In the world of big data, large but costly to label datasets dominate many fields. Active learning, an unsupervised alternative to the standard PAC-learning model, was introduced to explore whether adaptive labeling could learn concepts with exponentially fewer labeled samples. While previous results show that active learning performs no better than its supervised alternative for important concept classes such as linear separators, we show that by adding weak distributional assumptions and allowing comparison queries, active learning requires exponentially fewer samples. Further, we show that these results hold as well for a stronger model of learning called Reliable and Probably Useful (RPU) learning. In this model, our learner is not allowed to make mistakes, but may instead answer "I don't know." While previous negative results showed this model to have intractably large sample complexity for label queries, we show that comparison queries make RPU-learning at worst logarithmically more expensive in the passive case, and quadratically more expensive in the active case.
Speakers: Max Hopkins, Daniel Kane, Shachar Lovett