assignment


Online Learning of Assignments

Neural Information Processing Systems

Which ads should we display in sponsored search in order to maximize our revenue? How should we dynamically rank information sources to maximize value of information? These applications exhibit strong diminishing returns: Selection of redundant ads and information sources decreases their marginal utility. We show that these and other problems can be formalized as repeatedly selecting an assignment of items to positions to maximize a sequence of monotone submodular functions that arrive one by one. We present an efficient algorithm for this general problem and analyze it in the no-regret model.


Local Rules for Global MAP: When Do They Work ?

Neural Information Processing Systems

We consider the question of computing Maximum A Posteriori (MAP) assignment in an arbitrary pair-wise Markov Random Field (MRF). We present a randomized iterative algorithm based on simple local updates. The algorithm, starting with an arbitrary initial assignment, updates it in each iteration by first, picking a random node, then selecting an (appropriately chosen) random local neighborhood and optimizing over this local neighborhood. Somewhat surprisingly, we show that this algorithm finds a near optimal assignment within $2n\ln n$ iterations on average and with high probability for {\em any} $n$ node pair-wise MRF with {\em geometry} (i.e. MRF graph with polynomial growth) with the approximation error depending on (in a reasonable manner) the geometric growth rate of the graph and the average radius of the local neighborhood -- this allows for a graceful tradeoff between the complexity of the algorithm and the approximation error.


MAP Estimation for Graphical Models by Likelihood Maximization

Neural Information Processing Systems

Computing a {\em maximum a posteriori} (MAP) assignment in graphical models is a crucial inference problem for many practical applications. Several provably convergent approaches have been successfully developed using linear programming (LP) relaxation of the MAP problem. We present an alternative approach, which transforms the MAP problem into that of inference in a finite mixture of simple Bayes nets. We then derive the Expectation Maximization (EM) algorithm for this mixture that also monotonically increases a lower bound on the MAP assignment until convergence. The update equations for the EM algorithm are remarkably simple, both conceptually and computationally, and can be implemented using a graph-based message passing paradigm similar to max-product computation.


A Bayesian Framework for Figure-Ground Interpretation

Neural Information Processing Systems

Figure/ground assignment, in which the visual image is divided into nearer (figural) and farther (ground) surfaces, is an essential step in visual processing, but its underlying computational mechanisms are poorly understood. Figural assignment (often referred to as border ownership) can vary along a contour, suggesting a spatially distributed process whereby local and global cues are combined to yield local estimates of border ownership. In this paper we model figure/ground estimation in a Bayesian belief network, attempting to capture the propagation of border ownership across the image as local cues (contour curvature and T-junctions) interact with more global cues to yield a figure/ground assignment. Our network includes as a nonlocal factor skeletal (medial axis) structure, under the hypothesis that medial structure draws'' border ownership so that borders are owned by their interiors. We also briefly present a psychophysical experiment in which we measured local border ownership along a contour at various distances from an inducing cue (a T-junction).


Complexity of Inference in Latent Dirichlet Allocation

Neural Information Processing Systems

We consider the computational complexity of probabilistic inference in Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA). First, we study the problem of finding the maximum a posteriori (MAP) assignment of topics to words, where the document's topic distribution is integrated out. We show that, when the effective number of topics per document is small, exact inference takes polynomial time. In contrast, we show that, when a document has a large number of topics, finding the MAP assignment of topics to words in LDA is NP-hard. Next, we consider the problem of finding the MAP topic distribution for a document, where the topic-word assignments are integrated out.


Streamlining Variational Inference for Constraint Satisfaction Problems

Neural Information Processing Systems

Several algorithms for solving constraint satisfaction problems are based on survey propagation, a variational inference scheme used to obtain approximate marginal probability estimates for variable assignments. These marginals correspond to how frequently each variable is set to true among satisfying assignments, and are used to inform branching decisions during search; however, marginal estimates obtained via survey propagation are approximate and can be self-contradictory. We introduce a more general branching strategy based on streamlining constraints, which sidestep hard assignments to variables. We show that streamlined solvers consistently outperform decimation-based solvers on random k-SAT instances for several problem sizes, shrinking the gap between empirical performance and theoretical limits of satisfiability by 16.3% on average for k 3, 4, 5, 6. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.


A Graphical Transformation for Belief Propagation: Maximum Weight Matchings and Odd-Sized Cycles

Neural Information Processing Systems

Max-product'belief propagation' (BP) is a popular distributed heuristic for finding the Maximum A Posteriori (MAP) assignment in a joint probability distribution represented by a Graphical Model (GM). It was recently shown that BP converges to the correct MAP assignment for a class of loopy GMs with the following common feature: the Linear Programming (LP) relaxation to the MAP problem is tight (has no integrality gap). Unfortunately, tightness of the LP relaxation does not, in general, guarantee convergence and correctness of the BP algorithm. The failure of BP in such cases motivates reverse engineering a solution – namely, given a tight LP, can we design a'good' BP algorithm. We prove that the algorithm converges to the correct optimum if the respective LP relaxation, which may include inequalities associated with non-intersecting odd-sized cycles, is tight.


Recurrent networks of coupled Winner-Take-All oscillators for solving constraint satisfaction problems

Neural Information Processing Systems

We present a recurrent neuronal network, modeled as a continuous-time dynamical system, that can solve constraint satisfaction problems. Discrete variables are represented by coupled Winner-Take-All (WTA) networks, and their values are encoded in localized patterns of oscillations that are learned by the recurrent weights in these networks. Constraints over the variables are encoded in the network connectivity. Although there are no sources of noise, the network can escape from local optima in its search for solutions that satisfy all constraints by modifying the effective network connectivity through oscillations. If there is no solution that satisfies all constraints, the network state changes in a pseudo-random manner and its trajectory approximates a sampling procedure that selects a variable assignment with a probability that increases with the fraction of constraints satisfied by this assignment.


Enhancing the Accuracy and Fairness of Human Decision Making

Neural Information Processing Systems

Societies often rely on human experts to take a wide variety of decisions affecting their members, from jail-or-release decisions taken by judges and stop-and-frisk decisions taken by police officers to accept-or-reject decisions taken by academics. In this context, each decision is taken by an expert who is typically chosen uniformly at random from a pool of experts. However, these decisions may be imperfect due to limited experience, implicit biases, or faulty probabilistic reasoning. Can we improve the accuracy and fairness of the overall decision making process by optimizing the assignment between experts and decisions? In this paper, we address the above problem from the perspective of sequential decision making and show that, for different fairness notions from the literature, it reduces to a sequence of (constrained) weighted bipartite matchings, which can be solved efficiently using algorithms with approximation guarantees.


Minimax-optimal Inference from Partial Rankings

Neural Information Processing Systems

This paper studies the problem of rank aggregation under the Plackett-Luce model. The goal is to infer a global ranking and related scores of the items, based on partial rankings provided by multiple users over multiple subsets of items. A question of particular interest is how to optimally assign items to users for ranking and how many item assignments are needed to achieve a target estimation error. Without any assumptions on how the items are assigned to users, we derive an oracle lower bound and the Cram\'er-Rao lower bound of the estimation error. We prove an upper bound on the estimation error achieved by the maximum likelihood estimator, and show that both the upper bound and the Cram\'er-Rao lower bound inversely depend on the spectral gap of the Laplacian of an appropriately defined comparison graph.