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  1. Minimax optimization has seen a surge in interest with the advent of modern applications such as GANs, and it is inherently more challenging than simple minimization. The difficulty is exacerbated by the training data residing at multiple edge devices or clients, especially when these clients can have heterogeneous datasets and heterogeneous local computation capabilities. We propose a general federated minimax optimization framework that subsumes such settings and several existing methods like Local SGDA. We show that naive aggregation of model updates made by clients running unequal number of local steps can result in optimizing a mismatched objective function – a phenomenon previously observed in standard federated minimization. To fix this problem, we propose normalizing the client updates by the number of local steps. We analyze the convergence of the proposed algorithm for classes of nonconvex-concave and nonconvex-nonconcave functions and characterize the impact of heterogeneous client data, partial client participation, and heterogeneous local computations. For all the function classes considered, we significantly improve the existing computation and communication complexity results. Experimental results support our theoretical claims. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 30, 2024
  2. We study the problem of communication-efficient distributed vector mean estimation, which is a commonly used subroutine in distributed optimization and Federated Learning (FL). Rand-k sparsification is a commonly used technique to reduce communication cost, where each client sends of its coordinates to the server. However, Rand-k is agnostic to any correlations, that might exist between clients in practical scenarios. The recently proposed Rand-k-Spatial estimator leverages the cross-client correlation information at the server to improve Rand-k's performance. Yet, the performance of Rand-k-Spatial is suboptimal, and improving mean estimation is key to faster convergence in distributed optimization. We propose the Rand-Proj-Spatial estimator with a more flexible encoding-decoding procedure, which generalizes the encoding of Rand- by projecting the client vectors to a random k-dimensional subspace. We utilize Subsampled Randomized Hadamard Transform (SRHT) as the projection matrix and show that Rand-Proj-Spatial with SRHT outperforms Rand-k-Spatial, using the correlation information more efficiently. Furthermore, we propose an approach to incorporate varying degrees of correlation and suggest a practical variant of Rand-Proj-Spatial when the correlation information is not available to the server. Finally, experiments on real-world distributed optimization tasks showcase the superior performance of Rand-Proj-Spatial compared to Rand-k-Spatial and other more sophisticated sparsification techniques. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 20, 2024
  3. In response to recent data regulation requirements, machine unlearning (MU) has emerged as a critical process to remove the influence of specific examples from a given model. Although exact unlearning can be achieved through complete model retraining using the remaining dataset, the associated computational costs have driven the development of efficient, approximate unlearning techniques. Moving beyond data-centric MU approaches, our study introduces a novel model-based perspective: model sparsification via weight pruning, which is capable of reducing the gap between exact unlearning and approximate unlearning. We show in both theory and practice that model sparsity can boost the multi-criteria unlearning performance of an approximate unlearner, closing the approximation gap, while continuing to be efficient. This leads to a new MU paradigm, termed prune first, then unlearn, which infuses a sparse model prior into the unlearning process. Building on this insight, we also develop a sparsity-aware unlearning method that utilizes sparsity regularization to enhance the training process of approximate unlearning. Extensive experiments show that our proposals consistently benefit MU in various unlearning scenarios. A notable highlight is the 77% unlearning efficacy gain of fine-tuning (one of the simplest unlearning methods) when using sparsity-aware unlearning. Furthermore, we demonstrate the practical impact of our proposed MU methods in addressing other machine learning challenges, such as defending against backdoor attacks and enhancing transfer learning. Codes are available at this https URL. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 9, 2024
  4. Federated Averaging (FedAvg) and its variants are the most popular optimization algorithms in federated learning (FL). Previous convergence analyses of FedAvg either assume full client participation or partial client participation where the clients can be uniformly sampled. However, in practical cross-device FL systems, only a subset of clients that satisfy local criteria such as battery status, network connectivity, and maximum participation frequency requirements (to ensure privacy) are available for training at a given time. As a result, client availability follows a natural cyclic pattern. We provide (to our knowledge) the first theoretical framework to analyze the convergence of FedAvg with cyclic client participation with several different client optimizers such as GD, SGD, and shuffled SGD. Our analysis discovers that cyclic client participation can achieve a faster asymptotic convergence rate than vanilla FedAvg with uniform client participation under suitable conditions, providing valuable insights into the design of client sampling protocols. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 23, 2024
  5. Since reinforcement learning algorithms are notoriously data-intensive, the task of sampling observations from the environment is usually split across multiple agents. However, transferring these observations from the agents to a central location can be prohibitively expensive in terms of the communication cost, and it can also compromise the privacy of each agent’s local behavior policy. In this paper, we consider a federated reinforcement learning framework where multiple agents collaboratively learn a global model, without sharing their individual data and policies. Each agent maintains a local copy of the model and updates it using locally sampled data. Although having N agents enables the sampling of N times more data, it is not clear if it leads to proportional convergence speedup. We propose federated versions of on-policy TD, off-policy TD and Q-learning, and analyze their convergence. For all these algorithms, to the best of our knowledge, we are the first to consider Markovian noise and multiple local updates, and prove a linear convergence speedup with respect to the number of agents. To obtain these results, we show that federated TD and Q-learning are special cases of a general framework for federated stochastic approximation with Markovian noise, and we leverage this framework to provide a unified convergence analysis that applies to all the algorithms. 
