Buy-in-Bulk Active Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

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Liu Yang, Jaime Carbonell


In many practical applications of active learning, it is more cost-effective to request labels in large batches, rather than one-at-a-time. This is because the cost of labeling a large batch of examples at once is often sublinear in the number of examples in the batch. In this work, we study the label complexity of active learning algorithms that request labels in a given number of batches, as well as the tradeoff between the total number of queries and the number of rounds allowed. We additionally study the total cost sufficient for learning, for an abstract notion of the cost of requesting the labels of a given number of examples at once. In particular, we find that for sublinear cost functions, it is often desirable to request labels in large batches (i.e., buying in bulk); although this may increase the total number of labels requested, it reduces the total cost required for learning.