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Most prior approaches to offline reinforcement learning (RL) have taken an iterative actor-critic approach involving off-policy evaluation. In this paper we show that simply doing one step of constrained/regularized policy improvement using an on-policy Q estimate of the behavior policy performs surprisingly well. This one-step algorithm beats the previously reported results of iterative algorithms on a large portion of the D4RL benchmark. The one-step baseline achieves this strong performance while being notably simpler and more robust to hyperparameters than previously proposed iterative algorithms. We argue that the relatively poor performance of iterative approaches is a result of the high variance inherent in doing off-policy evaluation and magnified by the repeated optimization of policies against those estimates. In addition, we hypothesize that the strong performance of the one-step algorithm is due to a combination of favorable structure in the environment and behavior policy.

Switching dynamical systems provide a powerful, interpretable modeling framework for inference in time-series data in, e.g., the natural sciences or engineering applications. Since many areas, such as biology or discrete-event systems, are naturally described in continuous time, we present a model based on a Markov jump process modulating a subordinated diffusion process. We provide the exact evolution equations for the prior and posterior marginal densities, the direct solutions of which are however computationally intractable. Therefore, we develop a new continuous-time variational inference algorithm, combining a Gaussian process approximation on the diffusion level with posterior inference for Markov jump processes. By minimizing the path-wise Kullback-Leibler divergence we obtain (i) Bayesian latent state estimates for arbitrary points on the real axis and (ii) point estimates of unknown system parameters, utilizing variational expectation maximization. We extensively evaluate our algorithm under the model assumption and for real-world examples.

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 https://github.com/YiqinYang/ICQ.

To perform counterfactual reasoning in Structural Causal Models (SCMs), one needs to know the causal mechanisms, which provide factorizations of conditional distributions into noise sources and deterministic functions mapping realizations of noise to samples. Unfortunately, the causal mechanism is not uniquely identified by data that can be gathered by observing and interacting with the world, so there remains the question of how to choose causal mechanisms. In recent work, Oberst & Sontag (2019) propose Gumbel-max SCMs, which use Gumbel-max reparameterizations as the causal mechanism due to an appealing counterfactual stability property. However, the justification requires appealing to intuition. In this work, we instead argue for choosing a causal mechanism that is best under a quantitative criteria such as minimizing variance when estimating counterfactual treatment effects. We propose a parameterized family of causal mechanisms that generalize Gumbel-max. We show that they can be trained to minimize counterfactual effect variance and other losses on a distribution of queries of interest, yielding lower variance estimates of counterfactual treatment effect than fixed alternatives, also generalizing to queries not seen at training time.

The theory of spectral filtering is a remarkable tool to understand the statistical properties of learning with kernels. For least squares, it allows to derive various regularization schemes that yield faster convergence rates of the excess risk than with Tikhonov regularization. This is typically achieved by leveraging classical assumptions called source and capacity conditions, which characterize the difficulty of the learning task. In order to understand estimators derived from other loss functions, Marteau-Ferey et al. have extended the theory of Tikhonov regularization to generalized self concordant loss functions (GSC), which contain, e.g., the logistic loss. In this paper, we go a step further and show that fast and optimal rates can be achieved for GSC by using the iterated Tikhonov regularization scheme, which is intrinsically related to the proximal point method in optimization, and overcomes the limitation of the classical Tikhonov regularization.

Existing analyses of optimization in deep learning are either continuous, focusing on (variants of) gradient flow, or discrete, directly treating (variants of) gradient descent. Gradient flow is amenable to theoretical analysis, but is stylized and disregards computational efficiency. The extent to which it represents gradient descent is an open question in the theory of deep learning. The current paper studies this question. Viewing gradient descent as an approximate numerical solution to the initial value problem of gradient flow, we find that the degree of approximation depends on the curvature around the gradient flow trajectory. We then show that over deep neural networks with homogeneous activations, gradient flow trajectories enjoy favorable curvature, suggesting they are well approximated by gradient descent. This finding allows us to translate an analysis of gradient flow over deep linear neural networks into a guarantee that gradient descent efficiently converges to global minimum almost surely under random initialization. Experiments suggest that over simple deep neural networks, gradient descent with conventional step size is indeed close to gradient flow. We hypothesize that the theory of gradient flows will unravel mysteries behind deep learning.

