By Ian Gormely
May 19, 2022

Two papers co-authored by Vector researchers were recognized with awards at this year’s International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR). 

Vector Faculty Member Nicolas Papernot and Thomas Steinke won an Outstanding Paper Award for their work “Hyperparameter Tuning with Renyi Differential Privacy.” The paper shows how the current method of analyzing an algorithm’s privacy during training can underestimate the leakage of private information. “We typically analyze a single training run of the algorithm,” says Papernot. “Here we show how to extend the analysis of a single training run of the algorithm to capture the leakage of the entire training, including the tuning of the hyperparameters.”

Also earning Outstanding Paper honours was “Neural Collapse Under MSE Loss: Proximity to and Dynamics on the Central Path,” by Vector Faculty Affiliate Vardan Papyan and co-authors X.Y. Han and David L. Donoho. The paper shows a common “Neural Collapse” empirical pattern across many classification datasets and architectures, a simple, geometric structure that emerges during deep network training. “The theoretical analysis of this structure can give insights into key properties of modern AI methods such as adversarial robustness and generalization,” says Papyan. 

In total, 21 papers co-authored by Vector Faculty Members and Faculty Affilaites were accepted to this year’s conference, which was held virtually. Two were chosen for oral presentations and five were given shorter spotlight talks. 

Below are abstracts for many of the accepted papers co-authored by Vector Faculty Members and Faculty Affiliates.

A Zest of LIME: Towards Architecture-Independent Model Distances
Hengrui Jia, Hongyu Chen, Jonas Guan, Ali Shahin Shamsabadi, Nicolas Papernot

Definitions of the distance between two machine learning models either characterize the similarity of the models’ predictions or of their weights. While similarity of weights is attractive because it implies similarity of predictions in the limit, it suffers from being inapplicable to comparing models with different architectures. On the other hand, the similarity of predictions is broadly applicable but depends heavily on the choice of model inputs during comparison. In this paper, we instead propose to compute distance between black-box models by comparing their Local Interpretable Model-Agnostic Explanations (LIME). To compare two models, we take a reference dataset, and locally approximate the models on each reference point with linear models trained by LIME. We then compute the cosine distance between the concatenated weights of the linear models. This yields an approach that is both architecture-independent and possesses the benefits of comparing models in weight space. We empirically show that our method, which we call Zest, can be applied to two problems that require measurements of model similarity: detecting model stealing and machine unlearning.

Accelerated Policy Learning with Parallel Differentiable Simulation
Jie Xu, Viktor Makoviychuk, Yashraj Narang, Fabio Ramos, Wojciech Matusik, Animesh Garg, Miles Macklin

Deep reinforcement learning can generate complex control policies, but requires large amounts of training data to work effectively. Recent work has attempted to address this issue by leveraging differentiable simulators. However, inherent problems such as local minima and exploding/vanishing numerical gradients prevent these methods from being generally applied to control tasks with complex contact-rich dynamics, such as humanoid locomotion in classical RL benchmarks. In this work we present a high-performance differentiable simulator and a new policy learning algorithm (SHAC) that can effectively leverage simulation gradients, even in the presence of non-smoothness. Our learning algorithm alleviates problems with local minima through a smooth critic function, avoids vanishing/exploding gradients through a truncated learning window, and allows many physical environments to be run in parallel. We evaluate our method on classical RL control tasks, and show substantial improvements in sample efficiency and wall-clock time over state-of-the-art RL and differentiable simulation-based algorithms. In addition, we demonstrate the scalability of our method by applying it to the challenging high-dimensional problem of muscle-actuated locomotion with a large action space, achieving a greater than  reduction in training time over the best-performing established RL algorithm. More visual results are provided at:

CoordX: Accelerating Implicit Neural Representation with a Split MLP Architecture
Ruofan Liang, Hongyi Sun, Nandita Vijaykumar

