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Poster Session 5



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In-Person presentation / poster accept
A Simple Approach for Visual Room Rearrangement: 3D Mapping and Semantic Search

Brandon Trabucco · Gunnar Sigurdsson · Robinson Piramuthu · Gaurav Sukhatme · Ruslan Salakhutdinov

Physically rearranging objects is an important capability for embodied agents. Visual room rearrangement evaluates an agent's ability to rearrange objects in a room to a desired goal based solely on visual input. We propose a simple yet effective method for this problem: (1) search for and map which objects need to be rearranged, and (2) rearrange each object until the task is complete. Our approach consists of an off-the-shelf semantic segmentation model, voxel-based semantic map, and semantic search policy to efficiently find objects that need to be rearranged. Our method was the winning submission to the AI2-THOR Rearrangement Challenge in the 2022 Embodied AI Workshop at CVPR 2022, and improves on current state-of-the-art end-to-end reinforcement learning-based methods that learn visual room rearrangement policies from 0.53% correct rearrangement to 16.56%, using only 2.7% as many samples from the environment.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Guess the Instruction! Flipped Learning Makes Language Models Stronger Zero-Shot Learners

Seonghyeon Ye · Doyoung Kim · Joel Jang · Joongbo Shin · Minjoon Seo

Meta-training, which fine-tunes the language model (LM) on various downstream tasks by maximizing the likelihood of the target label given the task instruction and input instance, has improved the zero-shot task generalization performance. However, meta-trained LMs still struggle to generalize to challenging tasks containing novel labels unseen during meta-training. In this paper, we propose Flipped Learning, an alternative method of meta-training which trains the LM to generate the task instruction given the input instance and label. During inference, the LM trained with Flipped Learning, referred to as FLIPPED, selects the label option that is most likely to generate the task instruction. On 14 tasks of the BIG-bench benchmark, the 11B-sized FLIPPED outperforms zero-shot T0-11B (Sanh et al, 2021) and even a 16 times larger 3-shot GPT-3 (175B) (Brown et al, 2020) on average by 8.4% and 9.7% points, respectively. FLIPPED gives particularly large improvements on tasks with unseen labels, outperforming T0-11B by up to +20% average F1 score. This indicates that the strong task generalization of FLIPPED comes from improved generalization to novel labels. We release our code at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Globally Injective ReLU Networks

Michael Puthawala · Konik Kothari · Matti Lassas · Ivan Dokmanić · Maarten V de Hoop

Injectivity plays an important role in generative models where it enables inference; in inverse problems and compressed sensing with generative priors it is a precursor to well posedness. We establish sharp characterizations of injectivity of fully-connected and convolutional ReLU layers and networks. First, through a layerwise analysis, we show that an expansivity factor of two is necessary and sufficient for injectivity by constructing appropriate weight matrices. We show that global injectivity with iid Gaussian matrices, a commonly used tractable model, requires larger expansivity between 3.4 and 10.5. We also characterize the stability of inverting an injective network via worst-case Lipschitz constants of the inverse. We then use arguments from differential topology to study injectivity of deep networks and prove that any Lipschitz map can be approximated by an injective ReLU network. Finally, using an argument based on random projections, we show that an end-to-end---rather than layerwise---doubling of the dimension suffices for injectivity. Our results establish a theoretical basis for the study of nonlinear inverse and inference problems using neural networks.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
View Synthesis with Sculpted Neural Points

Yiming Zuo · Jia Deng

We address the task of view synthesis, generating novel views of a scene given a set of images as input. In many recent works such as NeRF (Mildenhall et al., 2020), the scene geometry is parameterized using neural implicit representations (i.e., MLPs). Implicit neural representations have achieved impressive visual quality but have drawbacks in computational efficiency. In this work, we propose a new approach that performs view synthesis using point clouds. It is the first point-based method that achieves better visual quality than NeRF while being 100× faster in rendering speed. Our approach builds on existing works on differentiable point-based rendering but introduces a novel technique we call “Sculpted Neural Points (SNP)”, which significantly improves the robustness to errors and holes in the reconstructed point cloud. We further propose to use view-dependent point features based on spherical harmonics to capture non-Lambertian surfaces, and new designs in the point-based rendering pipeline that further boost the performance. Finally, we show that our system supports fine-grained scene editing. Code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Socratic Models: Composing Zero-Shot Multimodal Reasoning with Language

Andy Zeng · Maria Attarian · brian ichter · Krzysztof Choromanski · Adrian Wong · Stefan Welker · Federico Tombari · Aveek Purohit · Michael Ryoo · Vikas Sindhwani · Johnny Lee · Vincent Vanhoucke · Pete Florence

We investigate how multimodal prompt engineering can use language as the intermediate representation to combine complementary knowledge from different pretrained (potentially multimodal) language models for a variety of tasks. This approach is both distinct from and complementary to the dominant paradigm of joint multimodal training. It also recalls a traditional systems-building view as in classical NLP pipelines, but with prompting large pretrained multimodal models. We refer to these as Socratic Models (SMs): a modular class of systems in which multiple pretrained models may be composed zero-shot via multimodal-informed prompting to capture new multimodal capabilities, without additional finetuning. We show that these systems provide competitive state-of-the-art performance for zero-shot image captioning and video-to-text retrieval, and also enable new applications such as (i) answering free-form questions about egocentric video, (ii) engaging in multimodal assistive dialogue with people (e.g., for cooking recipes), and (iii) robot perception and planning. We hope this work provides (a) results for stronger zero-shot baseline performance with analysis also highlighting their limitations, (b) new perspectives for building multimodal systems powered by large pretrained models, and (c) practical application advantages in certain regimes limited by data scarcity, training compute, or model access.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Calibrating Sequence likelihood Improves Conditional Language Generation

Yao Zhao · Misha Khalman · Rishabh Joshi · Shashi Narayan · Mohammad Saleh · Peter Liu

Conditional language models are predominantly trained with maximum likelihood estimation (MLE), giving probability mass to sparsely observed target sequences. While MLE trained models assign high probability to plausible sequences given the context, the model probabilities often do not accurately rank-order generated sequences by quality. This has been empirically observed in beam search decoding as output quality degrading with large beam sizes, and decoding strategies benefiting from heuristics such as length normalization and repetition-blocking. In this work, we introduce sequence likelihood calibration (SLiC) where the likelihood of model generated sequences are calibrated to better align with reference sequences in the model’s latent space. With SLiC, decoding heuristics become unnecessary and decoding candidates’ quality significantly improves regardless of the decoding method. Furthermore, SLiC shows no sign of diminishing returns with model scale, and presents alternative ways to improve quality with limited training and inference budgets. With SLiC, we exceed or match SOTA results on a wide range of generation tasks spanning abstractive summarization, question generation, abstractive question answering and data-to-text generation, even with modest-sized models.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
DocPrompting: Generating Code by Retrieving the Docs

Shuyan Zhou · Uri Alon · Frank F Xu · Zhengbao Jiang · Graham Neubig

Publicly available source-code libraries are continuously growing and changing. This makes it impossible for models of codeto keep current with all available APIs by simply training these models on existing code repositories. Thus, existing models inherently cannot generalize to using unseen functions and libraries, because these would never appear in the training data. In contrast, when human programmers use functions and libraries for the first time, they frequently refer to textual resources such as code manuals and documentation, to explore and understand the available functionality. Inspired by this observation, we introduce DocPrompting: a natural-language-to-code generation approach that explicitly leverages documentation by (1) retrieving the relevant documentation pieces given an NL intent, and (2) generating code based on the NL intent and the retrieved documentation. DocPrompting is general: it can be applied to any programming language and is agnostic to the underlying neural model. We demonstrate that DocPrompting consistently improves NL-to-code models: DocPrompting improves strong base models such as CodeT5 by 2.85% in pass@1 (52% relative gain) and 4.39% in pass@10 (30% relative gain) in execution-based evaluation on the popular Python CoNaLa benchmark; on a new Bash dataset tldr, DocPrompting improves CodeT5 and GPT-Neo1.3B by up to absolute 6.9% exact match.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
DamoFD: Digging into Backbone Design on Face Detection

Yang Liu · Jiankang Deng · Fei Wang · Lei Shang · Xuansong Xie · Baigui Sun

Face detection (FD) has achieved remarkable success over the past few years, yet,these leaps often arrive when consuming enormous computation costs. Moreover,when considering a realistic situation, i.e., building a lightweight face detectorunder a computation-scarce scenario, such heavy computation cost limits the applicationof the face detector. To remedy this, several pioneering works designtiny face detectors through off-the-shelf neural architecture search (NAS) technologies,which are usually applied to the classification task. Thus, the searchedarchitectures are sub-optimal for the face detection task since some design criteriabetween detection and classification task are different. As a representative, theface detection backbone design needs to guarantee the stage-level detection abilitywhile it is not required for the classification backbone. Furthermore, the detectionbackbone consumes a vast body of inference budgets in the whole detection framework.Considering the intrinsic design requirement and the virtual importance roleof the face detection backbone, we thus ask a critical question: How to employNAS to search FD-friendly backbone architecture? To cope with this question,we propose a distribution-dependent stage-aware ranking score (DDSAR-Score)to explicitly characterize the stage-level expressivity and identify the individualimportance of each stage, thus satisfying the aforementioned design criterion ofthe FD backbone. Based on our proposed DDSAR-Score, we conduct comprehensiveexperiments on the challenging Wider Face benchmark dataset and achievedominant performance across a wide range of compute regimes. In particular,compared to the tiniest face detector SCRFD-0.5GF, our method is +2.5 % betterin Average Precision (AP) score when using the same amount of FLOPs. Thecode is avaliable at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
Clean-image Backdoor: Attacking Multi-label Models with Poisoned Labels Only

Kangjie Chen · Xiaoxuan Lou · Guowen Xu · Jiwei Li · Tianwei Zhang

Multi-label models have been widely used in various applications including image annotation and object detection. The fly in the ointment is its inherent vulnerability to backdoor attacks due to the adoption of deep learning techniques. However, all existing backdoor attacks exclusively require to modify training inputs (e.g., images), which may be impractical in real-world applications. In this paper, we aim to break this wall and propose the first clean-image backdoor attack, which only poisons the training labels without touching the training samples. Our key insight is that in a multi-label learning task, the adversary can just manipulate the annotations of training samples consisting of a specific set of classes to activate the backdoor. We design a novel trigger exploration method to find convert and effective triggers to enhance the attack performance. We also propose three target label selection strategies to achieve different goals. Experimental results indicate that our clean-image backdoor can achieve a 98% attack success rate while preserving the model's functionality on the benign inputs. Besides, the proposed clean-image backdoor can evade existing state-of-the-art defenses.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Weakly Supervised Explainable Phrasal Reasoning with Neural Fuzzy Logic

Zijun Wu · Zi Xuan Zhang · Atharva Naik · Zhijian Mei · Mauajama Firdaus · Lili Mou

Natural language inference (NLI) aims to determine the logical relationship between two sentences, such as Entailment, Contradiction, and Neutral. In recent years, deep learning models have become a prevailing approach to NLI, but they lack interpretability and explainability. In this work, we address the explainability of NLI by weakly supervised logical reasoning, and propose an Explainable Phrasal Reasoning (EPR) approach. Our model first detects phrases as the semantic unit and aligns corresponding phrases in the two sentences. Then, the model predicts the NLI label for the aligned phrases, and induces the sentence label by fuzzy logic formulas. Our EPR is almost everywhere differentiable and thus the system can be trained end to end. In this way, we are able to provide explicit explanations of phrasal logical relationships in a weakly supervised manner. We further show that such reasoning results help textual explanation generation.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Selective Annotation Makes Language Models Better Few-Shot Learners

Hongjin SU · Jungo Kasai · Chen Henry Wu · Weijia Shi · Tianlu Wang · Jiayi Xin · Rui Zhang · Mari Ostendorf · Luke Zettlemoyer · Noah Smith · Tao Yu

Many recent approaches to natural language tasks are built on the remarkable abilities of large language models. Large language models can perform in-context learning, where they learn a new task from a few task demonstrations, without any parameter updates. This work examines the implications of in-context learning for the creation of datasets for new natural language tasks. Departing from recent in-context learning methods, we formulate an annotation-efficient, two-step framework: selective annotation that chooses a pool of examples to annotate from unlabeled data in advance, followed by prompt retrieval that retrieves task examples from the annotated pool at test time. Based on this framework, we propose an unsupervised, graph-based selective annotation method, voke-k, to select diverse, representative examples to annotate. Extensive experiments on 10 datasets (covering classification, commonsense reasoning, dialogue, and text/code generation) demonstrate that our selective annotation method improves the task performance by a large margin. On average, vote-k achieves a 12.9%/11.4% relative gain under an annotation budget of 18/100, as compared to randomly selecting examples to annotate. Compared to state-of-the-art supervised finetuning approaches, it yields similar performance with 10-100x less annotation cost across 10 tasks. We further analyze the effectiveness of our framework in various scenarios: language models with varying sizes, alternative selective annotation methods, and cases where there is a test data domain shift. We hope that our studies will serve as a basis for data annotations as large language models are increasingly applied to new tasks.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
The KFIoU Loss for Rotated Object Detection

Xue Yang · Yue Zhou · Gefan Zhang · Jirui Yang · Wentao Wang · Junchi Yan · XIAOPENG ZHANG · Qi Tian

Differing from the well-developed horizontal object detection area whereby the computing-friendly IoU based loss is readily adopted and well fits with the detection metrics, rotation detectors often involve a more complicated loss based on SkewIoU which is unfriendly to gradient-based training. In this paper, we propose an effective approximate SkewIoU loss based on Gaussian modeling and Gaussian product, which mainly consists of two items. The first term is a scale-insensitive center point loss, which is used to quickly narrow the distance between the center points of the two bounding boxes. In the distance-independent second term, the product of the Gaussian distributions is adopted to inherently mimic the mechanism of SkewIoU by its definition, and show its alignment with the SkewIoU loss at trend-level within a certain distance (i.e. within 9 pixels). This is in contrast to recent Gaussian modeling based rotation detectors e.g. GWD loss and KLD loss that involve a human-specified distribution distance metric which require additional hyperparameter tuning that vary across datasets and detectors. The resulting new loss called KFIoU loss is easier to implement and works better compared with exact SkewIoU loss, thanks to its full differentiability and ability to handle the non-overlapping cases. We further extend our technique to the 3-D case which also suffers from the same issues as 2-D. Extensive results on various datasets with different base detectors show the effectiveness of our approach.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
$\mathrm{SE}(3)$-Equivariant Attention Networks for Shape Reconstruction in Function Space

Evangelos Chatzipantazis · Stefanos Pertigkiozoglou · Edgar Dobriban · Kostas Daniilidis

We propose a method for 3D shape reconstruction from unoriented point clouds. Our method consists of a novel SE(3)-equivariant coordinate-based network (TF-ONet), that parametrizes the occupancy field of the shape and respects the inherent symmetries of the problem. In contrast to previous shape reconstruction methods that align the input to a regular grid, we operate directly on the irregular point cloud. Our architecture leverages equivariant attention layers that operate on local tokens. This mechanism enables local shape modelling, a crucial property for scalability to large scenes. Given an unoriented, sparse, noisy point cloud as input, we produce equivariant features for each point. These serve as keys and values for the subsequent equivariant cross-attention blocks that parametrize the occupancy field. By querying an arbitrary point in space, we predict its occupancy score. We show that our method outperforms previous SO(3)-equivariant methods, as well as non-equivariant methods trained on SO(3)-augmented datasets. More importantly, local modelling together with SE(3)-equivariance create an ideal setting for SE(3) scene reconstruction. We show that by training only on single, aligned objects and without any pre-segmentation, we can reconstruct novel scenes containing arbitrarily many objects in random poses without any performance loss.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Perfectly Secure Steganography Using Minimum Entropy Coupling

Christian Schroeder de Witt · Samuel Sokota · Zico Kolter · Jakob Foerster · Martin Strohmeier

Steganography is the practice of encoding secret information into innocuous content in such a manner that an adversarial third party would not realize that there is hidden meaning. While this problem has classically been studied in security literature, recent advances in generative models have led to a shared interest among security and machine learning researchers in developing scalable steganography techniques. In this work, we show that a steganography procedure is perfectly secure under Cachin (1998)'s information theoretic-model of steganography if and only if it is induced by a coupling. Furthermore, we show that, among perfectly secure procedures, a procedure is maximally efficient if and only if it is induced by a minimum entropy coupling. These insights yield what are, to the best of our knowledge, the first steganography algorithms to achieve perfect security guarantees with non-trivial efficiency; additionally, these algorithms are highly scalable. To provide empirical validation, we compare a minimum entropy coupling-based approach to three modern baselines---arithmetic coding, Meteor, and adaptive dynamic grouping---using GPT-2, WaveRNN, and Image Transformer as communication channels. We find that the minimum entropy coupling-based approach achieves superior encoding efficiency, despite its stronger security constraints. In aggregate, these results suggest that it may be natural to view information-theoretic steganography through the lens of minimum entropy coupling.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
SLTUNET: A Simple Unified Model for Sign Language Translation

Biao Zhang · Mathias Müller · Rico Sennrich

Despite recent successes with neural models for sign language translation (SLT), translation quality still lags behind spoken languages because of the data scarcity and modality gap between sign video and text. To address both problems, we investigate strategies for cross-modality representation sharing for SLT. We propose SLTUNET, a simple unified neural model designed to support multiple SLTrelated tasks jointly, such as sign-to-gloss, gloss-to-text and sign-to-text translation. Jointly modeling different tasks endows SLTUNET with the capability to explore the cross-task relatedness that could help narrow the modality gap. In addition, this allows us to leverage the knowledge from external resources, such as abundant parallel data used for spoken-language machine translation (MT). We show in experiments that SLTUNET achieves competitive and even state-of-the-art performance on PHOENIX-2014T and CSL-Daily when augmented with MT data and equipped with a set of optimization techniques. We further use the DGS Corpus for end-to-end SLT for the first time. It covers broader domains with a significantly larger vocabulary, which is more challenging and which we consider to allow for a more realistic assessment of the current state of SLT than the former two. Still, SLTUNET obtains improved results on the DGS Corpus. Code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
VA-DepthNet: A Variational Approach to Single Image Depth Prediction

Ce Liu · Suryansh Kumar · Shuhang Gu · Radu Timofte · Luc Van Gool

We introduce VA-DepthNet, a simple, effective, and accurate deep neural network approach for the single-image depth prediction (SIDP) problem. The proposed approach advocates using classical first-order variational constraints for this problem. While state-of-the-art deep neural network methods for SIDP learn the scene depth from images in a supervised setting, they often overlook the invaluable invariances and priors in the rigid scene space, such as the regularity of the scene. The paper's main contribution is to reveal the benefit of classical and well-founded variational constraints in the neural network design for the SIDP task. It is shown that imposing first-order variational constraints in the scene space together with popular encoder-decoder-based network architecture design provides excellent results for the supervised SIDP task. The imposed first-order variational constraint makes the network aware of the depth gradient in the scene space, i.e., regularity. The paper demonstrates the usefulness of the proposed approach via extensive evaluation and ablation analysis over several benchmark datasets, such as KITTI, NYU Depth V2, and SUN RGB-D. The VA-DepthNet at test time shows considerable improvements in depth prediction accuracy compared to the prior art and is accurate also at high-frequency regions in the scene space. At the time of writing this paper, our method---labeled as VA-DepthNet, when tested on the KITTI depth-prediction evaluation set benchmarks, shows state-of-the-art results, and is the top-performing published approach.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
Visual Classification via Description from Large Language Models

