More supervision, less computation: Statistical-computational tradeoffs in weakly supervised learning

Xinyang Yi, Zhaoran Wang, Zhuoran Yang, Constantine Caramanis, Han Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We consider the weakly supervised binary classification problem where the labels are randomly flipped with probability 1 - α. Although there exist numerous algorithms for this problem, it remains theoretically unexplored how the statistical accuracies and computational efficiency of these algorithms depend on the degree of supervision, which is quantified by α. In this paper, we characterize the effect of α by establishing the information-theoretic and computational boundaries, namely, the minimax-optimal statistical accuracy that can be achieved by all algorithms, and polynomial-time algorithms under an oracle computational model. For small α, our result shows a gap between these two boundaries, which represents the computational price of achieving the information-theoretic boundary due to the lack of supervision. Interestingly, we also show that this gap narrows as α increases. In other words, having more supervision, i.e., more correct labels, not only improves the optimal statistical accuracy as expected, but also enhances the computational efficiency for achieving such accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4482-4490
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2016
Event30th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NIPS 2016 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: Dec 5 2016Dec 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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