Implicit neural representations with multi-layer perceptrons (MLPs) have recently gained prominence for a wide variety of tasks such as novel view synthesis and 3D object representation and rendering. However, a significant challenge with these representations is that both training and inference with an MLP over a large number of input coordinates to learn and represent an image, video, or 3D object, require large amounts of computation and incur long processing times. In this work, we aim to accelerate inference and training of coordinate-based MLPs for implicit neural representations by proposing a new split MLP architecture, CoordX. With CoordX, the initial layers are split to learn each dimension of the input coordinates separately. The intermediate features are then fused by the last layers to generate the learned signal at the corresponding coordinate point. This significantly reduces the amount of computation required and leads to large speedups in training and inference, while achieving similar accuracy as the baseline MLP. This approach thus aims at first learning functions that are a decomposition of the original signal and then fusing them to generate the learned signal. Our proposed architecture can be generally used for many implicit neural representation tasks with no additional memory overheads. We demonstrate a speedup of up to 2.92x compared to the baseline model for image, video, and 3D shape representation and rendering tasks.

Differentially Private Fine-tuning of Language Models
Da Yu, Saurabh Naik, Arturs Backurs, Sivakanth Gopi, Huseyin A Inan, Gautam Kamath, Janardhan Kulkarni, Yin Tat Lee, Andre Manoel, Lukas Wutschitz, Sergey Yekhanin, Huishuai Zhang

We give simpler, sparser, and faster algorithms for differentially private finetuning of large-scale pre-trained language models, which achieve the state-ofthe-art privacy versus utility tradeoffs on many standard NLP tasks. We propose a meta-framework for this problem, inspired by the recent success of highly parameter-efficient methods for fine-tuning. Our experiments show that differentially private adaptations of these approaches outperform previous private algorithms in three important dimensions: utility, privacy, and the computational and memory cost of private training. On many commonly studied datasets, the utility of private models approaches that of non-private models. For example, on the MNLI dataset we achieve an accuracy of 87.8% using RoBERTa-Large and 83.5% using RoBERTa-Base with a privacy budget of ε = 6.7. In comparison, absent privacy constraints, RoBERTa-Large achieves an accuracy of 90.2%. Our findings are similar for natural language generation when privately fine-tuning GPT-2. Our experiments also show that larger models are better suited for private fine-tuning: while they are well known to achieve superior accuracy non-privately, we find that they also better maintain their accuracy when privacy is introduced.

Distributional Reinforcement Learning with Monotonic Splines
Yudong Luo, Guiliang Liu, Haonan Duan, Oliver Schulte, Pascal Poupart

Distributional Reinforcement Learning (RL) differs from traditional RL by estimating the distribution over returns to capture the intrinsic uncertainty of MDPs. One key challenge in distributional RL lies in how to parameterize the quantile function when minimizing the Wasserstein metric of temporal differences. Existing algorithms use step functions or piecewise linear functions. In this paper, we propose to learn smooth continuous quantile functions represented by monotonic rational-quadratic splines, which also naturally solve the quantile crossing problem. Experiments in stochastic environments show that a dense estimation for quantile functions enhances distributional RL in terms of faster empirical convergence and higher rewards in most cases.

Domain Adversarial Training: A Game Perspective
David Acuna, Marc T Law, Guojun Zhang, Sanja Fidler

The dominant line of work in domain adaptation has focused on learning invariant representations using domain-adversarial training. In this paper, we interpret this approach from a game theoretical perspective. Defining optimal solutions in domain-adversarial training as a local Nash equilibrium, we show that gradient descent in domain-adversarial training can violate the asymptotic convergence guarantees of the optimizer, oftentimes hindering the transfer performance. Our analysis leads us to replace gradient descent with high-order ODE solvers (i.e., Runge–Kutta), for which we derive asymptotic convergence guarantees. This family of optimizers is significantly more stable and allows more aggressive learning rates, leading to high performance gains when used as a drop-in replacement over standard optimizers. Our experiments show that in conjunction with state-of-the-art domain-adversarial methods, we achieve up to 3.5% improvement with less than of half training iterations. Our optimizers are easy to implement, free of additional parameters, and can be plugged into any domain-adversarial framework.

