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Department Talks
  • Patrick Bajari
  • MPI IS lecture hall (N0.002)

In academic and policy circles, there has been considerable interest in the impact of “big data” on firm performance. We examine the question of how the amount of data impacts the accuracy of Machine Learned models of weekly retail product forecasts using a proprietary data set obtained from Amazon. We examine the accuracy of forecasts in two relevant dimensions: the number of products (N), and the number of time periods for which a product is available for sale (T). Theory suggests diminishing returns to larger N and T, with relative forecast errors diminishing at rate 1/sqrt(N) + 1/sqrt(T) . Empirical results indicate gains in forecast improvement in the T dimension; as more and more data is available for a particular product, demand forecasts for that product improve over time, though with diminishing returns to scale. In contrast, we find an essentially flat N effect across the various lines of merchandise: with a few exceptions, expansion in the number of retail products within a category does not appear associated with increases in forecast performance. We do find that the firm’s overall forecast performance, controlling for N and T effects across product lines, has improved over time, suggesting gradual improvements in forecasting from the introduction of new models and improved technology.

Organizers: Michel Besserve Michael Hirsch

  • Bin Yu
  • Tübingen, IS Lecture Hall (N0.002)

In this talk, I'd like to discuss the intertwining importance and connections of three principles of data science in the title. They will be demonstrated in the context of two collaborative projects in neuroscience and genomics, respectively. The first project in neuroscience uses transfer learning to integrate fitted convolutional neural networks (CNNs) on ImageNet with regression methods to provide predictive and stable characterizations of neurons from the challenging primary visual cortex V4. The second project proposes iterative random forests (iRF) as a stablized RF to seek predictable and interpretable high-order interactions among biomolecules.

Organizers: Michel Besserve

A naturalistic perspective on optic flow processing in the fly

  • 27 February 2018 • 3:00 p.m. 4:00 p.m.
  • Aljoscha Leonhardt
  • N4.022, EI Glass Seminar Room

Optic flow offers a rich source of information about an organism’s environment. Flies, for instance, are thought to make use of motion vision to control and stabilise their course during acrobatic airborne manoeuvres. How these computations are implemented in neural hardware and how such circuits cope with the visual complexity of natural scenes, however, remain open questions. This talk outlines some of the progress we have made in unraveling the computational substrate underlying optic flow processing in Drosophila. In particular, I will focus on our efforts to connect neural mechanisms and real-world demands via task-driven modelling.

Organizers: Michel Besserve

Sum-Product Networks for Probabilistic Modeling

  • 06 December 2017 • 15:00 15:45
  • Robert Peharz
  • AGBS seminar room

Probabilistic modeling is the method of choice when it comes to reasoning under uncertainty. However, one of the main practical downsides of probabilistic models is that inference, i.e. the process of using the model to answer statistical queries, is notoriously hard in general. This led to a common folklore that probabilistic models which allow exact inference are necessarily simplistic and undermodel any practical task. In this talk, I will present sum-product networks (SPNs), a recently proposed architecture representing a rich and expressive class of probability distributions, which also allows exact and efficient computation of many inference tasks. I will discuss representational properties, inference routines and learning approaches in SPNs. Furthermore, I will provide some examples of practical applications using SPNs.

Modern Optimization for Structured Machine Learning

IS Colloquium
  • 23 October 2017 • 11:15 12:15
  • Simon Lacoste-Julien
  • IS Lecture Hall

Machine learning has become a popular application domain for modern optimization techniques, pushing its algorithmic frontier. The need for large scale optimization algorithms which can handle millions of dimensions or data points, typical for the big data era, have brought a resurgence of interest for first order algorithms, making us revisit the venerable stochastic gradient method [Robbins-Monro 1951] as well as the Frank-Wolfe algorithm [Frank-Wolfe 1956]. In this talk, I will review recent improvements on these algorithms which can exploit the structure of modern machine learning approaches. I will explain why the Frank-Wolfe algorithm has become so popular lately; and present a surprising tweak on the stochastic gradient method which yields a fast linear convergence rate. Motivating applications will include weakly supervised video analysis and structured prediction problems.

Organizers: Philipp Hennig

  • Dominik Bach

Under acute threat, biological agents need to choose adaptive actions to survive. In my talk, I will provide a decision-theoretic view on this problem and ask, what are potential computational algorithms for this choice, and how are they implemented in neural circuits. Rational design principles and non-human animal data tentatively suggest a specific architecture that heavily relies on tailored algorithms for specific threat scenarios. Virtual reality computer games provide an opportunity to translate non-human animal tasks to humans and investigate these algorithms across species. I will discuss the specific challenges for empirical inference on underlying neural circuits given such architecture.

Organizers: Michel Besserve

Metrics Matter, Examples from Binary and Multilabel Classification

IS Colloquium
  • 21 August 2017 • 11:15 12:15
  • Sanmi Koyejo
  • Empirical Inference meeting room (MPI-IS building, 4th floor)

Performance metrics are a key component of machine learning systems, and are ideally constructed to reflect real world tradeoffs. In contrast, much of the literature simply focuses on algorithms for maximizing accuracy. With the increasing integration of machine learning into real systems, it is clear that accuracy is an insufficient measure of performance for many problems of interest. Unfortunately, unlike accuracy, many real world performance metrics are non-decomposable i.e. cannot be computed as a sum of losses for each instance. Thus, known algorithms and associated analysis are not trivially extended, and direct approaches require expensive combinatorial optimization. I will outline recent results characterizing population optimal classifiers for large families of binary and multilabel classification metrics, including such nonlinear metrics as F-measure and Jaccard measure. Perhaps surprisingly, the prediction which maximizes the utility for a range of such metrics takes a simple form. This results in simple and scalable procedures for optimizing complex metrics in practice. I will also outline how the same analysis gives optimal procedures for selecting point estimates from complex posterior distributions for structured objects such as graphs. Joint work with Nagarajan Natarajan, Bowei Yan, Kai Zhong, Pradeep Ravikumar and Inderjit Dhillon.

Organizers: Mijung Park

Low-dimensional Data Embedding via Robust Ranking

  • 25 July 2017 • 4:30 5:30
  • Manfred K. Warmuth
  • Seminar room N4.022, department Schölkopf (4th floor)

Organizers: Bernhard Schölkopf

  • Ioannis Papantonis
  • S2 Seminar Room

We present a way to set the step size of Stochastic Gradient Descent, as the solution of a distance minimization problem. The obtained result has an intuitive interpretation and resembles the update rules of well known optimization algorithms. Also, asymptotic results to its relation to the optimal learning rate of Gradient Descent are discussed. In addition, we talk about two different estimators, with applications in Variational inference problems, and present approximate results about their variance. Finally, we combine all of the above, to present an optimization algorithm that can be used on both mini-batch optimization and Variational problems.

Organizers: Philipp Hennig

Soft bioelectronics: Materials and Technology

  • 11 July 2017 • 14:00 15:20
  • Prof. Stéphanie Lacour
  • Lecture hall on the ground floor, N0.002 (broadcasted from Stuttgart)

Bioelectronics integrates principles of electrical engineering and materials science to biology, medicine and ultimately health. Soft bioelectronics focus on designing and manufacturing electronic devices with mechanical properties close to those of the host biological tissue so that long-term reliability and minimal perturbation are induced in vivo and/or truly wearable systems become possible. We illustrate the potential of this soft technology with examples ranging from prosthetic tactile skins to soft multimodal neural implants.

Organizers: Diana Rebmann