transitions, but its open-loop rollouts should also preserve the joint distribution of (multi-step) trajectories. On one hand, autoregressive models trained by MLE allow learning and computing explicit transition distributions, but suffer from compounding error during rollouts. On the other hand, adversarial models based on GAN training alleviate such exposure bias, but transitions are implicit and hard to assess. In this work, we study a generative framework that seeks to combine the strengths of both: Motivated by a moment-matching objective to mitigate compounding error, we optimize a local (but forward-looking) transition policy, where the reinforcement signal is provided by a global (but stepwise-decomposable) energy model trained by contrastive estimation. At training, the two components are learned cooperatively, avoiding the instabilities typical of adversarial objectives. At inference, the learned policy serves as the generator for iterative sampling, and the learned energy serves as a trajectory-level measure for evaluating sample quality. By expressly training a policy to imitate sequential behavior of time-series features in a dataset, this approach embodies "generation by imitation". Theoretically, we illustrate the correctness of this formulation and the consistency of the algorithm. Empirically, we evaluate its ability to generate predictively useful samples from real-world datasets, verifying that it performs at the standard of existing benchmarks.

Global Convergence to Local Minmax Equilibrium in Classes of Nonconvex Zero-Sum Games

Tanner Fiez · Lillian Ratliff · Eric Mazumdar · Evan Faulkner · Adhyyan Narang

We study gradient descent-ascent learning dynamics with timescale separation ($\tau$-GDA) in unconstrained continuous action zero-sum games where the minimizing player faces a nonconvex optimization problem and the maximizing player optimizes a Polyak-Lojasiewicz (PL) or strongly-concave (SC) objective. In contrast to past work on gradient-based learning in nonconvex-PL/SC zero-sum games, we assess convergence in relation to natural game-theoretic equilibria instead of only notions of stationarity. In pursuit of this goal, we prove that the only locally stable points of the $\tau$-GDA continuous-time limiting system correspond to strict local minmax equilibria in each class of games. For these classes of games, we exploit timescale separation to construct a potential function that when combined with the stability characterization and an asymptotic saddle avoidance result gives a global asymptotic almost-sure convergence guarantee for the discrete-time gradient descent-ascent update to a set of the strict local minmax equilibrium. Moreover, we provide convergence rates for the gradient descent-ascent dynamics with timescale separation to approximate stationary points.

Clockwork Variational Autoencoders

Vaibhav Saxena · Jimmy Ba · Danijar Hafner

Deep learning has enabled algorithms to generate realistic images. However, accurately predicting long video sequences requires understanding long-term dependencies and remains an open challenge. While existing video prediction models succeed at generating sharp images, they tend to fail at accurately predicting far into the future. We introduce the Clockwork VAE (CW-VAE), a video prediction model that leverages a hierarchy of latent sequences, where higher levels tick at slower intervals. We demonstrate the benefits of both hierarchical latents and temporal abstraction on 4 diverse video prediction datasets with sequences of up to 1000 frames, where CW-VAE outperforms top video prediction models. Additionally, we propose a Minecraft benchmark for long-term video prediction. We conduct several experiments to gain insights into CW-VAE and confirm that slower levels learn to represent objects that change more slowly in the video, and faster levels learn to represent faster objects.

Metadata-based Multi-Task Bandits with Bayesian Hierarchical Models

Runzhe Wan · Lin Ge · Rui Song

How to explore efficiently is a central problem in multi-armed bandits. In this paper, we introduce the metadata-based multi-task bandit problem, where the agent needs to solve a large number of related multi-armed bandit tasks and can leverage some task-specific features (i.e., metadata) to share knowledge across tasks. As a general framework, we propose to capture task relations through the lens of Bayesian hierarchical models, upon which a Thompson sampling algorithm is designed to efficiently learn task relations, share information, and minimize the cumulative regrets. Two concrete examples for Gaussian bandits and Bernoulli bandits are carefully analyzed. The Bayes regret for Gaussian bandits clearly demonstrates the benefits of information sharing with our algorithm. The proposed method is further supported by extensive experiments.

Differentially Private Model Personalization

Prateek Jain · John Rush · Adam Smith · Shuang Song · Abhradeep Guha Thakurta

We study personalization of supervised learning with user-level differential privacy. Consider a setting with many users, each of whom has a training data set drawn from their own distribution $P_i$. Assuming some shared structure among the problems $P_i$, can users collectively learn the shared structure---and solve their tasks better than they could individually---while preserving the privacy of their data? We formulate this question using joint, user-level differential privacy---that is, we control what is leaked about each user's entire data set. We provide algorithms that exploit popular non-private approaches in this domain like the Almost-No-Inner-Loop (ANIL) method, and give strong user-level privacy guarantees for our general approach. When the problems $P_i$ are linear regression problems with each user's regression vector lying in a common, unknown low-dimensional subspace, we show that our efficient algorithms satisfy nearly optimal estimation error guarantees. We also establish a general, information-theoretic upper bound via an exponential mechanism-based algorithm.

