High-Probability Risk Bounds via Sequential Predictors

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Dirk van der Hoeven, Nikita Zhivotovskiy, Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi


Online learning methods yield sequential regret bounds under minimal assumptions and provide in-expectation risk bounds for statistical learning. However, despite the apparent advantage of online guarantees over their statistical counterparts, recent findings indicate that in many important cases, regret bounds may not guarantee tight high-probability risk bounds in the statistical setting. In this work we show that online to batch conversions applied to general online learning algorithms can bypass this limitation. Via a general second-order correction to the loss function defining the regret, we obtain nearly optimal high-probability risk bounds for several classical statistical estimation problems, such as discrete distribution estimation, linear regression, logistic regression, and conditional density estimation. Our analysis relies on the fact that many online learning algorithms are improper, as they are not restricted to use predictors from a given reference class. The improper nature of our estimators enables significant improvements in the dependencies on various problem parameters. Finally, we discuss some computational advantages of our sequential algorithms over their existing batch counterparts.

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