Sachit Menon · Carl Vondrick

Vision-language models such as CLIP have shown promising performance on a variety of recognition tasks using the standard zero-shot classification procedure -- computing similarity between the query image and the embedded words for each category. By only using the category name, they neglect to make use of the rich context of additional information that language affords. The procedure gives no intermediate understanding of why a category is chosen, and furthermore provides no mechanism for adjusting the criteria used towards this decision. We present an alternative framework for classification with VLMs, which we call classification by description. We ask VLMs to check for descriptive features rather than broad categories: to find a tiger, look for its stripes; its claws; and more. By basing decisions on these descriptors, we can provide additional cues that encourage using the features we want to be used. In the process, we can get a clear idea of what the model ``thinks" it is seeing to make its decision; it gains some level of inherent explainability. We query large language models (e.g., GPT-3) for these descriptors to obtain them in a scalable way. Extensive experiments show our framework has numerous advantages past interpretability. We show improvements in accuracy on ImageNet across distribution shifts; demonstrate the ability to adapt VLMs to recognize concepts unseen during training; and illustrate how descriptors can be edited to effectively mitigate bias compared to the baseline.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
E-CRF: Embedded Conditional Random Field for Boundary-caused Class Weights Confusion in Semantic Segmentation

Jie Zhu · Huabin Huang · Banghuai Li · Leye Wang

Modern semantic segmentation methods devote much effect to adjusting image feature representations to improve the segmentation performance in various ways, such as architecture design, attention mechnism, etc. However, almost all those methods neglect the particularity of class weights (in the classification layer) in segmentation models. In this paper, we notice that the class weights of categories that tend to share many adjacent boundary pixels lack discrimination, thereby limiting the performance. We call this issue Boundary-caused Class Weights Confusion (BCWC). We try to focus on this problem and propose a novel method named Embedded Conditional Random Field (E-CRF) to alleviate it. E-CRF innovatively fuses the CRF into the CNN network as an organic whole for more effective end-to-end optimization. The reasons are two folds. It utilizes CRF to guide the message passing between pixels in high-level features to purify the feature representation of boundary pixels, with the help of inner pixels belonging to the same object. More importantly, it enables optimizing class weights from both scale and direction during backpropagation. We make detailed theoretical analysis to prove it. Besides, superpixel is integrated into E-CRF and served as an auxiliary to exploit the local object prior for more reliable message passing. Finally, our proposed method yields impressive results on ADE20K, Cityscapes, and Pascal Context datasets.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Proactive Multi-Camera Collaboration for 3D Human Pose Estimation

Hai Ci · Mickel Liu · Xuehai Pan · Fangwei Zhong · Yizhou Wang

This paper presents a multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) scheme for proactive Multi-Camera Collaboration in 3D Human Pose Estimation in dynamic human crowds. Traditional fixed-viewpoint multi-camera solutions for human motion capture (MoCap) are limited in capture space and susceptible to dynamic occlusions. Active camera approaches proactively control camera poses to find optimal viewpoints for 3D reconstruction. However, current methods still face challenges with credit assignment and environment dynamics. To address these issues, our proposed method introduces a novel Collaborative Triangulation Contribution Reward (CTCR) that improves convergence and alleviates multi-agent credit assignment issues resulting from using 3D reconstruction accuracy as the shared reward. Additionally, we jointly train our model with multiple world dynamics learning tasks to better capture environment dynamics and encourage anticipatory behaviors for occlusion avoidance. We evaluate our proposed method in four photo-realistic UE4 environments to ensure validity and generalizability. Empirical results show that our method outperforms fixed and active baselines in various scenarios with different numbers of cameras and humans.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
AnyDA: Anytime Domain Adaptation

Omprakash Chakraborty · Aadarsh Sahoo · Rameswar Panda · Abir Das

Unsupervised domain adaptation is an open and challenging problem in computer vision. While existing research shows encouraging results in addressing cross-domain distribution shift on common benchmarks, they are often constrained to testing under a specific target setting, limiting their impact for many real-world applications. In this paper, we introduce a simple yet effective framework for anytime domain adaptation that is executable with dynamic resource constraints to achieve accuracy-efficiency trade-offs under domain-shifts. We achieve this by training a single shared network using both labeled source and unlabeled data, with switchable depth, width and input resolutions on the fly to enable testing under a wide range of computation budgets. Starting with a teacher network trained from a label-rich source domain, we utilize bootstrapped recursive knowledge distillation as a nexus between source and target domains to jointly train the student network with switchable subnetworks. Experiments on multiple datasets well demonstrate the superiority of our approach over state-of-the-art methods.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
SMART: Sentences as Basic Units for Text Evaluation

Reinald Kim Amplayo · Peter Liu · Yao Zhao · Shashi Narayan

Widely used evaluation metrics for text generation either do not work well with longer texts or fail to evaluate all aspects of text quality. In this paper, we introduce a new metric called SMART to mitigate such limitations. Specifically, we treat sentences as basic units of matching instead of tokens, and use a sentence matching function to soft-match candidate and reference sentences. Candidate sentences are also compared to sentences in the source documents to allow grounding (e.g., factuality) evaluation. Our results show that system-level correlations of our proposed metric with a model-based matching function outperforms all competing metrics on the SummEval summarization meta-evaluation dataset, while the same metric with a string-based matching function is competitive with current model-based metrics. The latter does not use any neural model, which is useful during model development phases where resources can be limited and fast evaluation is required. SMART also outperforms all factuality evaluation metrics on the TRUE benchmark. Finally, we also conducted extensive analyses showing that our proposed metrics work well with longer summaries and are less biased towards specific models.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
GAIN: On the Generalization of Instructional Action Understanding

Junlong Li · Guangyi Chen · Yansong Tang · Jinan Bao · Kun Zhang · Jie Zhou · Jiwen Lu

Despite the great success achieved in instructional action understanding by deep learning and mountainous data, deploying trained models to the unseen environment still remains a great challenge, since it requires strong generalizability of models from in-distribution training data to out-of-distribution (OOD) data. In this paper, we introduce a benchmark, named GAIN, to analyze the GeneralizAbility of INstructional action understanding models. In GAIN, we reassemble steps of existing instructional video training datasets to construct the OOD tasks and then collect the corresponding videos. We evaluate the generalizability of models trained on in-distribution datasets with the performance on OOD videos and observe a significant performance drop. We further propose a simple yet effective approach, which cuts off the excessive contextual dependency of action steps by performing causal inference, to provide a potential direction for enhancing the OOD generalizability. In the experiments, we show that this simple approach can improve several baselines on both instructional action segmentation and detection tasks. We expect the introduction of the GAIN dataset will promote future in-depth research on the generalization of instructional video understanding.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Scaleformer: Iterative Multi-scale Refining Transformers for Time Series Forecasting

Mohammad Amin Shabani · Amir Abdi · Lili Meng · Tristan Sylvain

The performance of time series forecasting has recently been greatly improved by the introduction of transformers. In this paper, we propose a general multi-scale framework that can be applied to state-of-the-art transformer-based time series forecasting models(FEDformer, Autoformer, etc.). Using iteratively refining a forecasted time series at multiple scales with shared weights, architecture adaptations and a specially-designed normalization scheme, we are able to achieve significant performance improvements with minimal additional computational overhead. Via detailed ablation studies, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed architectural and methodological innovations. Furthermore, our experiments on various public datasets demonstrate that the proposed method outperforms the corresponding baselines. Depending on the choice of transformer architecture, our mutli-scale framework results in mean squared error reductions ranging from 5.5% to 38.5%. Our code is publicly available in

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Red PANDA: Disambiguating Image Anomaly Detection by Removing Nuisance Factors

Niv Cohen · Jonathan Kahana · Yedid Hoshen

Anomaly detection methods strive to discover patterns that differ from the norm in a meaningful way. This goal is ambiguous as different human operators may find different attributes meaningful. An image differing from the norm by an attribute such as pose may be considered anomalous by some operators while others may consider the attribute irrelevant. Breaking from previous research, we present a new anomaly detection method that allows operators to exclude an attribute when detecting anomalies. Our approach aims to learn representations which do not contain information regarding such nuisance attributes. Anomaly scoring is performed using a density-based approach. Importantly, our approach does not require specifying the attributes where anomalies could appear, which is typically impossible in anomaly detection, but only attributes to ignore. An empirical investigation is presented verifying the effectiveness of our approach.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Equivariant Descriptor Fields: SE(3)-Equivariant Energy-Based Models for End-to-End Visual Robotic Manipulation Learning

Hyunwoo Ryu · Hong-in Lee · Jeong-Hoon Lee · Jongeun Choi

End-to-end learning for visual robotic manipulation is known to suffer from sample inefficiency, requiring large numbers of demonstrations. The spatial roto-translation equivariance, or the SE(3)-equivariance can be exploited to improve the sample efficiency for learning robotic manipulation. In this paper, we present SE(3)-equivariant models for visual robotic manipulation from point clouds that can be trained fully end-to-end. By utilizing the representation theory of the Lie group, we construct novel SE(3)-equivariant energy-based models that allow highly sample efficient end-to-end learning. We show that our models can learn from scratch without prior knowledge and yet are highly sample efficient (5~10 demonstrations are enough). Furthermore, we show that our models can generalize to tasks with (i) previously unseen target object poses, (ii) previously unseen target object instances of the category, and (iii) previously unseen visual distractors. We experiment with 6-DoF robotic manipulation tasks to validate our models' sample efficiency and generalizability. Codes are available at:

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Learning Math Reasoning from Self-Sampled Correct and Partially-Correct Solutions

Ansong Ni · Jeevana Priya Inala · Chenglong Wang · Alex Polozov · Christopher Meek · Dragomir Radev · Jianfeng Gao

Pretrained language models have shown superior performance on many natural language processing tasks, yet they still struggle at multi-step formal reasoning tasks like grade school math problems. One key challenge of finetuning them to solve such math reasoning problems is that many existing datasets only contain one reference solution for each problem, despite the fact that there are often alternative solutions resembling different reasoning paths to the final answer. This way, the finetuned models are biased towards the limited reference solutions, which limits their generalization to unseen examples. To mitigate this issue, we propose to let the model perform sampling during training and learn from both self-sampled fully-correct solutions, which yield the correct answer upon execution, and partially-correct solutions, whose intermediate state matches an intermediate state of a known correct solution. We show that our use of self-sampled correct and partially-correct solutions can benefit learning and help guide the sampling process, leading to more efficient exploration of the solution space. Additionally, we explore various training objectives to support learning from multiple solutions per example and find they greatly affect the performance. Experiments on two math reasoning datasets show the effectiveness of our method compared to learning from a single reference solution with MLE, where we improve PASS@100 from 35.5% to 44.5% for GSM8K, and 27.6% to 36.2% PASS@80 for MathQA. Such improvements are also consistent across different model sizes.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Policy Pre-training for Autonomous Driving via Self-supervised Geometric Modeling

Penghao Wu · Li Chen · Hongyang Li · Xiaosong Jia · Junchi Yan · Yu Qiao

Witnessing the impressive achievements of pre-training techniques on large-scale data in the field of computer vision and natural language processing, we wonder whether this idea could be adapted in a grab-and-go spirit, and mitigate the sample inefficiency problem for visuomotor driving. Given the highly dynamic and variant nature of the input, the visuomotor driving task inherently lacks the view and translation invariance, and the visual input contains massive irrelevant information for decision making, resulting in predominant pre-training approaches from general vision less suitable for the autonomous driving task. To this end, we propose PPGeo (Policy Pre-training via Geometric modeling), an intuitive and straightforward fully self-supervised framework curated for the policy pre-training in visuomotor driving. We aim at learning policy representations as a powerful abstraction by modeling 3D geometric scenes on large-scale unlabeled and uncalibrated YouTube driving videos. The proposed PPGeo is performed in two stages to support effective self-supervised training. In the first stage, the geometric modeling framework generates pose and depth predictions simultaneously, with two consecutive frames as input. In the second stage, the visual encoder learns driving policy representation by predicting the future ego-motion and optimizing with the photometric error based on current visual observation only. As such, the pre-trained visual encoder is equipped with rich driving policy related representations and thereby competent for multiple visuomotor driving tasks. As a side product, the pre-trained geometric modeling networks could bring further improvement to the depth and odometry estimation tasks. Extensive experiments covering a wide span of challenging scenarios have demonstrated the superiority of our proposed approach, where improvements range from 2% to even over 100% with very limited data.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Revocable Deep Reinforcement Learning with Affinity Regularization for Outlier-Robust Graph Matching

Chang Liu · Zetian Jiang · Runzhong Wang · Lingxiao Huang · Pinyan Lu · Junchi Yan

Graph matching (GM) has been a building block in various areas including computer vision and pattern recognition. Despite recent impressive progress, existing deep GM methods often have obvious difficulty in handling outliers, which are ubiquitous in practice. We propose a deep reinforcement learning based approach RGM, whose sequential node matching scheme naturally fits the strategy for selective inlier matching against outliers. A revocable action framework is devised to improve the agent's flexibility against the complex constrained GM. Moreover, we propose a quadratic approximation technique to regularize the affinity score, in the presence of outliers. As such, the agent can finish inlier matching timely when the affinity score stops growing, for which otherwise an additional parameter i.e. the number of inliers is needed to avoid matching outliers. In this paper, we focus on learning the back-end solver under the most general form of GM: the Lawler's QAP, whose input is the affinity matrix. Especially, our approach can also boost existing GM methods that use such input. Experiments on multiple real-world datasets demonstrate its performance regarding both accuracy and robustness.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Graph Neural Networks are Inherently Good Generalizers: Insights by Bridging GNNs and MLPs

Chenxiao Yang · Qitian Wu · Jiahua Wang · Junchi Yan

Graph neural networks (GNNs), as the de-facto model class for representation learning on graphs, are built upon the multi-layer perceptrons (MLP) architecture with additional message passing layers to allow features to flow across nodes. While conventional wisdom commonly attributes the success of GNNs to their advanced expressivity, we conjecture that this is not the main cause of GNNs' superiority in node-level prediction tasks. This paper pinpoints the major source of GNNs' performance gain to their intrinsic generalization capability, by introducing an intermediate model class dubbed as P(ropagational)MLP, which is identical to standard MLP in training, but then adopts GNN's architecture in testing. Intriguingly, we observe that PMLPs consistently perform on par with (or even exceed) their GNN counterparts, while being much more efficient in training.This finding provides a new perspective for understanding the learning behavior of GNNs, and can be used as an analytic tool for dissecting various GNN-related research problems including expressivity, generalization, over-smoothing and heterophily. As an initial step to analyze PMLP, we show its essential difference to MLP at infinite-width limit lies in the NTK feature map in the post-training stage. Moreover, through extrapolation analysis (i.e., generalization under distribution shifts), we find that though most GNNs and their PMLP counterparts cannot extrapolate non-linear functions for extreme out-of-distribution data, they have greater potential to generalize to testing data near the training data support as natural advantages of the GNN architecture used for inference.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
Graph Neural Networks for Link Prediction with Subgraph Sketching

Benjamin Chamberlain · Sergey Shirobokov · Emanuele Rossi · Fabrizio Frasca · Thomas Markovich · Nils Hammerla · Michael Bronstein · Max Hansmire

Many Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) perform poorly compared to simple heuristics on Link Prediction (LP) tasks. This is due to limitations in expressive power such as the inability to count triangles (the backbone of most LP heuristics) and because they can not distinguish automorphic nodes (those having identical structural roles). Both expressiveness issues can be alleviated by learning link (rather than node) representations and incorporating structural features such as triangle counts. Since explicit link representations are often prohibitively expensive, recent works resorted to subgraph-based methods, which have achieved state-of-the-art performance for LP, but suffer from poor efficiency due to high levels of redundancy between subgraphs. We analyze the components of subgraph GNN (SGNN) methods for link prediction. Based on our analysis, we propose a novel full-graph GNN called ELPH (Efficient Link Prediction with Hashing) that passes subgraph sketches as messages to approximate the key components of SGNNs without explicit subgraph construction. ELPH is provably more expressive than Message Passing GNNs (MPNNs). It outperforms existing SGNN models on many standard LP benchmarks while being orders of magnitude faster. However, it shares the common GNN limitation that it is only efficient when the dataset fits in GPU memory. Accordingly, we develop a highly scalable model, called BUDDY, which uses feature precomputation to circumvent this limitation without sacrificing predictive performance. Our experiments show that BUDDY also outperforms SGNNs on standard LP benchmarks while being highly scalable and faster than ELPH.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Confidence-Based Feature Imputation for Graphs with Partially Known Features

Daeho Um · Jiwoong Park · Seulki Park · Jin Choi

This paper investigates a missing feature imputation problem for graph learning tasks. Several methods have previously addressed learning tasks on graphs with missing features. However, in cases of high rates of missing features, they were unable to avoid significant performance degradation. To overcome this limitation, we introduce a novel concept of channel-wise confidence in a node feature, which is assigned to each imputed channel feature of a node for reflecting the certainty of the imputation. We then design pseudo-confidence using the channel-wise shortest path distance between a missing-feature node and its nearest known-feature node to replace unavailable true confidence in an actual learning process. Based on the pseudo-confidence, we propose a novel feature imputation scheme that performs channel-wise inter-node diffusion and node-wise inter-channel propagation. The scheme can endure even at an exceedingly high missing rate (e.g., 99.5\%) and it achieves state-of-the-art accuracy for both semi-supervised node classification and link prediction on various datasets containing a high rate of missing features. Codes are available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Sparse tree-based Initialization for Neural Networks

Patrick Lutz · Ludovic Arnould · Claire Boyer · Erwan Scornet

Dedicated neural network (NN) architectures have been designed to handle specific data types (such as CNN for images or RNN for text), which ranks them among state-of-the-art methods for dealing with these data. Unfortunately, no architecture has been found for dealing with tabular data yet, for which tree ensemble methods (tree boosting, random forests) usually show the best predictive performances. In this work, we propose a new sparse initialization technique for (potentially deep) multilayer perceptrons (MLP): we first train a tree-based procedure to detect feature interactions and use the resulting information to initialize the network, which is subsequently trained via standard gradient descent (GD) strategies. Numerical experiments on several tabular data sets showthe benefits of this new, simple and easy-to-use method, both in terms of generalization capacity and computation time, compared to default MLP initialization and even to existing complex deep learning solutions. In fact, this wise MLP initialization raises the performances of the resulting NN methods to that of gradient boosting on tabular data. Besides, such initializations are able to preserve the sparsity of weights introduced in the first layers of the network throughout the training, which emphasizes that the first layers act as a sparse feature extractor (like convolutional layers in CNN).

