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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 6, 2024
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  4. In this work, we consider the sample complexity required for testing the monotonicity of distributions over partial orders. A distribution p over a poset is {\em monotone} if, for any pair of domain elements x and y such that x⪯y, p(x)≤p(y). To understand the sample complexity of this problem, we introduce a new property called \emph{bigness} over a finite domain, where the distribution is T-big if the minimum probability for any domain element is at least T. We establish a lower bound of Ω(n/logn) for testing bigness of distributions on domains of size n. We then build on these lower bounds to give Ω(n/logn) lower bounds for testing monotonicity over a matching poset of size n and significantly improved lower bounds over the hypercube poset. We give sublinear sample complexity bounds for testing bigness and for testing monotonicity over the matching poset. We then give a number of tools for analyzing upper bounds on the sample complexity of the monotonicity testing problem. 
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  5. While Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) have demonstrated promising performance on multiple vision tasks, their learning dynamics are not yet well understood, both in theory and in practice. To address this issue, we study GAN dynamics in a simple yet rich parametric model that exhibits several of the common problematic convergence behaviors such as vanishing gradients, mode collapse, and diverging or oscillatory behavior. In spite of the non-convex nature of our model, we are able to perform a rigorous theoretical analysis of its convergence behavior. Our analysis reveals an interesting dichotomy: a GAN with an optimal discriminator provably converges, while first order approximations of the discriminator steps lead to unstable GAN dynamics and mode collapse. Our result suggests that using first order discriminator steps (the de-facto standard in most existing GAN setups) might be one of the factors that makes GAN training challenging in practice. 
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  6. We study the problem of testing identity against a given distribution with a focus on the high confidence regime. More precisely, given samples from an unknown distribution p over n elements, an explicitly given distribution q, and parameters 0< epsilon, delta < 1, we wish to distinguish, with probability at least 1-delta, whether the distributions are identical versus epsilon-far in total variation distance. Most prior work focused on the case that delta = Omega(1), for which the sample complexity of identity testing is known to be Theta(sqrt{n}/epsilon^2). Given such an algorithm, one can achieve arbitrarily small values of delta via black-box amplification, which multiplies the required number of samples by Theta(log(1/delta)). We show that black-box amplification is suboptimal for any delta = o(1), and give a new identity tester that achieves the optimal sample complexity. Our new upper and lower bounds show that the optimal sample complexity of identity testing is Theta((1/epsilon^2) (sqrt{n log(1/delta)} + log(1/delta))) for any n, epsilon, and delta. For the special case of uniformity testing, where the given distribution is the uniform distribution U_n over the domain, our new tester is surprisingly simple: to test whether p = U_n versus d_{TV} (p, U_n) >= epsilon, we simply threshold d_{TV}({p^}, U_n), where {p^} is the empirical probability distribution. The fact that this simple "plug-in" estimator is sample-optimal is surprising, even in the constant delta case. Indeed, it was believed that such a tester would not attain sublinear sample complexity even for constant values of epsilon and delta. An important contribution of this work lies in the analysis techniques that we introduce in this context. First, we exploit an underlying strong convexity property to bound from below the expectation gap in the completeness and soundness cases. Second, we give a new, fast method for obtaining provably correct empirical estimates of the true worst-case failure probability for a broad class of uniformity testing statistics over all possible input distributions - including all previously studied statistics for this problem. We believe that our novel analysis techniques will be useful for other distribution testing problems as well. 
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  7. We show variants of spectral sparsification routines can preserve the total spanning tree counts of graphs, which by Kirchhoff's matrix-tree theorem, is equivalent to determinant of a graph Laplacian minor, or equivalently, of any SDDM matrix. Our analyses utilizes this combinatorial connection to bridge between statistical leverage scores / effective resistances and the analysis of random graphs by [Janson, Combinatorics, Probability and Computing `94]. This leads to a routine that in quadratic time, sparsifies a graph down to about $n^{1.5}$ edges in ways that preserve both the determinant and the distribution of spanning trees (provided the sparsified graph is viewed as a random object). Extending this algorithm to work with Schur complements and approximate Choleksy factorizations leads to algorithms for counting and sampling spanning trees which are nearly optimal for dense graphs. We give an algorithm that computes a $(1 \pm \delta)$ approximation to the determinant of any SDDM matrix with constant probability in about $n^2 \delta^{-2}$ time. This is the first routine for graphs that outperforms general-purpose routines for computing determinants of arbitrary matrices. We also give an algorithm that generates in about $n^2 \delta^{-2}$ time a spanning tree of a weighted undirected graph from a distribution with total variation distance of $\delta$ from the $w$-uniform distribution . 
