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Adaptive Submodularity: Theory and Applications in Active Learning and Stochastic Optimization

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Many problems in artificial intelligence require adaptively making a sequence of decisions with uncertain outcomes under partial observability. Solving such stochastic optimization problems is a fundamental but notoriously difficult challenge. In this paper, we introduce the concept of adaptive submodularity, generalizing submodular set functions to adaptive policies. We prove that if a problem satisfies this property, a simple adaptive greedy algorithm is guaranteed to be competitive with the optimal policy. In addition to providing performance guarantees for both stochastic maximization and coverage, adaptive submodularity can be exploited to drastically speed up the greedy algorithm by using lazy evaluations. We illustrate the usefulness of the concept by giving several examples of adaptive submodular objectives arising in diverse AI applications including management of sensing resources, viral marketing and active learning. Proving adaptive submodularity for these problems allows us to recover existing results in these applications as special cases, improve approximation guarantees and handle natural generalizations.


Adaptive Submodularity: Theory and Applications in Active Learning and Stochastic Optimization

AAAI Conferences

Many problems in artificial intelligence require adaptively making a sequence of decisions with uncertain outcomes under partial observability. Solving such stochastic optimization problems is a fundamental but notoriously difficult challenge. In this paper, we introduce the concept of adaptive submodularity, generalizing submodular set functions to adaptive policies. We prove that if a problem satisfies this property, a simple adaptive greedy algorithm is guaranteed to be competitive with the optimal policy. In addition to providing performance guarantees for both stochastic maximization and coverage, adaptive submodularity can be exploited to drastically speed up the greedy algorithm by using lazy evaluations. We illustrate the usefulness of the concept by giving several examples of adaptive submodular objectives arising in diverse AI applications including management of sensing resources, viral marketing and active learning. Proving adaptive submodularity for these problems allows us to recover existing results in these applications as special cases, improve approximation guarantees and handle natural generalizations.


Non-Monotone Adaptive Submodular Maximization

AAAI Conferences

A wide range of AI problems, such as sensor placement, active learning, and network influence maximization, require sequentially selecting elements from a large set with the goal of optimizing the utility of the selected subset. Moreover, each element that is picked may provide stochastic feedback, which can be used to make smarter decisions about future selections. Finding efficient policies for this general class of adaptive optimization problems can be extremely hard. However, when the objective function is adaptive monotone and adaptive submodular, a simple greedy policy attains a 1-1/e approximation ratio in terms of expected utility. Unfortunately, many practical objective functions are naturally non-monotone; to our knowledge, no existing policy has provable performance guarantees when the assumption of adaptive monotonicity is lifted. We propose the adaptive random greedy policy for maximizing adaptive submodular functions, and prove that it retains the aforementioned 1-1/e approximation ratio for functions that are also adaptive monotone, while it additionally provides a 1/e approximation ratio for non-monotone adaptive submodular functions. We showcase the benefits of adaptivity on three real-world network data sets using two non-monotone functions, representative of two classes of commonly encountered non-monotone objectives.


Adaptive Maximization of Pointwise Submodular Functions With Budget Constraint

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study the worst-case adaptive optimization problem with budget constraint that is useful for modeling various practical applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning. We investigate the near-optimality of greedy algorithms for this problem with both modular and non-modular cost functions. In both cases, we prove that two simple greedy algorithms are not near-optimal but the best between them is near-optimal if the utility function satisfies pointwise submodularity and pointwise cost-sensitive submodularity respectively. This implies a combined algorithm that is near-optimal with respect to the optimal algorithm that uses half of the budget. We discuss applications of our theoretical results and also report experiments comparing the greedy algorithms on the active learning problem.


Budgeted stream-based active learning via adaptive submodular maximization

Neural Information Processing Systems

Active learning enables us to reduce the annotation cost by adaptively selecting unlabeled instances to be labeled. For pool-based active learning, several effective methods with theoretical guarantees have been developed through maximizing some utility function satisfying adaptive submodularity. In contrast, there have been few methods for stream-based active learning based on adaptive submodularity. In this paper, we propose a new class of utility functions, policy-adaptive submodular functions, and prove this class includes many existing adaptive submodular functions appearing in real world problems. We provide a general framework based on policy-adaptive submodularity that makes it possible to convert existing pool-based methods to stream-based methods and give theoretical guarantees on their performance. In addition we empirically demonstrate their effectiveness comparing with existing heuristics on common benchmark datasets.