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper

Duc Hoang · Shiwei Liu · Radu Marculescu · Zhangyang Wang

Pruning neural networks at initialization (PaI) has received an upsurge of interest due to its end-to-end saving potential. PaI is able to find sparse subnetworks at initialization that can achieve comparable performance to the full networks. These methods can surpass the trivial baseline of random pruning but suffer from a significant performance gap compared to post-training pruning. Previous approaches firmly rely on weights, gradients, and sanity checks as primary signals when conducting PaI analysis. To better understand the underlying mechanism of PaI, we propose to interpret it through the lens of the Ramanujan Graph - a class of expander graphs that are sparse while being highly connected. It is often believed there should be a strong correlation between the Ramanujan graph and PaI since both are about finding sparse and well-connected neural networks. However, the finer-grained link relating highly sparse and connected networks to their relative performance (i.e., ranking of difference sparse structures at the same specific global sparsity) is still missing. We observe that not only the Ramanujan property for sparse networks shows no significant relationship to PaI’s relative performance, but maximizing it can also lead to the formation of pseudo-random graphs with no structural meanings. We reveal the underlying cause to be Ramanujan Graph’s strong assumption on the upper bound of the largest nontrivial eigenvalue (µˆ) of layers belonging to highly sparse networks. We hence propose Iterative Mean Difference of Bound (IMDB) as a mean to relax the µˆ upper bound. Likewise, we also show there exists a lower bound for µˆ, which we call the Normalized Random Coefficient (NaRC), that gives us an accurate assessment for when sparse but highly connected structure degenerates into naive randomness. Finally, we systematically analyze the behavior of various PaI methods and demonstrate the utility of our proposed metrics in characterizing PaI performance. We show that subnetworks preserving better the IMDB property correlate higher in performance, while NaRC provides us with a possible mean to locate the region where highly connected, highly sparse, and non-trivial Ramanujan expanders exist. Our code is available at:

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Self-Stabilization: The Implicit Bias of Gradient Descent at the Edge of Stability

Alex Damian · Eshaan Nichani · Jason Lee

Traditional analyses of gradient descent show that when the largest eigenvalue of the Hessian, also known as the sharpness $S(\theta)$, is bounded by $2/\eta$, training is "stable" and the training loss decreases monotonically. Recent works, however, have observed that this assumption does not hold when training modern neural networks with full batch or large batch gradient descent. Most recently, Cohen at al. (2021) detailed two important phenomena. The first, dubbed \emph{progressive sharpening}, is that the sharpness steadily increases throughout training until it reaches the instability cutoff $2/\eta$. The second, dubbed \emph{edge of stability}, is that the sharpness hovers at $2/\eta$ for the remainder of training while the loss continues decreasing, albeit non-monotonically. We demonstrate that, far from being chaotic, the dynamics of gradient descent at the edge of stability can be captured by a cubic Taylor expansion: as the iterates diverge in direction of the top eigenvector of the Hessian due to instability, the cubic term in the local Taylor expansion of the loss function causes the curvature to decrease until stability is restored. This property, which we call \emph{self-stabilization}, is a general property of gradient descent and explains its behavior at the edge of stability. A key consequence of self-stabilization is that gradient descent at the edge of stability implicitly follows \emph{projected} gradient descent (PGD) under the constraint $S(\theta) \le 2/\eta$. Our analysis provides precise predictions for the loss, sharpness, and deviation from the PGD trajectory throughout training, which we verify both empirically in a number of standard settings and theoretically under mild conditions. Our analysis uncovers the mechanism for gradient descent's implicit bias towards stability.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Liquid Structural State-Space Models

Ramin Hasani · Mathias Lechner · Johnson (Tsun-Hsuan) Wang · Makram Chahine · Alexander Amini · Daniela Rus

A proper parametrization of state transition matrices of linear state-space models (SSMs) followed by standard nonlinearities enables them to efficiently learn representations from sequential data, establishing the state-of-the-art on an extensive series of long-range sequence modeling benchmarks. In this paper, we show that we can improve further when the structured SSM, such as S4, is given by a linear liquid time-constant (LTC) state-space model. LTC neural networks are causal continuous-time neural networks with an input-dependent state transition module, which makes them learn to adapt to incoming inputs at inference. We show that by using a diagonal plus low-rank decomposition of the state transition matrix introduced in S4, and a few simplifications, the LTC-based structured state-space model, dubbed Liquid-S4, improves generalization across sequence modeling tasks with long-term dependencies such as image, text, audio, and medical time-series, with an average performance of 87.32\% on the Long-Range Arena benchmark. On the full raw Speech Command recognition dataset, Liquid-S4 achieves 96.78\% accuracy with a 30\% reduction in parameter counts compared to S4. The additional gain in performance is the direct result of the Liquid-S4's kernel structure that takes into account the similarities of the input sequence samples during training and inference.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Predictive Inference with Feature Conformal Prediction

Jiaye Teng · Chuan Wen · Dinghuai Zhang · Yoshua Bengio · Yang Gao · Yang Yuan

Conformal prediction is a distribution-free technique for establishing valid prediction intervals. Although conventionally people conduct conformal prediction in the output space, this is not the only possibility. In this paper, we propose feature conformal prediction, which extends the scope of conformal prediction to semantic feature spaces by leveraging the inductive bias of deep representation learning. From a theoretical perspective, we demonstrate that feature conformal prediction provably outperforms regular conformal prediction under mild assumptions. Our approach could be combined with not only vanilla conformal prediction, but also other adaptive conformal prediction methods. Apart from experiments on existing predictive inference benchmarks, we also demonstrate the state-of-the-art performance of the proposed methods on \textit{large-scale} tasks such as ImageNet classification and Cityscapes image segmentation.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
ExpressivE: A Spatio-Functional Embedding For Knowledge Graph Completion

Aleksandar Pavlović · Emanuel Sallinger

Knowledge graphs are inherently incomplete. Therefore substantial research has been directed toward knowledge graph completion (KGC), i.e., predicting missing triples from the information represented in the knowledge graph (KG). KG embedding models (KGEs) have yielded promising results for KGC, yet any current KGE is incapable of: (1) fully capturing vital inference patterns (e.g., composition), (2) capturing prominent patterns jointly (e.g., hierarchy and composition), and (3) providing an intuitive interpretation of captured patterns. In this work, we propose ExpressivE, a fully expressive spatio-functional KGE that solves all these challenges simultaneously. ExpressivE embeds pairs of entities as points and relations as hyper-parallelograms in the virtual triple space $\mathbb{R}^{2d}$. This model design allows ExpressivE not only to capture a rich set of inference patterns jointly but additionally to display any supported inference pattern through the spatial relation of hyper-parallelograms, offering an intuitive and consistent geometric interpretation of ExpressivE embeddings and their captured patterns. Experimental results on standard KGC benchmarks reveal that ExpressivE is competitive with state-of-the-art KGEs and even significantly outperforms them on WN18RR.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Out-of-distribution Detection with Implicit Outlier Transformation

Qizhou Wang · Junjie Ye · Feng Liu · Quanyu Dai · Marcus Kalander · Tongliang Liu · Jianye HAO · Bo Han

Outlier exposure (OE) is powerful in out-of-distribution (OOD) detection, enhancing detection capability via model fine-tuning with surrogate OOD data. However, surrogate data typically deviate from test OOD data. Thus, the performance of OE when facing unseen OOD data, can be weaken. To address this issue, we propose a novel OE-based approach that makes the model perform well for unseen OOD situations, even for unseen OOD cases. It leads to a min-max learning scheme---searching to synthesize OOD data that leads to worst judgments and learning from such OOD data for the uniform performance in OOD detection. In our realization, these worst OOD data are synthesized by transforming original surrogate ones, where the associated transform functions are learned implicitly based on our novel insight that model perturbation leads to data transformation. Our methodology offers an efficient way of synthesizing OOD data, which can further benefit the detection model, besides the surrogate OOD data. We conduct extensive experiments under various OOD detection setups, demonstrating the effectiveness of our method against its advanced counterparts.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Improving Deep Regression with Ordinal Entropy

Shihao Zhang · Linlin Yang · Michael Bi Mi · Xiaoxu Zheng · Angela Yao

In computer vision, it is often observed that formulating regression problems as a classification task yields better performance. We investigate this curious phenomenon and provide a derivation to show that classification, with the cross-entropy loss, outperforms regression with a mean squared error loss in its ability to learn high-entropy feature representations. Based on the analysis, we propose an ordinal entropy loss to encourage higher-entropy feature spaces while maintaining ordinal relationships to improve the performance of regression tasks. Experiments on synthetic and real-world regression tasks demonstrate the importance and benefits of increasing entropy for regression.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Retraining

Max Zimmer · Christoph Spiegel · Sebastian Pokutta

Many Neural Network Pruning approaches consist of several iterative training and pruning steps, seemingly losing a significant amount of their performance after pruning and then recovering it in the subsequent retraining phase. Recent works of Renda et al. (2020) and Le & Hua (2021) demonstrate the significance of the learning rate schedule during the retraining phase and propose specific heuristics for choosing such a schedule for IMP (Han et al., 2015). We place these findings in the context of the results of Li et al. (2020) regarding the training of models within a fixed training budget and demonstrate that, consequently, the retraining phase can be massively shortened using a simple linear learning rate schedule. Improving on existing retraining approaches, we additionally propose a method to adaptively select the initial value of the linear schedule. Going a step further, we propose similarly imposing a budget on the initial dense training phase and show that the resulting simple and efficient method is capable of outperforming significantly more complex or heavily parameterized state-of-the-art approaches that attempt to sparsify the network during training. These findings not only advance our understanding of the retraining phase, but more broadly question the belief that one should aim to avoid the need for retraining and reduce the negative effects of ‘hard’ pruning by incorporating the sparsification process into the standard training.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Distilling Model Failures as Directions in Latent Space

Saachi Jain · Hannah Lawrence · Ankur Moitra · Aleksander Madry

Existing methods for isolating hard subpopulations and spurious correlations in datasets often require human intervention. This can make these methods labor-intensive and dataset-specific. To address these shortcomings, we present a scalable method for automatically distilling a model's failure modes. Specifically, we harness linear classifiers to identify consistent error patterns, and, in turn, induce a natural representation of these failure modes as directions within the feature space. We demonstrate that this framework allows us to discover and automatically caption challenging subpopulations within the training dataset. Moreover, by combining our framework with off-the-shelf diffusion models, we can generate images that are especially challenging for the analyzed model, and thus can be used to perform synthetic data augmentation that helps remedy the model's failure modes.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Efficient Edge Inference by Selective Query

Anil Kag · Igor Fedorov · Aditya Gangrade · Paul Whatmough · Venkatesh Saligrama

Edge devices provide inference on predictive tasks to many end-users. However, deploying deep neural networks that achieve state-of-the-art accuracy on these devices is infeasible due to edge resource constraints. Nevertheless, cloud-only processing, the de-facto standard, is also problematic, since uploading large amounts of data imposes severe communication bottlenecks. We propose a novel end-to-end hybrid learning framework that allows the edge to selectively query only those hard examples that the cloud can classify correctly. Our framework optimizes over neural architectures and trains edge predictors and routing models so that the overall accuracy remains high while minimizing the overall latency. Training a hybrid learner is difficult since we lack annotations of hard edge-examples. We introduce a novel proxy supervision in this context and show that our method adapts seamlessly and near optimally across different latency regimes. On the ImageNet dataset, our proposed method deployed on a micro-controller unit exhibits $25\%$ reduction in latency compared to cloud-only processing while suffering no excess loss.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Understanding Zero-shot Adversarial Robustness for Large-Scale Models

Chengzhi Mao · Scott Geng · Junfeng Yang · Xin Wang · Carl Vondrick

Pretrained large-scale vision-language models like CLIP have exhibited strong generalization over unseen tasks. Yet imperceptible adversarial perturbations can significantly reduce CLIP's performance on new tasks. In this work, we identify and explore the problem of adapting large-scale models for zero-shot adversarial robustness. We first identify two key factors during model adaption--training losses and adaptation methods--that affect the model's zero-shot adversarial robustness. We then propose a text-guided contrastive adversarial training loss, which aligns the text embeddings and the adversarial visual features with contrastive learning on a small set of training data. We apply this training loss to two adaption methods, model finetuning and visual prompt tuning. We find that visual prompt tuning is more effective in the absence of texts, while finetuning wins in the existence of text guidance. Overall, our approach significantly improves the zero-shot adversarial robustness over CLIP, seeing an average improvement of 31 points over ImageNet and 15 zero-shot datasets. We hope this work can shed light on understanding the zero-shot adversarial robustness of large-scale models.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
A Primal-Dual Framework for Transformers and Neural Networks

TAN NGUYEN · Tam Nguyen · Nhat Ho · Andrea Bertozzi · Richard Baraniuk · Stanley J Osher

Self-attention is key to the remarkable success of transformers in sequence modeling tasks including many applications in natural language processing and computer vision. Like neural network layers, these attention mechanisms are often developed by heuristics and experience. To provide a principled framework for constructing attention layers in transformers, we show that the self-attention corresponds to the support vector expansion derived from a support vector regression problem, whose primal formulation has the form of a neural network layer. Using our framework, we derive popular attention layers used in practice and propose two new attentions: 1) the Batch Normalized Attention (Attention-BN) derived from the batch normalization layer and 2) the Attention with Scaled Head (Attention-SH) derived from using less training data to fit the SVR model. We empirically demonstrate the advantages of the Attention-BN and Attention-SH in reducing head redundancy, increasing the model's accuracy, and improving the model's efficiency in a variety of practical applications including image and time-series classification.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Hungry Hungry Hippos: Towards Language Modeling with State Space Models

Dan Fu · Tri Dao · Khaled Saab · Armin Thomas · Atri Rudra · Christopher Re

State space models (SSMs) have demonstrated state-of-the-art sequence modeling performance in some modalities, but underperform attention in language modeling. Moreover, despite scaling nearly linearly in sequence length instead of quadratically, SSMs are still slower than Transformers due to poor hardware utilization. In this paper, we make progress on understanding the expressivity gap between SSMs and attention in language modeling, and on reducing the hardware barrier between SSMs and attention. First, we use synthetic language modeling tasks to understand the gap between SSMs and attention. We find that existing SSMs struggle with two capabilities: recalling earlier tokens in the sequence and comparing tokens across the sequence. To understand the impact on language modeling, we propose a new SSM layer, H3, that is explicitly designed for these abilities. H3 matches attention on the synthetic languages and comes within 0.4 PPL of Transformers on OpenWebText. Furthermore, a hybrid 125M-parameter H3-attention model that retains two attention layers surprisingly outperforms Transformers on OpenWebText by 1.0 PPL. Next, to improve the efficiency of training SSMs on modern hardware, we propose FlashConv. FlashConv uses a fused block FFT algorithm to improve efficiency on sequences up to 8K, and introduces a novel state passing algorithm that exploits the recurrent properties of SSMs to scale to longer sequences. FlashConv yields 2$\times$ speedup on the long-range arena benchmark and allows hybrid language models to generate text 2.4$\times$ faster than Transformers. Using FlashConv, we scale hybrid H3-attention language models up to 2.7B parameters on the Pile and find promising initial results, achieving lower perplexity than Transformers and outperforming Transformers in zero- and few-shot learning on a majority of tasks in the SuperGLUE benchmark.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Implicit regularization in Heavy-ball momentum accelerated stochastic gradient descent

Avrajit Ghosh · HE LYU · Xitong Zhang · Rongrong Wang

It is well known that the finite step-size ($h$) in Gradient descent (GD) implicitly regularizes solutions to flatter minimas. A natural question to ask is \textit{Does the momentum parameter $\beta$ (say) play a role in implicit regularization in Heavy-ball (H.B) momentum accelerated gradient descent (GD+M)?}. To answer this question, first, we show that the trajectory traced by discrete H.B momentum update (GD+M) is $O(h^2)$ close to a continuous trajectory induced by a modified loss, which consists of an original loss and an implicit regularizer. This implicit regularizer for (GD+M) is indeed stronger than that of (GD) by factor of $(\frac{1+\beta}{1-\beta})$, thus explaining why (GD+M) shows better generalization performance and higher test accuracy than (GD). Furthermore, we extend our analysis to stochastic version of gradient descent with momentum (SGD+M) and propose a deterministic continuous trajectory that is $O(h^2)$ close to the discrete update of (SGD+M) in a strong approximation sense. We explore the implicit regularization in (SGD+M) and (GD+M) through a series of experiments validating our theory.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Efficient recurrent architectures through activity sparsity and sparse back-propagation through time

Anand Subramoney · Khaleelulla Khan Nazeer · Mark Schoene · Christian Mayr · David Kappel

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are well suited for solving sequence tasks in resource-constrained systems due to their expressivity and low computational requirements. However, there is still a need to bridge the gap between what RNNs are capable of in terms of efficiency and performance and real-world application requirements. The memory and computational requirements arising from propagating the activations of all the neurons at every time step to every connected neuron, together with the sequential dependence of activations, contribute to the inefficiency of training and using RNNs. We propose a solution inspired by biological neuron dynamics that makes the communication between RNN units sparse and discrete. This makes the backward pass with backpropagation through time (BPTT) computationally sparse and efficient as well. We base our model on the gated recurrent unit (GRU), extending it with units that emit discrete events for communication triggered by a threshold so that no information is communicated to other units in the absence of events. We show theoretically that the communication between units, and hence the computation required for both the forward and backward passes, scales with the number of events in the network. Our model achieves efficiency without compromising task performance, demonstrating competitive performance compared to state-of-the-art recurrent network models in real-world tasks, including language modeling. The dynamic activity sparsity mechanism also makes our model well suited for novel energy-efficient neuromorphic hardware. Code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Diversify and Disambiguate: Out-of-Distribution Robustness via Disagreement

Yoonho Lee · Huaxiu Yao · Chelsea Finn

Real-world machine learning problems often exhibit shifts between the source and target distributions, in which source data does not fully convey the desired behavior on target inputs. Different functions that achieve near-perfect source accuracy can make differing predictions on test inputs, and such ambiguity makes robustness to distribution shifts challenging. We propose DivDis, a simple two-stage framework for identifying and resolving ambiguity in data. DivDis first learns a diverse set of hypotheses that achieve low source loss but make differing predictions on target inputs. We then disambiguate by selecting one of the discovered functions using additional information, for example, a small number of target labels. Our experimental evaluation shows improved performance in subpopulation shift and domain generalization settings, demonstrating that DivDis can scalably adapt to distribution shifts in image and text classification benchmarks.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
The Augmented Image Prior: Distilling 1000 Classes by Extrapolating from a Single Image

Yuki Asano · Aaqib Saeed

What can neural networks learn about the visual world when provided with only a single image as input? While any image obviously cannot contain the multitudes of all existing objects, scenes and lighting conditions -- within the space of all $256^{3\cdot224\cdot224}$ possible $224$-sized square images, it might still provide a strong prior for natural images. To analyze this ``augmented image prior'' hypothesis, we develop a simple framework for training neural networks from scratch using a single image and augmentations using knowledge distillation from a supervised pretrained teacher. With this, we find the answer to the above question to be: `surprisingly, a lot'. In quantitative terms, we find accuracies of $94\%$/$74\%$ on CIFAR-10/100, $69$\% on ImageNet, and by extending this method to video and audio, $51\%$ on Kinetics-400 and $84$\% on SpeechCommands. In extensive analyses spanning 13 datasets, we disentangle the effect of augmentations, choice of data and network architectures and also provide qualitative evaluations that include lucid ``panda neurons'' in networks that have never even seen one.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
How Much Data Are Augmentations Worth? An Investigation into Scaling Laws, Invariance, and Implicit Regularization

Jonas Geiping · Micah Goldblum · Gowthami Somepalli · Ravid Shwartz-Ziv · Tom Goldstein · Andrew Wilson

Despite the clear performance benefits of data augmentations, little is known about why they are so effective. In this paper, we disentangle several key mechanisms through which data augmentations operate. Establishing an exchange rate between augmented and additional real data, we find that in out-of-distribution testing scenarios, augmentations which yield samples that are diverse, but inconsistent with the data distribution can be even more valuable than additional training data. Moreover, we find that data augmentations which encourage invariances can be more valuable than invariance alone, especially on small and medium sized training sets. Following this observation, we show that augmentations induce additional stochasticity during training, effectively flattening the loss landscape.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
A Closer Look at Model Adaptation using Feature Distortion and Simplicity Bias

