More data speeds up training time in learning halfspaces over sparse vectors

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

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Amit Daniely, Nati Linial, Shai Shalev-Shwartz


The increased availability of data in recent years led several authors to ask whether it is possible to use data as a {\em computational} resource. That is, if more data is available, beyond the sample complexity limit, is it possible to use the extra examples to speed up the computation time required to perform the learning task? We give the first positive answer to this question for a {\em natural supervised learning problem} --- we consider agnostic PAC learning of halfspaces over $3$-sparse vectors in $\{-1,1,0\}^n$. This class is inefficiently learnable using $O\left(n/\epsilon^2\right)$ examples. Our main contribution is a novel, non-cryptographic, methodology for establishing computational-statistical gaps, which allows us to show that, under a widely believed assumption that refuting random $\mathrm{3CNF}$ formulas is hard, efficiently learning this class using $O\left(n/\epsilon^2\right)$ examples is impossible. We further show that under stronger hardness assumptions, even $O\left(n^{1.499}/\epsilon^2\right)$ examples do not suffice. On the other hand, we show a new algorithm that learns this class efficiently using $\tilde{\Omega}\left(n^2/\epsilon^2\right)$ examples. This formally establishes the tradeoff between sample and computational complexity for a natural supervised learning problem.