Liyuan Xu is a Ph.D. student at Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit and supervised by Prof. Arthur Gretton. He is interested in machine learning problems related to decision-making, specifically, multi-armed bandit, causal inference, and reinforcement learning.

Jun. 21. 2021 : Add recent publications

Sep. 17. 2020 : Add a slides for Uncoupled Regression from Pairwise Comparison Data

Instrumental variable (IV) regression is a standard strategy for learning causal relationships between confounded treatment and outcome variables from observational data by using an instrumental variable, which affects the outcome only through the treatment. In classical IV regression, learning proceeds in two stages: stage 1 performs linear regression from the instrument to the treatment; and stage 2 performs linear regression from the treatment to the outcome, conditioned on the instrument. We propose a novel method, deep feature instrumental variable regression (DFIV), to address the case where relations between instruments, treatments, and outcomes may be nonlinear. In this case, deep neural nets are trained to define informative nonlinear features on the instruments and treatments. We propose an alternating training regime for these features to ensure good end-to-end performance when composing stages 1 and 2, thus obtaining highly flexible feature maps in a computationally efficient manner. DFIV outperforms recent state-of-the-art methods on challenging IV benchmarks, including settings involving high dimensional image data. DFIV also exhibits competitive performance in off-policy policy evaluation for reinforcement learning, which can be understood as an IV regression task.

Uncoupled regression is the problem to learn a model from unlabeled data and the set of target values while the correspondence between them is unknown. Such a situation arises in predicting anonymized targets that involve sensitive information, e.g., one’s annual income. Since existing methods for uncoupled regression often require strong assumptions on the true target function, and thus, their range of applications is limited, we introduce a novel framework that does not require such assumptions in this paper. Our key idea is to utilize pairwise comparison data, which consists of pairs of unlabeled data that we know which one has a larger target value. Such pairwise comparison data is easy to collect, as typically discussed in the learning-to-rank scenario, and does not break the anonymity of data. We propose two practical methods for uncoupled regression from pairwise comparison data and show that the learned regression model converges to the optimal model with the optimal parametric convergence rate when the target variable distributes uniformly. Moreover, we empirically show that for linear models the proposed methods are comparable to ordinary supervised regression with labeled data.

We propose the first fully-adaptive algorithm for pure exploration in linear banditsâ€”the task to find the arm with the largest expected reward, which depends on an unknown parameter linearly. While existing methods partially or entirely fix sequences of arm selections before observing rewards, our method adaptively changes the arm selection strategy based on past observations at each round. We show our sample complexity matches the achievable lower bound up to a constant factor in an extreme case. Furthermore, we evaluate the performance of the methods by simulations based on both synthetic setting and real-world data, in which our method shows vast improvement over existing ones.