Puja Trivedi · Danai Koutra · Jayaraman J. Thiagarajan

Advances in the expressivity of pretrained models have increased interest in the design of adaptation protocols which enable safe and effective transfer learning. Going beyond conventional linear probing (LP) and fine tuning (FT) strategies, protocols that can effectively control feature distortion, i.e., the failure to update features orthogonal to the in-distribution, have been found to achieve improved out-of-distribution generalization (OOD). In order to limit this distortion, the LP+FT protocol, which first learns a linear probe and then uses this initialization for subsequent FT, was proposed. However, in this paper, we find when adaptation protocols (LP, FT, LP+FT) are also evaluated on a variety of safety objectives (e.g., calibration, robustness, etc.), a complementary perspective to feature distortion is helpful to explain protocol behavior. To this end, we study the susceptibility of protocols to simplicity bias (SB), i.e. the well-known propensity of deep neural networks to rely upon simple features, as SB has recently been shown to underlie several problems in robust generalization. Using a synthetic dataset, we demonstrate the susceptibility of existing protocols to SB. Given the strong effectiveness of LP+FT, we then propose modified linear probes that help mitigate SB, and lead to better initializations for subsequent FT. We verify the effectiveness of the proposed LP+FT variants for decreasing SB in a controlled setting, and their ability to improve OOD generalization and safety on three adaptation datasets.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Surgical Fine-Tuning Improves Adaptation to Distribution Shifts

Yoonho Lee · Annie Chen · Fahim Tajwar · Ananya Kumar · Huaxiu Yao · Percy Liang · Chelsea Finn

A common approach to transfer learning under distribution shift is to fine-tune the last few layers of a pre-trained model, preserving learned features while also adapting to the new task. This paper shows that in such settings, selectively fine-tuning a subset of layers (which we term surgical fine-tuning) matches or outperforms commonly used fine-tuning approaches. Moreover, the type of distribution shift influences which subset is more effective to tune: for example, for image corruptions, fine-tuning only the first few layers works best. We validate our findings systematically across seven real-world data tasks spanning three types of distribution shifts. Theoretically, we prove that for two-layer neural networks in an idealized setting, first-layer tuning can outperform fine-tuning all layers. Intuitively, fine-tuning more parameters on a small target dataset can cause information learned during pre-training to be forgotten, and the relevant information depends on the type of shift.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Linear Connectivity Reveals Generalization Strategies

Jeevesh Juneja · Rachit Bansal · Kyunghyun Cho · João Sedoc · Naomi Saphra

In the mode connectivity literature, it is widely accepted that there are common circumstances in which two neural networks, trained similarly on the same data, will maintain loss when interpolated in the weight space. In particular, transfer learning is presumed to ensure the necessary conditions for linear mode connectivity across training runs. In contrast to existing results from image classification, we find that among text classifiers (trained on MNLI, QQP, and CoLA), some pairs of finetuned models have large barriers of increasing loss on the linear paths between them. On each task, we find distinct clusters of models which are linearly connected on the test loss surface, but are disconnected from models outside the cluster---models that occupy separate basins on the surface. By measuring performance on specially-crafted diagnostic datasets, we find that these clusters correspond to different generalization strategies. For example, on MNLI, one cluster behaves like a bag of words model under domain shift, while another cluster uses syntactic heuristics. Our work demonstrates how the geometry of the loss surface can guide models towards different heuristic functions in standard finetuning settings.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
PLOT: Prompt Learning with Optimal Transport for Vision-Language Models

Guangyi Chen · Weiran Yao · Xiangchen Song · Xinyue Li · Yongming Rao · Kun Zhang

With the increasing attention to large vision-language models such as CLIP, there has been a significant amount of effort dedicated to building efficient prompts. Unlike conventional methods of only learning one single prompt, we propose to learn multiple comprehensive prompts to describe diverse characteristics of categories such as intrinsic attributes or extrinsic contexts. However, directly matching each prompt to the same visual feature is problematic, as it pushes the prompts to converge to one point. To solve this problem, we propose to apply optimal transport to match the vision and text modalities. Specifically, we first model images and the categories with visual and textual feature sets. Then, we apply a two-stage optimization strategy to learn the prompts. In the inner loop, we optimize the optimal transport distance to align visual features and prompts by the Sinkhorn algorithm, while in the outer loop, we learn the prompts by this distance from the supervised data. Extensive experiments are conducted on the few-shot recognition task and the improvement demonstrates the superiority of our method. The code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Learning with Logical Constraints but without Shortcut Satisfaction

Zenan Li · Zehua Liu · Yuan Yao · Jingwei Xu · Taolue Chen · Xiaoxing Ma · Jian Lu

Recent studies have started to explore the integration of logical knowledge into deep learning via encoding logical constraints as an additional loss function. However, existing approaches tend to vacuously satisfy logical constraints through shortcuts, failing to fully exploit the knowledge. In this paper, we present a new framework for learning with logical constraints. Specifically, we address the shortcut satisfaction issue by introducing dual variables for logical connectives, encoding how the constraint is satisfied. We further propose a variational framework where the encoded logical constraint is expressed as a distributional loss that is compatible with the model's original training loss. The theoretical analysis shows that the proposed approach bears some nice properties, and the experimental evaluations demonstrate its superior performance in both model generalizability and constraint satisfaction.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Confidence Estimation Using Unlabeled Data

Chen Li · Xiaoling Hu · Chao Chen

Overconfidence is a common issue for deep neural networks, limiting their deployment in real-world applications. To better estimate confidence, existing methods mostly focus on fully-supervised scenarios and rely on training labels. In this paper, we propose the first confidence estimation method for a semi-supervised setting, when most training labels are unavailable. We stipulate that even with limited training labels, we can still reasonably approximate the confidence of model on unlabeled samples by inspecting the prediction consistency through the training process. We use training consistency as a surrogate function and propose a consistency ranking loss for confidence estimation. On both image classification and segmentation tasks, our method achieves state-of-the-art performances in confidence estimation. Furthermore, we show the benefit of the proposed method through a downstream active learning task.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
NORM: Knowledge Distillation via N-to-One Representation Matching

Xiaolong Liu · Lujun Li · Chao Li · Anbang Yao

Existing feature distillation methods commonly adopt the One-to-one Representation Matching between any pre-selected teacher-student layer pair. In this paper, we present $N$-to-$O$ne $R$epresentation $M$atching (NORM), a new two-stage knowledge distillation method, which relies on a simpleFeature Transform (FT) module consisting of two linear layers. In view of preserving the intact information learnt by the teacher network, during training, our FT module is merely inserted after the last convolutional layer of the student network. The first linear layer projects the student representation to a feature space having $N$ times feature channels than the teacher representation from the last convolutional layer, and the second linear layer contracts the expanded output back to the original feature space. By sequentially splitting the expanded student representation into $N$ non-overlapping feature segments having the same number of feature channels as the teacher's, they can be readily forced to approximate the intact teacher representation simultaneously, formulating a novel many-to-one representation matching mechanism conditioned on a single teacher-student layer pair. After training, such an FT module will be naturally merged into the subsequent fully connected layer thanks to its linear property, introducing no extra parameters or architectural modifications to the student network at inference. Extensive experiments on different visual recognition benchmarks demonstrate the leading performance of our method. For instance, the ResNet18|MobileNet|ResNet50-1/4 model trained by NORM reaches 72.14%|74.26%|68.03% top-1 accuracy on the ImageNet dataset when using a pre-trained ResNet34|ResNet50|ResNet50 model as the teacher, achieving an absolute improvement of 2.01%|4.63%|3.03% against the individually trained counterpart. Code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Does Deep Learning Learn to Abstract? A Systematic Probing Framework

Shengnan An · Zeqi Lin · Bei Chen · Qiang Fu · Nanning Zheng · Jian-Guang Lou

Abstraction is a desirable capability for deep learning models, which means to induce abstract concepts from concrete instances and flexibly apply them beyond the learning context. At the same time, there is a lack of clear understanding about both the presence and further characteristics of this capability in deep learning models. In this paper, we introduce a systematic probing framework to explore the abstraction capability of deep learning models from a transferability perspective. A set of controlled experiments are conducted based on this framework, providing strong evidence that two probed pre-trained language models (PLMs), T5 and GPT2, have the abstraction capability. We also conduct in-depth analysis, thus shedding further light: (1) the whole training phase exhibits a "memorize-then-abstract" two-stage process; (2) the learned abstract concepts are gathered in a few middle-layer attention heads, rather than being evenly distributed throughout the model; (3) the probed abstraction capabilities exhibit robustness against concept mutations, and are more robust to low-level/source-side mutations than high-level/target-side ones; (4) generic pre-training is critical to the emergence of abstraction capability, and PLMs exhibit better abstraction with larger model sizes and data scales.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
The Influence of Learning Rule on Representation Dynamics in Wide Neural Networks

Blake Bordelon · Cengiz Pehlevan

It is unclear how changing the learning rule of a deep neural network alters its learning dynamics and representations. To gain insight into the relationship between learned features, function approximation, and the learning rule, we analyze infinite-width deep networks trained with gradient descent (GD) and biologically-plausible alternatives including feedback alignment (FA), direct feedback alignment (DFA), and error modulated Hebbian learning (Hebb), as well as gated linear networks (GLN). We show that, for each of these learning rules, the evolution of the output function at infinite width is governed by a time varying effective neural tangent kernel (eNTK). In the lazy training limit, this eNTK is static and does not evolve, while in the rich mean-field regime this kernel's evolution can be determined self-consistently with dynamical mean field theory (DMFT). This DMFT enables comparisons of the feature and prediction dynamics induced by each of these learning rules. In the lazy limit, we find that DFA and Hebb can only learn using the last layer features, while full FA can utilize earlier layers with a scale determined by the initial correlation between feedforward and feedback weight matrices. In the rich regime, DFA and FA utilize a temporally evolving and depth-dependent NTK. Counterintuitively, we find that FA networks trained in the rich regime exhibit more feature learning if initialized with smaller correlation between the forward and backward pass weights. GLNs admit a very simple formula for their lazy limit kernel and preserve conditional Gaussianity of their preactivations under gating functions. Error modulated Hebb rules show very small task-relevant alignment of their kernels and perform most task relevant learning in the last layer.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
A Generalized Projected Bellman Error for Off-policy Value Estimation in Reinforcement Learning

Andrew Patterson · Adam White · Martha White

Many reinforcement learning algorithms rely on value estimation, however, the most widely used algorithms---namely temporal difference algorithms---can diverge under both off-policy sampling and nonlinear function approximation. Many algorithms have been developed for off-policy value estimation based on the linear mean squared projected Bellman error (MSPBE) and are sound under linear function approximation. Extending these methods to the nonlinear case has been largely unsuccessful. Recently, several methods have been introduced that approximate a different objective---the mean-squared Bellman error (MSBE)---which naturally facilitate nonlinear approximation. In this work, we build on these insights and introduce a new generalized MSPBE that extends the linear MSPBE to the nonlinear setting. We show how this generalized objective unifies previous work and obtain new bounds for the value error of the solutions of the generalized objective. We derive an easy-to-use, but sound, algorithm to minimize the generalized objective, and show that it is more stable across runs, is less sensitive to hyperparameters, and performs favorably across four control domains with neural network function approximation.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Is Forgetting Less a Good Inductive Bias for Forward Transfer?

Jiefeng Chen · Timothy Nguyen · Dilan Gorur · Arslan Chaudhry

One of the main motivations of studying continual learning is that the problem setting allows a model to accrue knowledge from past tasks to learn new tasks more efficiently. However, recent studies suggest that the key metric that continual learning algorithms optimize, reduction in catastrophic forgetting, does not correlate well with the forward transfer of knowledge. We believe that the conclusion previous works reached is due to the way they measure forward transfer. We argue that the measure of forward transfer to a task should not be affected by the restrictions placed on the continual learner in order to preserve knowledge of previous tasks. Instead, forward transfer should be measured by how easy it is to learn a new task given a set of representations produced by continual learning on previous tasks. Under this notion of forward transfer, we evaluate different continual learning algorithms on a variety of image classification benchmarks. Our results indicate that less forgetful representations lead to a better forward transfer suggesting a strong correlation between retaining past information and learning efficiency on new tasks. Further, we found less forgetful representations to be more diverse and discriminative compared to their forgetful counterparts.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Deep Learning on Implicit Neural Representations of Shapes

Luca De Luigi · Adriano Cardace · Riccardo Spezialetti · Pierluigi Zama Ramirez · Samuele Salti · Luigi Di Stefano

Implicit Neural Representations (INRs) have emerged in the last few years as a powerful tool to encode continuously a variety of different signals like images, videos, audio and 3D shapes. When applied to 3D shapes, INRs allow to overcome the fragmentation and shortcomings of the popular discrete representations used so far. Yet, considering that INRs consist in neural networks, it is not clear whether and how it may be possible to feed them into deep learning pipelines aimed at solving a downstream task. In this paper, we put forward this research problem and propose inr2vec, a framework that can compute a compact latent representation for an input INR in a single inference pass. We verify that inr2vec can embed effectively the 3D shapes represented by the input INRs and show how the produced embeddings can be fed into deep learning pipelines to solve several tasks by processing exclusively INRs.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
FreeMatch: Self-adaptive Thresholding for Semi-supervised Learning

Yidong Wang · Hao Chen · Qiang Heng · Wenxin Hou · Yue Fan · Zhen Wu · Jindong Wang · Marios Savvides · Takahiro Shinozaki · Bhiksha Raj · Bernt Schiele · Xing Xie

Semi-supervised Learning (SSL) has witnessed great success owing to the impressive performances brought by various methods based on pseudo labeling and consistency regularization. However, we argue that existing methods might fail to utilize the unlabeled data more effectively since they either use a pre-defined / fixed threshold or an ad-hoc threshold adjusting scheme, resulting in inferior performance and slow convergence. We first analyze a motivating example to obtain intuitions on the relationship between the desirable threshold and model's learning status. Based on the analysis, we hence propose FreeMatch to adjust the confidence threshold in a self-adaptive manner according to the model's learning status. We further introduce a self-adaptive class fairness regularization penalty to encourage the model for diverse predictions during the early training stage. Extensive experiments indicate the superiority of FreeMatch especially when the labeled data are extremely rare. FreeMatch achieves 5.78%, 13.59%, and 1.28% error rate reduction over the latest state-of-the-art method FlexMatch on CIFAR-10 with 1 label per class, STL-10 with 4 labels per class, and ImageNet with 100 labels per class, respectively. Moreover, FreeMatch can also boost the performance of imbalanced SSL. The codes can be found at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Bispectral Neural Networks

Sophia Sanborn · Christian Shewmake · Bruno Olshausen · Christopher Hillar

We present a neural network architecture, Bispectral Neural Networks (BNNs) for learning representations that are invariant to the actions of compact commutative groups on the space over which a signal is defined. The model incorporates the ansatz of the bispectrum, an analytically defined group invariant that is complete -- that is, it preserves all signal structure while removing only the variation due to group actions. Here, we demonstrate that BNNs are able to simultaneously learn groups, their irreducible representations, and corresponding equivariant and complete-invariant maps purely from the symmetries implicit in data. Further, we demonstrate that the completeness property endows these networks with strong invariance-based adversarial robustness. This work establishes Bispectral Neural Networks as a powerful computational primitive for robust invariant representation learning.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Bias Propagation in Federated Learning

Hongyan Chang · Reza Shokri

We show that participating in federated learning can be detrimental to group fairness. In fact, the bias of a few parties against under-represented groups (identified by sensitive attributes such as gender or race) can propagate through the network to all the parties in the network. We analyze and explain bias propagation in federated learning on naturally partitioned real-world datasets. Our analysis reveals that biased parties unintentionally yet stealthily encode their bias in a small number of model parameters, and throughout the training, they steadily increase the dependence of the global model on sensitive attributes. What is important to highlight is that the experienced bias in federated learning is higher than what parties would otherwise encounter in centralized training with a model trained on the union of all their data. This indicates that the bias is due to the algorithm. Our work calls for auditing group fairness in federated learning and designing learning algorithms that are robust to bias propagation.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
On The Inadequacy of Optimizing Alignment and Uniformity in Contrastive Learning of Sentence Representations

Zhijie Nie · Richong Zhang · Yongyi Mao

Contrastive learning is widely used in areas such as visual representation learning (VRL) and sentence representation learning (SRL). Considering the differences between VRL and SRL in terms of negative sample size and evaluation focus, we believe that the solid findings obtained in VRL may not be entirely carried over to SRL. In this work, we consider the suitability of the decoupled form of contrastive loss, i.e., alignment and uniformity, in SRL. We find a performance gap between sentence representations obtained by jointly optimizing alignment and uniformity on the STS task and those obtained using contrastive loss. Further, we find that the joint optimization of alignment and uniformity during training is prone to overfitting, which does not occur on the contrastive loss. Analyzing them based on the variation of the gradient norms, we find that there is a property of ``gradient dissipation'' in contrastive loss and believe that it is the key to preventing overfitting. We simulate similar "gradient dissipation" of contrastive loss on four optimization objectives of two forms, and achieve the same or even better performance than contrastive loss on the STS tasks, confirming our hypothesis.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
Relative representations enable zero-shot latent space communication

Luca Moschella · Valentino Maiorca · Marco Fumero · Antonio Norelli · Francesco Locatello · Emanuele Rodolà

Neural networks embed the geometric structure of a data manifold lying in a high-dimensional space into latent representations. Ideally, the distribution of the data points in the latent space should depend only on the task, the data, the loss, and other architecture-specific constraints. However, factors such as the random weights initialization, training hyperparameters, or other sources of randomness in the training phase may induce incoherent latent spaces that hinder any form of reuse. Nevertheless, we empirically observe that, under the same data and modeling choices, the angles between the encodings within distinct latent spaces do not change. In this work, we propose the latent similarity between each sample and a fixed set of anchors as an alternative data representation, demonstrating that it can enforce the desired invariances without any additional training. We show how neural architectures can leverage these relative representations to guarantee, in practice, invariance to latent isometries and rescalings, effectively enabling latent space communication: from zero-shot model stitching to latent space comparison between diverse settings. We extensively validate the generalization capability of our approach on different datasets, spanning various modalities (images, text, graphs), tasks (e.g., classification, reconstruction) and architectures (e.g., CNNs, GCNs, transformers).

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
No Reason for No Supervision: Improved Generalization in Supervised Models

Mert Bulent Sariyildiz · Yannis Kalantidis · Karteek Alahari · Diane Larlus

We consider the problem of training a deep neural network on a given classification task, e.g., ImageNet-1K (IN1K), so that it excels at both the training task as well as at other (future) transfer tasks. These two seemingly contradictory properties impose a trade-off between improving the model’s generalization and maintaining its performance on the original task. Models trained with self-supervised learning tend to generalize better than their supervised counterparts for transfer learning; yet, they still lag behind supervised models on IN1K. In this paper, we propose a supervised learning setup that leverages the best of both worlds. We extensively analyze supervised training using multi-scale crops for data augmentation and an expendable projector head, and reveal that the design of the projector allows us to control the trade-off between performance on the training task and transferability. We further replace the last layer of class weights with class prototypes computed on the fly using a memory bank and derive two models: t-ReX that achieves a new state of the art for transfer learning and outperforms top methods such as DINO and PAWS on IN1K, and t-ReX* that matches the highly optimized RSB-A1 model on IN1K while performing better on transfer tasks.Code and pretrained models:

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
DCI-ES: An Extended Disentanglement Framework with Connections to Identifiability

Cian Eastwood · Andrei L Nicolicioiu · Julius von Kügelgen · Armin Kekic · Frederik Träuble · Andrea Dittadi · Bernhard Schoelkopf

In representation learning, a common approach is to seek representations which disentangle the underlying factors of variation. Eastwood & Williams (2018) proposed three metrics for quantifying the quality of such disentangled representations: disentanglement (D), completeness (C) and informativeness (I). In this work, we first connect this DCI framework to two common notions of linear and nonlinear identifiability, thereby establishing a formal link between disentanglement and the closely-related field of independent component analysis. We then propose an extended DCI-ES framework with two new measures of representation quality—explicitness (E) and size (S)—and point out how D and C can be computed for black-box predictors. Our main idea is that the functional capacity required to use a representation is an important but thus-far neglected aspect of representation quality, which we quantify using explicitness or ease-of-use (E). We illustrate the relevance of our extensions on the MPI3D and Cars3D datasets.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Recursive Time Series Data Augmentation

Amine Aboussalah · Minjae Kwon · Raj Patel · Cheng Chi · Chi-Guhn Lee

Time series observations can be seen as realizations of an underlying dynamical system governed by rules that we typically do not know. For time series learning tasks we create our model using available data. Training on available realizations, where data is limited, often induces severe over-fitting thereby preventing generalization. To address this issue, we introduce a general recursive framework for time series augmentation, which we call the Recursive Interpolation Method (RIM). New augmented time series are generated using a recursive interpolation function from the original time series for use in training. We perform theoretical analysis to characterize the proposed RIM and to guarantee its performance under certain conditions. We apply RIM to diverse synthetic and real-world time series cases to achieve strong performance over non-augmented data on a variety of learning tasks. Our method is also computationally more efficient and leads to better performance when compared to state of the art time series data augmentation.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Autoencoders as Cross-Modal Teachers: Can Pretrained 2D Image Transformers Help 3D Representation Learning?

