Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Nika Haghtalab, Tim Roughgarden, Abhishek Shetty
Practical and pervasive needs for robustness and privacy in algorithms have inspired the design of online adversarial and differentially private learning algorithms. The primary quantity that characterizes learnability in these settings is the Littlestone dimension of the class of hypotheses [Ben-David et al., 2009, Alon et al., 2019]. This characterization is often interpreted as an impossibility result because classes such as linear thresholds and neural networks have infinite Littlestone dimension. In this paper, we apply the framework of smoothed analysis [Spielman and Teng, 2004], in which adversarially chosen inputs are perturbed slightly by nature. We show that fundamentally stronger regret and error guarantees are possible with smoothed adversaries than with worst-case adversaries. In particular, we obtain regret and privacy error bounds that depend only on the VC dimension and the bracketing number of a hypothesis class, and on the magnitudes of the perturbations.