We study the power of learning via mini-batch stochastic gradient descent (SGD) on the loss of a differentiable model or neural network, and ask what learning problems can be learnt using this paradigm. We show that SGD can always simulate learning with statistical queries (SQ), but its ability to go beyond that depends on the precision $\rho$ of the gradients and the minibatch size $b$. With fine enough precision relative to minibatch size, namely when $b \rho$ is small enough, SGD can go beyond SQ learning and simulate any sample-based learning algorithm and thus its learning power is equivalent to that of PAC learning; this extends prior work that achieved this result for $b=1$. Moreover, with polynomially many bits of precision (i.e. when $\rho$ is exponentially small), SGD can simulate PAC learning regardless of the batch size. On the other hand, when $b \rho^2$ is large enough, the power of SGD is equivalent to that of SQ learning.

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.

To understand the relationship between behavior and neural activity, experiments in neuroscience often include an animal performing a repeated behavior such as a motor task. Recent progress in computer vision and deep learning has shown great potential in the automated analysis of behavior by leveraging large and high-quality video datasets. In this paper, we design Disentangled Behavior Embedding (DBE) to learn robust behavioral embeddings from unlabeled, multi-view, high-resolution behavioral videos across different animals and multiple sessions. We further combine DBE with a stochastic temporal model to propose Variational Disentangled Behavior Embedding (VDBE), an end-to-end approach that learns meaningful discrete behavior representations and generates interpretable behavioral videos. Our models learn consistent behavior representations by explicitly disentangling the dynamic behavioral factors (pose) from time-invariant, non-behavioral nuisance factors (context) in a deep autoencoder, and exploit the temporal structures of pose dynamics. Compared to competing approaches, DBE and VDBE enjoy superior performance on downstream tasks such as fine-grained behavioral motif generation and behavior decoding.

Multiple object tracking and segmentation requires detecting, tracking, and segmenting objects belonging to a set of given classes. Most approaches only exploit the temporal dimension to address the association problem, while relying on single frame predictions for the segmentation mask itself. We propose Prototypical Cross-Attention Network (PCAN), capable of leveraging rich spatio-temporal information for online multiple object tracking and segmentation. PCAN first distills a space-time memory into a set of prototypes and then employs cross-attention to retrieve rich information from the past frames. To segment each object, PCAN adopts a prototypical appearance module to learn a set of contrastive foreground and background prototypes, which are then propagated over time. Extensive experiments demonstrate that PCAN outperforms current video instance tracking and segmentation competition winners on both Youtube-VIS and BDD100K datasets, and shows efficacy to both one-stage and two-stage segmentation frameworks. Code and video resources are available at http://vis.xyz/pub/pcan.

Collaborating with humans requires rapidly adapting to their individual strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Unfortunately, most standard multi-agent reinforcement learning techniques, such as self-play (SP) or population play (PP), produce agents that overfit to their training partners and do not generalize well to humans. Alternatively, researchers can collect human data, train a human model using behavioral cloning, and then use that model to train "human-aware" agents ("behavioral cloning play", or BCP). While such an approach can improve the generalization of agents to new human co-players, it involves the onerous and expensive step of collecting large amounts of human data first. Here, we study the problem of how to train agents that collaborate well with human partners without using human data. We argue that the crux of the problem is to produce a diverse set of training partners. Drawing inspiration from successful multi-agent approaches in competitive domains, we find that a surprisingly simple approach is highly effective. We train our agent partner as the best response to a population of self-play agents and their past checkpoints taken throughout training, a method we call Fictitious Co-Play (FCP). Our experiments focus on a two-player collaborative cooking simulator that has recently been proposed as a challenge problem for coordination with humans. We find that FCP agents score significantly higher than SP, PP, and BCP when paired with novel agent and human partners. Furthermore, humans also report a strong subjective preference to partnering with FCP agents over all baselines.