Runpei Dong · Zekun Qi · Linfeng Zhang · Junbo Zhang · Jianjian Sun · Zheng Ge · Li Yi · Kaisheng Ma

The success of deep learning heavily relies on large-scale data with comprehensive labels, which is more expensive and time-consuming to fetch in 3D compared to 2D images or natural languages. This promotes the potential of utilizing models pretrained with data more than 3D as teachers for cross-modal knowledge transferring. In this paper, we revisit masked modeling in a unified fashion of knowledge distillation, and we show that foundational Transformers pretrained with 2D images or natural languages can help self-supervised 3D representation learning through training Autoencoders as Cross-Modal Teachers (ACT). The pretrained Transformers are transferred as cross-modal 3D teachers using discrete variational autoencoding self-supervision, during which the Transformers are frozen with prompt tuning for better knowledge inheritance. The latent features encoded by the 3D teachers are used as the target of masked point modeling, wherein the dark knowledge is distilled to the 3D Transformer students as foundational geometry understanding. Our ACT pretrained 3D learner achieves state-of-the-art generalization capacity across various downstream benchmarks, e.g., 88.21% overall accuracy on ScanObjectNN. Codes have been released at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Leveraging Importance Weights in Subset Selection

Gui Citovsky · Giulia DeSalvo · Sanjiv Kumar · Srikumar Ramalingam · Afshin Rostamizadeh · Yunjuan Wang

We present a subset selection algorithm designed to work with arbitrary model families in a practical batch setting. In such a setting, an algorithm can sample examples one at a time but, in order to limit overhead costs, is only able to update its state (i.e. further train model weights) once a large enough batch of examples is selected. Our algorithm, IWeS, selects examples by importance sampling where the sampling probability assigned to each example is based on the entropy of models trained on previously selected batches. IWeS admits significant performance improvement compared to other subset selection algorithms for seven publicly available datasets. Additionally, it is competitive in an active learning setting, where the label information is not available at selection time. We also provide an initial theoretical analysis to support our importance weighting approach, proving generalization and sampling rate bounds.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Generative Modeling Helps Weak Supervision (and Vice Versa)

Benedikt Boecking · Nicholas Roberts · Willie Neiswanger · Stefano Ermon · Frederic Sala · Artur Dubrawski

Many promising applications of supervised machine learning face hurdles in the acquisition of labeled data in sufficient quantity and quality, creating an expensive bottleneck. To overcome such limitations, techniques that do not depend on ground truth labels have been studied, including weak supervision and generative modeling. While these techniques would seem to be usable in concert, improving one another, how to build an interface between them is not well-understood. In this work, we propose a model fusing programmatic weak supervision and generative adversarial networks and provide theoretical justification motivating this fusion. The proposed approach captures discrete latent variables in the data alongside the weak supervision derived label estimate. Alignment of the two allows for better modeling of sample-dependent accuracies of the weak supervision sources, improving the estimate of unobserved labels. It is the first approach to enable data augmentation through weakly supervised synthetic images and pseudolabels. Additionally, its learned latent variables can be inspected qualitatively. The model outperforms baseline weak supervision label models on a number of multiclass image classification datasets, improves the quality of generated images, and further improves end-model performance through data augmentation with synthetic samples.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Discovering Evolution Strategies via Meta-Black-Box Optimization

Robert Lange · Tom Schaul · Yutian Chen · Tom Zahavy · Valentin Dalibard · Chris Lu · Satinder Singh · Sebastian Flennerhag

Optimizing functions without access to gradients is the remit of black-box meth- ods such as evolution strategies. While highly general, their learning dynamics are often times heuristic and inflexible — exactly the limitations that meta-learning can address. Hence, we propose to discover effective update rules for evolution strategies via meta-learning. Concretely, our approach employs a search strategy parametrized by a self-attention-based architecture, which guarantees the update rule is invariant to the ordering of the candidate solutions. We show that meta-evolving this system on a small set of representative low-dimensional analytic optimization problems is sufficient to discover new evolution strategies capable of generalizing to unseen optimization problems, population sizes and optimization horizons. Furthermore, the same learned evolution strategy can outperform established neuroevolution baselines on supervised and continuous control tasks. As additional contributions, we ablate the individual neural network components of our method; reverse engineer the learned strategy into an explicit heuristic form, which remains highly competitive; and show that it is possible to self-referentially train an evolution strategy from scratch, with the learned update rule used to drive the outer meta-learning loop.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
DAG Learning on the Permutahedron

Valentina Zantedeschi · Luca Franceschi · Jean Kaddour · Matt Kusner · Vlad Niculae

We propose a continuous optimization framework for discovering a latent directed acyclic graph (DAG) from observational data. Our approach optimizes over the polytope of permutation vectors, the so-called Permutahedron, to learn a topological ordering. Edges can be optimized jointly, or learned conditional on the ordering via a non-differentiable subroutine. Compared to existing continuous optimization approaches our formulation has a number of advantages including: 1. validity: optimizes over exact DAGs as opposed to other relaxations optimizing approximate DAGs; 2. modularity: accommodates any edge-optimization procedure, edge structural parameterization, and optimization loss; 3. end-to-end: either alternately iterates between node-ordering and edge-optimization, or optimizes them jointly; We demonstrate, on real-world data problems in protein-signaling and transcriptional network discovery, that our approach lies on the Pareto frontier of two key metrics, the SID and SHD.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Kernel Neural Optimal Transport

Alexander Korotin · Daniil Selikhanovych · Evgeny Burnaev

We study the Neural Optimal Transport (NOT) algorithm which uses the general optimal transport formulation and learns stochastic transport plans. We show that NOT with the weak quadratic cost may learn fake plans which are not optimal. To resolve this issue, we introduce kernel weak quadratic costs. We show that they provide improved theoretical guarantees and practical performance. We test NOT with kernel costs on the unpaired image-to-image translation task.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
DiGress: Discrete Denoising diffusion for graph generation

Clément Vignac · Igor Krawczuk · Antoine Siraudin · Bohan Wang · Volkan Cevher · Pascal Frossard

This work introduces DiGress, a discrete denoising diffusion model for generating graphs with categorical node and edge attributes.Our model utilizes a discrete diffusion process that progressively edits graphs with noise, through the process of adding or removing edges and changing the categories.A graph transformer network is trained to revert this process, simplifying the problem of distribution learning over graphs into a sequence of node and edge classification tasks.We further improve sample quality by introducing a Markovian noise model that preserves the marginal distribution of node and edge types during diffusion, and by incorporating auxiliary graph-theoretic features.A procedure for conditioning the generation on graph-level features is also proposed.DiGress achieves state-of-the-art performance on molecular and non-molecular datasets, with up to 3x validity improvement on a planar graph dataset. It is also the first model to scale to the large GuacaMol dataset containing 1.3M drug-like molecules without the use of molecule-specific representations.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Neural Architecture Design and Robustness: A Dataset

Steffen Jung · Jovita Lukasik · Margret Keuper

Deep learning models have proven to be successful in a wide range of machine learning tasks. Yet, they are often highly sensitive to perturbations on the input data which can lead to incorrect decisions with high confidence, hampering their deployment for practical use-cases. Thus, finding architectures that are (more) robust against perturbations has received much attention in recent years. Just like the search for well-performing architectures in terms of clean accuracy, this usually involves a tedious trial-and-error process with one additional challenge: the evaluation of a network's robustness is significantly more expensive than its evaluation for clean accuracy. Thus, the aim of this paper is to facilitate better streamlined research on architectural design choices with respect to their impact on robustness as well as, for example, the evaluation of surrogate measures for robustness. We therefore borrow one of the most commonly considered search spaces for neural architecture search for image classification, NAS-Bench-201, which contains a manageable size of 6466 non-isomorphic network designs. We evaluate all these networks on a range of common adversarial attacks and corruption types and introduce a database on neural architecture design and robustness evaluations. We further present three exemplary use cases of this dataset, in which we (i) benchmark robustness measurements based on Jacobian and Hessian matrices for their robustness predictability, (ii) perform neural architecture search on robust accuracies, and (iii) provide an initial analysis of how architectural design choices affect robustness. We find that carefully crafting the topology of a network can have substantial impact on its robustness, where networks with the same parameter count range in mean adversarial robust accuracy from 20%-41%. Code and data is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
An Extensible Multi-modal Multi-task Object Dataset with Materials

Trevor Standley · Ruohan Gao · Dawn Chen · Jiajun Wu · Silvio Savarese

We present EMMa, an Extensible, Multimodal dataset of Amazon product listings that contains rich Material annotations. It contains more than 2.8 million objects, each with image(s), listing text, mass, price, product ratings, and position in Amazon’s product-category taxonomy. We also design a comprehensive taxonomy of 182 physical materials (e.g., Plastic → Thermoplastic → Acrylic). Objects areannotated with one or more materials from this taxonomy. With the numerous attributes available for each object, we develop a Smart Labeling framework to quickly add new binary labels to all objects with very little manual labeling effort, making the dataset extensible. Each object attribute in our dataset can be included in either the model inputs or outputs, leading to combinatorial possibilities in task configurations. For example, we can train a model to predict the object category from the listing text, or the mass and price from the product listing image. EMMa offers a new benchmark for multi-task learning in computer vision and NLP, and allows practitioners to efficiently add new tasks and object attributes at scale.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
ManiSkill2: A Unified Benchmark for Generalizable Manipulation Skills

Jiayuan Gu · Fanbo Xiang · Xuanlin Li · Zhan Ling · Xiqiang Liu · Tongzhou Mu · Yihe Tang · Stone Tao · Xinyue Wei · Yunchao Yao · Xiaodi Yuan · Pengwei Xie · Zhiao Huang · Rui Chen · Hao Su

Generalizable manipulation skills, which can be composed to tackle long-horizon and complex daily chores, are one of the cornerstones of Embodied AI. However, existing benchmarks, mostly composed of a suite of simulatable environments, are insufficient to push cutting-edge research works because they lack object-level topological and geometric variations, are not based on fully dynamic simulation, or are short of native support for multiple types of manipulation tasks. To this end, we present ManiSkill2, the next generation of the SAPIEN ManiSkill benchmark, to address critical pain points often encountered by researchers when using benchmarks for generalizable manipulation skills. ManiSkill2 includes 20 manipulation task families with 2000+ object models and 4M+ demonstration frames, which cover stationary/mobile-base, single/dual-arm, and rigid/soft-body manipulation tasks with 2D/3D-input data simulated by fully dynamic engines. It defines a unified interface and evaluation protocol to support a wide range of algorithms (e.g., classic sense-plan-act, RL, IL), visual observations (point cloud, RGBD), and controllers (e.g., action type and parameterization). Moreover, it empowers fast visual input learning algorithms so that a CNN-based policy can collect samples at about 2000 FPS with 1 GPU and 16 processes on a regular workstation. It implements a render server infrastructure to allow sharing rendering resources across all environments, thereby significantly reducing memory usage. We open-source all codes of our benchmark (simulator, environments, and baselines) and host an online challenge open to interdisciplinary researchers.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
FINDE: Neural Differential Equations for Finding and Preserving Invariant Quantities

Takashi Matsubara · Takaharu Yaguchi

Many real-world dynamical systems are associated with first integrals (a.k.a. invariant quantities), which are quantities that remain unchanged over time. The discovery and understanding of first integrals are fundamental and important topics both in the natural sciences and in industrial applications. First integrals arise from the conservation laws of system energy, momentum, and mass, and from constraints on states; these are typically related to specific geometric structures of the governing equations. Existing neural networks designed to ensure such first integrals have shown excellent accuracy in modeling from data. However, these models incorporate the underlying structures, and in most situations where neural networks learn unknown systems, these structures are also unknown. This limitation needs to be overcome for scientific discovery and modeling of unknown systems. To this end, we propose first integral-preserving neural differential equation (FINDE). By leveraging the projection method and the discrete gradient method, FINDE finds and preserves first integrals from data, even in the absence of prior knowledge about underlying structures. Experimental results demonstrate that FINDE can predict future states of target systems much longer and find various quantities consistent with well-known first integrals in a unified manner.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Clifford Neural Layers for PDE Modeling

Johannes Brandstetter · Rianne van den Berg · Max Welling · Jayesh Gupta

Partial differential equations (PDEs) see widespread use in sciences and engineering to describe simulation of physical processes as scalar and vector fields interacting and coevolving over time. Due to the computationally expensive nature of their standard solution methods, neural PDE surrogates have become an active research topic to accelerate these simulations. However, current methods do not explicitly take into account the relationship between different fields and their internal components, which are often correlated. Viewing the time evolution of such correlated fields through the lens of multivector fields allows us to overcome these limitations. Multivector fields consist of scalar, vector, as well as higher-order components, such as bivectors and trivectors. Their algebraic properties, such as multiplication, addition and other arithmetic operations can be described by Clifford algebras. To our knowledge, this paper presents the first usage of such multivector representations together with Clifford convolutions and Clifford Fourier transforms in the context of deep learning. The resulting Clifford neural layers are universally applicable and will find direct use in the areas of fluid dynamics, weather forecasting, and the modeling of physical systems in general. We empirically evaluate the benefit of Clifford neural layers by replacing convolution and Fourier operations in common neural PDE surrogates by their Clifford counterparts on 2D Navier-Stokes and weather modeling tasks, as well as 3D Maxwell equations. For similar parameter count, Clifford neural layers consistently improve generalization capabilities of the tested neural PDE surrogates.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
A Self-Attention Ansatz for Ab-initio Quantum Chemistry

Ingrid von Glehn · James Spencer · David Pfau

We present a novel neural network architecture using self-attention, the Wavefunction Transformer (PsiFormer), which can be used as an approximation (or "Ansatz") for solving the many-electron Schrödinger equation, the fundamental equation for quantum chemistry and material science. This equation can be solved from first principles, requiring no external training data. In recent years, deep neural networks like the FermiNet and PauliNet have been used to significantly improve the accuracy of these first-principle calculations, but they lack an attention-like mechanism for gating interactions between electrons. Here we show that the PsiFormer can be used as a drop-in replacement for these other neural networks, often dramatically improving the accuracy of the calculations. On larger molecules especially, the ground state energy can be improved by dozens of kcal/mol, a qualitative leap over previous methods. This demonstrates that self-attention networks can learn complex quantum mechanical correlations between electrons, and are a promising route to reaching unprecedented accuracy in chemical calculations on larger systems.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Learning differentiable solvers for systems with hard constraints

Geoffrey Négiar · Michael W Mahoney · Aditi Krishnapriyan

We introduce a practical method to enforce partial differential equation (PDE) constraints for functions defined by neural networks (NNs), with a high degree of accuracy and up to a desired tolerance. We develop a differentiable PDE-constrained layer that can be incorporated into any NN architecture. Our method leverages differentiable optimization and the implicit function theorem to effectively enforce physical constraints. Inspired by dictionary learning, our model learns a family of functions, each of which defines a mapping from PDE parameters to PDE solutions. At inference time, the model finds an optimal linear combination of the functions in the learned family by solving a PDE-constrained optimization problem. Our method provides continuous solutions over the domain of interest that accurately satisfy desired physical constraints. Our results show that incorporating hard constraints directly into the NN architecture achieves much lower test error when compared to training on an unconstrained objective.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Learning Domain-Agnostic Representation for Disease Diagnosis

Churan Wang · Jing Li · Xinwei Sun · Fandong Zhang · Yizhou Yu · Yizhou Wang

In clinical environments, image-based diagnosis is desired to achieve robustness on multi-center samples. Toward this goal, a natural way is to capture only clinically disease-related features. However, such disease-related features are often entangled with center-effect, disabling robust transferring to unseen centers/domains. To disentangle disease-related features, we first leverage structural causal modeling to explicitly model disease-related and center-effects that are provable to be disentangled from each other. Guided by this, we propose a novel Domain Agnostic Representation Model (DarMo) based on variational Auto-Encoder. To facilitate disentanglement, we design domain-agnostic and domain-aware encoders to respectively capture disease-related features and varied center-effects by incorporating a domain-aware batch normalization layer. Besides, we constrain the disease-related features to well predict the disease label as well as clinical attributes, by leveraging Graph Convolutional Network (GCN) into our decoder. The effectiveness and utility of our method are demonstrated by the superior performance over others on both public datasets and inhouse datasets.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
GAMR: A Guided Attention Model for (visual) Reasoning

Mohit Vaishnav · Thomas Serre

Humans continue to outperform modern AI systems in their ability to flexibly parse and understand complex visual scenes. Here, we present a novel module for visual reasoning, the Guided Attention Model for (visual) Reasoning ($\textit{GAMR}$), which instantiates an active vision theory -- positing that the brain solves complex visual reasoning problems dynamically -- via sequences of attention shifts to select and route task-relevant visual information into memory. Experiments on an array of visual reasoning tasks and datasets demonstrate GAMR's ability to learn visual routines in a robust and sample-efficient manner. In addition, GAMR is shown to be capable of zero-shot generalization on completely novel reasoning tasks. Overall, our work provides computational support for cognitive theories that postulate the need for a critical interplay between attention and memory to dynamically maintain and manipulate task-relevant visual information to solve complex visual reasoning tasks.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
RandProx: Primal-Dual Optimization Algorithms with Randomized Proximal Updates

Laurent Condat · Peter Richtarik

Proximal splitting algorithms are well suited to solving large-scale nonsmooth optimization problems, in particular those arising in machine learning. We propose a new primal–dual algorithm, in which the dual update is randomized; equivalently, the proximity operator of one of the function in the problem is replaced by a stochastic oracle. For instance, some randomly chosen dual variables, instead of all, are updated at each iteration. Or, the proximity operator of a function is called with some small probability only. A nonsmooth variance-reduction technique is implemented so that the algorithm finds an exact minimizer of the general problem involving smooth and nonsmooth functions, possibly composed with linear operators. We derive linear convergence results in presence of strong convexity; these results are new even in the deterministic case, when our algorithms reverts to the recently proposed Primal–Dual Davis–Yin algorithm. Some randomized algorithms of the literature are also recovered as particular cases (e.g., Point-SAGA). But our randomization technique is general and encompasses many unbiased mechanisms beyond sampling and probabilistic updates, including compression. Since the convergence speed depends on the slowest among the primal and dual contraction mechanisms, the iteration complexity might remain the same when randomness is used. On the other hand, the computation complexity can be significantly reduced. Overall, randomness helps getting faster algorithms. This has long been known for stochastic-gradient-type algorithms, and our work shows that this fully applies in the more general primal–dual setting as well.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Finding Actual Descent Directions for Adversarial Training