Hyperparameter Tuning with Renyi Differential Privacy
Nicolas Papernot, Thomas Steinke

For many differentially private algorithms, such as the prominent noisy stochastic gradient descent (DP-SGD), the analysis needed to bound the privacy leakage of a single training run is well understood. However, few studies have reasoned about the privacy leakage resulting from the multiple training runs needed to fine tune the value of the training algorithm’s hyperparameters. In this work, we first illustrate how simply setting hyperparameters based on non-private training runs can leak private information. Motivated by this observation, we then provide privacy guarantees for hyperparameter search procedures within the framework of Renyi Differential Privacy. Our results improve and extend the work of Liu and Talwar (STOC 2019). Our analysis supports our previous observation that tuning hyperparameters does indeed leak private information, but we prove that, under certain assumptions, this leakage is modest, as long as each candidate training run needed to select hyperparameters is itself differentially private.

Improving Mutual Information Estimation with Annealed and Energy-Based Bounds
Rob Brekelmans, Sicong Huang, Marzyeh Ghassemi, Greg Ver Steeg, Roger Baker Grosse, Alireza Makhzani

Mutual information (MI) is a fundamental quantity in information theory and machine learning. However, direct estimation of MI is intractable, even if the true joint probability density for the variables of interest is known, as it involves estimating a potentially high-dimensional log partition function. In this work, we present a unifying view of existing MI bounds from the perspective of importance sampling, and propose three novel bounds based on this approach. Since a tight MI bound without density information requires a sample size exponential in the true MI, we assume either a single marginal or the full joint density information is known. In settings where the full joint density is available, we propose Multi-Sample Annealed Importance Sampling (AIS) bounds on MI, which we demonstrate can tightly estimate large values of MI in our experiments. In settings where only a single marginal distribution is known, we propose Generalized IWAE (GIWAE) and MINE-AIS bounds. Our GIWAE bound unifies variational and contrastive bounds in a single framework that generalizes InfoNCE, IWAE, and Barber-Agakov bounds. Our MINE-AIS method improves upon existing energy-based methods such as MINE-DV and MINE-F by directly optimizing a tighter lower bound on MI. MINE-AIS uses MCMC sampling to estimate gradients for training and Multi-Sample AIS for evaluating the bound. Our methods are particularly suitable for evaluating MI in deep generative models, since explicit forms of the marginal or joint densities are often available. We evaluate our bounds on estimating the MI of VAEs and GANs trained on the MNIST and CIFAR datasets, and showcase significant gains over existing bounds in these challenging settings with high ground truth MI.

Increasing the Cost of Model Extraction with Calibrated Proof of Work
Adam Dziedzic, Muhammad Ahmad Kaleem, Yu Shen Lu, Nicolas Papernot

In model extraction attacks, adversaries can steal a machine learning model exposed via a public API by repeatedly querying it and adjusting their own model based on obtained predictions. To prevent model stealing, existing defenses focus on detecting malicious queries, truncating, or distorting outputs, thus necessarily introducing a tradeoff between robustness and model utility for legitimate users. Instead, we propose to impede model extraction by requiring users to complete a proof-of-work before they can read the model’s predictions. This deters attackers by greatly increasing (even up to 100x) the computational effort needed to leverage query access for model extraction. Since we calibrate the effort required to complete the proof-of-work to each query, this only introduces a slight overhead for regular users (up to 2x). To achieve this, our calibration applies tools from differential privacy to measure the information revealed by a query. Our method requires no modification of the victim model and can be applied by machine learning practitioners to guard their publicly exposed models against being easily stolen.