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  8. We present an algorithm that, with high probability, generates a random spanning tree from an edge-weighted undirected graph in \Otil(n^{5/3 }m^{1/3}) time\footnote{The \Otil(\cdot) notation hides \poly(\log n) factors}. The tree is sampled from a distribution where the probability of each tree is proportional to the product of its edge weights. This improves upon the previous best algorithm due to Colbourn et al. that runs in matrix multiplication time, O(n^\omega). For the special case of unweighted graphs, this improves upon the best previously known running time of \tilde{O}(\min\{n^{\omega},m\sqrt{n},m^{4/3}\}) for m >> n^{7/4} (Colbourn et al. '96, Kelner-Madry '09, Madry et al. '15). The effective resistance metric is essential to our algorithm, as in the work of Madry et al., but we eschew determinant-based and random walk-based techniques used by previous algorithms. Instead, our algorithm is based on Gaussian elimination, and the fact that effective resistance is preserved in the graph resulting from eliminating a subset of vertices (called a Schur complement). As part of our algorithm, we show how to compute \eps-approximate effective resistances for a set SS of vertex pairs via approximate Schur complements in \Otil(m+(n + |S|)\eps^{-2}) time, without using the Johnson-Lindenstrauss lemma which requires \Otil( \min\{(m + |S|)\eps^{-2}, m+n\eps^{-4} +|S|\eps^{-2}\}) time. We combine this approximation procedure with an error correction procedure for handing edges where our estimate isn't sufficiently accurate. 
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  9. We study the problem of estimating the value of sums of the form Sp≜∑(xip) when one has the ability to sample xi≥0 with probability proportional to its magnitude. When p=2, this problem is equivalent to estimating the selectivity of a self-join query in database systems when one can sample rows randomly. We also study the special case when {xi} is the degree sequence of a graph, which corresponds to counting the number of p-stars in a graph when one has the ability to sample edges randomly. Our algorithm for a (1±ε)-multiplicative approximation of Sp has query and time complexities O(mloglognϵ2S1/pp). Here, m=∑xi/2 is the number of edges in the graph, or equivalently, half the number of records in the database table. Similarly, n is the number of vertices in the graph and the number of unique values in the database table. We also provide tight lower bounds (up to polylogarithmic factors) in almost all cases, even when {xi} is a degree sequence and one is allowed to use the structure of the graph to try to get a better estimate. We are not aware of any prior lower bounds on the problem of join selectivity estimation. For the graph problem, prior work which assumed the ability to sample only vertices uniformly gave algorithms with matching lower bounds (Gonen et al. in SIAM J Comput 25:1365–1411, 2011). With the ability to sample edges randomly, we show that one can achieve faster algorithms for approximating the number of star subgraphs, bypassing the lower bounds in this prior work. For example, in the regime where Sp≤n, and p=2, our upper bound is O~(n/S1/2p), in contrast to their Ω(n/S1/3p) lower bound when no random edge queries are available. In addition, we consider the problem of counting the number of directed paths of length two when the graph is directed. This problem is equivalent to estimating the selectivity of a join query between two distinct tables. We prove that the general version of this problem cannot be solved in sublinear time. However, when the ratio between in-degree and out-degree is bounded—or equivalently, when the ratio between the number of occurrences of values in the two columns being joined is bounded—we give a sublinear time algorithm via a reduction to the undirected case. 
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  10. The algorithms in this paper (when combined with our FOCS’16 paper) allow one to, in almost linear time, compute a whole bunch of things about random walks in directed graphs. For example, one can compute the stationary distribution, hitting the time between a pair of vertices, commute times between all vertices, escape probabilities, approximations of the mixing time, and more. 
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