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  6. Data-heterogeneous federated learning (FL) systems suffer from two significant sources of convergence error: 1) client drift error caused by performing multiple local optimization steps at clients, and 2) partial client participation error caused by the fact that only a small subset of the edge clients participate in every training round. We find that among these, only the former has received significant attention in the literature. To remedy this, we propose FedVARP, a novel variance reduction algorithm applied at the server that eliminates error due to partial client participation. To do so, the server simply maintains in memory the most recent update for each client and uses these as surrogate updates for the non-participating clients in every round. Further, to alleviate the memory requirement at the server, we propose a novel clustering-based variance reduction algorithm ClusterFedVARP. Unlike previously proposed methods, both FedVARP and ClusterFedVARP do not require additional computation at clients or communication of additional optimization parameters. Through extensive experiments, we show that FedVARP outperforms state-of-the-art methods, and ClusterFedVARP achieves performance comparable to FedVARP with much less memory requirements. 
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  7. Since reinforcement learning algorithms are notoriously data-intensive, the task of sampling observations from the environment is usually split across multiple agents. However, transferring these observations from the agents to a central location can be prohibitively expensive in terms of the communication cost, and it can also compromise the privacy of each agent’s local behavior policy. In this paper, we consider a federated reinforcement learning framework where multiple agents collaboratively learn a global model, without sharing their individual data and policies. Each agent maintains a local copy of the model and updates it using locally sampled data. Although having N agents enables the sampling of N times more data, it is not clear if it leads to proportional convergence speedup. We propose federated versions of on-policy TD, off-policy TD and Q-learning, and analyze their convergence. For all these algorithms, to the best of our knowledge, we are the first to consider Markovian noise and multiple local updates, and prove a linear convergence speedup with respect to the number of agents. To obtain these results, we show that federated TD and Q-learning are special cases of a general framework for federated stochastic approximation with Markovian noise, and we leverage this framework to provide a unified convergence analysis that applies to all the algorithms. 
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  8. In this work, we consider a distributed online convex optimization problem, with time-varying (potentially adversarial) constraints. A set of nodes, jointly aim to minimize a global objective function, which is the sum of local convex functions. The objective and constraint functions are revealed locally to the nodes, at each time, after taking an action. Naturally, the constraints cannot be instantaneously satisfied. Therefore, we reformulate the problem to satisfy these constraints in the long term. To this end, we propose a distributed primal-dual mirror descent-based algorithm, in which the primal and dual updates are carried out locally at all the nodes. This is followed by sharing and mixing of the primal variables by the local nodes via communication with the immediate neighbors. To quantify the performance of the proposed algorithm, we utilize the challenging, but more realistic metrics of dynamic regret and fit. Dynamic regret measures the cumulative loss incurred by the algorithm compared to the best dynamic strategy, while fit measures the long term cumulative constraint violations. Without assuming the restrictive Slater’s conditions, we show that the proposed algorithm achieves sublinear regret and fit under mild, commonly used assumptions. 
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