Is Fairness Only Metric Deep? Evaluating and Addressing Subgroup Gaps in Deep Metric Learning
Natalie Dullerud, Karsten Roth, Kimia Hamidieh, Nicolas Papernot, Marzyeh Ghassemi

Deep metric learning (DML) enables learning with less supervision through its emphasis on the similarity structure of representations. There has been much work on improving generalization of DML in settings like zero-shot retrieval, but little is known about its implications for fairness. In this paper, we are the first to evaluate state-of-the-art DML methods trained on imbalanced data, and to show the negative impact these representations have on minority subgroup performance when used for downstream tasks. In this work, we first define fairness in DML through an analysis of three properties of the representation space — inter-class alignment, intra-class alignment, and uniformity — and propose finDML, the fairness in non-balanced DML benchmark to characterize representation fairness. Utilizing finDML, we find bias in DML representations to propagate to common downstream classification tasks. Surprisingly, this bias is propagated even when training data in the downstream task is re-balanced. To address this problem, we present Partial Attribute De-correlation (PARADE) to disentangle feature representations from sensitive attributes and reduce performance gaps between subgroups in both embedding space and downstream metrics.

Learning Object-Oriented Dynamics for Planning from Text
Guiliang Liu, Ashutosh Adhikari, Amir-massoud Farahmand, Pascal Poupart

The advancement of dynamics models enables model-based planning in complex environments. Existing dynamics models commonly study image-based games with fully observable states. Generalizing these models to Text-Based Games (TBGs), which commonly describe the partially observable states with noisy text observations, is challenging. In this work, we propose an Object-Oriented Text Dynamics (OOTD) model that enables planning algorithms to solve decision-making problems in text domains. OOTD predicts a memory graph that dynamically remembers the history of object observations and filters object-irrelevant information.  To facilitate the robustness of dynamics, our OOTD model identifies the objects influenced by input actions and predicts the belief of object states with independently parameterized transition layers. We develop variational objectives under the object-supervised and self-supervised settings to model the stochasticity of predicted dynamics. Empirical results show OOTD-based planner significantly outperforms model-free baselines in terms of sample efficiency and running scores.

Low-Budget Active Learning via Wasserstein Distance: An Integer Programming Approach
Rafid Mahmood, Sanja Fidler, Marc T. Law

Active learning is the process of training a model with limited labeled data by selecting a core subset of an unlabeled data pool to label. The large scale of data sets used in deep learning forces most sample selection strategies to employ efficient heuristics. This paper introduces an integer optimization problem for selecting a core set that minimizes the discrete Wasserstein distance from the unlabeled pool. We demonstrate that this problem can be tractably solved with a Generalized Benders Decomposition algorithm. Our strategy uses high-quality latent features that can be obtained by unsupervised learning on the unlabeled pool. Numerical results on several data sets show that our optimization approach is competitive with baselines and particularly outperforms them in the low budget regime where less than one percent of the data set is labeled.

Neural Collapse Under MSE Loss: Proximity to and Dynamics on the Central Path
X.Y. Han, Vardan Papyan, David L. Donoho

The recently discovered Neural Collapse (NC) phenomenon occurs pervasively in today’s deep net training paradigm of driving cross-entropy (CE) loss towards zero. During NC, last-layer features collapse to their class-means, both classifiers and class-means collapse to the same Simplex Equiangular Tight Frame, and classifier behavior collapses to the nearest-class-mean decision rule. Recent works demonstrated that deep nets trained with mean squared error (MSE) loss perform comparably to those trained with CE. As a preliminary, we empirically establish that NC emerges in such MSE-trained deep nets as well through experiments on three canonical networks and five benchmark datasets. We provide, in a Google Colab notebook, PyTorch code for reproducing MSE-NC and CE-NC: The analytically-tractable MSE loss offers more mathematical opportunities than the hard-to-analyze CE loss, inspiring us to leverage MSE loss towards the theoretical investigation of NC. We develop three main contributions: (I) We show a new decomposition of the MSE loss into (A) terms directly interpretable through the lens of NC and which assume the last-layer classifier is exactly the least-squares classifier; and (B) a term capturing the deviation from this least-squares classifier. (II) We exhibit experiments on canonical datasets and networks demonstrating that term-(B) is negligible during training. This motivates us to introduce a new theoretical construct: the central path, where the linear classifier stays MSE-optimal for feature activations throughout the dynamics. (III) By studying renormalized gradient flow along the central path, we derive exact dynamics that predict NC.

