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  1. Modern machine learning models require a large amount of labeled data for training to perform well. A recently emerging paradigm for reducing the reliance of large model training on massive labeled data is to take advantage of abundantly available labeled data from a related source task to boost the performance of the model in a desired target task where there may not be a lot of data available. This approach, which is called transfer learning, has been applied successfully in many application domains. However, despite the fact that many transfer learning algorithms have been developed, the fundamental understanding of "when" and "to what extent" transfer learning can reduce sample complexity is still limited. In this work, we take a step towards foundational understanding of transfer learning by focusing on binary classification with linear models and Gaussian features and develop statistical minimax lower bounds in terms of the number of source and target samples and an appropriate notion of similarity between source and target tasks. To derive this bound, we reduce the transfer learning problem to hypothesis testing via constructing a packing set of source and target parameters by exploiting Gilbert-Varshamov bound, which in turn leads to a lower bound on sample complexity. We also evaluate our theoretical results by experiments on real data sets. 
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  2. Due to the surge of cloud-assisted AI services, the problem of designing resilient prediction serving systems that can effectively cope with stragglers and minimize response delays has attracted much interest. The common approach for tackling this problem is replication which assigns the same prediction task to multiple workers. This approach, however, is inefficient and incurs significant resource overheads. Hence, a learning-based approach known as parity model (ParM) has been recently proposed which learns models that can generate ``parities’’ for a group of predictions to reconstruct the predictions of the slow/failed workers. While this learning-based approach is more resource-efficient than replication, it is tailored to the specific model hosted by the cloud and is particularly suitable for a small number of queries (typically less than four) and tolerating very few stragglers (mostly one). Moreover, ParM does not handle Byzantine adversarial workers. We propose a different approach, named Approximate Coded Inference (ApproxIFER), that does not require training any parity models, hence it is agnostic to the model hosted by the cloud and can be readily applied to different data domains and model architectures. Compared with earlier works, ApproxIFER can handle a general number of stragglers and scales significantly better with the number of queries. Furthermore, ApproxIFER is robust against Byzantine workers. Our extensive experiments on a large number of datasets and model architectures show significant degraded mode accuracy improvement by up to 58% over ParM. 
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