Theory and Algorithms for Modern Machine Learning Problems and an Analysis of Markets
Candidate: Ashish Rastogi
Advisor: Richard Cole/Mehryar Mohri


The unprecedented growth of the Internet over the past decade and of data collection, more generally, has given rise to vast quantities of digital information, ranging from web documents and images, genomic databases to a vast array of business customer information. Consequently, it is of growing importance to develop tools and models that enable us to better understand this data and to design data-driven algorithms that leverage this information. This thesis provides several fundamental theoretical and algorithmic results for tackling such problems with applications to speech recognition, image processing, natural language processing, computational biology and web-based algorithms.
. Probabilistic automata provide an efficient and compact way to model sequence- oriented data such as speech or web documents. Measuring the similarity of such automata provides a way of comparing the objects they model, and is an essential first step in organizing this type of data. We present algorithmic and hardness results for computing various discrepancies (or dissimilarities) between probabilistic automata, including the relative entropy and the Lp distance; we also give an efficient algorithm to determine if two probabilistic automata are equivalent. In addition, we study the complexity of computing the norms of probabilistic automata.
. Organizing and querying large amounts of digitized data such as images and videos is a challenging task because little or no label information is available. This motivates transduction, a setting in which the learning algorithm can leverage unlabeled data during training to improve performance. We present novel error bounds for a family of transductive regression algorithms and validate their usefulness through experiments.
. Widespread success of search engines and information retrieval systems has led to large scale collection of rating information which is being used to provide personalized rankings. We examine an alternate formulation of the ranking problem for search engines motivated bythe requirement that in addition to accurately predicting pairwise ordering, ranking systems must also preserve the magnitude of the preferences or the difference between ratings. We present algorithms with sound theoretical properties, and verify their efficacy through experiments.
. Finally, price discovery in a market setting can be viewed as an (ongoing) learning problem. Specifically, the problem is to find and maintain a set of prices that balance supply and demand, a core topic in economics. This appears to involve complex implicit and possibly large-scale information transfers. We show that finding equilibrium prices, even approximately, in discrete markets is NP-hard and complement the hardness result with a matching polynomial time approximation algorithm.We also give a new way of measuring the quality of an approximation to equilibrium prices that is based on a natural aggregation of the dissatisfaction of individual market participants.