Fair, Polylog-Approximate Low-Cost Hierarchical Clustering

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

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Marina Knittel, Max Springer, John Dickerson, MohammadTaghi Hajiaghayi


Research in fair machine learning, and particularly clustering, has been crucial in recent years given the many ethical controversies that modern intelligent systems have posed. Ahmadian et al. [2020] established the study of fairness in hierarchical clustering, a stronger, more structured variant of its well-known flat counterpart, though their proposed algorithm that optimizes for Dasgupta's [2016] famous cost function was highly theoretical. Knittel et al. [2023] then proposed the first practical fair approximation for cost, however they were unable to break the polynomial-approximate barrier they posed as a hurdle of interest. We break this barrier, proposing the first truly polylogarithmic-approximate low-cost fair hierarchical clustering, thus greatly bridging the gap between the best fair and vanilla hierarchical clustering approximations.