Schedule session 2

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94: Kidney Exchange with Inhomogeneous Edge Existence Uncertainty

Track 1: Applications hoda bidkhori, John Dickerson, Duncan McElfresh, Ke Ren
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Patients with end-stage renal failure often find kidney donors who are willing to donate a life-saving kidney, but who are medically incompatible with the patients. Kidney exchanges are organized barter markets that allow such incompatible patient-donor pairs to enter as a single agent---where the patient is endowed with a donor ``item''---and engage in trade with other similar agents, such that all agents ``give'' a donor organ if and only if they receive an organ in return. In practice, organized trades occur in large cyclic or chain-like structures, with multiple agents participating in the exchange event. Planned trades can fail for a variety of reasons, such as unforeseen logistical challenges, or changes in patient or donor health. These failures cause major inefficiency in fielded exchanges, as if even one individual trade fails in a planned cycle or chain, \emph{all or most of the resulting cycle or chain fails}. Ad-hoc, as well as optimization-based methods, have been developed to handle failure uncertainty; nevertheless, the majority of the existing methods use very simplified assumptions about failure uncertainty and/or are not scalable for real-world kidney exchanges. Motivated by kidney exchange, we study a stochastic cycle and chain packing problem, where we aim to identify structures in a directed graph to maximize the expectation of matched edge weights. All edges are subject to failure, and the failures can have nonidentical probabilities. To the best of our knowledge, the state-of-the-art approaches are only tractable when failure probabilities are identical. We formulate a relevant non-convex optimization problem and propose a tractable mixed-integer linear programming reformulation to solve it. In addition, we propose a model that integrates both risks and the expected utilities of the matching by incorporating conditional value at risk (CVaR) into the objective function, providing a robust formulation for this problem. Subsequently, we propose a sample-average-approximation (SAA) based approach to solve this problem. We test our approaches on data from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and compare against state-of-the-art approaches. Our model provides better performance with the same running time as a leading deterministic approach (PICEF). Our CVaR extensions with an SAA-based method improves the $\alpha \times 100\%$ ($0<\alpha\leq 1$) worst-case performance substantially compared to existing models.

262: How Private Are Commonly-Used Voting Rules?

Track 1: Applications Ao LIU, Yun Lu, Lirong Xia, Vassilis Zikas
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Differential privacy has been widely applied to provide privacy guarantees by adding random noise to the function output. However, it inevitably fails in many high-stakes voting scenarios, where voting rules are required to be deterministic. In this work, we present the first framework for answering the question: ``How private are commonly-used voting rules?" Our answers are two-fold. First, we show that deterministic voting rules provide sufficient privacy in the sense of distributional differential privacy (DDP). We show that assuming the adversarial observer has uncertainty about individual votes, even publishing the histogram of votes achieves good DDP. Second, we introduce the notion of exact privacy to compare the privacy preserved in various commonly-studied voting rules, and obtain dichotomy theorems of exact DDP within a large subset of voting rules called generalized scoring rules.

274: Selling Data at an Auction under Privacy Constraints

Track 1: Applications Mengxiao Zhang, Fernando Beltran, Jiamou Liu
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Private data query combines mechanism design with privacy protection to produce aggregated statistics from privately-owned data records. The problem arises in a data marketplace where data owners have personalised privacy requirements and private data valuations. We focus on the case when the data owners are single-minded, i.e., they are willing to release their data only if the data broker guarantees to meet their announced privacy requirements. For a data broker who wants to purchase data from such data owners, we propose the SingleMindedQuery (SMQ) mechanism, which uses a reverse auction to select data owners and determine compensations. SMQ satisfies interim incentive compatibility, individual rationality, and budget feasibility. Moreover, it uses purchased privacy expectation maximisation as a principle to produce accurate outputs for commonly-used queries such as counting, median and linear predictor. The effectiveness of our method is empirically validated by a series of experiments.

