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  1. We consider the problem of learning the exact skeleton of general discrete Bayesian networks from potentially corrupted data. Building on distributionally robust optimization and a regression approach, we propose to optimize the most adverse risk over a family of distributions within bounded Wasserstein distance or KL divergence to the empirical distribution. The worst-case risk accounts for the effect of outliers. The proposed approach applies for general categorical random variables without assuming faithfulness, an ordinal relationship or a specific form of conditional distribution. We present efficient algorithms and show the proposed methods are closely related to the standard regularized regression approach. Under mild assumptions, we derive non-asymptotic guarantees for successful structure learning with logarithmic sample complexities for bounded-degree graphs. Numerical study on synthetic and real datasets validates the effectiveness of our method. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 31, 2024
  2. The fairness of machine learning-based decisions has become an increasingly important focus in the design of supervised machine learning methods. Most fairness approaches optimize a specified trade-off between performance measure(s) (e.g., accuracy, log loss, or AUC) and fairness measure(s) (e.g., demographic parity, equalized odds). This begs the question: are the right performance-fairness trade-offs being specified? We instead recast fair machine learning as an imitation learning task by introducing superhuman fairness, which seeks to simultaneously outperform human decisions on multiple predictive performance and fairness measures. We demonstrate the benefits of this approach given suboptimal decisions. 
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  3. While conventional ranking systems focus solely on maximizing the utility of the ranked items to users, fairness-aware ranking systems additionally try to balance the exposure based on different protected attributes such as gender or race. To achieve this type of group fairness for ranking, we derive a new ranking system from the first principles of distributional robustness. We formulate a minimax game between a player choosing a distribution over rankings to maximize utility while satisfying fairness constraints against an adversary seeking to minimize utility while matching statistics of the training data. Rather than maximizing utility and fairness for the specific training data, this approach efficiently produces robust utility and fairness for a much broader family of distributions of rankings that include the training data. We show that our approach provides better utility for highly fair rankings than existing baseline methods. 
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  4. While conventional ranking systems focus solely on maximizing the utility of the ranked items to users, fairness-aware ranking systems additionally try to balance the exposure based on different protected attributes such as gender or race. To achieve this type of group fairness for ranking, we derive a new ranking system from the first principles of distributional robustness. We formulate a minimax game between a player choosing a distribution over rankings to maximize utility while satisfying fairness constraints against an adversary seeking to minimize utility while matching statistics of the training data. Rather than maximizing utility and fairness for the specific training data, this approach efficiently produces robust utility and fairness for a much broader family of distributions of rankings that include the training data. We show that our approach provides better utility for highly fair rankings than existing baseline methods. 
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  5. Structured prediction of tree-shaped objects is heavily studied under the name of syntactic dependency parsing. Current practice based on maximum likelihood or margin is either agnostic to or inconsistent with the evaluation loss. Risk minimization alleviates the discrepancy between training and test objectives but typically induces a non-convex problem. These approaches adopt explicit regularization to combat overfitting without probabilistic interpretation. We propose a momentbased distributionally robust optimization approach for tree structured prediction, where the worst-case expected loss over a set of distributions within bounded moment divergence from the empirical distribution is minimized. We develop efficient algorithms for arborescences and other variants of trees. We derive Fisher consistency, convergence rates and generalization bounds for our proposed method. We evaluate its empirical effectiveness on dependency parsing benchmarks. 
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  6. Prevalent imitation learning methods seek to produce behavior that matches or exceeds average human performance. This often prevents achieving expert-level or superhuman performance when identifying the better demonstrations to imitate is difficult. We instead assume demonstrations are of varying quality and seek to induce behavior that is unambiguously better (i.e., Pareto dominant or minimally subdominant) than all human demonstrations. Our minimum subdominance inverse optimal control training objective is primarily defined by high quality demonstrations; lower quality demonstrations, which are more easily dominated, are effectively ignored instead of degrading imitation. With increasing probability, our approach produces superhuman behavior incurring lower cost than demonstrations on the demonstrator’s unknown cost function{—}even if that cost function differs for each demonstration. We apply our approach on a computer cursor pointing task, producing behavior that is 78% superhuman, while minimizing demonstration suboptimality provides 50% superhuman behavior{—}and only 72% even after selective data cleaning. 
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  7. Health coaching helps patients identify and accomplish lifestyle-related goals, effectively improving the control of chronic diseases and mitigating mental health conditions. However, health coaching is cost-prohibitive due to its highly personalized and labor-intensive nature. In this paper, we propose to build a dialogue system that converses with the patients, helps them create and accomplish specific goals, and can address their emotions with empathy. However, building such a system is challenging since real-world health coaching datasets are limited and empathy is subtle. Thus, we propose a modularized health coaching dialogue with simplified NLU and NLG frameworks combined with mechanism-conditioned empathetic response generation. Through automatic and human evaluation, we show that our system generates more empathetic, fluent, and coherent responses and outperforms the state-of-the-art in NLU tasks while requiring less annotation. We view our approach as a key step towards building automated and more accessible health coaching systems. 
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  8. We consider the problem of learning the underlying structure of a general discrete pairwise Markov network. Existing approaches that rely on empirical risk minimization may perform poorly in settings with noisy or scarce data. To overcome these limitations, we propose a computationally efficient and robust learning method for this problem with near-optimal sample complexities. Our approach builds upon distributionally robust optimization (DRO) and maximum conditional log-likelihood. The proposed DRO estimator minimizes the worst-case risk over an ambiguity set of adversarial distributions within bounded transport cost or f-divergence of the empirical data distribution. We show that the primal minimax learning problem can be efficiently solved by leveraging sufficient statistics and greedy maximization in the ostensibly intractable dual formulation. Based on DRO’s approximation to Lipschitz and variance regularization, we derive near-optimal sample complexities matching existing results. Extensive empirical evidence with different corruption models corroborates the effectiveness of the proposed methods. 
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  9. We consider the imitation learning problem of learning a policy in a Markov Decision Process (MDP) setting where the reward function is not given, but demonstrations from experts are available. Although the goal of imitation learning is to learn a policy that produces behaviors nearly as good as the experts’ for a desired task, assumptions of consistent optimality for demonstrated behaviors are often violated in practice. Finding a policy that is distributionally robust against noisy demonstrations based on an adversarial construction potentially solves this problem by avoiding optimistic generalizations of the demonstrated data. This paper studies Distributionally Robust Imitation Learning (DRoIL) and establishes a close connection between DRoIL and Maximum Entropy Inverse Reinforcement Learning. We show that DRoIL can be seen as a framework that maximizes a generalized concept of entropy. We develop a novel approach to transform the objective function into a convex optimization problem over a polynomial number of variables for a class of loss functions that are additive over state and action spaces. Our approach lets us optimize both stationary and non-stationary policies and, unlike prevalent previous methods, it does not require repeatedly solving an inner reinforcement learning problem. We experimentally show the significant benefits of DRoIL’s new optimization method on synthetic data and a highway driving environment. 
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