We consider the following basic learning task: given independent draws from an unknown distribution over a discrete support, output an approximation of the distribution that is as accurate as possible in $\ell_1$ distance (i.e. total variation or statistical distance). Perhaps surprisingly, it is often possible to "de-noise" the empirical distribution of the samples to return an approximation of the true distribution that is significantly more accurate than the empirical distribution, without relying on any prior assumptions on the distribution... (read more)

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