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What spatial frequency information do humans and neural networks use to recognize objects? In neuroscience, critical band masking is an established tool that can reveal the frequency-selective filters used for object recognition. Critical band masking measures the sensitivity of recognition performance to noise added at each spatial frequency. Existing critical band masking studies show that humans recognize periodic patterns (gratings) and letters by means of a spatial-frequency filter (or "channel") that has a frequency bandwidth of one octave (doubling of frequency). Here, we introduce critical band masking as a task for network-human comparison and test 14 humans and 76 neural networks on 16-way ImageNet categorization in the presence of narrowband noise. We find that humans recognize objects in natural images using the same one-octave-wide channel that they use for letters and gratings, making it a canonical feature of human object recognition. Unlike humans, the neural network channel is very broad, 2-4 times wider than the human channel. This means that the network channel extends to frequencies higher and lower than those that humans are sensitive to. Thus, noise at those frequencies will impair network performance and spare human performance. Adversarial and augmented-image training are commonly used to increase network robustness and shape bias. Does this training align network and human object recognition channels? Three network channel properties (bandwidth, center frequency, peak noise sensitivity) correlate strongly with shape bias (51% variance explained) and robustness of adversarially-trained networks (66% variance explained). Adversarial training increases robustness but expands the channel bandwidth even further beyond the human bandwidth. Thus, critical band masking reveals that the network channel is more than twice as wide as the human channel, and that adversarial training only makes it worse. Networks with narrower channels might be more robust.

Deep reinforcement learning (RL) works impressively in some environments and fails catastrophically in others. Ideally, RL theory should be able to provide an understanding of why this is, i.e. bounds predictive of practical performance. Unfortunately, current theory does not quite have this ability. We compare standard deep RL algorithms to prior sample complexity bounds by introducing a new dataset, BRIDGE. It consists of 155 MDPs from common deep RL benchmarks, along with their corresponding tabular representations, which enables us to exactly compute instance-dependent bounds. We find that prior bounds do not correlate well with when deep RL succeeds vs. fails, but discover a surprising property that does. When actions with the highest Q-values under the *random* policy also have the highest Q-values under the *optimal* policy—i.e., when it is optimal to act greedily with respect to the random's policy Q function—deep RL tends to succeed; when they don't, deep RL tends to fail. We generalize this property into a new complexity measure of an MDP that we call the *effective horizon*, which roughly corresponds to how many steps of lookahead search would be needed in that MDP in order to identify the next optimal action, when leaf nodes are evaluated with random rollouts. Using BRIDGE, we show that the effective horizon-based bounds are more closely reflective of the empirical performance of PPO and DQN than prior sample complexity bounds across four metrics. We also show that, unlike existing bounds, the effective horizon can predict the effects of using reward shaping or a pre-trained exploration policy. Our code and data are available at https://github.com/cassidylaidlaw/effective-horizon.

We show that the RandomCoordinateCut algorithm gives the optimal competitive ratio for explainable $k$-medians in $\ell_1$. The problem of explainable $k$-medians was introduced by Dasgupta, Frost, Moshkovitz, and Rashtchian in 2020. Several groups of authors independently proposed a simple polynomial-time randomized algorithm for the problem and showed that this algorithm is $O(\log k \log\log k)$ competitive. We provide a tight analysis of the algorithm and prove that its competitive ratio is upper bounded by $2\ln k+2$. This bound matches the $\Omega(\log k)$ lower bound by Dasgupta et al (2020).

To achieve the highest perceptual quality, state-of-the-art diffusion models are optimized with objectives that typically look very different from the maximum likelihood and the Evidence Lower Bound (ELBO) objectives. In this work, we reveal that diffusion model objectives are actually closely related to the ELBO.Specifically, we show that all commonly used diffusion model objectives equate to a weighted integral of ELBOs over different noise levels, where the weighting depends on the specific objective used. Under the condition of monotonic weighting, the connection is even closer: the diffusion objective then equals the ELBO, combined with simple data augmentation, namely Gaussian noise perturbation. We show that this condition holds for a number of state-of-the-art diffusion models. In experiments, we explore new monotonic weightings and demonstrate their effectiveness, achieving state-of-the-art FID scores on the high-resolution ImageNet benchmark.