NODE-GAM: Neural Generalized Additive Model for Interpretable Deep Learning
Chun-Hao Chang, Rich Caruana, Anna Goldenberg

Deployment of machine learning models in real high-risk settings (e.g. healthcare) often depends not only on the model’s accuracy but also on its fairness, robustness, and interpretability. Generalized Additive Models (GAMs) are a class of interpretable models with a long history of use in these high-risk domains, but they lack desirable features of deep learning such as differentiability and scalability. In this work, we propose a neural GAM (NODE-GAM) and neural GA2M (NODEGA2M) that scale well and perform better than other GAMs on large datasets, while remaining interpretable compared to other ensemble and deep learning models. We demonstrate that our models find interesting patterns in the data. Lastly, we show that we improve model accuracy via self-supervised pre-training, an improvement that is not possible for non-differentiable GAMs.

Optimal Representations for Covariate Shift
Yangjun Ruan, Yann Dubois, Chris J. Maddison

Machine learning systems often experience a distribution shift between training and testing. In this paper, we introduce a simple variational objective whose optima are exactly the set of all representations on which risk minimizers are guaranteed to be robust to any distribution shift that preserves the Bayes predictor, e.g., covariate shifts. Our objective has two components. First, a representation must remain discriminative for the task, i.e., some predictor must be able to simultaneously minimize the source and target risk. Second, the representation’s marginal support needs to be the same across source and target. We make this practical by designing self-supervised objectives that only use unlabelled data and augmentations to train robust representations. Our objectives give insights into the robustness of CLIP, and further improve CLIP’s representations to achieve SOTA results on DomainBed.

Pessimistic Bootstrapping for Uncertainty-Driven Offline Reinforcement Learning
Chenjia Bai, Lingxiao Wang, Zhuoran Yang, Zhi-Hong Deng, Animesh Garg, Peng Liu, Zhaoran Wang

Offline Reinforcement Learning (RL) aims to learn policies from previously collected datasets without exploring the environment. Directly applying off-policy algorithms to offline RL usually fails due to the extrapolation error caused by the out-of-distribution (OOD) actions. Previous methods tackle such problem by penalizing the Q-values of OOD actions or constraining the trained policy to be close to the behavior policy. Nevertheless, such methods typically prevent the generalization of value functions beyond the offline data and also lack precise characterization of OOD data. In this paper, we propose Pessimistic Bootstrapping for offline RL (PBRL), a purely uncertainty-driven offline algorithm without explicit policy constraints. Specifically, PBRL conducts uncertainty quantification via the disagreement of bootstrapped Q-functions, and performs pessimistic updates by penalizing the value function based on the estimated uncertainty. To tackle the extrapolating error, we further propose a novel OOD sampling method. We show that such OOD sampling and pessimistic bootstrapping yields provable uncertainty quantifier in linear MDPs, thus providing the theoretical underpinning for PBRL. Extensive experiments on D4RL benchmark show that PBRL has better performance compared to the state-of-the-art algorithms.

Pix2seq: A Language Modeling Framework for Object Detection
Ting Chen, Saurabh Saxena, Lala Li, David J. Fleet, Geoffrey Hinton

We present Pix2Seq, a simple and generic framework for object detection. Unlike existing approaches that explicitly integrate prior knowledge about the task, we cast object detection as a language modeling task conditioned on the observed pixel inputs. Object descriptions (e.g., bounding boxes and class labels) are expressed as sequences of discrete tokens, and we train a neural network to perceive the image and generate the desired sequence. Our approach is based mainly on the intuition that if a neural network knows about where and what the objects are, we just need to teach it how to read them out. Beyond the use of task-specific data augmentations, our approach makes minimal assumptions about the task, yet it achieves competitive results on the challenging COCO dataset, compared to highly specialized and well-optimized detection algorithms.