This work studies the behavior of shallow ReLU networks trained with the logistic loss via gradient descent on binary classification data where the underlying data distribution is general, and the (optimal) Bayes risk is not necessarily zero. In this setting, it is shown that gradient descent with early stopping achieves population risk arbitrarily close to optimal in terms of not just logistic and misclassification losses, but also in terms of calibration, meaning the sigmoid mapping of its outputs approximates the true underlying conditional distribution arbitrarily finely. Moreover, the necessary iteration, sample, and architectural complexities of this analysis all scale naturally with a certain complexity measure of the true conditional model. Lastly, while it is not shown that early stopping is necessary, it is shown that any classifier satisfying a basic local interpolation property is inconsistent.

Holographic Reduced Representations (HRR) are a method for performing symbolic AI on top of real-valued vectors by associating each vector with an abstract concept, and providing mathematical operations to manipulate vectors as if they were classic symbolic objects. This method has seen little use outside of older symbolic AI work and cognitive science. Our goal is to revisit this approach to understand if it is viable for enabling a hybrid neural-symbolic approach to learning as a differential component of a deep learning architecture. HRRs today are not effective in a differential solution due to numerical instability, a problem we solve by introducing a projection step that forces the vectors to exist in a well behaved point in space. In doing so we improve the concept retrieval efficacy of HRRs by over $100\times$. Using multi-label classification we demonstrate how to leverage the symbolic HRR properties to develop a output layer and loss function that is able to learn effectively, and allows us to investigate some of the pros and cons of an HRR neuro-symbolic learning approach.

A $k$-decision tree $t$ (or $k$-tree) is a recursive partition of a matrix (2D-signal) into $k\geq 1$ block matrices (axis-parallel rectangles, leaves) where each rectangle is assigned a real label. Its regression or classification loss to a given matrix $D$ of $N$ entries (labels) is the sum of squared differences over every label in $D$ and its assigned label by $t$.Given an error parameter $\varepsilon\in(0,1)$, a $(k,\varepsilon)$-coreset $C$ of $D$ is a small summarization that provably approximates this loss to \emph{every} such tree, up to a multiplicative factor of $1\pm\varepsilon$. In particular, the optimal $k$-tree of $C$ is a $(1+\varepsilon)$-approximation to the optimal $k$-tree of $D$.We provide the first algorithm that outputs such a $(k,\varepsilon)$-coreset for \emph{every} such matrix $D$. The size $|C|$ of the coreset is polynomial in $k\log(N)/\varepsilon$, and its construction takes $O(Nk)$ time.This is by forging a link between decision trees from machine learning -- to partition trees in computational geometry. Experimental results on \texttt{sklearn} and \texttt{lightGBM} show that applying our coresets on real-world data-sets boosts the computation time of random forests and their parameter tuning by up to x$10$, while keeping similar accuracy. Full open source code is provided.

A key challenge for reinforcement learning is solving long-horizon planning problems. Recent work has leveraged programs to guide reinforcement learning in these settings. However, these approaches impose a high manual burden on the user since they must provide a guiding program for every new task. Partially observed environments further complicate the programming task because the program must implement a strategy that correctly, and ideally optimally, handles every possible configuration of the hidden regions of the environment. We propose a new approach, model predictive program synthesis (MPPS), that uses program synthesis to automatically generate the guiding programs. It trains a generative model to predict the unobserved portions of the world, and then synthesizes a program based on samples from this model in a way that is robust to its uncertainty. In our experiments, we show that our approach significantly outperforms non-program-guided approaches on a set of challenging benchmarks, including a 2D Minecraft-inspired environment where the agent must complete a complex sequence of subtasks to achieve its goal, and achieves a similar performance as using handcrafted programs to guide the agent. Our results demonstrate that our approach can obtain the benefits of program-guided reinforcement learning without requiring the user to provide a new guiding program for every new task.

A Bayesian treatment can mitigate overconfidence in ReLU nets around the training data. But far away from them, ReLU Bayesian neural networks (BNNs) can still underestimate uncertainty and thus be asymptotically overconfident. This issue arises since the output variance of a BNN with finitely many features is quadratic in the distance from the data region. Meanwhile, Bayesian linear models with ReLU features converge, in the infinite-width limit, to a particular Gaussian process (GP) with a variance that grows cubically so that no asymptotic overconfidence can occur. While this may seem of mostly theoretical interest, in this work, we show that it can be used in practice to the benefit of BNNs. We extend finite ReLU BNNs with infinite ReLU features via the GP and show that the resulting model is asymptotically maximally uncertain far away from the data while the BNNs' predictive power is unaffected near the data. Although the resulting model approximates a full GP posterior, thanks to its structure, it can be applied post-hoc to any pre-trained ReLU BNN at a low cost.