Conventional statistical wisdom established a well-understood relationship between model complexity and prediction error, typically presented as a _U-shaped curve_ reflecting a transition between under- and overfitting regimes. However, motivated by the success of overparametrized neural networks, recent influential work has suggested this theory to be generally incomplete, introducing an additional regime that exhibits a second descent in test error as the parameter count $p$ grows past sample size $n$ -- a phenomenon dubbed _double descent_. While most attention has naturally been given to the deep-learning setting, double descent was shown to emerge more generally across non-neural models: known cases include _linear regression, trees, and boosting_. In this work, we take a closer look at the evidence surrounding these more classical statistical machine learning methods and challenge the claim that observed cases of double descent truly extend the limits of a traditional U-shaped complexity-generalization curve therein. We show that once careful consideration is given to _what is being plotted_ on the x-axes of their double descent plots, it becomes apparent that there are implicitly multiple, distinct complexity axes along which the parameter count grows. We demonstrate that the second descent appears exactly (and _only_) when and where the transition between these underlying axes occurs, and that its location is thus _not_ inherently tied to the interpolation threshold $p=n$. We then gain further insight by adopting a classical nonparametric statistics perspective. We interpret the investigated methods as _smoothers_ and propose a generalized measure for the _effective_ number of parameters they use _on unseen examples_, using which we find that their apparent double descent curves do indeed fold back into more traditional convex shapes -- providing a resolution to the ostensible tension between double descent and traditional statistical intuition.

We present QLoRA, an efficient finetuning approach that reduces memory usage enough to finetune a 65B parameter model on a single 48GB GPU while preserving full 16-bit finetuning task performance. QLoRA backpropagates gradients through a frozen, 4-bit quantized pretrained language model into Low Rank Adapters~(LoRA). Our best model family, which we name Guanaco, outperforms all previous openly released models on the Vicuna benchmark, reaching 99.3% of the performance level of ChatGPT while only requiring 24 hours of finetuning on a single GPU. QLoRA introduces a number of innovations to save memory without sacrificing performance: (a) 4-bit NormalFloat (NF4), a new data type that is information-theoretically optimal for normally distributed weights (b) Double Quantization to reduce the average memory footprint by quantizing the quantization constants, and (c) Paged Optimziers to manage memory spikes. We use QLoRA to finetune more than 1,000 models, providing a detailed analysis of instruction following and chatbot performance across 8 instruction datasets, multiple model types (LLaMA, T5), and model scales that would be infeasible to run with regular finetuning (e.g. 33B and 65B parameter models). Our results show that QLoRA finetuning on a small, high-quality dataset leads to state-of-the-art results, even when using smaller models than the previous SoTA. We provide a detailed analysis of chatbot performance based on both human and GPT-4 evaluations, showing that GPT-4 evaluations are a cheap and reasonable alternative to human evaluation. Furthermore, we find that current chatbot benchmarks are not trustworthy to accurately evaluate the performance levels of chatbots. A lemon-picked analysis demonstrates where Guanaco fails compared to ChatGPT. We release all of our models and code, including CUDA kernels for 4-bit training.

Previous work on user-level differential privacy (DP) [Ghazi et al. NeurIPS 2021, Bun et al. STOC 2023] obtained generic algorithms that work for various learning tasks. However, their focus was on the *example-rich* regime, where the users have so many examples that each user could themselves solve the problem. In this work we consider the *example-scarce* regime, where each user has only a few examples, and obtain the following results:* For approximate-DP, we give a generic transformation of any item-level DP algorithm to a user-level DP algorithm. Roughly speaking, the latter gives a (multiplicative) savings of $O_{\varepsilon,\delta}(\sqrt{m})$ in terms of the number of users required for achieving the same utility, where $m$ is the number of examples per user. This algorithm, while recovering most known bounds for specific problems, also gives new bounds, e.g., for PAC learning. * For pure-DP, we present a simple technique for adapting the exponential mechanism [McSherry & Talwar, FOCS 2007] to the user-level setting. This gives new bounds for a variety of tasks, such as private PAC learning, hypothesis selection, and distribution learning. For some of these problems, we show that our bounds are near-optimal.