Fabian Latorre · Igor Krawczuk · Leello Dadi · Thomas Pethick · Volkan Cevher

Adversarial Training using a strong first-order adversary (PGD) is the gold standard for training Deep Neural Networks that are robust to adversarial examples. We show that, contrary to the general understanding of the method, the gradient at an optimal adversarial example may increase, rather than decrease, the adversarially robust loss. This holds independently of the learning rate. More precisely, we provide a counterexample to a corollary of Danskin's Theorem presented in the seminal paper of Madry et al. (2018) which states that a solution of the inner maximization problem can yield a descent direction for the adversarially robust loss. Based on a correct interpretation of Danskin's Theorem, we propose Danskin's Descent Direction (DDi) and we verify experimentally that it provides better directions than those obtained by a PGD adversary. Using the CIFAR10 dataset we further provide a real world example showing that our method achieves a steeper increase in robustness levels in the early stages of training, and is more stable than the PGD baseline. As a limitation, PGD training of ReLU+BatchNorm networks still performs better, but current theory is unable to explain this.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
DASHA: Distributed Nonconvex Optimization with Communication Compression and Optimal Oracle Complexity

Alexander Tyurin · Peter Richtarik

We develop and analyze DASHA: a new family of methods for nonconvex distributed optimization problems. When the local functions at the nodes have a finite-sum or an expectation form, our new methods, DASHA-PAGE, DASHA-MVR and DASHA-SYNC-MVR, improve the theoretical oracle and communication complexity of the previous state-of-the-art method MARINA by Gorbunov et al. (2020). In particular, to achieve an $\varepsilon$-stationary point, and considering the random sparsifier Rand$K$ as an example, our methods compute the optimal number of gradients $\mathcal{O}\left(\frac{\sqrt{m}}{\varepsilon\sqrt{n}}\right)$ and $\mathcal{O}\left(\frac{\sigma}{\varepsilon^{3/2}n}\right)$ in finite-sum and expectation form cases, respectively, while maintaining the SOTA communication complexity $\mathcal{O}\left(\frac{d}{\varepsilon \sqrt{n}}\right)$. Furthermore, unlike MARINA, the new methods DASHA, DASHA-PAGE and DASHA-MVR send compressed vectors only, which makes them more practical for federated learning. We extend our results to the case when the functions satisfy the Polyak-Lojasiewicz condition. Finally, our theory is corroborated in practice: we see a significant improvement in experiments with nonconvex classification and training of deep learning models.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Solving Constrained Variational Inequalities via a First-order Interior Point-based Method

Tong Yang · Michael Jordan · Tatjana Chavdarova

We develop an interior-point approach to solve constrained variational inequality (cVI) problems. Inspired by the efficacy of the alternating direction method of multipliers (ADMM) method in the single-objective context, we generalize ADMM to derive a first-order method for cVIs, that we refer to as ADMM-based interior-point method for constrained VIs (ACVI). We provide convergence guarantees for ACVI in two general classes of problems: (i) when the operator is $\xi$-monotone, and (ii) when it is monotone, some constraints are active and the game is not purely rotational. When the operator is in addition L-Lipschitz for the latter case, we match known lower bounds on rates for the gap function of $\mathcal{O}(1/\sqrt{K})$ and $\mathcal{O}(1/K)$ for the last and average iterate, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first presentation of a first-order interior-point method for the general cVI problem that has a global convergence guarantee. Moreover, unlike previous work in this setting, ACVI provides a means to solve cVIs when the constraints are nontrivial. Empirical analyses demonstrate clear advantages of ACVI over common first-order methods. In particular, (i) cyclical behavior is notably reduced as our methods approach the solution from the analytic center, and (ii) unlike projection-based methods that zigzag when near a constraint, ACVI efficiently handles the constraints.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
LMC: Fast Training of GNNs via Subgraph Sampling with Provable Convergence

Zhihao Shi · Xize Liang · Jie Wang

The message passing-based graph neural networks (GNNs) have achieved great success in many real-world applications.However, training GNNs on large-scale graphs suffers from the well-known neighbor explosion problem, i.e., the exponentially increasing dependencies of nodes with the number of message passing layers. Subgraph-wise sampling methods---a promising class of mini-batch training techniques---discard messages outside the mini-batches in backward passes to avoid the neighbor explosion problem at the expense of gradient estimation accuracy. This poses significant challenges to their convergence analysis and convergence speeds, which seriously limits their reliable real-world applications. To address this challenge, we propose a novel subgraph-wise sampling method with a convergence guarantee, namely Local Message Compensation (LMC). To the best of our knowledge, LMC is the {\it first} subgraph-wise sampling method with provable convergence. The key idea of LMC is to retrieve the discarded messages in backward passes based on a message passing formulation of backward passes. By efficient and effective compensations for the discarded messages in both forward and backward passes, LMC computes accurate mini-batch gradients and thus accelerates convergence. We further show that LMC converges to first-order stationary points of GNNs. Experiments on large-scale benchmark tasks demonstrate that LMC significantly outperforms state-of-the-art subgraph-wise sampling methods in terms of efficiency.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
An Adaptive Policy to Employ Sharpness-Aware Minimization

Weisen JIANG · Hansi Yang · Yu Zhang · James Kwok

Sharpness-aware minimization (SAM), which searches for flat minima by min-max optimization, has been shown to be useful in improving model generalization. However, since each SAM update requires computing two gradients, its computational cost and training time are both doubled compared to standard empirical risk minimization (ERM). Recent state-of-the-arts reduce the fraction of SAM updates and thus accelerate SAM by switching between SAM and ERM updates randomly or periodically. In this paper, we design an adaptive policy to employ SAM based on the loss landscape geometry. Two efficient algorithms, AE-SAM and AE-LookSAM, are proposed. We theoretically show that AE-SAM has the same convergence rate as SAM. Experimental results on various datasets and architectures demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of the adaptive policy.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
Mitigating Gradient Bias in Multi-objective Learning: A Provably Convergent Approach

Heshan Fernando · Han Shen · Miao Liu · Subhajit Chaudhury · Keerthiram Murugesan · Tianyi Chen

Many machine learning problems today have multiple objective functions. They appear either in learning with multiple criteria where learning has to make a trade-off between multiple performance metrics such as fairness, safety and accuracy; or, in multi-task learning where multiple tasks are optimized jointly, sharing inductive bias between them. This problems are often tackled by the multi-objective optimization framework. However, existing stochastic multi-objective gradient methods and its variants (e.g., MGDA, PCGrad, CAGrad, etc.) all adopt a biased noisy gradient direction, which leads to degraded empirical performance. To this end, we develop a stochastic multi-objective gradient correction (MoCo) method for multi-objective optimization. The unique feature of our method is that it can guarantee convergence without increasing the batch size even in the nonconvex setting. Simulations on multi-task supervised and reinforcement learning demonstrate the effectiveness of our method relative to the state-of-the-art methods.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
FedExP: Speeding Up Federated Averaging via Extrapolation

Divyansh Jhunjhunwala · Shiqiang Wang · Gauri Joshi

Federated Averaging (FedAvg) remains the most popular algorithm for Federated Learning (FL) optimization due to its simple implementation, stateless nature, and privacy guarantees combined with secure aggregation. Recent work has sought to generalize the vanilla averaging in FedAvg to a generalized gradient descent step by treating client updates as pseudo-gradients and using a server step size. While the use of a server step size has been shown to provide performance improvement theoretically, the practical benefit of the server step size has not been seen in most existing works. In this work, we present FedExP, a method to adaptively determine the server step size in FL based on dynamically varying pseudo-gradients throughout the FL process. We begin by considering the overparameterized convex regime, where we reveal an interesting similarity between FedAvg and the Projection Onto Convex Sets (POCS) algorithm. We then show how FedExP can be motivated as a novel extension to the extrapolation mechanism that is used to speed up POCS. Our theoretical analysis later also discusses the implications of FedExP in underparameterized and non-convex settings. Experimental results show that FedExP consistently converges faster than FedAvg and competing baselines on a range of realistic FL datasets. 

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Multi-Objective Online Learning

Jiyan Jiang · Wenpeng Zhang · Shiji Zhou · Lihong Gu · Xiaodong Zeng · Wenwu Zhu

This paper presents a systematic study of multi-objective online learning. We first formulate the framework of Multi-Objective Online Convex Optimization, which encompasses a novel multi-objective regret. This regret is built upon a sequence-wise extension of the commonly used discrepancy metric Pareto suboptimality gap in zero-order multi-objective bandits. We then derive an equivalent form of the regret, making it amenable to be optimized via first-order iterative methods. To motivate the algorithm design, we give an explicit example in which equipping OMD with the vanilla min-norm solver for gradient composition will incur a linear regret, which shows that merely regularizing the iterates, as in single-objective online learning, is not enough to guarantee sublinear regrets in the multi-objective setting. To resolve this issue, we propose a novel min-regularized-norm solver that regularizes the composite weights. Combining min-regularized-norm with OMD results in the Doubly Regularized Online Mirror Multiple Descent algorithm. We further derive the multi-objective regret bound for the proposed algorithm, which matches the optimal bound in the single-objective setting. Extensive experiments on several real-world datasets verify the effectiveness of the proposed algorithm.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Single-shot General Hyper-parameter Optimization for Federated Learning

Yi Zhou · Parikshit Ram · Theodoros Salonidis · Nathalie Baracaldo · Horst Samulowitz · Heiko Ludwig

We address the problem of hyper-parameter optimization (HPO) for federated learning (FL-HPO). We introduce Federated Loss SuRface Aggregation (FLoRA), a general FL-HPO solution framework that can address use cases of tabular data and any Machine Learning (ML) model including gradient boosting training algorithms, SVMs, neural networks, among others and thereby further expands the scope of FL-HPO. FLoRA enables single-shot FL-HPO: identifying a single set of good hyper-parameters that are subsequently used in a single FL training. Thus, it enables FL-HPO solutions with minimal additional communication overhead compared to FL training without HPO. Utilizing standard smoothness assumptions, we theoretically characterize the optimality gap of FLoRA for any convex and non-convex loss functions, which explicitly accounts for the heterogeneous nature of the parties' local data distributions, a dominant characteristic of FL systems. Our empirical evaluation of FLoRA for multiple FL algorithms on seven OpenML datasets demonstrates significant model accuracy improvements over the baselines, and robustness to increasing number of parties involved in FL-HPO training.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
SWIFT: Rapid Decentralized Federated Learning via Wait-Free Model Communication

Marco Bornstein · Tahseen Rabbani · Evan Wang · Amrit Bedi · Furong Huang

The decentralized Federated Learning (FL) setting avoids the role of a potentially unreliable or untrustworthy central host by utilizing groups of clients to collaboratively train a model via localized training and model/gradient sharing. Most existing decentralized FL algorithms require synchronization of client models where the speed of synchronization depends upon the slowest client. In this work, we propose SWIFT: a novel wait-free decentralized FL algorithm that allows clients to conduct training at their own speed. Theoretically, we prove that SWIFT matches the gold-standard iteration convergence rate $\mathcal{O}(1/\sqrt{T})$ of parallel stochastic gradient descent for convex and non-convex smooth optimization (total iterations $T$). Furthermore, we provide theoretical results for IID and non-IID settings without any bounded-delay assumption for slow clients which is required by other asynchronous decentralized FL algorithms. Although SWIFT achieves the same iteration convergence rate with respect to $T$ as other state-of-the-art (SOTA) parallel stochastic algorithms, it converges faster with respect to runtime due to its wait-free structure. Our experimental results demonstrate that SWIFT's runtime is reduced due to a large reduction in communication time per epoch, which falls by an order of magnitude compared to synchronous counterparts. Furthermore, SWIFT produces loss levels for image classification, over IID and non-IID data settings, upwards of 50\% faster than existing SOTA algorithms.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Robustness to corruption in pre-trained Bayesian neural networks

Xi Wang · Laurence Aitchison

We develop ShiftMatch, a new training-data-dependent likelihood for robustness to corruption in Bayesian neural networks (BNNs). ShiftMatch is inspired by the training-data-dependent “EmpCov” priors from Izmailov et al. (2021a), and efficiently matches test-time spatial correlations to those at training time. Critically, ShiftMatch is designed to leave the neural network’s training time likelihood unchanged, allowing it to use publicly available samples from pre-trained BNNs. Using pre-trained HMC samples, ShiftMatch gives strong performance improvements on CIFAR-10-C, outperforms EmpCov priors (though ShiftMatch uses extra information from a minibatch of corrupted test points), and is perhaps the first Bayesian method capable of convincingly outperforming plain deep ensembles.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Particle-based Variational Inference with Preconditioned Functional Gradient Flow

Hanze Dong · Xi Wang · LIN Yong · Tong Zhang

Particle-based variational inference (VI) minimizes the KL divergence between model samples and the target posterior with gradient flow estimates. With the popularity of Stein variational gradient descent (SVGD), the focus of particle-based VI algorithms has been on the properties of functions in Reproducing Kernel Hilbert Space (RKHS) to approximate the gradient flow. However, the requirement of RKHS restricts the function class and algorithmic flexibility. This paper offers a general solution to this problem by introducing a functional regularization term that encompasses the RKHS norm as a special case. This allows us to propose a new particle-based VI algorithm called preconditioned functional gradient flow (PFG). Compared to SVGD, PFG has several advantages. It has a larger function class, improved scalability in large particle-size scenarios, better adaptation to ill-conditioned distributions, and provable continuous-time convergence in KL divergence. Additionally, non-linear function classes such as neural networks can be incorporated to estimate the gradient flow. Our theory and experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed framework.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Calibrating Transformers via Sparse Gaussian Processes

Wenlong Chen · Yingzhen Li

Transformer models have achieved profound success in prediction tasks in a wide range of applications in natural language processing, speech recognition and computer vision. Extending Transformer’s success to safety-critical domains requires calibrated uncertainty estimation which remains under-explored. To address this, we propose Sparse Gaussian Process attention (SGPA), which performs Bayesian inference directly in the output space of multi-head attention blocks (MHAs) in transformer to calibrate its uncertainty. It replaces the scaled dot-product operation with a valid symmetric kernel and uses sparse Gaussian processes (SGP) techniques to approximate the posterior processes of MHA outputs. Empirically, on a suite of prediction tasks on text, images and graphs, SGPA-based Transformers achieve competitive predictive accuracy, while noticeably improving both in-distribution calibration and out-of-distribution robustness and detection.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Can Agents Run Relay Race with Strangers? Generalization of RL to Out-of-Distribution Trajectories

Li-Cheng Lan · Huan Zhang · Cho-Jui Hsieh

In this paper, we evaluate and improve the generalization performance for reinforcement learning (RL) agents on the set of ``controllable'' states, where good policies exist on these states to achieve the goal. An RL agent that generally masters a task should reach its goal starting from any controllable state of the environment instead of memorizing a small set of trajectories. To practically evaluate this type of generalization, we propose relay evaluation, which starts the test agent from the middle of other independently well-trained stranger agents' trajectories. With extensive experimental evaluation, we show the prevalence of generalization failure on controllable states from stranger agents. For example, in the Humanoid environment, we observed that a well-trained Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) agent, with only 3.9\% failure rate during regular testing, failed on 81.6\% of the states generated by well-trained stranger PPO agents. To improve "relay generalization," we propose a novel method called Self-Trajectory Augmentation (STA), which will reset the environment to the agent's old states according to the Q function during training. After applying STA to the Soft Actor Critic's (SAC) training procedure, we reduced the failure rate of SAC under relay-evaluation by more than three times in most settings without impacting agent performance and increasing the needed number of environment interactions. Our code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Measuring axiomatic soundness of counterfactual image models

Miguel Monteiro · Fabio De Sousa Ribeiro · Nick Pawlowski · Daniel Castro · Ben Glocker

We present a general framework for evaluating image counterfactuals. The power and flexibility of deep generative models make them valuable tools for learning mechanisms in structural causal models. However, their flexibility makes counterfactual identifiability impossible in the general case.Motivated by these issues, we revisit Pearl's axiomatic definition of counterfactuals to determine the necessary constraints of any counterfactual inference model: composition, reversibility, and effectiveness. We frame counterfactuals as functions of an input variable, its parents, and counterfactual parents and use the axiomatic constraints to restrict the set of functions that could represent the counterfactual, thus deriving distance metrics between the approximate and ideal functions. We demonstrate how these metrics can be used to compare and choose between different approximate counterfactual inference models and to provide insight into a model's shortcomings and trade-offs.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Latent State Marginalization as a Low-cost Approach for Improving Exploration

Dinghuai Zhang · Aaron Courville · Yoshua Bengio · Qinqing Zheng · Amy Zhang · Ricky T. Q. Chen

While the maximum entropy (MaxEnt) reinforcement learning (RL) framework -- often touted for its exploration and robustness capabilities -- is usually motivated from a probabilistic perspective, the use of deep probabilistic models have not gained much traction in practice due to their inherent complexity. In this work, we propose the adoption of latent variable policies within the MaxEnt framework, which we can provably approximate any policy distribution, and additionally, naturally emerges under the use of world models with a latent belief state. We discuss why latent variable policies are difficult to train, how naive approaches can fail, and subsequently introduce a series of improvements centered around low-cost marginalization of the latent state, allowing us to make full use of the latent state at minimal additional cost. We instantiate our method under the actor-critic framework, marginalizing both the actor and critic. The resulting algorithm, referred to as Stochastic Marginal Actor-Critic (SMAC), is simple yet effective. We experimentally validate our method on continuous control tasks, showing that effective marginalization can lead to better exploration and more robust training. Our implementation is open sourced at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Model-based Causal Bayesian Optimization

Scott Sussex · Anastasia Makarova · Andreas Krause

How should we intervene on an unknown structural equation model to maximize a downstream variable of interest? This setting, also known as causal Bayesian optimization (CBO), has important applications in medicine, ecology, and manufacturing. Standard Bayesian optimization algorithms fail to effectively leverage the underlying causal structure. Existing CBO approaches assume noiseless measurements and do not come with guarantees. We propose the {\em model-based causal Bayesian optimization algorithm (MCBO)} that learns a full system model instead of only modeling intervention-reward pairs. MCBO propagates epistemic uncertainty about the causal mechanisms through the graph and trades off exploration and exploitation via the optimism principle. We bound its cumulative regret, and obtain the first non-asymptotic bounds for CBO. Unlike in standard Bayesian optimization, our acquisition function cannot be evaluated in closed form, so we show how the reparameterization trick can be used to apply gradient-based optimizers. The resulting practical implementation of MCBO compares favorably with state-of-the-art approaches empirically.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Hybrid RL: Using both offline and online data can make RL efficient

Yuda Song · Yifei Zhou · Ayush Sekhari · Drew Bagnell · Akshay Krishnamurthy · Wen Sun

We consider a hybrid reinforcement learning setting (Hybrid RL), in which an agent has access to an offline dataset and the ability to collect experience via real-world online interaction. The framework mitigates the challenges that arise in both pure offline and online RL settings, allowing for the design of simple and highly effective algorithms, in both theory and practice. We demonstrate these advantages by adapting the classical Q learning/iteration algorithm to the hybrid setting, which we call Hybrid Q-Learning or Hy-Q. In our theoretical results, we prove that the algorithm is both computationally and statistically efficient whenever the offline dataset supports a high-quality policy and the environment has bounded bilinear rank. Notably, we require no assumptions on the coverage provided by the initial distribution, in contrast with guarantees for policy gradient/iteration methods. In our experimental results, we show that Hy-Q with neural network function approximation outperforms state-of-the-art online, offline, and hybrid RL baselines on challenging benchmarks, including Montezuma’s Revenge.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Value Memory Graph: A Graph-Structured World Model for Offline Reinforcement Learning