327: Verifying Individual Fairness in Machine Learning Models

Track 1: Applications Philips George John, Deepak Vijaykeerthy, Diptikalyan Saha
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

We consider the problem of whether a given decision model, working with structured data, has individual fairness. Following the work of Dwork, a model is individually biased (or unfair) if there is a pair of valid inputs which are close to each other (according to an appropriate metric) but are treated differently by the model (different class label, or large difference in output), and it is unbiased (or fair) if no such pair exists. Our objective is to construct verifiers for proving individual fairness of a given model, and we do so by considering appropriate relaxations of the problem. We construct verifiers which are sound but not complete for linear classifiers, and kernelized polynomial/radial basis function classifiers. We also report the experimental results of evaluating our proposed algorithms on publicly available datasets.


99: Fair Contextual Multi-Armed Bandits: Theory and Experiments

Track 1: Applications Yifang Chen, Alex Cuellar, Haipeng Luo, Jignesh Modi, Heramb Nemlekar, Stefanos Nikolaidis
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

When an AI system interacts with multiple users, it frequently needs to make allocation decisions. For instance, a virtual agent decides whom to pay attention to in a group, or a factory robot selects a worker to deliver a part. Demonstrating fairness in decision making is essential for such systems to be broadly accepted. We introduce a Multi-Armed Bandit algorithm with fairness constraints, where fairness is defined as a minimum rate at which a task or a resource is assigned to a user. The proposed algorithm uses contextual information about the users and the task and makes no assumptions on how the losses capturing the performance of different users are generated. We provide theoretical guarantees of performance and empirical results from simulation and an online user study. The results highlight the benefit of accounting for contexts in fair decision making, especially when users perform better at some contexts and worse at others.

237: Towards Threshold Invariant Fair Classification

Track 1: Applications Mingliang Chen, Min Wu
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Effective machine learning models can automatically learn useful information from a large quantity of data and provide decisions in a high accuracy. These models may, however, lead to unfair predictions in certain sense among the population groups of interest, where the grouping is based on such sensitive attributes as race and gender. Various fairness definitions, such as demographic parity and equalized odds, were proposed in prior art to ensure that decisions guided by the machine learning models are equitable. Unfortunately, the "fair" model trained with these fairness definitions is threshold sensitive, i.e., the condition of fairness may no longer hold true when tuning the decision threshold. This paper introduces the notion of threshold invariant fairness, which enforces equitable performances across different groups independent of the decision threshold. To achieve this goal, this paper proposes to equalize the risk distributions among the groups via two approximation methods. Experimental results demonstrate that the proposed methodology is effective to alleviate the threshold sensitivity in machine learning models designed to achieve fairness.

567: Time Series Analysis using a Kernel based Multi-Modal Uncertainty Decomposition Framework

Track 1: Applications Rishabh Singh, Jose Principe
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

This paper proposes a kernel based information theoretic framework with quantum physical underpinnings for data characterization that is relevant to online time series applications such as unsupervised change point detection and whole sequence clustering. In this framework, we utilize the Gaussian kernel mean embedding metric for universal characterization of data PDF. We then utilize concepts of quantum physics to impart a local dynamical structure to characterized data PDF, resulting in a new energy based formulation. This facilitates a multi-modal physics based uncertainty representation of the signal PDF at each sample using Hermite polynomial projections. We demonstrate in this paper using synthesized datasets that such uncertainty features provide a better ability for online detection of statistical change points in time series data when compared to existing non-parametric and unsupervised methods. We also demonstrate a better ability of the framework in clustering time series sequences when compared to discrete wavelet transform features on a subset of VidTIMIT speaker recognition corpus.