Recent research in mechanistic interpretability has attempted to reverse-engineer Transformer models by carefully inspecting network weights and activations. However, these approaches require considerable manual effort and still fall short of providing complete, faithful descriptions of the underlying algorithms. In this work, we introduce a procedure for training Transformers that are mechanistically interpretable by design. We build on RASP [Weiss et al., 2021], a programming language that can be compiled into Transformer weights. Instead of compiling human-written programs into Transformers, we design a modified Transformer that can be trained using gradient-based optimization and then automatically converted into a discrete, human-readable program. We refer to these models as Transformer Programs. To validate our approach, we learn Transformer Programs for a variety of problems, including an in-context learning task, a suite of algorithmic problems (e.g. sorting, recognizing Dyck languages), and NLP tasks including named entity recognition and text classification. The Transformer Programs can automatically find reasonable solutions, performing on par with standard Transformers of comparable size; and, more importantly, they are easy to interpret. To demonstrate these advantages, we convert Transformers into Python programs and use off-the-shelf code analysis tools to debug model errors and identify the “circuits” used to solve different sub-problems. We hope that Transformer Programs open a new path toward the goal of intrinsically interpretable machine learning.

Finding min $s$-$t$ cuts in graphs is a basic algorithmic tool, with applications in image segmentation, community detection, reinforcement learning, and data clustering. In this problem, we are given two nodes as terminals and the goal is to remove the smallest number of edges from the graph so that these two terminals are disconnected. We study the complexity of differential privacy for the min $s$-$t$ cut problem and show nearly tight lower and upper bounds where we achieve privacy at no cost for running time efficiency. We also develop a differentially private algorithm for the multiway $k$-cut problem, in which we are given $k$ nodes as terminals that we would like to disconnect. As a function of $k$, we obtain privacy guarantees that are exponentially more efficient than applying the advanced composition theorem to known algorithms for multiway $k$-cut. Finally, we empirically evaluate the approximation of our differentially private min $s$-$t$ cut algorithm and show that it almost matches the quality of the output of non-private ones.

In this work, we deepen on the use of normalizing flows for causal reasoning. Specifically, we first leverage recent results on non-linear ICA to show that causal models are identifiable from observational data given a causal ordering, and thus can be recovered using autoregressive normalizing flows (NFs). Second, we analyze different design and learning choices for *causal normalizing flows* to capture the underlying causal data-generating process. Third, we describe how to implement the *do-operator* in causal NFs, and thus, how to answer interventional and counterfactual questions. Finally, in our experiments, we validate our design and training choices through a comprehensive ablation study; compare causal NFs to other approaches for approximating causal models; and empirically demonstrate that causal NFs can be used to address real-world problems—where the presence of mixed discrete-continuous data and partial knowledge on the causal graph is the norm. The code for this work can be found at https://github.com/psanch21/causal-flows.

Current deep-learning models for object recognition are known to be heavily biased toward texture. In contrast, human visual systems are known to be biased toward shape and structure. What could be the design principles in human visual systems that led to this difference? How could we introduce more shape bias into the deep learning models? In this paper, we report that sparse coding, a ubiquitous principle in the brain, can in itself introduce shape bias into the network. We found that enforcing the sparse coding constraint using a non-differential Top-K operation can lead to the emergence of structural encoding in neurons in convolutional neural networks, resulting in a smooth decomposition of objects into parts and subparts and endowing the networks with shape bias. We demonstrated this emergence of shape bias and its functional benefits for different network structures with various datasets. For object recognition convolutional neural networks, the shape bias leads to greater robustness against style and pattern change distraction. For the image synthesis generative adversary networks, the emerged shape bias leads to more coherent and decomposable structures in the synthesized images. Ablation studies suggest that sparse codes tend to encode structures, whereas the more distributed codes tend to favor texture. Our code is host at the github repository: \url{https://github.com/Crazy-Jack/nips2023_shape_vs_texture}

