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arXiv.org Machine Learning


Taming Nonconvexity in Kernel Feature Selection---Favorable Properties of the Laplace Kernel

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Kernel-based feature selection is an important tool in nonparametric statistics. Despite many practical applications of kernel-based feature selection, there is little statistical theory available to support the method. A core challenge is the objective function of the optimization problems used to define kernel-based feature selection are nonconvex. The literature has only studied the statistical properties of the \emph{global optima}, which is a mismatch, given that the gradient-based algorithms available for nonconvex optimization are only able to guarantee convergence to local minima. Studying the full landscape associated with kernel-based methods, we show that feature selection objectives using the Laplace kernel (and other $\ell_1$ kernels) come with statistical guarantees that other kernels, including the ubiquitous Gaussian kernel (or other $\ell_2$ kernels) do not possess. Based on a sharp characterization of the gradient of the objective function, we show that $\ell_1$ kernels eliminate unfavorable stationary points that appear when using an $\ell_2$ kernel. Armed with this insight, we establish statistical guarantees for $\ell_1$ kernel-based feature selection which do not require reaching the global minima. In particular, we establish model-selection consistency of $\ell_1$-kernel-based feature selection in recovering main effects and hierarchical interactions in the nonparametric setting with $n \sim \log p$ samples.


Minimax Estimation of Partially-Observed Vector AutoRegressions

arXiv.org Machine Learning

To understand the behavior of large dynamical systems like transportation networks, one must often rely on measurements transmitted by a set of sensors, for instance individual vehicles. Such measurements are likely to be incomplete and imprecise, which makes it hard to recover the underlying signal of interest.Hoping to quantify this phenomenon, we study the properties of a partially-observed state-space model. In our setting, the latent state $X$ follows a high-dimensional Vector AutoRegressive process $X_t = \theta X_{t-1} + \varepsilon_t$. Meanwhile, the observations $Y$ are given by a noise-corrupted random sample from the state $Y_t = \Pi_t X_t + \eta_t$. Several random sampling mechanisms are studied, allowing us to investigate the effect of spatial and temporal correlations in the distribution of the sampling matrices $\Pi_t$.We first prove a lower bound on the minimax estimation error for the transition matrix $\theta$. We then describe a sparse estimator based on the Dantzig selector and upper bound its non-asymptotic error, showing that it achieves the optimal convergence rate for most of our sampling mechanisms. Numerical experiments on simulated time series validate our theoretical findings, while an application to open railway data highlights the relevance of this model for public transport traffic analysis.


Machine learning methods for postprocessing ensemble forecasts of wind gusts: A systematic comparison

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Postprocessing ensemble weather predictions to correct systematic errors has become a standard practice in research and operations. However, only few recent studies have focused on ensemble postprocessing of wind gust forecasts, despite its importance for severe weather warnings. Here, we provide a comprehensive review and systematic comparison of eight statistical and machine learning methods for probabilistic wind gust forecasting via ensemble postprocessing, that can be divided in three groups: State of the art postprocessing techniques from statistics (ensemble model output statistics (EMOS), member-by-member postprocessing, isotonic distributional regression), established machine learning methods (gradient-boosting extended EMOS, quantile regression forests) and neural network-based approaches (distributional regression network, Bernstein quantile network, histogram estimation network). The methods are systematically compared using six years of data from a high-resolution, convection-permitting ensemble prediction system that was run operationally at the German weather service, and hourly observations at 175 surface weather stations in Germany. While all postprocessing methods yield calibrated forecasts and are able to correct the systematic errors of the raw ensemble predictions, incorporating information from additional meteorological predictor variables beyond wind gusts leads to significant improvements in forecast skill. In particular, we propose a flexible framework of locally adaptive neural networks with different probabilistic forecast types as output, which not only significantly outperform all benchmark postprocessing methods but also learn physically consistent relations associated with the diurnal cycle, especially the evening transition of the planetary boundary layer.


Importance measures derived from random forests: characterisation and extension

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Nowadays new technologies, and especially artificial intelligence, are more and more established in our society. Big data analysis and machine learning, two sub-fields of artificial intelligence, are at the core of many recent breakthroughs in many application fields (e.g., medicine, communication, finance, ...), including some that are strongly related to our day-to-day life (e.g., social networks, computers, smartphones, ...). In machine learning, significant improvements are usually achieved at the price of an increasing computational complexity and thanks to bigger datasets. Currently, cutting-edge models built by the most advanced machine learning algorithms typically became simultaneously very efficient and profitable but also extremely complex. Their complexity is to such an extent that these models are commonly seen as black-boxes providing a prediction or a decision which can not be interpreted or justified. Nevertheless, whether these models are used autonomously or as a simple decision-making support tool, they are already being used in machine learning applications where health and human life are at stake. Therefore, it appears to be an obvious necessity not to blindly believe everything coming out of those models without a detailed understanding of their predictions or decisions. Accordingly, this thesis aims at improving the interpretability of models built by a specific family of machine learning algorithms, the so-called tree-based methods. Several mechanisms have been proposed to interpret these models and we aim along this thesis to improve their understanding, study their properties, and define their limitations.


