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  1. In this paper, we consider a setting inspired by spatial crowdsourcing platforms, where both workers and tasks arrive at different times, and each worker-task assignment yields a given reward. The key challenge is to address the uncertainty in the stochastic arrivals from both workers and the tasks. In this work, we consider a ubiquitous scenario where the arrival patterns of worker “types” and task “types” are not erratic but can be predicted from historical data. Specifically, we consider a finite time horizon T and assume that in each time-step the arrival of a worker and a task can be seen as an independent sample from two (different) distributions. Our model, called "Online Task Assignment with Two-Sided Arrival" (OTA-TSA), is a significant generalization of the classical online task-assignment problem when all the tasks are statically available. For the general case of OTA-TSA, we present an optimal non-adaptive algorithm (NADAP), which achieves a competitive ratio (CR) of at least 0.295. For a special case of OTA-TSA when the reward depends only on the worker type, we present two adaptive algorithms, which achieve CRs of at least 0.343 and 0.355, respectively. On the hardness side, we show that (1) no non-adaptive can achieve a CR larger than that of NADAP, establishing the optimality of NADAP among all non-adaptive algorithms; and (2) no (adaptive) algorithm can achieve a CR better than 0.581 (unconditionally) or 0.423 (conditionally on the benchmark linear program), respectively. All aforementioned negative results apply to even unweighted OTA-TSA when every assignment yields a uniform reward. At the heart of our analysis is a new technical tool, called "two-stage birth-death process", which is a refined notion of the classical birth-death process. We believe it may be of independent interest. Finally, we perform extensive numerical experiments on a real-world ride-share dataset collected in Chicago and a synthetic dataset, and results demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed algorithms in practice. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 11, 2025
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 4, 2024
  3. While the stable marriage problem and its variants model a vast range of matching markets, they fail to capture complex agent relationships, such as the affiliation of applicants and employers in an interview marketplace. To model this problem, the existing literature on matching with externalities permits agents to provide complete and total rankings over matchings based off of both their own and their affiliates' matches. This complete ordering restriction is unrealistic, and further the model may have an empty core. To address this, we introduce the Dichotomous Affiliate Stable Matching (DASM) Problem, where agents' preferences indicate dichotomous acceptance or rejection of another agent in the marketplace, both for themselves and their affiliates. We also assume the agent's preferences over entire matchings are determined by a general weighted valuation function of their (and their affiliates') matches. Our results are threefold: (1) we use a human study to show that real-world matching rankings follow our assumed valuation function; (2) we prove that there always exists a stable solution by providing an efficient, easily-implementable algorithm that finds such a solution; and (3) we experimentally validate the efficiency of our algorithm versus a linear-programming-based approach. 
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  4. We propose a novel formulation of group fairness with biased feedback in the contextual multi-armed bandit (CMAB) setting. In the CMAB setting, a sequential decision maker must, at each time step, choose an arm to pull from a finite set of arms after observing some context for each of the potential arm pulls. In our model, arms are partitioned into two or more sensitive groups based on some protected feature(s) (e.g., age, race, or socio-economic status). Initial rewards received from pulling an arm may be distorted due to some unknown societal or measurement bias. We assume that in reality these groups are equal despite the biased feedback received by the agent. To alleviate this, we learn a societal bias term which can be used to both find the source of bias and to potentially fix the problem outside of the algorithm. We provide a novel algorithm that can accommodate this notion of fairness for an arbitrary number of groups, and provide a theoretical bound on the regret for our algorithm. We validate our algorithm using synthetic data and two real-world datasets for intervention settings wherein we want to allocate resources fairly across groups. 