We tackle the problems of latent variables identification and "out-of-support'' image generation in representation learning. We show that both are possible for a class of decoders that we call additive, which are reminiscent of decoders used for object-centric representation learning (OCRL) and well suited for images that can be decomposed as a sum of object-specific images. We provide conditions under which exactly solving the reconstruction problem using an additive decoder is guaranteed to identify the blocks of latent variables up to permutation and block-wise invertible transformations. This guarantee relies only on very weak assumptions about the distribution of the latent factors, which might present statistical dependencies and have an almost arbitrarily shaped support. Our result provides a new setting where nonlinear independent component analysis (ICA) is possible and adds to our theoretical understanding of OCRL methods. We also show theoretically that additive decoders can generate novel images by recombining observed factors of variations in novel ways, an ability we refer to as Cartesian-product extrapolation. We show empirically that additivity is crucial for both identifiability and extrapolation on simulated data.

Some of the most successful knowledge graph embedding (KGE) models for link prediction – CP, RESCAL, TuckER, ComplEx – can be interpreted as energy-based models. Under this perspective they are not amenable for exact maximum-likelihood estimation (MLE), sampling and struggle to integrate logical constraints. This work re-interprets the score functions of these KGEs as circuits – constrained computational graphs allowing efficient marginalisation. Then, we design two recipes to obtain efficient generative circuit models by either restricting their activations to be non-negative or squaring their outputs. Our interpretation comes with little or no loss of performance for link prediction, while the circuits framework unlocks exact learning by MLE, efficient sampling of new triples, and guarantee that logical constraints are satisfied by design. Furthermore, our models scale more gracefully than the original KGEs on graphs with millions of entities.

Do neural networks, trained on well-understood algorithmic tasks, reliably rediscover known algorithms? Several recent studies, on tasks ranging from group operations to in-context linear regression, have suggested that the answer is yes. Using modular addition as a prototypical problem, we show that algorithm discovery in neural networks is sometimes more complex: small changes to model hyperparameters and initializations can induce discovery of qualitatively different algorithms from a fixed training set, and even learning of multiple different solutions in parallel. In modular addition, we specifically show that models learn a known *Clock* algorithm, a previously undescribed, less intuitive, but comprehensible procedure we term the *Pizza* algorithm, and a variety of even more complex procedures. Our results show that even simple learning problems can admit a surprising diversity of solutions, motivating the development of new tools for mechanistically characterizing the behavior of neural networks across the algorithmic phase space.

Fine-tuning language models (LMs) has yielded success on diverse downstream tasks, but as LMs grow in size, backpropagation requires a prohibitively large amount of memory. Zeroth-order (ZO) methods can in principle estimate gradients using only two forward passes but are theorized to be catastrophically slow for optimizing large models. In this work, we propose a memory-efficient zerothorder optimizer (MeZO), adapting the classical ZO-SGD method to operate in-place, thereby fine-tuning LMs with the same memory footprint as inference. For example, with a single A100 80GB GPU, MeZO can train a 30-billion parameter model, whereas fine-tuning with backpropagation can train only a 2.7B LM with the same budget. We conduct comprehensive experiments across model types (masked and autoregressive LMs), model scales (up to 66B), and downstream tasks (classification, multiple-choice, and generation). Our results demonstrate that (1) MeZO significantly outperforms in-context learning and linear probing; (2) MeZO achieves comparable performance to fine-tuning with backpropagation across multiple tasks, with up to 12× memory reduction and up to 2× GPU-hour reduction in our implementation; (3) MeZO is compatible with both full-parameter and parameter-efficient tuning techniques such as LoRA and prefix tuning; (4) MeZO can effectively optimize non-differentiable objectives (e.g., maximizing accuracy or F1). We support our empirical findings with theoretical insights, highlighting how adequate pre-training and task prompts enable MeZO to fine-tune huge models, despite classical ZO analyses suggesting otherwise.