Mutual information (MI) is a fundamental measure of statistical dependence, with a myriad of applications to information theory, statistics, and machine learning. While it possesses many desirable structural properties, the estimation of high-dimensional MI from samples suffers from the curse of dimensionality. Motivated by statistical scalability to high dimensions, this paper proposes sliced MI (SMI) as a surrogate measure of dependence. SMI is defined as an average of MI terms between one-dimensional random projections. We show that it preserves many of the structural properties of classic MI, while gaining scalable computation and efficient estimation from samples. Furthermore, and in contrast to classic MI, SMI can grow as a result of deterministic transformations. This enables leveraging SMI for feature extraction by optimizing it over processing functions of raw data to identify useful representations thereof. Our theory is supported by numerical studies of independence testing and feature extraction, which demonstrate the potential gains SMI offers over classic MI for high-dimensional inference.

Despite their tremendous successes, convolutional neural networks (CNNs) incur high computational/storage costs and are vulnerable to adversarial perturbations. Recent works on robust model compression address these challenges by combining model compression techniques with adversarial training. But these methods are unable to improve throughput (frames-per-second) on real-life hardware while simultaneously preserving robustness to adversarial perturbations. To overcome this problem, we propose the method of Generalized Depthwise-Separable (GDWS) convolution - an efficient, universal, post-training approximation of a standard 2D convolution. GDWS dramatically improves the throughput of a standard pre-trained network on real-life hardware while preserving its robustness. Lastly, GDWS is scalable to large problem sizes since it operates on pre-trained models and doesn't require any additional training. We establish the optimality of GDWS as a 2D convolution approximator and present exact algorithms for constructing optimal GDWS convolutions under complexity and error constraints. We demonstrate the effectiveness of GDWS via extensive experiments on CIFAR-10, SVHN, and ImageNet datasets. Our code can be found at https://github.com/hsndbk4/GDWS.

A number of recent studies of continuous variational autoencoder (VAE) models have noted, either directly or indirectly, the tendency of various parameter gradients to drift towards infinity during training. Because such gradients could potentially contribute to numerical instabilities, and are often framed as a problematic phenomena to be avoided, it may be tempting to shift to alternative energy functions that guarantee bounded gradients. But it remains an open question: What might the unintended consequences of such a restriction be? To address this issue, we examine how unbounded gradients relate to the regularization of a broad class of autoencoder-based architectures, including VAE models, as applied to data lying on or near a low-dimensional manifold (e.g., natural images). Our main finding is that, if the ultimate goal is to simultaneously avoid over-regularization (high reconstruction errors, sometimes referred to as posterior collapse) and under-regularization (excessive latent dimensions are not pruned from the model), then an autoencoder-based energy function with infinite gradients around optimal representations is provably required per a certain technical sense which we carefully detail. Given that both over- and under-regularization can directly lead to poor generated sample quality or suboptimal feature selection, this result suggests that heuristic modifications to or constraints on the VAE energy function may at times be ill-advised, and large gradients should be accommodated to the extent possible.

A Forster transform is an operation that turns a multivariate distribution into one with good anti-concentration properties. While a Forster transform does not always exist, we show that any distribution can be efficiently decomposed as a disjoint mixture of few distributions for which a Forster transform exists and can be computed efficiently. As the main application of this result, we obtain the first polynomial-time algorithm for distribution-independent PAC learning of halfspaces in the Massart noise model with strongly polynomial sample complexity, i.e., independent of the bit complexity of the examples. Previous algorithms for this learning problem incurred sample complexity scaling polynomially with the bit complexity, even though such a dependence is not information-theoretically necessary.

