Estimation, Optimization, and Parallelism when Data is Sparse

We study stochastic optimization problems when the data is sparse, which is in
a sense dual to current perspectives on high-dimensional statistical learning and
optimization. We highlight both the difficulties—in terms of increased sample
complexity that sparse data necessitates—and the potential benefits, in terms of
allowing parallelism and asynchrony in the design of algorithms. Concretely, we
derive matching upper and lower bounds on the minimax rate for optimization
and learning with sparse data, and we exhibit algorithms achieving these rates.
We also show how leveraging sparsity leads to (still minimax optimal) parallel
and asynchronous algorithms, providing experimental evidence complementing
our theoretical results on several medium to large-scale learning tasks.

Paper (pdf)

Authors: Brendan McMahan, Michael Jordan
Publication Date: December 2013
Conference: Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS)