A pervasive issue in statistical hypothesis testing is that the reported $p$-values are biased downward by data "peeking" -- the practice of reporting only progressively extreme values of the test statistic as more data samples are collected. We develop principled mechanisms to estimate such running extrema of test statistics, which directly address the effect of peeking in some general scenarios.

Waudby-Smith, Ian, Ramdas, Aaditya

This paper derives confidence intervals (CI) and time-uniform confidence sequences (CS) for an unknown mean based on bounded observations. Our methods are based on a new general approach for deriving concentration bounds, that can be seen as a generalization (and improvement) of the classical Chernoff method. At its heart, it is based on deriving a new class of composite nonnegative martingales with initial value one, with strong connections to betting and the method of mixtures. We show how to extend these ideas to sampling without replacement. In all cases considered, the bounds are adaptive to the unknown variance, and empirically outperform competing approaches based on Hoeffding's or empirical Bernstein's inequalities and their recent supermartingale generalizations.

Vadori, Nelson, Ganesh, Sumitra, Reddy, Prashant, Veloso, Manuela

We introduce a novel framework to account for sensitivity to rewards uncertainty in sequential decision-making problems. While risk-sensitive formulations for Markov decision processes studied so far focus on the distribution of the cumulative reward as a whole, we aim at learning policies sensitive to the uncertain/stochastic nature of the rewards, which has the advantage of being conceptually more meaningful in some cases. To this end, we present a new decomposition of the randomness contained in the cumulative reward based on the Doob decomposition of a stochastic process, and introduce a new conceptual tool - the \textit{chaotic variation} - which can rigorously be interpreted as the risk measure of the martingale component associated to the cumulative reward process. We innovate on the reinforcement learning side by incorporating this new risk-sensitive approach into model-free algorithms, both policy gradient and value function based, and illustrate its relevance on grid world and portfolio optimization problems.

Agrawal, Priyank, Tulabandhula, Theja

We study the effect of persistence of engagement on learning in a stochastic multi-armed bandit setting. In advertising and recommendation systems, repetition effect includes a wear-in period, where the user's propensity to reward the platform via a click or purchase depends on how frequently they see the recommendation in the recent past. It also includes a counteracting wear-out period, where the user's propensity to respond positively is dampened if the recommendation was shown too many times recently. Priming effect can be naturally modelled as a temporal constraint on the strategy space, since the reward for the current action depends on historical actions taken by the platform. We provide novel algorithms that achieves sublinear regret in time and the relevant wear-in/wear-out parameters. The effect of priming on the regret upper bound is also additive, and we get back a guarantee that matches popular algorithms such as the UCB1 and Thompson sampling when there is no priming effect. Our work complements recent work on modeling time varying rewards, delays and corruptions in bandits, and extends the usage of rich behavior models in sequential decision making settings.

Gambara, Matteo, Teichmann, Josef

Consistent Recalibration models (CRC) have been introduced to capture in necessary generality the dynamic features of term structures of derivatives' prices. Several approaches have been suggested to tackle this problem, but all of them, including CRC models, suffered from numerical intractabilities mainly due to the presence of complicated drift terms or consistency conditions. We overcome this problem by machine learning techniques, which allow to store the crucial drift term's information in neural network type functions. This yields first time dynamic term structure models which can be efficiently simulated.

Neiswanger, Willie, Ramdas, Aaditya

We address uncertainty quantification for Gaussian processes (GPs) under misspecified priors, with an eye towards Bayesian Optimization (BO). GPs are widely used in BO because they easily enable exploration based on posterior uncertainty bands. However, this convenience comes at the cost of robustness: a typical function encountered in practice is unlikely to have been drawn from the data scientist's prior, in which case uncertainty estimates can be misleading, and the resulting exploration can be suboptimal. This brittle behavior is convincingly demonstrated in simple simulations. We present a frequentist approach to GP/BO uncertainty quantification. We utilize the GP framework as a working model, but do not assume correctness of the prior. We instead construct a confidence sequence (CS) for the unknown function using martingale techniques. There is a necessary cost to achieving robustness: if the prior was correct, posterior GP bands are narrower than our CS. Nevertheless, when the prior is wrong, our CS is statistically valid and empirically outperforms standard GP methods, in terms of both coverage and utility for BO. Additionally, we demonstrate that powered likelihoods provide robustness against model misspecification.