Revisiting flow generative models for Out-of-distribution detection
Dihong Jiang, Sun Sun, Yaoliang Yu

Deep generative models have been widely used in practical applications such as the detection of out-of-distribution (OOD) data. In this work,  we aim to re-examine the potential of generative flow models in OOD detection. We first propose a simple combination of univariate one-sample statistical test (e.g., Kolmogorov-Smirnov) and random projections in the latent space of flow models to perform OOD detection.  Then, we propose a two-sample version of our test to account for imperfect flow models. Quite distinctly, our method does not pose parametric assumptions on OOD data and is capable of exploiting any flow model. Experimentally, firstly we confirm the efficacy of our method against state-of-the-art baselines through extensive experiments on several image datasets; secondly, we investigate the relationship between model accuracy (e.g., the generation quality) and the OOD detection performance, and found surprisingly that they are not always positively correlated; and thirdly we show that detection in the latent space of flow models generally outperforms detection in the sample space across various OOD datasets, hence highlighting the benefits of training a flow model.

Understanding the Variance Collapse of SVGD in High Dimensions
Jimmy Ba, Murat A Erdogdu, Marzyeh Ghassemi, Shengyang Sun, Taiji Suzuki, Denny Wu, Tianzong Zhang

Stein variational gradient descent (SVGD) is a deterministic inference algorithm that evolves a set of particles to fit a target distribution. Despite its computational efficiency, SVGD often underestimates the variance of the target distribution in high dimensions. In this work we attempt to explain the variance collapse in SVGD. On the qualitative side, we compare the SVGD update with gradient descent on the maximum mean discrepancy (MMD) objective; we observe that the variance collapse phenomenon relates to the bias from deterministic updates present in the “driving force” of SVGD, and empirically verify that removal of such bias leads to more accurate variance estimation. On the quantitative side, we demonstrate that the variance collapse of SVGD can be accurately predicted in the proportional asymptotic limit, i.e., when the number of particles  and dimensions  diverge at the same rate. In particular, for learning high-dimensional isotropic Gaussians, we derive the exact equilibrium variance for both SVGD and MMD-descent under certain near-orthogonality assumption on the converged particles, and confirm that SVGD suffers from the “curse of dimensionality.” 

Value Gradient weighted Model-Based Reinforcement Learning
Claas A Voelcker, Victor Liao, Animesh Garg, Amir-massoud Farahmand

Model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) is a sample efficient technique to obtain control policies, yet unavoidable modeling errors often lead performance deterioration. The model in MBRL is often solely fitted to reconstruct dynamics, state observations in particular, while the impact of model error on the policy is not captured by the training objective. This leads to a mismatch between the intended goal of MBRL, enabling good policy and value learning, and the target of the loss function employed in practice, future state prediction. Naive intuition would suggest that value-aware model learning would fix this problem and, indeed, several solutions to this objective mismatch problem have been proposed based on theoretical analysis. However, they tend to be inferior in practice to commonly used maximum likelihood (MLE) based approaches. In this paper we propose the Value-gradient weighted Model Learning (VaGraM), a novel method for value-aware model learning which improves the performance of MBRL in challenging settings, such as small model capacity and the presence of distracting state dimensions. We analyze both MLE and value-aware approaches and demonstrate how they fail to account for exploration and the behavior of function approximation when learning value-aware models and highlight the additional goals that must be met to stabilize optimization in the deep learning setting. We verify our analysis by showing that our loss function is able to achieve high returns on the Mujoco benchmark suite while being more robust than maximum likelihood based approaches.

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