Algorithms and hardness results for parallel large margin learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

Bibtex Metadata Paper SpotlightSlide


Phil Long, Rocco Servedio


We study the fundamental problem of learning an unknown large-margin halfspace in the context of parallel computation. Our main positive result is a parallel algorithm for learning a large-margin halfspace that is based on interior point methods from convex optimization and fast parallel algorithms for matrix computations. We show that this algorithm learns an unknown gamma-margin halfspace over n dimensions using poly(n,1/gamma) processors and runs in time ~O(1/gamma) + O(log n). In contrast, naive parallel algorithms that learn a gamma-margin halfspace in time that depends polylogarithmically on n have Omega(1/gamma^2) runtime dependence on gamma. Our main negative result deals with boosting, which is a standard approach to learning large-margin halfspaces. We give an information-theoretic proof that in the original PAC framework, in which a weak learning algorithm is provided as an oracle that is called by the booster, boosting cannot be parallelized: the ability to call the weak learner multiple times in parallel within a single boosting stage does not reduce the overall number of successive stages of boosting that are required.