Language models (LMs) exhibit remarkable abilities to solve new tasks from just a few examples or textual instructions, especially at scale. They also, paradoxically, struggle with basic functionality, such as arithmetic or factual lookup, where much simpler and smaller specialized models excel. In this paper, we show that LMs can teach themselves to *use external tools* via simple APIs and achieve the best of both worlds. We introduce *Toolformer*, a model trained to decide which APIs to call, when to call them, what arguments to pass, and how to best incorporate the results into future token prediction. This is done in a self-supervised way, requiring nothing more than a handful of demonstrations for each API. We incorporate a range of tools, including a calculator, a Q&A system, a search engine, a translation system, and a calendar. Toolformer achieves substantially improved zero-shot performance across a variety of downstream tasks, often competitive with much larger models, without sacrificing its core language modeling abilities.

Machine learning models are increasingly being scaled in both sequence length and model dimension to reach longer contexts and better performance. However, existing architectures such as Transformers scale quadratically along both these axes. We ask: are there performant architectures that can scale sub-quadratically along sequence length and model dimension? We introduce Monarch Mixer (M2), a new architecture that uses the same sub-quadratic primitive along both sequence length and model dimension: Monarch matrices, a simple class of expressive structured matrices that captures many linear transforms, achieves high hardware efficiency on GPUs, and scales sub-quadratically. As a proof of concept, we explore the performance of M2 in three domains: non-causal BERT-style language modeling, ViT-style image classification, and causal GPT-style language modeling. For non-causal BERT-style modeling, M2 matches BERT-base and BERT-large in downstream GLUE quality with up to 27% fewer parameters, and achieves up to 9.1$\times$ higher throughput at sequence length 4K. On ImageNet, M2 outperforms ViT-b by 1% in accuracy, with only half the parameters. Causal GPT-style models introduce a technical challenge: enforcing causality via masking introduces a quadratic bottleneck. To alleviate this bottleneck, we develop a novel theoretical view of Monarch matrices based on multivariate polynomial evaluation and interpolation, which lets us parameterize M2 to be causal while remaining sub-quadratic. Using this parameterization, M2 matches GPT-style Transformers at 360M parameters in pretraining perplexity on The PILE—showing for the first time that it may be possible to match Transformer quality without attention or MLPs.

A core tension in models of concept learning is that the model must carefully balance the tractability of inference against the expressivity of the hypothesis class. Humans, however, can efficiently learn a broad range of concepts. We introduce a model of inductive learning that seeks to be human-like in that sense.It implements a Bayesian reasoning process where a language model first proposes candidate hypotheses expressed in natural language, which are then re-weighed by a prior and a likelihood.By estimating the prior from human data, we can predict human judgments on learning problems involving numbers and sets, spanning concepts that are generative, discriminative, propositional, and higher-order.

This work studies the evaluation of explaining graph neural networks (GNNs), which is crucial to the credibility of post-hoc explainability in practical usage. Conventional evaluation metrics, and even explanation methods -- which mainly follow the paradigm of feeding the explanatory subgraph and measuring output difference -- always suffer from the notorious out-of-distribution (OOD) issue. In this work, we endeavor to confront the issue by introducing a novel evaluation metric, termed **O**OD-resistant **A**dversarial **R**obustness (OAR). Specifically, we draw inspiration from the notion of adversarial robustness and evaluate post-hoc explanation subgraphs by calculating their robustness under attack. On top of that, an elaborate OOD reweighting block is inserted into the pipeline to confine the evaluation process to the original data distribution. For applications involving large datasets, we further devise a **Sim**plified version of **OAR** (SimOAR), which achieves a significant improvement in computational efficiency at the cost of a small amount of performance. Extensive empirical studies validate the effectiveness of our OAR and SimOAR.

We establish the first mathematically rigorous link between Bayesian, variational Bayesian, and ensemble methods. A key step towards this it to reformulate the non-convex optimisation problem typically encountered in deep learning as a convex optimisation in the space of probability measures. On a technical level, our contribution amounts to studying generalised variational inference through the lense of Wasserstein gradient flows. The result is a unified theory of various seemingly disconnected approaches that are commonly used for uncertainty quantification in deep learning---including deep ensembles and (variational) Bayesian methods. This offers a fresh perspective on the reasons behind the success of deep ensembles over procedures based on parameterised variational inference, and allows the derivation of new ensembling schemes with convergence guarantees. We showcase this by proposing a family of interacting deep ensembles with direct parallels to the interactions of particle systems in thermodynamics, and use our theory to prove the convergence of these algorithms to a well-defined global minimiser on the space of probability measures.