Deyao Zhu · Li Li · Mohamed Elhoseiny

Reinforcement Learning (RL) methods are typically applied directly in environments to learn policies. In some complex environments with continuous state-action spaces, sparse rewards, and/or long temporal horizons, learning a good policy in the original environments can be difficult. Focusing on the offline RL setting, we aim to build a simple and discrete world model that abstracts the original environment. RL methods are applied to our world model instead of the environment data for simplified policy learning. Our world model, dubbed Value Memory Graph (VMG), is designed as a directed-graph-based Markov decision process (MDP) of which vertices and directed edges represent graph states and graph actions, separately. As state-action spaces of VMG are finite and relatively small compared to the original environment, we can directly apply the value iteration algorithm on VMG to estimate graph state values and figure out the best graph actions. VMG is trained from and built on the offline RL dataset. Together with an action translator that converts the abstract graph actions in VMG to real actions in the original environment, VMG controls agents to maximize episode returns. Our experiments on the D4RL benchmark show that VMG can outperform state-of-the-art offline RL methods in several tasks, especially when environments have sparse rewards and long temporal horizons. Code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Generating Diverse Cooperative Agents by Learning Incompatible Policies

Rujikorn Charakorn · Poramate Manoonpong · Nat Dilokthanakul

Training a robust cooperative agent requires diverse partner agents. However, obtaining those agents is difficult. Previous works aim to learn diverse behaviors by changing the state-action distribution of agents. But, without information about the task's goal, the diversified agents are not guided to find other important, albeit sub-optimal, solutions: the agents might learn only variations of the same solution. In this work, we propose to learn diverse behaviors via policy compatibility. Conceptually, policy compatibility measures whether policies of interest can coordinate effectively. We theoretically show that incompatible policies are not similar. Thus, policy compatibility—which has been used exclusively as a measure of robustness—can be used as a proxy for learning diverse behaviors. Then, we incorporate the proposed objective into a population-based training scheme to allow concurrent training of multiple agents. Additionally, we use state-action information to induce local variations of each policy. Empirically, the proposed method consistently discovers more solutions than baseline methods across various multi-goal cooperative environments. Finally, in multi-recipe Overcooked, we show that our method produces populations of behaviorally diverse agents, which enables generalist agents trained with such a population to be more robust.See our project page at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
User-Interactive Offline Reinforcement Learning

Phillip Swazinna · Steffen Udluft · Thomas A. Runkler

Offline reinforcement learning algorithms still lack trust in practice due to the risk that the learned policy performs worse than the original policy that generated the dataset or behaves in an unexpected way that is unfamiliar to the user. At the same time, offline RL algorithms are not able to tune their most important hyperparameter - the proximity of the learned policy to the original policy. We propose an algorithm that allows the user to tune this hyperparameter at runtime, thereby addressing both of the above mentioned issues simultaneously. This allows users to start with the original behavior and grant successively greater deviation, as well as stopping at any time when the policy deteriorates or the behavior is too far from the familiar one.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Simple Emergent Action Representations from Multi-Task Policy Training

Pu Hua · Yubei Chen · Huazhe Xu

The low-level sensory and motor signals in deep reinforcement learning, which exist in high-dimensional spaces such as image observations or motor torques, are inherently challenging to understand or utilize directly for downstream tasks. While sensory representations have been extensively studied, the representations of motor actions are still an area of active exploration. Our work reveals that a space containing meaningful action representations emerges when a multi-task policy network takes as inputs both states and task embeddings. Moderate constraints are added to improve its representation ability. Therefore, interpolated or composed embeddings can function as a high-level interface within this space, providing instructions to the agent for executing meaningful action sequences. Empirical results demonstrate that the proposed action representations are effective for intra-action interpolation and inter-action composition with limited or no additional learning. Furthermore, our approach exhibits superior task adaptation ability compared to strong baselines in Mujoco locomotion tasks. Our work sheds light on the promising direction of learning action representations for efficient, adaptable, and composable RL, forming the basis of abstract action planning and the understanding of motor signal space. Project page:

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Timing is Everything: Learning to Act Selectively with Costly Actions and Budgetary Constraints

David Mguni · Aivar Sootla · Juliusz Ziomek · Oliver Slumbers · Zipeng Dai · Kun Shao · Jun Wang

Many real-world settings involve costs for performing actions; transaction costsin financial systems and fuel costs being common examples. In these settings,performing actions at each time step quickly accumulates costs leading to vastlysuboptimal outcomes. Additionally, repeatedly acting produces wear and tear andultimately, damage. Determining when to act is crucial for achieving successfuloutcomes and yet, the challenge of efficiently learning to behave optimally whenactions incur minimally bounded costs remains unresolved. In this paper, we intro-duce a reinforcement learning (RL) framework named Learnable Impulse ControlReinforcement Algorithm (LICRA), for learning to optimally select both whento act and which actions to take when actions incur costs. At the core of LICRAis a nested structure that combines RL and a form of policy known as impulsecontrol which learns to maximise objectives when actions incur costs. We provethat LICRA, which seamlessly adopts any RL method, converges to policies thatoptimally select when to perform actions and their optimal magnitudes. We thenaugment LICRA to handle problems in which the agent can perform at most k < ∞actions and more generally, faces a budget constraint. We show LICRA learns theoptimal value function and ensures budget constraints are satisfied almost surely.We demonstrate empirically LICRA’s superior performance against benchmarkRL methods in OpenAI gym’s Lunar Lander and in Highway environments and avariant of the Merton portfolio problem within finance.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Proto-Value Networks: Scaling Representation Learning with Auxiliary Tasks

Jesse Farebrother · Joshua Greaves · Rishabh Agarwal · Charline Le Lan · Ross Goroshin · Pablo Samuel Castro · Marc G Bellemare

Auxiliary tasks improve the representations learned by deep reinforcement learning agents. Analytically, their effect is reasonably well-understood; in practice, how-ever, their primary use remains in support of a main learning objective, rather than as a method for learning representations. This is perhaps surprising given that many auxiliary tasks are defined procedurally, and hence can be treated as an essentially infinite source of information about the environment. Based on this observation, we study the effectiveness of auxiliary tasks for learning rich representations, focusing on the setting where the number of tasks and the size of the agent’s network are simultaneously increased. For this purpose, we derive a new family of auxiliary tasks based on the successor measure. These tasks are easy to implement and have appealing theoretical properties. Combined with a suitable off-policy learning rule, the result is a representation learning algorithm that can be understood as extending Mahadevan & Maggioni (2007)’s proto-value functions to deep reinforcement learning – accordingly, we call the resulting object proto-value networks. Through a series of experiments on the Arcade Learning Environment, we demonstrate that proto-value networks produce rich features that may be used to obtain performance comparable to established algorithms, using only linear approximation and a small number (~4M) of interactions with the environment’s reward function.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Energy-based Out-of-Distribution Detection for Graph Neural Networks

Qitian Wu · Yiting Chen · Chenxiao Yang · Junchi Yan

Representation learning on semi-structured data, e.g., graphs, has become a central problem in deep learning community as relational structures are pervasive in real situations and induce data inter-dependence that hinders trivial adaptation of existing approaches in other domains where the inputs are assumed to be i.i.d. sampled. However, current models in this regime mostly focus on improving testing performance of in-distribution data and largely ignores the potential risk w.r.t. out-of-distribution (OOD) testing samples that may cause negative outcome if the model is overconfident in prediction on them. In this paper, we identify a provably effective OOD discriminator based on an energy function directly extracted from a graph neural network trained with standard supervised classification loss. This paves a way for a simple and efficient OOD detection model for GNN-based semi-supervised learning on graphs, which we call GNN-Safe. It also has nice theoretical properties that guarantee an overall distinguishable margin between the detection scores for in-distribution and OOD samples, which, more critically, can be further strengthened by a non-learning-based structured propagation scheme. Extensive experiments over five real-world datasets validate the practical efficacy of the proposed model for detecting various OOD instances that are inter-connected in a graph with up to 17.0% improvement on average AUROC over competitive peer models and without sacrificing in-distribution testing accuracy.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Localized Randomized Smoothing for Collective Robustness Certification

Jan Schuchardt · Tom Wollschläger · Aleksandar Bojchevski · Stephan Günnemann

Models for image segmentation, node classification and many other tasks map a single input to multiple labels. By perturbing this single shared input (e.g. the image) an adversary can manipulate several predictions (e.g. misclassify several pixels). Collective robustness certification is the task of provably bounding the number of robust predictions under this threat model. The only dedicated method that goes beyond certifying each output independently is limited to strictly local models, where each prediction is associated with a small receptive field. We propose a more general collective robustness certificate for all types of models. We further show that this approach is beneficial for the larger class of softly local models, where each output is dependent on the entire input but assigns different levels of importance to different input regions (e.g. based on their proximity in the image). The certificate is based on our novel localized randomized smoothing approach, where the random perturbation strength for different input regions is proportional to their importance for the outputs. Localized smoothing Pareto-dominates existing certificates on both image segmentation and node classification tasks, simultaneously offering higher accuracy and stronger certificates.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Planning with Sequence Models through Iterative Energy Minimization

Hongyi Chen · Yilun Du · Yiye Chen · Joshua B Tenenbaum · Patricio Vela

Recent works have shown that language modeling can be effectively used to train reinforcement learning (RL) policies. However, the success of applying existing language models to planning, in which we wish to obtain a trajectory of actions to reach some goal, is less straightforward. The typical autoregressive generation procedures of language models preclude sequential refinement of earlier steps, which limits the effectiveness of a predicted plan. In this paper, we suggest an approach towards integrating planning with language models based on the idea of iterative energy minimization, and illustrate how such a procedure leads to improved RL performance across different tasks. We train a masked language model to capture an implicit energy function over trajectories of actions, and formulate planning as finding a trajectory of actions with minimum energy. We illustrate how this procedure enables improved performance over recent approaches across BabyAI and Atari environments. We further demonstrate unique benefits of our iterative optimization procedure, involving new task generalization, test-time constraints adaptation, and the ability to compose plans together. Project webpage:

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Robust Explanation Constraints for Neural Networks

Matthew Wicker · Juyeon Heo · Luca Costabello · Adrian Weller

Post-hoc explanation methods are used with the intent of providing insights about neural networks and are sometimes said to help engender trust in their outputs. However, popular explanations methods have been found to be fragile to minor perturbations of input features or model parameters. Relying on constraint relaxation techniques from non-convex optimization, we develop a method that upper-bounds the largest change an adversary can make to a gradient-based explanation via bounded manipulation of either the input features or model parameters. By propagating a compact input or parameter set as symbolic intervals through the forwards and backwards computations of the neural network we can formally certify the robustness of gradient-based explanations. Our bounds are differentiable, hence we can incorporate provable explanation robustness into neural network training. Empirically, our method surpasses the robustness provided by previous heuristic approaches. We find that our training method is the only method able to learn neural networks with certificates of explanation robustness across all six datasets tested.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Strategic Classification with Graph Neural Networks

Itay Eilat · Ben Finkelshtein · Chaim Baskin · Nir Rosenfeld

Strategic classification studies learning in settings where users can modify their features to obtain favorable predictions. Most current works focus on simple classifiers that trigger independent user responses. Here we examine the implications of learning with more elaborate models that break the independence assumption. Motivated by the idea that applications of strategic classification are often social in nature, we focus on graph neural networks, which make use of social relations between users to improve predictions. Using a graph for learning introduces inter-user dependencies in prediction; our key point is that strategic users can exploit these to promote their goals. As we show through analysis and simulation, this can work either against the system---or for it. Based on this, we propose a differentiable framework for strategically-robust learning of graph-based classifiers. Experiments on several real networked datasets demonstrate the utility of our approach.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Discovering Latent Knowledge in Language Models Without Supervision

Collin Burns · Haotian Ye · Dan Klein · Jacob Steinhardt

Existing techniques for training language models can be misaligned with the truth: if we train models with imitation learning, they may reproduce errors that humans make; if we train them to generate text that humans rate highly, they may output errors that human evaluators can't detect. We propose circumventing this issue by directly finding latent knowledge inside the internal activations of a language model in a purely unsupervised way. Specifically, we introduce a method for accurately answering yes-no questions given only unlabeled model activations. It works by finding a direction in activation space that satisfies logical consistency properties, such as that a statement and its negation have opposite truth values. We show that despite using no supervision and no model outputs, our method can recover diverse knowledge represented in large language models: across 6 models and 10 question-answering datasets, it outperforms zero-shot accuracy by 4\% on average. We also find that it cuts prompt sensitivity in half and continues to maintain high accuracy even when models are prompted to generate incorrect answers. Our results provide an initial step toward discovering what language models know, distinct from what they say, even when we don't have access to explicit ground truth labels.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Concept Gradient: Concept-based Interpretation Without Linear Assumption

Andrew Bai · Chih-Kuan Yeh · Neil Lin · Pradeep K Ravikumar · Cho-Jui Hsieh

Concept-based interpretations of black-box models are often more intuitive for humans to understand. The most widely adopted approach for concept-based, gradient interpretation is Concept Activation Vector (CAV). CAV relies on learning a linear relation between some latent representation of a given model and concepts. The premise of meaningful concepts lying in a linear subspace of model layers is usually implicitly assumed but does not hold true in general. In this work we proposed Concept Gradient (CG), which extends concept-based, gradient interpretation methods to non-linear concept functions. We showed that for a general (potentially non-linear) concept, we can mathematically measure how a small change of concept affects the model’s prediction, which is an extension of gradient-based interpretation to the concept space. We demonstrated empirically that CG outperforms CAV in attributing concept importance on real world datasets and performed case study on a medical dataset. The code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
A law of adversarial risk, interpolation, and label noise

Daniel Paleka · Amartya Sanyal

In supervised learning, it has been shown that label noise in the data can be interpolated without penalties on test accuracy. We show that interpolating label noise induces adversarial vulnerability, and prove the first theorem showing the relationship between label noise and adversarial risk for any data distribution. Our results are almost tight if we do not make any assumptions on the inductive bias of the learning algorithm. We then investigate how different components of this problem affect this result including properties of the distribution. We also discuss non-uniform label noise distributions; and prove a new theorem showing uniform label noise induces nearly as large an adversarial risk as the worst poisoning with the same noise rate. Then, we provide theoretical and empirical evidence that uniform label noise is more harmful than typical real-world label noise. Finally, we show how inductive biases amplify the effect of label noise and argue the need for future work in this direction.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Measuring Forgetting of Memorized Training Examples

Matthew Jagielski · Om Thakkar · Florian Tramer · Daphne Ippolito · Katherine Lee · Nicholas Carlini · Eric Wallace · Shuang Song · Abhradeep Guha Thakurta · Nicolas Papernot · Chiyuan Zhang

Machine learning models exhibit two seemingly contradictory phenomena: training data memorization and various forms of forgetting. In memorization, models overfit specific training examples and become susceptible to privacy attacks. In forgetting, examples which appeared early in training are forgotten by the end. In this work, we connect these phenomena.We propose a technique to measure to what extent models ``forget'' the specifics of training examples, becoming less susceptible to privacy attacks on examples they have not seen recently.We show that, while non-convexity can prevent forgetting from happening in the worst-case, standard image,speech, and language models empirically do forget examples over time.We identify nondeterminism as a potential explanation, showing that deterministically trained models do not forget.Our results suggest that examples seen early when training with extremely large datasets---for instance those examples used to pre-train a model---may observe privacy benefits at the expense of examples seen later.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Progress measures for grokking via mechanistic interpretability

Neel Nanda · Lawrence Chan · Tom Lieberum · Jess Smith · Jacob Steinhardt

Neural networks often exhibit emergent behavior in which qualitatively new capabilities that arise from scaling up the number of parameters, training data, or even the number of steps. One approach to understanding emergence is to find the continuous \textit{progress measures} that underlie the seemingly discontinuous qualitative changes. In this work, we argue that progress measures can be found via mechanistic interpretability---that is, by reverse engineering learned models into components and measuring the progress of each component over the course of training. As a case study, we study small transformers trained on a modular arithmetic tasks with emergent grokking behavior. We fully reverse engineer the algorithm learned by these networks, which uses discrete fourier transforms and trigonometric identities to convert addition to rotation about a circle. After confirming the algorithm via ablation, we then use our understanding of the algorithm to define progress measures that precede the grokking phase transition on this task. We see our result as demonstrating both that it is possible to fully reverse engineer trained networks, and that doing so can be invaluable to understanding their training dynamics.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Everybody Needs Good Neighbours: An Unsupervised Locality-based Method for Bias Mitigation

Xudong Han · Timothy Baldwin · Trevor Cohn

Learning models from human behavioural data often leads to outputs that are biased with respect to user demographics, such as gender or race. This effect can be controlled by explicit mitigation methods, but this typically presupposes access to demographically-labelled training data. Such data is often not available, motivating the need for unsupervised debiasing methods. To this end, we propose a new meta-algorithm for debiasing representation learning models, which combines the notions of data locality and accuracy of model fit, such that a supervised debiasing method can optimise fairness between neighbourhoods of poorly vs. well modelled instances as identified by our method. Results over five datasets, spanning natural language processing and structured data classification tasks, show that our technique recovers proxy labels that correlate with unknown demographic data, and that our method outperforms all unsupervised baselines, while also achieving competitive performance with state-of-the-art supervised methods which are given access to demographic labels.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
CLIP-Dissect: Automatic Description of Neuron Representations in Deep Vision Networks

Tuomas Oikarinen · Tsui-Wei Weng

In this paper, we propose CLIP-Dissect, a new technique to automatically describe the function of individual hidden neurons inside vision networks. CLIP-Dissect leverages recent advances in multimodal vision/language models to label internal neurons with open-ended concepts without the need for any labeled data or human examples. We show that CLIP-Dissect provides more accurate descriptions than existing methods for last layer neurons where the ground-truth is available as well as qualitatively good descriptions for hidden layer neurons. In addition, our method is very flexible: it is model agnostic, can easily handle new concepts and can be extended to take advantage of better multimodal models in the future. Finally CLIP-Dissect is computationally efficient and can label all neurons from five layers of ResNet-50 in just 4 minutes, which is more than 10$\times$ faster than existing methods. Our code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Individual Privacy Accounting with Gaussian Differential Privacy

Antti Koskela · Marlon Tobaben · Antti Honkela

Individual privacy accounting enables bounding differential privacy (DP) loss individually for each participant involved in the analysis. This can be informative as often the individual privacy losses are considerably smaller than those indicated by the DP bounds that are based on considering worst-case bounds at each data access. In order to account for the individual losses in a principled manner, we need a privacy accountant for adaptive compositions of mechanisms, where the loss incurred at a given data access is allowed to be smaller than the worst-case loss. This kind of analysis has been carried out for the Rényi differential privacy by Feldman and Zrnic (2021), however not yet for the so-called optimal privacy accountants. We make first steps in this direction by providing a careful analysis using the Gaussian differential privacy which gives optimal bounds for the Gaussian mechanism, one of the most versatile DP mechanisms. This approach is based on determining a certain supermartingale for the hockey-stick divergence and on extending the Rényi divergence-based fully adaptive composition results by Feldman and Zrnic (2021). We also consider measuring the individual $(\varepsilon,\delta)$-privacy losses using the so-called privacy loss distributions. Using the Blackwell theorem, we can then use the results of Feldman and Zrnic (2021) to construct an approximative individual $(\varepsilon,\delta)$-accountant. We also show how to speed up the FFT-based individual DP accounting using the Plancherel theorem.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Temporal Dependencies in Feature Importance for Time Series Prediction

