On the Joint Interaction of Models, Data, and Features

7 Jun 2023  ·  Yiding Jiang, Christina Baek, J. Zico Kolter ·

Learning features from data is one of the defining characteristics of deep learning, but our theoretical understanding of the role features play in deep learning is still rudimentary. To address this gap, we introduce a new tool, the interaction tensor, for empirically analyzing the interaction between data and model through features. With the interaction tensor, we make several key observations about how features are distributed in data and how models with different random seeds learn different features. Based on these observations, we propose a conceptual framework for feature learning. Under this framework, the expected accuracy for a single hypothesis and agreement for a pair of hypotheses can both be derived in closed-form. We demonstrate that the proposed framework can explain empirically observed phenomena, including the recently discovered Generalization Disagreement Equality (GDE) that allows for estimating the generalization error with only unlabeled data. Further, our theory also provides explicit construction of natural data distributions that break the GDE. Thus, we believe this work provides valuable new insight into our understanding of feature learning.

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