104: Submodular Bandit Problem Under Multiple Constraints

Track 2: Causality Sho Takemori, Masahiro Sato, Takashi Sonoda, Janmajay Singh, Tomoko Ohkuma
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

The linear submodular bandit problem was proposed to simultaneously address diversified retrieval and online learning in a recommender system. If there is no uncertainty, this problem is equivalent to a submodular maximization problem under a cardinality constraint. However, in some situations, recommendation lists should satisfy additional constraints such as budget constraints, other than a cardinality constraint. Thus, motivated by diversified retrieval considering budget constraints, we introduce a submodular bandit problem under the intersection of $l$ knapsacks and a $k$-system constraint. Here $k$-system constraints form a very general class of constraints including cardinality constraints and the intersection of $k$ matroid constraints. To solve this problem, we propose a non-greedy algorithm that adaptively focuses on a standard or modified upper-confidence bound. We provide a high-probability upper bound of an approximation regret, where the approximation ratio matches that of a fast offline algorithm. Moreover, we perform experiments under various combinations of constraints using a synthetic and two real-world datasets and demonstrate that our proposed method outperforms the existing baselines.

376: Adapting Text Embeddings for Causal Inference

Track 2: Causality Victor Veitch, Dhanya Sridhar, David Blei
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Does adding a theorem to a paper affect its chance of acceptance? Does labeling a post with the author’s gender affect the post popularity? This paper develops a method to estimate such causal effects from observational text data, adjusting for confounding features of the text such as the subject or writing quality. We assume that the text suffices for causal adjustment but that, in practice, it is prohibitively high-dimensional. To address this challenge, we develop causally sufficient embeddings, low- dimensional document representations that preserve sufficient information for causal identification and allow for efficient estimation of causal effects. Causally sufficient embeddings combine two ideas. The first is supervised dimensionality reduction: causal adjustment requires only the aspects of text that are predictive of both the treatment and outcome. The second is efficient language modeling: representations of text are designed to dispose of linguistically irrelevant information, and this information is also causally irrelevant. Our method adapts language models (specifically, word embeddings and topic models) to learn document embeddings that are able to predict both treatment and outcome. We study causally sufficient embeddings with semi-synthetic datasets and find that they improve causal estimation over related embedding methods. We illustrate the methods by answering the two motivating questions---the effect of a theorem on paper acceptance and the effect of a gender label on post popularity. Code and data available at

482: Estimation Rates for Sparse Linear Cyclic Causal Models

Track 2: Causality Jan-Christian Huetter, Philippe Rigollet
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Causal models are fundamental tools to understand complex systems and predict the effect of interventions on such systems. However, despite an extensive literature in the population (or infinite-sample) case, where distributions are assumed to be known, little is known about the statistical rates of convergence of various methods, even for the simplest models. In this work, allowing for cycles, we study linear structural equations models with homoscedastic Gaussian noise and in the presence of interventions that make the model identifiable. More specifically, we present statistical rates of estimation for both the LLC estimator introduced by Hyttinen, Eberhardt and Hoyer and a novel two-step penalized maximum likelihood estimator. We establish asymptotic near minimax optimality for the maximum likelihood estimator over a class of sparse causal graphs in the case of near-optimally chosen interventions. Moreover, we find evidence for practical advantages of this estimator compared to LLC in synthetic numerical experiments.

452: Adaptive Hyper-box Matching for Interpretable Individualized Treatment Effect Estimation

Track 2: Causality Marco Morucci, Vittorio Orlandi, Sudeepa Roy, Cynthia Rudin, Alexander Volfovsky
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

We propose a matching method for observational data that matches units with others in unit-specific, hyper-box-shaped regions of the covariate space. These regions are large enough that many matches are created for each unit and small enough that the treatment effect is roughly constant throughout. The regions are found as either the solution to a mixed integer program, or using a (fast) approximation algorithm. The result is an interpretable and tailored estimate of the causal effect for each unit.