Bassamboo, Achal, Deep, Vikas, Juneja, Sandeep, Zeevi, Assaf

We consider the problem of designing an adaptive sequence of questions that optimally classify a candidate's ability into one of several categories or discriminative grades. A candidate's ability is modeled as an unknown parameter, which, together with the difficulty of the question asked, determines the likelihood with which s/he is able to answer a question correctly. The learning algorithm is only able to observe these noisy responses to its queries. We consider this problem from a fixed confidence-based $\delta$-correct framework, that in our setting seeks to arrive at the correct ability discrimination at the fastest possible rate while guaranteeing that the probability of error is less than a pre-specified and small $\delta$. In this setting we develop lower bounds on any sequential questioning strategy and develop geometrical insights into the problem structure both from primal and dual formulation. In addition, we arrive at algorithms that essentially match these lower bounds. Our key conclusions are that, asymptotically, any candidate needs to be asked questions at most at two (candidate ability-specific) levels, although, in a reasonably general framework, questions need to be asked only at a single level. Further, and interestingly, the problem structure facilitates endogenous exploration, so there is no need for a separately designed exploration stage in the algorithm.

Arous, Gerard Ben, Gheissari, Reza, Jagannath, Aukosh

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) is a popular algorithm for optimization problems arising in high-dimensional inference tasks. Here one produces an estimator of an unknown parameter from a large number of independent samples of data by iteratively optimizing a loss function. This loss function is high-dimensional, random, and often complex. We study here the performance of the simplest version of SGD, namely online SGD, in the initial "search" phase, where the algorithm is far from a trust region and the loss landscape is highly non-convex. To this end, we investigate the performance of online SGD at attaining a "better than random" correlation with the unknown parameter, i.e, achieving weak recovery. Our contribution is a classification of the difficulty of typical instances of this task for online SGD in terms of the number of samples required as the dimension diverges. This classification depends only on an intrinsic property of the population loss, which we call the information exponent. Using the information exponent, we find that there are three distinct regimes---the easy, critical, and difficult regimes---where one requires linear, quasilinear, and polynomially many samples (in the dimension) respectively to achieve weak recovery. We illustrate our approach by applying it to a wide variety of estimation tasks such as parameter estimation for generalized linear models, two-component Gaussian mixture models, phase retrieval, and spiked matrix and tensor models, as well as supervised learning for single-layer networks with general activation functions. In this latter case, our results translate into a classification of the difficulty of this task in terms of the Hermite decomposition of the activation function.

Cai, Feiyang, Li, Jiani, Koutsoukos, Xenofon

Learning-enabled components (LECs) are widely used in cyber-physical systems (CPS) since they can handle the uncertainty and variability of the environment and increase the level of autonomy. However, it has been shown that LECs such as deep neural networks (DNN) are not robust and adversarial examples can cause the model to make a false prediction. The paper considers the problem of efficiently detecting adversarial examples in LECs used for regression in CPS. The proposed approach is based on inductive conformal prediction and uses a regression model based on variational autoencoder. The architecture allows to take into consideration both the input and the neural network prediction for detecting adversarial, and more generally, out-of-distribution examples. We demonstrate the method using an advanced emergency braking system implemented in an open source simulator for self-driving cars where a DNN is used to estimate the distance to an obstacle. The simulation results show that the method can effectively detect adversarial examples with a short detection delay.

Chaturvedi, Anamay, Scarlett, Jonathan

Graphical model selection in Markov random fields is a fundamental problem in statistics and machine learning. Two particularly prominent models, the Ising model and Gaussian model, have largely developed in parallel using different (though often related) techniques, and several practical algorithms with rigorous sample complexity bounds have been established for each. In this paper, we adapt a recently proposed algorithm of Klivans and Meka (FOCS, 2017), based on the method of multiplicative weight updates, from the Ising model to the Gaussian model, via non-trivial modifications to both the algorithm and its analysis. The algorithm enjoys a sample complexity bound that is qualitatively similar to others in the literature, has a low runtime $O(mp^2)$ in the case of $m$ samples and $p$ nodes, and can trivially be implemented in an online manner.