On Margin-Based Cluster Recovery with Oracle Queries

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Marco Bressan, Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi, Silvio Lattanzi, Andrea Paudice


We study an active cluster recovery problem where, given a set of $n$ points and an oracle answering queries like ``are these two points in the same cluster?'', the task is to recover exactly all clusters using as few queries as possible. We begin by introducing a simple but general notion of margin between clusters that captures, as special cases, the margins used in previous works, the classic SVM margin, and standard notions of stability for center-based clusterings. Under our margin assumptions we design algorithms that, in a variety of settings, recover all clusters exactly using only $O(\log n)$ queries. For $\mathbb{R}^m$, we give an algorithm that recovers \emph{arbitrary} convex clusters, in polynomial time, and with a number of queries that is lower than the best existing algorithm by $\Theta(m^m)$ factors. For general pseudometric spaces, where clusters might not be convex or might not have any notion of shape, we give an algorithm that achieves the $O(\log n)$ query bound, and is provably near-optimal as a function of the packing number of the space. Finally, for clusterings realized by binary concept classes, we give a combinatorial characterization of recoverability with $O(\log n)$ queries, and we show that, for many concept classes in $\mathbb{R}^m$, this characterization is equivalent to our margin condition. Our results show a deep connection between cluster margins and active cluster recoverability.