In the problem of learning a class ratio from unlabeled data, which we call CR learning, the training data is unlabeled, and only the ratios, or proportions, of examples receiving each label are given. The goal is to learn a hypothesis that predicts the proportions of labels on the distribution underlying the sample. This model of learning is applicable to a wide variety of settings, including predicting the number of votes for candidates in political elections from polls.
In this paper, we formally define this class and resolve foundational questions regarding the computational complexity of CR learning and characterize its relationship to PAC learning. Among our results, we show, perhaps surprisingly, that for finite VC classes what can be efficiently CR learned is a strict subset of what can be learned efficiently in PAC, under standard complexity assumptions. We also show that there exist classes of functions whose CR learnability is independent of ZFC, the standard set theoretic axioms. This implies that CR learning cannot be easily characterized (like PAC by VC dimension).
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A theory of universal learning
How quickly can a given class of concepts be learned from examples? It is common to measure the performance of a supervised machine learning algorithm by plotting its “learning curve”, that is, the decay of the error rate as a function of the number of training examples. However, the classical theoretical framework for understanding learnability, the PAC model of VapnikChervonenkis and Valiant, does not explain the behavior of learning curves: the distributionfree PAC model of learning can only bound the upper envelope of the learning curves over all possible data distributions. This does not match the practice of machine learning, where the data source is typically fixed in any given scenario, while the learner may choose the number of training examples on the basis of factors such as computational resources and desired accuracy.
In this paper, we study an alternative learning model that better captures such practical aspects of machine learning, but still gives rise to a complete theory of the learnable in the spirit of the PAC model. More precisely, we consider the problem of universal learning, which aims to understand the performance of learning algorithms on every data distribution, but without requiring uniformity over the distribution. The main result of this paper is a remarkable trichotomy: there are only three possible rates of universal learning. More precisely, we show that the learning curves of any given concept class decay either at an exponential, linear, or arbitrarily slow rates. Moreover, each of these cases is completely characterized by appropriate combinatorial parameters, and we exhibit optimal learning algorithms that achieve the best possible rate in each case.
For concreteness, we consider in this paper only the realizable case, though analogous results are expected to extend to more general learning scenarios.
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 Award ID(s):
 1811735
 NSFPAR ID:
 10310685
 Date Published:
 Journal Name:
 STOC 2021: Proceedings of the 53rd Annual ACM SIGACT Symposium on Theory of Computing
 Format(s):
 Medium: X
 Sponsoring Org:
 National Science Foundation
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