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A Drifting-Games Analysis for Online Learning and Applications to Boosting

Neural Information Processing Systems

We provide a general mechanism to design online learning algorithms based on a minimax analysis within a drifting-games framework. Different online learning settings (Hedge, multi-armed bandit problems and online convex optimization) are studied by converting into various kinds of drifting games. The original minimax analysis for drifting games is then used and generalized by applying a series of relaxations, starting from choosing a convex surrogate of the 0-1 loss function. With different choices of surrogates, we not only recover existing algorithms, but also propose new algorithms that are totally parameter-free and enjoy other useful properties. Moreover, our drifting-games framework naturally allows us to study high probability bounds without resorting to any concentration results, and also a generalized notion of regret that measures how good the algorithm is compared to all but the top small fraction of candidates. Finally, we translate our new Hedge algorithm into a new adaptive boosting algorithm that is computationally faster as shown in experiments, since it ignores a large number of examples on each round.


Coin Betting and Parameter-Free Online Learning

Neural Information Processing Systems

In the recent years, a number of parameter-free algorithms have been developed for online linear optimization over Hilbert spaces and for learning with expert advice. These algorithms achieve optimal regret bounds that depend on the unknown competitors, without having to tune the learning rates with oracle choices. We present a new intuitive framework to design parameter-free algorithms for both online linear optimization over Hilbert spaces and for learning with expert advice, based on reductions to betting on outcomes of adversarial coins. We instantiate it using a betting algorithm based on the Krichevsky-Trofimov estimator. The resulting algorithms are simple, with no parameters to be tuned, and they improve or match previous results in terms of regret guarantee and per-round complexity.


New Analysis and Algorithm for Learning with Drifting Distributions

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We present a new analysis of the problem of learning with drifting distributions in the batch setting using the notion of discrepancy. We prove learning bounds based on the Rademacher complexity of the hypothesis set and the discrepancy of distributions both for a drifting PAC scenario and a tracking scenario. Our bounds are always tighter and in some cases substantially improve upon previous ones based on the $L_1$ distance. We also present a generalization of the standard on-line to batch conversion to the drifting scenario in terms of the discrepancy and arbitrary convex combinations of hypotheses. We introduce a new algorithm exploiting these learning guarantees, which we show can be formulated as a simple QP. Finally, we report the results of preliminary experiments demonstrating the benefits of this algorithm.


Dynamic Thresholding and Pruning for Regret Minimization

AAAI Conferences

Regret minimization is widely used in determining strategies for imperfect-information games and in online learning. In large games, computing the regrets associated with a single iteration can be slow. For this reason, pruning — in which parts of the decision tree are not traversed in every iteration — has emerged as an essential method for speeding up iterations in large games. The ability to prune is a primary reason why the Counterfactual Regret Minimization (CFR) algorithm using regret matching has emerged as the most popular iterative algorithm for imperfect-information games, despite its relatively poor convergence bound. In this paper, we introduce dynamic thresholding, in which a threshold is set at every iteration such that any action in the decision tree with probability below the threshold is set to zero probability. This enables pruning for the first time in a wide range of algorithms. We prove that dynamic thresholding can be applied to Hedge while increasing its convergence bound by only a constant factor in terms of number of iterations. Experiments demonstrate a substantial improvement in performance for Hedge as well as the excessive gap technique.


Tracking the Best Expert in Non-stationary Stochastic Environments

Neural Information Processing Systems

We study the dynamic regret of multi-armed bandit and experts problem in non-stationary stochastic environments. We introduce a new parameter $\W$, which measures the total statistical variance of the loss distributions over $T$ rounds of the process, and study how this amount affects the regret. We investigate the interaction between $\W$ and $\Gamma$, which counts the number of times the distributions change, as well as $\W$ and $V$, which measures how far the distributions deviates over time. One striking result we find is that even when $\Gamma$, $V$, and $\Lambda$ are all restricted to constant, the regret lower bound in the bandit setting still grows with $T$. The other highlight is that in the full-information setting, a constant regret becomes achievable with constant $\Gamma$ and $\Lambda$, as it can be made independent of $T$, while with constant $V$ and $\Lambda$, the regret still has a $T^{1/3}$ dependency. We not only propose algorithms with upper bound guarantee, but prove their matching lower bounds as well.