Rates of Estimation of Optimal Transport Maps using Plug-in Estimators via Barycentric Projections

NABARUN DEB · Promit Ghosal · Bodhisattva Sen

Optimal transport maps between two probability distributions $\mu$ and $\nu$ on $\R^d$ have found extensive applications in both machine learning and statistics. In practice, these maps need to be estimated from data sampled according to $\mu$ and $\nu$. Plug-in estimators are perhaps most popular in estimating transport maps in the field of computational optimal transport. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the rates of convergences for general plug-in estimators defined via barycentric projections. Our main contribution is a new stability estimate for barycentric projections which proceeds under minimal smoothness assumptions and can be used to analyze general plug-in estimators. We illustrate the usefulness of this stability estimate by first providing rates of convergence for the natural discrete-discrete and semi-discrete estimators of optimal transport maps. We then use the same stability estimate to show that, under additional smoothness assumptions of Besov type or Sobolev type, wavelet based or kernel smoothed plug-in estimators respectively speed up the rates of convergence and significantly mitigate the curse of dimensionality suffered by the natural discrete-discrete/semi-discrete estimators. As a by-product of our analysis, we also obtain faster rates of convergence for plug-in estimators of $W_2(\mu,\nu)$, the Wasserstein distance between $\mu$ and $\nu$, under the aforementioned smoothness assumptions, thereby complementing recent results in Chizat et al. (2020). Finally, we illustrate the applicability of our results in obtaining rates of convergence for Wasserstein barycenters between two probability distributions and obtaining asymptotic detection thresholds for some recent optimal-transport based tests of independence.

Scalable and Stable Surrogates for Flexible Classifiers with Fairness Constraints

Henry C Bendekgey · Erik Sudderth

We investigate how fairness relaxations scale to flexible classifiers like deep neural networks for images and text. We analyze an easy-to-use and robust way of imposing fairness constraints when training, and through this framework prove that some prior fairness surrogates exhibit degeneracies for non-convex models. We resolve these problems via three new surrogates: an adaptive data re-weighting, and two smooth upper-bounds that are provably more robust than some previous methods. Our surrogates perform comparably to the state-of-the-art on low-dimensional fairness benchmarks, while achieving superior accuracy and stability for more complex computer vision and natural language processing tasks.

Model-Based Episodic Memory Induces Dynamic Hybrid Controls

Hung Le · Thommen Karimpanal George · Majid Abdolshah · Truyen Tran · Svetha Venkatesh

Episodic control enables sample efficiency in reinforcement learning by recalling past experiences from an episodic memory. We propose a new model-based episodic memory of trajectories addressing current limitations of episodic control. Our memory estimates trajectory values, guiding the agent towards good policies. Built upon the memory, we construct a complementary learning model via a dynamic hybrid control unifying model-based, episodic and habitual learning into a single architecture. Experiments demonstrate that our model allows significantly faster and better learning than other strong reinforcement learning agents across a variety of environments including stochastic and non-Markovian settings.

FedDR – Randomized Douglas-Rachford Splitting Algorithms for Nonconvex Federated Composite Optimization

Quoc Tran Dinh · Nhan H Pham · Dzung Phan · Lam Nguyen

We develop two new algorithms, called, FedDR and asyncFedDR, for solving a fundamental nonconvex composite optimization problem in federated learning. Our algorithms rely on a novel combination between a nonconvex Douglas-Rachford splitting method, randomized block-coordinate strategies, and asynchronous im- plementation. They can also handle convex regularizers. Unlike recent methods in the literature, e.g., FedSplit and FedPD, our algorithms update only a subset of users at each communication round, and possibly in an asynchronous manner, making them more practical. These new algorithms can handle statistical and sys- tem heterogeneity, which are the two main challenges in federated learning, while achieving the best known communication complexity. In fact, our new algorithms match the communication complexity lower bound up to a constant factor under standard assumptions. Our numerical experiments illustrate the advantages of our methods over existing algorithms on synthetic and real datasets.

A Regression Approach to Learning-Augmented Online Algorithms

Keerti Anand · Rong Ge · Amit Kumar · Debmalya Panigrahi

The emerging field of learning-augmented online algorithms uses ML techniques to predict future input parameters and thereby improve the performance of online algorithms. Since these parameters are, in general, real-valued functions, a natural approach is to use regression techniques to make these predictions. We introduce this approach in this paper, and explore it in the context of a general online search framework that captures classic problems like (generalized) ski rental, bin packing, minimum makespan scheduling, etc. We show nearly tight bounds on the sample complexity of this regression problem, and extend our results to the agnostic setting. From a technical standpoint, we show that the key is to incorporate online optimization benchmarks in the design of the loss function for the regression problem, thereby diverging from the use of off-the-shelf regression tools with standard bounds on statistical error.