PAC-Bayes, MAC-Bayes and Conditional Mutual Information: Fast rate bounds that handle general VC classes

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We give a novel, unified derivation of conditional PAC-Bayesian and mutual information (MI) generalization bounds. We derive conditional MI bounds as an instance, with special choice of prior, of conditional MAC-Bayesian (Mean Approximately Correct) bounds, itself derived from conditional PAC-Bayesian bounds, where `conditional' means that one can use priors conditioned on a joint training and ghost sample. This allows us to get nontrivial PAC-Bayes and MI-style bounds for general VC classes, something recently shown to be impossible with standard PAC-Bayesian/MI bounds. Second, it allows us to get faster rates of order $O \left(({\text{KL}}/n)^{\gamma}\right)$ for $\gamma > 1/2$ if a Bernstein condition holds and for exp-concave losses (with $\gamma=1$), which is impossible with both standard PAC-Bayes generalization and MI bounds. Our work extends the recent work by Steinke and Zakynthinou [2020] who handle MI with VC but neither PAC-Bayes nor fast rates, the recent work of Hellstr\"om and Durisi [2020] who extend the latter to the PAC-Bayes setting via a unifying exponential inequality, and Mhammedi et al. [2019] who initiated fast rate PAC-Bayes generalization error bounds but handle neither MI nor general VC classes.


Pruning Randomly Initialized Neural Networks with Iterative Randomization

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Pruning the weights of randomly initialized neural networks plays an important role in the context of lottery ticket hypothesis. Ramanujan et al. (2020) empirically showed that only pruning the weights can achieve remarkable performance instead of optimizing the weight values. However, to achieve the same level of performance as the weight optimization, the pruning approach requires more parameters in the networks before pruning and thus more memory space. To overcome this parameter inefficiency, we introduce a novel framework to prune randomly initialized neural networks with iteratively randomizing weight values (IteRand). Theoretically, we prove an approximation theorem in our framework, which indicates that the randomizing operations are provably effective to reduce the required number of the parameters. We also empirically demonstrate the parameter efficiency in multiple experiments on CIFAR-10 and ImageNet.


Diffusion Source Identification on Networks with Statistical Confidence

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Diffusion source identification on networks is a problem of fundamental importance in a broad class of applications, including rumor controlling and virus identification. Though this problem has received significant recent attention, most studies have focused only on very restrictive settings and lack theoretical guarantees for more realistic networks. We introduce a statistical framework for the study of diffusion source identification and develop a confidence set inference approach inspired by hypothesis testing. Our method efficiently produces a small subset of nodes, which provably covers the source node with any pre-specified confidence level without restrictive assumptions on network structures. Moreover, we propose multiple Monte Carlo strategies for the inference procedure based on network topology and the probabilistic properties that significantly improve the scalability. To our knowledge, this is the first diffusion source identification method with a practically useful theoretical guarantee on general networks. We demonstrate our approach via extensive synthetic experiments on well-known random network models and a mobility network between cities concerning the COVID-19 spreading.


Algorithmic Bias and Data Bias: Understanding the Relation between Distributionally Robust Optimization and Data Curation

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Machine learning systems based on minimizing average error have been shown to perform inconsistently across notable subsets of the data, which is not exposed by a low average error for the entire dataset. In consequential social and economic applications, where data represent people, this can lead to discrimination of underrepresented gender and ethnic groups. Given the importance of bias mitigation in machine learning, the topic leads to contentious debates on how to ensure fairness in practice (data bias versus algorithmic bias). Distributionally Robust Optimization (DRO) seemingly addresses this problem by minimizing the worst expected risk across subpopulations. We establish theoretical results that clarify the relation between DRO and the optimization of the same loss averaged on an adequately weighted training dataset. The results cover finite and infinite number of training distributions, as well as convex and non-convex loss functions. We show that neither DRO nor curating the training set should be construed as a complete solution for bias mitigation: in the same way that there is no universally robust training set, there is no universal way to setup a DRO problem and ensure a socially acceptable set of results. We then leverage these insights to provide a mininal set of practical recommendations for addressing bias with DRO. Finally, we discuss ramifications of our results in other related applications of DRO, using an example of adversarial robustness. Our results show that there is merit to both the algorithm-focused and the data-focused side of the bias debate, as long as arguments in favor of these positions are precisely qualified and backed by relevant mathematics known today.


Can convolutional ResNets approximately preserve input distances? A frequency analysis perspective

arXiv.org Machine Learning

ResNets constrained to be bi-Lipschitz, that is, approximately distance preserving, have been a crucial component of recently proposed techniques for deterministic uncertainty quantification in neural models. We show that theoretical justifications for recent regularisation schemes trying to enforce such a constraint suffer from a crucial flaw -- the theoretical link between the regularisation scheme used and bi-Lipschitzness is only valid under conditions which do not hold in practice, rendering existing theory of limited use, despite the strong empirical performance of these models. We provide a theoretical explanation for the effectiveness of these regularisation schemes using a frequency analysis perspective, showing that under mild conditions these schemes will enforce a lower Lipschitz bound on the low-frequency projection of images. We then provide empirical evidence supporting our theoretical claims, and perform further experiments which demonstrate that our broader conclusions appear to hold when some of the mathematical assumptions of our proof are relaxed, corresponding to the setup used in prior work. In addition, we present a simple constructive algorithm to search for counter examples to the distance preservation condition, and discuss possible implications of our theory for future model design.


Statistical Query Lower Bounds for List-Decodable Linear Regression

arXiv.org Machine Learning

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.