Lightweight image super-resolution (SR) networks have obtained promising results with moderate model size. Many SR methods have focused on designing lightweight architectures, which neglect to further reduce the redundancy of network parameters. On the other hand, model compression techniques, like neural architecture search and knowledge distillation, typically consume considerable memory and computation resources. In contrast, network pruning is a cheap and effective model compression technique. However, it is hard to be applied to SR networks directly, because filter pruning for residual blocks is well-known tricky. To address the above issues, we propose aligned structured sparsity learning (ASSL), which introduces a weight normalization layer and applies $L_2$ regularization to the scale parameters for sparsity. To align the pruned locations across different layers, we propose a \emph{sparsity structure alignment} penalty term, which minimizes the norm of soft mask gram matrix. We apply aligned structured sparsity learning strategy to train efficient image SR network, named as ASSLN, with smaller model size and lower computation than state-of-the-art methods. We conduct extensive comparisons with lightweight SR networks. Our ASSLN achieves superior performance gains over recent methods quantitatively and visually.

We show that diffusion models can achieve image sample quality superior to the current state-of-the-art generative models. We achieve this on unconditional image synthesis by finding a better architecture through a series of ablations. For conditional image synthesis, we further improve sample quality with classifier guidance: a simple, compute-efficient method for trading off diversity for fidelity using gradients from a classifier. We achieve an FID of 2.97 on ImageNet 128$\times$128, 4.59 on ImageNet 256$\times$256, and 7.72 on ImageNet 512$\times$512, and we match BigGAN-deep even with as few as 25 forward passes per sample, all while maintaining better coverage of the distribution. Finally, we find that classifier guidance combines well with upsampling diffusion models, further improving FID to 3.94 on ImageNet 256$\times$256 and 3.85 on ImageNet 512$\times$512.

We study the problem of list-decodable linear regression, where an adversary can corrupt a majority of the examples. Specifically, we are given a set $T$ of labeled examples $(x, y) \in \mathbb{R}^d \times \mathbb{R}$ and a parameter $0< \alpha <1/2$ such that an $\alpha$-fraction of the points in $T$ are i.i.d. samples from a linear regression model with Gaussian covariates, and the remaining $(1-\alpha)$-fraction of the points are drawn from an arbitrary noise distribution. The goal is to output a small list of hypothesis vectors such that at least one of them is close to the target regression vector. Our main result is a Statistical Query (SQ) lower bound of $d^{\mathrm{poly}(1/\alpha)}$ for this problem. Our SQ lower bound qualitatively matches the performance of previously developed algorithms, providing evidence that current upper bounds for this task are nearly best possible.

Sequence-to-sequence learning with neural networks has become the de facto standard for sequence modeling. This approach typically models the local distribution over the next element with a powerful neural network that can condition on arbitrary context. While flexible and performant, these models often require large datasets for training and can fail spectacularly on benchmarks designed to test for compositional generalization. This work explores an alternative, hierarchical approach to sequence-to-sequence learning with synchronous grammars, where each node in the target tree is transduced by a subset of nodes in the source tree. The source and target trees are treated as fully latent and marginalized out during training. We develop a neural parameterization of the grammar which enables parameter sharing over combinatorial structures without the need for manual feature engineering. We apply this latent neural grammar to various domains---a diagnostic language navigation task designed to test for compositional generalization (SCAN), style transfer, and small-scale machine translation---and find that it performs respectably compared to standard baselines.

Generalised linear models for multi-class classification problems are one of the fundamental building blocks of modern machine learning tasks. In this manuscript, we characterise the learning of a mixture of $K$ Gaussians with generic means and covariances via empirical risk minimisation (ERM) with any convex loss and regularisation. In particular, we prove exact asymptotics characterising the ERM estimator in high-dimensions, extending several previous results about Gaussian mixture classification in the literature. We exemplify our result in two tasks of interest in statistical learning: a) classification for a mixture with sparse means, where we study the efficiency of $\ell_1$ penalty with respect to $\ell_2$; b) max-margin multi-class classification, where we characterise the phase transition on the existence of the multi-class logistic maximum likelihood estimator for $K>2$. Finally, we discuss how our theory can be applied beyond the scope of synthetic data, showing that in different cases Gaussian mixtures capture closely the learning curve of classification tasks in real data sets.