We propose a scheme for auditing differentially private machine learning systems with a single training run. This exploits the parallelism of being able to add or remove multiple training examples independently. We analyze this using the connection between differential privacy and statistical generalization, which avoids the cost of group privacy. Our auditing scheme requires minimal assumptions about the algorithm and can be applied in the black-box or white-box setting. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our framework by applying it to DP-SGD, where we can achieve meaningful empirical privacy lower bounds by training only one model. In contrast, standard methods would require training hundreds of models.

We propose a novel neural algorithm for the fundamental problem of computing the entropic optimal transport (EOT) plan between probability distributions which are accessible by samples. Our algorithm is based on the saddle point reformulation of the dynamic version of EOT which is known as the Schrödinger Bridge problem. In contrast to the prior methods for large-scale EOT, our algorithm is end-to-end and consists of a single learning step, has fast inference procedure, and allows handling small values of the entropy regularization coefficient which is of particular importance in some applied problems. Empirically, we show the performance of the method on several large-scale EOT tasks. The code for the ENOT solver can be found at https://github.com/ngushchin/EntropicNeuralOptimalTransport

The binding problem in human cognition, concerning how the brain represents and connects objects within a fixed network of neural connections, remains a subject of intense debate. Most machine learning efforts addressing this issue in an unsupervised setting have focused on slot-based methods, which may be limiting due to their discrete nature and difficulty to express uncertainty. Recently, the Complex AutoEncoder was proposed as an alternative that learns continuous and distributed object-centric representations. However, it is only applicable to simple toy data. In this paper, we present Rotating Features, a generalization of complex-valued features to higher dimensions, and a new evaluation procedure for extracting objects from distributed representations. Additionally, we show the applicability of our approach to pre-trained features. Together, these advancements enable us to scale distributed object-centric representations from simple toy to real-world data. We believe this work advances a new paradigm for addressing the binding problem in machine learning and has the potential to inspire further innovation in the field.

Nonlinear independent component analysis (ICA) aims to uncover the true latent sources from their observable nonlinear mixtures. Despite its significance, the identifiability of nonlinear ICA is known to be impossible without additional assumptions. Recent advances have proposed conditions on the connective structure from sources to observed variables, known as Structural Sparsity, to achieve identifiability in an unsupervised manner. However, the sparsity constraint may not hold universally for all sources in practice. Furthermore, the assumptions of bijectivity of the mixing process and independence among all sources, which arise from the setting of ICA, may also be violated in many real-world scenarios. To address these limitations and generalize nonlinear ICA, we propose a set of new identifiability results in the general settings of undercompleteness, partial sparsity and source dependence, and flexible grouping structures. Specifically, we prove identifiability when there are more observed variables than sources (undercomplete), and when certain sparsity and/or source independence assumptions are not met for some changing sources. Moreover, we show that even in cases with flexible grouping structures (e.g., part of the sources can be divided into irreducible independent groups with various sizes), appropriate identifiability results can also be established. Theoretical claims are supported empirically on both synthetic and real-world datasets.

Reconstructing human vision from brain activities has been an appealing task that helps to understand our cognitive process. Even though recent research has seen great success in reconstructing static images from non-invasive brain recordings, work on recovering continuous visual experiences in the form of videos is limited. In this work, we propose Mind-Video that learns spatiotemporal information from continuous fMRI data of the cerebral cortex progressively through masked brain modeling, multimodal contrastive learning with spatiotemporal attention, and co-training with an augmented Stable Diffusion model that incorporates network temporal inflation. We show that high-quality videos of arbitrary frame rates can be reconstructed with Mind-Video using adversarial guidance. The recovered videos were evaluated with various semantic and pixel-level metrics. We achieved an average accuracy of 85% in semantic classification tasks and 0.19 in structural similarity index (SSIM), outperforming the previous state-of-the-art by 45%. We also show that our model is biologically plausible and interpretable, reflecting established physiological processes.