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  5. COVID-19 exposure-notification apps have struggled to gain adoption. Existing literature posits as potential causes of this low adoption: privacy concerns, insufficient data transparency, and the type of appeal – collective- vs. individual-good – used to frame the app. As policy guidance suggests using tailored advertising to evaluate the effects of these factors, we present the first field study of COVID-19 contact tracing apps with a randomized, control trial of 14 different advertisements for CovidDefense, Louisiana’s COVID-19 exposure-notification app. We find that all three hypothesized factors – privacy, data transparency, and appeals framing – relate to app adoption, even when controlling for age, gender, and community density. Our results offer (1) the first field evidence supporting the use of collective-good appeals, (2) nuanced findings regarding the efficacy of data and privacy transparency, the effects of which are moderated by appeal framing and potential users’ demographics, and (3) field-evidence-based guidance for future efforts to encourage pro-social health technology adoption. 
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  6. We propose a new architecture to approximately learn incentive compatible, revenue-maximizing auctions from sampled valuations. Our architecture uses the Sinkhorn algorithm to perform a differentiable bipartite matching which allows the network to learn strategyproof revenue-maximizing mechanisms in settings not learnable by the previous RegretNet architecture. In particular, our architecture is able to learn mechanisms in settings without free disposal where each bidder must be allocated exactly some number of items. In experiments, we show our approach successfully recovers multiple known optimal mechanisms and high-revenue, low-regret mechanisms in larger settings where the optimal mechanism is unknown. 
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  7. Visualizing optimization landscapes has resulted in many fundamental insights in numeric optimization, specifically regarding novel improvements to optimization techniques. However, visualizations of the objective that reinforcement learning optimizes (the "reward surface") have only ever been generated for a small number of narrow contexts. This work presents reward surfaces and related visualizations of 27 of the most widely used reinforcement learning environments in Gym for the first time. We also explore reward surfaces in the policy gradient direction and show for the first time that many popular reinforcement learning environments have frequent "cliffs" (sudden large drops in expected reward). We demonstrate that A2C often "dives off" these cliffs into low reward regions of the parameter space while PPO avoids them, confirming a popular intuition for PPO’s improved performance over previous methods. We additionally introduce a highly extensible library that allows researchers to easily generate these visualizations in the future. Our findings provide new intuition to explain the successes and failures of modern RL methods, and our visualizations concretely characterize several failure modes of reinforcement learning agents in novel ways. 
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  8. Facial analysis systems have been deployed by large companies and critiqued by scholars and activists for the past decade. Many existing algorithmic audits examine the performance of these systems on later stage elements of facial analysis systems like facial recognition and age, emotion, or perceived gender prediction; however, a core component to these systems has been vastly understudied from a fairness perspective: face detection, sometimes called face localization. Since face detection is a pre-requisite step in facial analysis systems, the bias we observe in face detection will flow downstream to the other components like facial recognition and emotion prediction. Additionally, no prior work has focused on the robustness of these systems under various perturbations and corruptions, which leaves open the question of how various people are impacted by these phenomena. We present the first of its kind detailed benchmark of face detection systems, specifically examining the robustness to noise of commercial and academic models. We use both standard and recently released academic facial datasets to quantitatively analyze trends in face detection robustness. Across all the datasets and systems, we generally find that photos of individuals who are masculine presenting, older, of darker skin type, or have dim lighting are more susceptible to errors than their counterparts in other identities. 
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  9. While other areas of machine learning have seen more and more automation, designing a high-performing recommender system still requires a high level of human effort. Furthermore, recent work has shown that modern recommender system algorithms do not always improve over well-tuned baselines. A natural follow-up question is, "how do we choose the right algorithm for a new dataset and performance metric?" In this work, we start by giving the first large-scale study of recommender system approaches by comparing 24 algorithms and 100 sets of hyperparameters across 85 datasets and 315 metrics. We find that the best algorithms and hyperparameters are highly dependent on the dataset and performance metric. However, there is also a strong correlation between the performance of each algorithm and various meta-features of the datasets. Motivated by these findings, we create RecZilla, a meta-learning approach to recommender systems that uses a model to predict the best algorithm and hyperparameters for new, unseen datasets. By using far more meta-training data than prior work, RecZilla is able to substantially reduce the level of human involvement when faced with a new recommender system application. We not only release our code and pretrained RecZilla models, but also all of our raw experimental results, so that practitioners can train a RecZilla model for their desired performance metric: https://github.com/naszilla/reczilla. 
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