388: Identification and Estimation of Causal Effects Defined by Shift Interventions

Track 2: Causality Numair Sani, Jaron Lee, Ilya Shpitser
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Causal inference quantifies cause effect relationships by means of counterfactual responses had some variable been artificially set to a constant. A more refined notion of manipulation, where a variable is artificially set to a fixed function of its natural value is also of interest in particular domains. Examples include increases in financial aid, changes in drug dosing, and modifying length of stay in a hospital. We define counterfactual responses to manipulations of this type, which we call shift interventions. We show that in the presence of multiple variables being manipulated, two types of shift interventions are possible. Shift interventions on the treated (SITs) are defined with respect to natural values, and are connected to effects of treatment on the treated. Shift interventions as policies (SIPs) are defined recursively with respect to values of responses to prior shift interventions, and are connected to dynamic treatment regimes. We give sound and complete identification algorithms for both types of shift interventions, and derive efficient semi-parametric estimators for the mean response to a shift intervention in a special case motivated by a healthcare problem. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of our method by using an electronic health record dataset to estimate the effect of extending the length of stay in the intensive care unit (ICU) in a hospital by an extra day on patient ICU readmission probability.

229: Identifying causal effects in maximally oriented partially directed acyclic graphs

Track 2: Causality Emilija Perkovic
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

We develop a necessary and sufficient causal identification criterion for maximally oriented partially directed acyclic graphs (MPDAGs). MPDAGs as a class of graphs include directed acyclic graphs (DAGs), completed partially directed acyclic graphs (CPDAGs), and CPDAGs with added background knowledge. As such, they represent the type of graph that can be learned from observational data and background knowledge under the assumption of no latent variables. Our identification criterion can be seen as a generalization of the g-formula of Robins (1986). We further obtain a generalization of the truncated factorization formula for DAGs (Pearl, 2009) and compare our criterion to the generalized adjustment criterion of Perkovic et al. (2017) which is sufficient, but not necessary for causal identification.

555: Deriving Bounds And Inequality Constraints Using Logical Relations Among Counterfactuals

Track 2: Causality Noam Finkelstein, Ilya Shpitser
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Causal parameters may not be point identified in the presence of unobserved confounding. However, information about non-identified parameters, in the form of bounds, may still be recovered from the observed data in some cases. We develop a new general method for obtaining bounds on causal parameters using rules of probability and restrictions on counterfactuals implied by causal graphical models. We additionally provide inequality constraints on functionals of the observed data law implied by such causal models. Our approach is motivated by the observation that logical relations between identified and non-identified counterfactual events often yield information about non-identified events. We show that this approach is powerful enough to recover known sharp bounds and tight inequality constraints, and to derive novel bounds and constraints.

569: OCEAN: Online Task Inference for Compositional Tasks with Context Adaptation

Track 2: Causality Hongyu Ren, Yuke Zhu, Jure Leskovec, Animashree Anandkumar, Animesh Garg
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Real-world tasks often exhibit a compositional structure that contains a sequence of simpler sub-tasks. For instance, opening a door requires reaching, grasping, rotating, and pulling the door knob. Such compositional tasks require an agent to reason about the sub-task at hand while orchestrating global behavior accordingly. This can be cast as an online task inference problem, where the current task identity, represented by a context variable, is estimated from the agent's past experiences with probabilistic inference. Previous approaches have employed simple latent distributions, e.g., Gaussian, to model a single context for the entire task. However, this formulation lacks the expressiveness to capture the composition and transition of the sub-tasks. We propose a variational inference framework OCEAN to perform online task inference for compositional tasks. OCEAN models global and local context variables in a joint latent space, where the global variables represent a mixture of sub-tasks required for the task, while the local variables capture the transitions between the sub-tasks. Our framework supports flexible latent distributions based on prior knowledge of the task structure and can be trained in an unsupervised manner. Experimental results show that OCEAN provides more effective task inference with sequential context adaptation and thus leads to a performance boost on complex, multi-stage tasks.

