Optimal Approximation - Smoothness Tradeoffs for Soft-Max Functions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Alessandro Epasto, Mohammad Mahdian, Vahab Mirrokni, Emmanouil Zampetakis


<pre><code>A soft-max function has two main efficiency measures: (1) approximation - which corresponds to how well it approximates the maximum function, (2) smoothness - which shows how sensitive it is to changes of its input. Our goal is to identify the optimal approximation-smoothness tradeoffs for different measures of approximation and smoothness. This leads to novel soft-max functions, each of which is optimal for a different application. The most commonly used soft-max function, called exponential mechanism, has optimal tradeoff between approximation measured in terms of expected additive approximation and smoothness measured with respect to Renyi Divergence. We introduce a soft-max function, called piece-wise linear soft-max, with optimal tradeoff between approximation, measured in terms of worst-case additive approximation and smoothness, measured with respect to l_q-norm. The worst-case approximation guarantee of the piece-wise linear mechanism enforces sparsity in the output of our soft-max function, a property that is known to be important in Machine Learning applications Martins et al. 16, Laha et al. 18 and is not satisfied by the exponential mechanism. Moreover, the l_q-smoothness is suitable for applications in Mechanism Design and Game Theory where the piece-wise linear mechanism outperforms the exponential mechanism. Finally, we investigate another soft-max function, called power mechanism, with optimal tradeoff between expected multiplicative approximation and smoothness with </code></pre> <p>respect to the Renyi Divergence, which provides improved theoretical and practical results in differentially private submodular optimization.</p>