Kin Kwan Leung · Clayton Rooke · Jonathan Smith · Saba Zuberi · Maksims Volkovs

Time series data introduces two key challenges for explainability methods: firstly, observations of the same feature over subsequent time steps are not independent, and secondly, the same feature can have varying importance to model predictions over time. In this paper, we propose Windowed Feature Importance in Time (WinIT), a feature removal based explainability approach to address these issues. Unlike existing feature removal explanation methods, WinIT explicitly accounts for the temporal dependence between different observations of the same feature in the construction of its importance score. Furthermore, WinIT captures the varying importance of a feature over time, by summarizing its importance over a window of past time steps. We conduct an extensive empirical study on synthetic and real-world data, compare against a wide range of leading explainability methods, and explore the impact of various evaluation strategies. Our results show that WinIT achieves significant gains over existing methods, with more consistent performance across different evaluation metrics.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Explaining RL Decisions with Trajectories

Shripad Deshmukh · Arpan Dasgupta · Balaji Krishnamurthy · Nan Jiang · Chirag Agarwal · Georgios Theocharous · Jayakumar Subramanian

Explanation is a key component for the adoption of reinforcement learning (RL) in many real-world decision-making problems. In the literature, the explanation is often provided by saliency attribution to the features of the RL agent's state. In this work, we propose a complementary approach to these explanations, particularly for offline RL, where we attribute the policy decisions of a trained RL agent to the trajectories encountered by it during training. To do so, we encode trajectories in offline training data individually as well as collectively (encoding a set of trajectories). We then attribute policy decisions to a set of trajectories in this encoded space by estimating the sensitivity of the decision with respect to that set. Further, we demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in terms of quality of attributions as well as practical scalability in diverse environments that involve both discrete and continuous state and action spaces such as grid-worlds, video games (Atari) and continuous control (MuJoCo). We also conduct a human study on a simple navigation task to observe how their understanding of the task compares with data attributed for a trained RL policy.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Stochastic Differentially Private and Fair Learning

Andrew Lowy · Devansh Gupta · Meisam Razaviyayn

Machine learning models are increasingly used in high-stakes decision-making systems. In such applications, a major concern is that these models sometimes discriminate against certain demographic groups such as individuals with certain race, gender, or age. Another major concern in these applications is the violation of the privacy of users. While fair learning algorithms have been developed to mitigate discrimination issues, these algorithms can still leak sensitive information, such as individuals’ health or financial records. Utilizing the notion of differential privacy (DP), prior works aimed at developing learning algorithms that are both private and fair. However, existing algorithms for DP fair learning are either not guaranteed to converge or require full batch of data in each iteration of the algorithm to converge. In this paper, we provide the first stochastic differentially private algorithm for fair learning that is guaranteed to converge. Here, the term “stochastic" refers to the fact that our proposed algorithm converges even when minibatches of data are used at each iteration (i.e. stochastic optimization). Our framework is flexible enough to permit different fairness notions, including demographic parity and equalized odds. In addition, our algorithm can be applied to non-binary classification tasks with multiple (non-binary) sensitive attributes. As a byproduct of our convergence analysis, we provide the first utility guarantee for a DP algorithm for solving nonconvex-strongly concave min-max problems. Our numerical experiments show that the proposed algorithm consistently offers significant performance gains over the state-of-the-art baselines, and can be applied to larger scale problems with non-binary target/sensitive attributes.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Towards Interpretable Deep Reinforcement Learning with Human-Friendly Prototypes

Eoin Kenny · Mycal Tucker · Julie Shah

Despite recent success of deep learning models in research settings, their application in sensitive domains remains limited because of their opaque decision-making processes. Taking to this challenge, people have proposed various eXplainable AI (XAI) techniques designed to calibrate trust and understandability of black-box models, with the vast majority of work focused on supervised learning. Here, we focus on making an "interpretable-by-design" deep reinforcement learning agent which is forced to use human-friendly prototypes in its decisions, thus making its reasoning process clear. Our proposed method, dubbed Prototype-Wrapper Network (PW-Net), wraps around any neural agent backbone, and results indicate that it does not worsen performance relative to black-box models. Most importantly, we found in a user study that PW-Nets supported better trust calibration and task performance relative to standard interpretability approaches and black-boxes.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
How robust is unsupervised representation learning to distribution shift?

Yuge Shi · Imant Daunhawer · Julia E Vogt · Philip Torr · Amartya Sanyal

The robustness of machine learning algorithms to distributions shift is primarily discussed in the context of supervised learning (SL). As such, there is a lack of insight on the robustness of the representations learned from unsupervised methods, such as self-supervised learning (SSL) and auto-encoder based algorithms (AE), to distribution shift. We posit that the input-driven objectives of unsupervised algorithms lead to representations that are more robust to distribution shift than the target-driven objective of SL. We verify this by extensively evaluating the performance of SSL and AE on both synthetic and realistic distribution shift datasets. Following observations that the linear layer used for classification itself can be susceptible to spurious correlations, we evaluate the representations using a linearhead trained on a small amount of out-of-distribution (OOD) data, to isolate the robustness of the learned representations from that of the linear head. We also develop “controllable” versions of existing realistic domain generalisation datasets with adjustable degrees of distribution shifts. This allows us to study the robustness of different learning algorithms under versatile yet realistic distribution shiftconditions. Our experiments show that representations learned from unsupervised learning algorithms generalise better than SL under a wide variety of extreme as well as realistic distribution shifts.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
A Non-Asymptotic Analysis of Oversmoothing in Graph Neural Networks

Xinyi Wu · Zhengdao Chen · William Wang · Ali Jadbabaie

Oversmoothing is a central challenge of building more powerful Graph Neural Networks (GNNs). While previous works have only demonstrated that oversmoothing is inevitable when the number of graph convolutions tends to infinity, in this paper, we precisely characterize the mechanism behind the phenomenon via a non-asymptotic analysis. Specifically, we distinguish between two different effects when applying graph convolutions—an undesirable mixing effect that homogenizes node representations in different classes, and a desirable denoising effect that homogenizes node representations in the same class. By quantifying these two effects on random graphs sampled from the Contextual Stochastic Block Model (CSBM), we show that oversmoothing happens once the mixing effect starts to dominate the denoising effect, and the number of layers required for this transition is $O(\log N/\log (\log N))$ for sufficiently dense graphs with $N$ nodes. We also extend our analysis to study the effects of Personalized PageRank (PPR), or equivalently, the effects of initial residual connections on oversmoothing. Our results suggest that while PPR mitigates oversmoothing at deeper layers, PPR-based architectures still achieve their best performance at a shallow depth and are outperformed by the graph convolution approach on certain graphs. Finally, we support our theoretical results with numerical experiments, which further suggest that the oversmoothing phenomenon observed in practice can be magnified by the difficulty of optimizing deep GNN models.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
On the Saturation Effect of Kernel Ridge Regression

Yicheng Li · Haobo Zhang · Qian Lin

The saturation effect refers to the phenomenon that the kernel ridge regression (KRR) fails to achieve the information theoretical lower bound when the smoothness of the underground truth function exceeds certain level. The saturation effect has been widely observed in practices and a saturation lower bound of KRR has been conjectured for decades. In this paper, we provide a proof of this long-standing conjecture.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Characterizing the spectrum of the NTK via a power series expansion

Michael Murray · Hui Jin · Benjamin Bowman · Guido Montufar

Under mild conditions on the network initialization we derive a power series expansion for the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) of arbitrarily deep feedforward networks in the infinite width limit. We provide expressions for the coefficients of this power series which depend on both the Hermite coefficients of the activation function as well as the depth of the network. We observe faster decay of the Hermite coefficients leads to faster decay in the NTK coefficients and explore the role of depth. Using this series, first we relate the effective rank of the NTK to the effective rank of the input-data Gram. Second, for data drawn uniformly on the sphere we study the eigenvalues of the NTK, analyzing the impact of the choice of activation function. Finally, for generic data and activation functions with sufficiently fast Hermite coefficient decay, we derive an asymptotic upper bound on the spectrum of the NTK.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Collaborative Pure Exploration in Kernel Bandit

Yihan Du · Wei Chen · Yuko Kuroki · Longbo Huang

In this paper, we propose a novel Collaborative Pure Exploration in Kernel Bandit model (CoPE-KB), where multiple agents collaborate to complete different but related tasks with limited communication. Our model generalizes prior CoPE formulation with the single-task and classic MAB setting to allow multiple tasks and general reward structures. We propose a novel communication scheme with an efficient kernelized estimator, and design optimal algorithms CoKernelFC and CoKernelFB for CoPE-KB with fixed-confidence and fixed-budget objectives, respectively. Nearly matching upper and lower bounds in both sampling and communication complexity are established to demonstrate the optimality of our algorithms. Our theoretical results explicitly quantify how task similarities influence learning speedup, and only depend on the effective dimension of feature space. Our novel techniques including an efficient kernelized estimator and linear structured instance transformation, which overcome the communication difficulty in high-dimensional feature space and derive communication round lower bounds, can be of independent interests.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Learning ReLU networks to high uniform accuracy is intractable

Julius Berner · Philipp Grohs · Felix Voigtlaender

Statistical learning theory provides bounds on the necessary number of training samples needed to reach a prescribed accuracy in a learning problem formulated over a given target class. This accuracy is typically measured in terms of a generalization error, that is, an expected value of a given loss function. However, for several applications --- for example in a security-critical context or for problems in the computational sciences --- accuracy in this sense is not sufficient. In such cases, one would like to have guarantees for high accuracy on every input value, that is, with respect to the uniform norm. In this paper we precisely quantify the number of training samples needed for any conceivable training algorithm to guarantee a given uniform accuracy on any learning problem formulated over target classes containing (or consisting of) ReLU neural networks of a prescribed architecture. We prove that, under very general assumptions, the minimal number of training samples for this task scales exponentially both in the depth and the input dimension of the network architecture.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Understanding The Robustness of Self-supervised Learning Through Topic Modeling

Zeping Luo · Shiyou Wu · Cindy Weng · Mo Zhou · Rong Ge

Self-supervised learning has significantly improved the performance of many NLP tasks. However, how can self-supervised learning discover useful features, and why is it better than traditional approaches such as probabilistic models are still largely unknown. In this paper, we focus on the context of topic modeling and highlight a key advantage of self-supervised learning - when applied to data generated by topic models, self-supervised learning can be oblivious to the specific model, and hence is less susceptible to model misspecification. In particular, we prove that commonly used self-supervised objectives based on reconstruction or contrastive samples can both recover useful posterior information for general topic models. Empirically, we show that the same objectives can perform on par with posterior inference using the correct model, while outperforming posterior inference using misspecified models.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Bidirectional Language Models Are Also Few-shot Learners

Ajay Patel · Bryan Li · Mohammad Rasooli · Noah Constant · Colin Raffel · Chris Callison-Burch

Large language models such as GPT-3 (Brown et al., 2020) can perform arbitrary tasks without undergoing fine-tuning after being prompted with only a few labeled examples. An arbitrary task can be reformulated as a natural language prompt, and a language model can be asked to generate the completion, indirectly performing the task in a paradigm known as prompt-based learning. To date, emergent prompt-based learning capabilities have mainly been demonstrated for unidirectional language models. However, bidirectional language models pre-trained on denoising objectives such as masked language modeling produce stronger learned representations for transfer learning. This motivates the possibility of prompting bidirectional models, but their pre-training objectives have made them largely incompatible with the existing prompting paradigm. We present SAP (Sequential Autoregressive Prompting), a technique that enables the prompting of bidirectional models. Utilizing the machine translation task as a case study, we prompt the bidirectional mT5 model (Xue et al., 2021) with SAP and demonstrate its few-shot and zero-shot translations outperform the few-shot translations of unidirectional models like GPT-3 and XGLM (Lin et al., 2021), despite mT5's approximately 50% fewer parameters. We further show SAP is effective on question answering and summarization. For the first time, our results demonstrate prompt-based learning is an emergent property of a broader class of language models, rather than only unidirectional models.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Self-Supervised Category-Level Articulated Object Pose Estimation with Part-Level SE(3) Equivariance

Xueyi Liu · Ji Zhang · Ruizhen Hu · Haibin Huang · He Wang · Li Yi

Category-level articulated object pose estimation aims to estimate a hierarchy of articulation-aware object poses of an unseen articulated object from a known category. To reduce the heavy annotations needed for supervised learning methods, we present a novel self-supervised strategy that solves this problem without any human labels. Our key idea is to factorize canonical shapes and articulated object poses from input articulated shapes through part-level equivariant shape analysis. Specifically, we first introduce the concept of part-level SE(3) equivariance and devise a network to learn features of such property. Then, through a carefully designed fine-grained pose-shape disentanglement strategy, we expect that canonical spaces to support pose estimation could be induced automatically. Thus, we could further predict articulated object poses as per-part rigid transformations describing how parts transform from their canonical part spaces to the camera space. Extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of our method on both complete and partial point clouds from synthetic and real articulated object datasets.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
From $t$-SNE to UMAP with contrastive learning

Sebastian Damrich · Niklas Böhm · Fred A Hamprecht · Dmitry Kobak

Neighbor embedding methods $t$-SNE and UMAP are the de facto standard for visualizing high-dimensional datasets. Motivated from entirely different viewpoints, their loss functions appear to be unrelated. In practice, they yield strongly differing embeddings and can suggest conflicting interpretations of the same data. The fundamental reasons for this and, more generally, the exact relationship between $t$-SNE and UMAP have remained unclear. In this work, we uncover their conceptual connection via a new insight into contrastive learning methods. Noise-contrastive estimation can be used to optimize $t$-SNE, while UMAP relies on negative sampling, another contrastive method. We find the precise relationship between these two contrastive methods, and provide a mathematical characterization of the distortion introduced by negative sampling. Visually, this distortion results in UMAP generating more compact embeddings with tighter clusters compared to $t$-SNE. We exploit this new conceptual connection to propose and implement a generalization of negative sampling, allowing us to interpolate between (and even extrapolate beyond) $t$-SNE and UMAP and their respective embeddings. Moving along this spectrum of embeddings leads to a trade-off between discrete / local and continuous / global structures, mitigating the risk of over-interpreting ostensible features of any single embedding. We provide a PyTorch implementation.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Simplicial Embeddings in Self-Supervised Learning and Downstream Classification

Samuel Lavoie · Christos Tsirigotis · Max Schwarzer · Ankit Vani · Mikhail Noukhovitch · Kenji Kawaguchi · Aaron Courville

Simplicial Embeddings (SEM) are representations learned through self-supervised learning (SSL), wherein a representation is projected into $L$ simplices of $V$ dimensions each using a \texttt{softmax} operation. This procedure conditions the representation onto a constrained space during pretraining and imparts an inductive bias for group sparsity. For downstream classification, we formally prove that the SEM representation leads to better generalization than an unnormalized representation.Furthermore, we empirically demonstrate that SSL methods trained with SEMs have improved generalization on natural image datasets such as CIFAR-100 and ImageNet. Finally, when used in a downstream classification task, we show that SEM features exhibit emergent semantic coherence where small groups of learned features are distinctly predictive of semantically-relevant classes.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 25% paper
Corrupted Image Modeling for Self-Supervised Visual Pre-Training

Yuxin Fang · Li Dong · Hangbo Bao · Xinggang Wang · Furu Wei

We introduce Corrupted Image Modeling (CIM) for self-supervised visual pre-training. CIM uses an auxiliary generator with a small trainable BEiT to corrupt the input image instead of using artificial [MASK] tokens, where some patches are randomly selected and replaced with plausible alternatives sampled from the BEiT output distribution. Given this corrupted image, an enhancer network learns to either recover all the original image pixels, or predict whether each visual token is replaced by a generator sample or not. The generator and the enhancer are simultaneously trained and synergistically updated. After pre-training, the enhancer can be used as a high-capacity visual encoder for downstream tasks. CIM is a general and flexible visual pre-training framework that is suitable for various network architectures. For the first time, CIM demonstrates that both ViT and CNN can learn rich visual representations using a unified, non-Siamese framework. Experimental results show that our approach achieves compelling results in vision benchmarks, such as ImageNet classification and ADE20K semantic segmentation.

In-Person Poster presentation / top 5% paper
SimPer: Simple Self-Supervised Learning of Periodic Targets

Yuzhe Yang · Xin Liu · Jiang Wu · Silviu Borac · Dina Katabi · Ming-Zher Poh · Daniel McDuff

From human physiology to environmental evolution, important processes in nature often exhibit meaningful and strong periodic or quasi-periodic changes. Due to their inherent label scarcity, learning useful representations for periodic tasks with limited or no supervision is of great benefit. Yet, existing self-supervised learning (SSL) methods overlook the intrinsic periodicity in data, and fail to learn representations that capture periodic or frequency attributes. In this paper, we present SimPer, a simple contrastive SSL regime for learning periodic information in data. To exploit the periodic inductive bias, SimPer introduces customized augmentations, feature similarity measures, and a generalized contrastive loss for learning efficient and robust periodic representations. Extensive experiments on common real-world tasks in human behavior analysis, environmental sensing, and healthcare domains verify the superior performance of SimPer compared to state-of-the-art SSL methods, highlighting its intriguing properties including better data efficiency, robustness to spurious correlations, and generalization to distribution shifts.

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
What Do Self-Supervised Vision Transformers Learn?

Namuk Park · Wonjae Kim · Byeongho Heo · Taekyung Kim · Sangdoo Yun

We present a comparative study on how and why contrastive learning (CL) and masked image modeling (MIM) differ in their representations and in their performance of downstream tasks. In particular, we demonstrate that self-supervised Vision Transformers (ViTs) have the following properties: (1) CL trains self-attentions to capture longer-range global patterns than MIM, such as the shape of an object, especially in the later layers of the ViT architecture. This CL property helps ViTs linearly separate images in their representation spaces. However, it also makes the self-attentions collapse into homogeneity for all query tokens and heads. Such homogeneity of self-attention reduces the diversity of representations, worsening scalability and dense prediction performance. (2) CL utilizes the low-frequency signals of the representations, but MIM utilizes high-frequencies. Since low- and high-frequency information respectively represent shapes and textures, CL is more shape-oriented and MIM more texture-oriented. (3) CL plays a crucial role in the later layers, while MIM mainly focuses on the early layers. Upon these analyses, we find that CL and MIM can complement each other and observe that even the simplest harmonization can help leverage the advantages of both methods. The code is available at

In-Person Poster presentation / poster accept
Human-level Atari 200x faster

Steven Kapturowski · Víctor Campos · Ray Jiang · Nemanja Rakicevic · Hado van Hasselt · Charles Blundell · Adria Puigdomenech Badia

The task of building general agents that perform well over a wide range of tasks has been an important goal in reinforcement learning since its inception. The problem has been subject of research of a large body of work, with performance frequently measured by observing scores over the wide range of environments contained in the Atari 57 benchmark. Agent57 was the first agent to surpass the human benchmark on all 57 games, but this came at the cost of poor data-efficiency, requiring nearly 80 billion frames of experience to achieve. Taking Agent57 as a starting point, we employ a diverse set of strategies to achieve a 200-fold reduction of experience needed to outperform the human baseline, within our novel agent MEME. We investigate a range of instabilities and bottlenecks we encountered while reducing the data regime, and propose effective solutions to build a more robust and efficient agent. We also demonstrate competitive performance with high-performing methods such as Muesli and MuZero. Our contributions aim to achieve faster propagation of learning signals related to rare events, stabilize learning under differing value scales, improve the neural network architecture, and make updates more robust under a rapidly-changing policy.