503: Automated Dependence Plots

Track 3: Statistics David Inouye, Liu Leqi, Joon Sik Kim, Bryon Aragam, Pradeep Ravikumar
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

In practical applications of machine learning, it is necessary to look beyond standard metrics such as test accuracy in order to validate various qualitative properties of a model. Partial dependence plots (PDP), including instance-specific PDPs (i.e., ICE plots), have been widely used as a visual tool to understand or validate a model. Yet, current PDPs suffer from two main drawbacks: (1) a user must manually sort or select interesting plots, and (2) PDPs are usually limited to plots along a single feature. To address these drawbacks, we formalize a method for automating the selection of interesting PDPs and extend PDPs beyond showing single features to show the model response along arbitrary directions, for example in raw feature space or a latent space arising from some generative model. We demonstrate the usefulness of our automated dependence plots (ADP) across multiple use-cases and datasets including model selection, bias detection, understanding out-of-sample behavior, and exploring the latent space of a generative model. The code is available at .

54: Divergence-Based Motivation for Online EM and Combining Hidden Variable Models

Track 3: Statistics Ehsan Amid, Manfred K. Warmuth
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Expectation-Maximization (EM) is a prominent approach for parameter estimation of hidden (aka latent) variable models. Given the full batch of data, EM forms an upper-bound of the negative log-likelihood of the model at each iteration and updates to the minimizer of this upper-bound. We first provide a ``model level'' interpretation of the EM upper-bound as a sum of relative entropy divergences to a set of singleton models induced by the batch of observations. Our alternative motivation unifies the ``observation level'' and the ``model level'' view of the EM. As a result, we formulate an online version of the EM algorithm by adding an analogous inertia term which is a relative entropy divergence to the old model. Our motivation is more widely applicable than the previous approaches and leads to simple online updates for mixture of exponential distributions, hidden Markov models, and the first known online update for Kalman filters. Additionally, the finite sample form of the inertia term lets us derive online updates when there is no closed-form solution. Finally, we extend the analysis to the distributed setting where we motivate a systematic way of combining multiple hidden variable models. Experimentally, we validate the results on synthetic as well as real-world datasets.

470: Flexible Prior Elicitation via the Prior Predictive Distribution

Track 3: Statistics Marcelo Hartmann, Georgi Agiashvili, Paul Bürkner, Arto Klami
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

The prior distribution for the unknown model parameters plays a crucial role in the process of statistical inference based on Bayesian methods. However, specifying suitable priors is often difficult even when detailed prior knowledge is available in principle. The challenge is to express quantitative information in the form of a probability distribution. Prior elicitation addresses this question by extracting subjective information from an expert and transforming it into a valid prior. Most existing methods, however, require information to be provided on the unobservable parameters, whose effect on the data generating process is often complicated and hard to understand. We propose an alternative approach that only requires knowledge about the observable outcomes - knowledge which is often much easier for experts to provide. Building upon a principled statistical framework, our approach utilizes the prior predictive distribution implied by the model to automatically transform experts judgements about plausible outcome values to suitable priors on the parameters. We also provide computational strategies to perform inference and guidelines to facilitate practical use.

210: Streaming Nonlinear Bayesian Tensor Decomposition

Track 3: Statistics Zhimeng Pan, Zheng Wang, Shandian Zhe
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Despite the success of the recent nonlinear tensor decomposition models based on Gaussian processes (GPs), they lack an effective way to deal with streaming data, which are important for many applications. Using the standard streaming variational Bayes framework or the recent streaming sparse GP approximations will lead to intractable model evidence lower bounds; although we can use stochastic gradient descent for incremental updates, they are unreliable and often yield poor estimations. To address this problem, we propose Streaming Nonlinear Bayesian Tensor Decomposition (SNBTD) that can conduct high-quality, closed-form and iteration-free updates upon receiving new tensor entries. Specifically, we use random Fourier features to build a sparse spectrum GP decomposition model to dispense with complex kernel/matrix operations and to ease posterior inference. We then extend the assumed-density-filtering framework by approximating all the data likelihoods in a streaming batch with a single factor to perform one-shot updates. We use conditional moment matching and Taylor approximations to fulfill efficient, analytical factor calculation. We show the advantage of our method on four real-world applications.


