Google Research

Optimizing Black-box Metrics with Adaptive Surrogates

Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2020)

Abstract

We address the problem of training models with black-box and hard-to-optimize metrics by expressing the metric as a monotonic function of a small number of easy-to-optimize surrogates. We pose the training problem as an optimization over a relaxed surrogate space, which we solve by estimating local gradients for the metric and performing inexact convex projections. We analyze gradient estimates based on finite differences and local linear interpolations, and show convergence of our approach under smoothness assumptions with respect to the surrogates. Experimental results on classification and ranking problems verify the proposal performs on par with methods that know the mathematical formulation, and adds notable value when the form of the metric is unknown.

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