152: Coresets for Estimating Means and Mean Square Error with Limited Greedy Samples

Track 3: Statistics Saeed Vahidian, Baharan Mirzasoleiman, Alexander Cloninger
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

In a number of situations, collecting a function value for every data point may be prohibitively expensive, and random sampling ignores any structure in the underlying data. We introduce a scalable optimization algorithm with no correction steps (in contrast to Frank–Wolfe and its variants), a variant of gradient ascent for coreset selection in graphs, that greedily selects a weighted subset of vertices that are deemed most important to sample. Our algorithm estimates the mean of the function by taking a weighted sum only at these vertices, and we provably bound the estimation error in terms of the location and weights of the selected vertices in the graph. In addition, we consider the case where nodes have different selection costs and provide bounds on the quality of the low-cost selected coresets. We demonstrate the benefits of our algorithm on the semi-supervised node classification of graph convolutional neural network, point clouds and structured graphs, as well as sensor placement where the cost of placing sensors depends on the location of the placement. We also elucidate that the empirical convergence of our proposed method is faster than random selection and various clustering methods while still respecting sensor placement cost. The paper concludes with validation of the developed algorithm on both synthetic and real datasets, demonstrating that it outperforms the current state of the art.

221: One-Bit Compressed Sensing via One-Shot Hard Thresholding

Track 3: Statistics Jie Shen
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

This paper concerns the problem of 1-bit compressed sensing, where the goal is to estimate a sparse signal from a few of its binary measurements. We study a non-convex sparsity-constrained program and present a novel and concise analysis that moves away from the widely used notion of Gaussian width. We show that with high probability a simple algorithm is guaranteed to produce an accurate approximation to the normalized signal of interest under the L2-metric. On top of that, we establish an ensemble of new results that address norm estimation, support recovery, and model misspecification. On the computational side, it is shown that the non-convex program can be solved via one-step hard thresholding which is dramatically efficient in terms of time complexity and memory footprint. On the statistical side, it is shown that our estimator enjoys a near-optimal error rate under standard conditions. The theoretical results are further substantiated by numerical experiments.

238: Optimal Statistical Hypothesis Testing for Social Choice

Track 3: Statistics Lirong Xia
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

We address the following question in this paper: “What are the most robust statistical methods for social choice?” By leveraging the theory of uniformly least favorable distributions in the Neyman-Pearson framework to finite models and randomized tests, we characterize uniformly most powerful (UMP) tests, which is a well-accepted statistical optimality w.r.t. robustness, for testing whether a given alternative is the winner under Mallows’ model and under Condorcet’s model, respectively.

304: Semi-Supervised Learning: the Case When Unlabeled Data is Equally Useful

Track 3: Statistics Jingge Zhu
[Paper] [Video (inline)] [Video (new tab)]

Semi-supervised learning algorithms attempt to take advantage of relatively inexpensive unlabeled data to improve learning performance. In this work, we consider statistical models where the data distributions can be characterized by continuous parameters. We show that under certain conditions on the distribution, unlabeled data is equally useful as labeled date in terms of learning rate. Specifically, let $n, m$ be the number of labeled and unlabeled data, respectively. It is shown that the learning rate of semi-supervised learning scales as $O(1/n)$ if $m\sim n$, and scales as $O(1/n^{1+\gamma})$ if $m\sim n^{1+\gamma}$ for some $\gamma>0$, whereas the learning rate of supervised learning scales as $O(1/n)$.


Borealis AI: Poster session in Sessions 1 and 2
Next AI: Poster session in Sessions 4 and 5
Vector Institute: Poster session in Sessions 1 and 4
Layer6: Poster session in Sessions 6