Exact Lower Bounds for the Agnostic Probably-Approximately-Correct (PAC) Machine Learning Model Academic Article uri icon


  • We provide an exact asymptotic lower bound on the minimax expected excess risk (EER) in the agnostic probably-approximately-correct (PAC) machine learning classification model. This bound is of the simple form $c_\infty/\sqrt{\nu}$ as $\nu\to\infty$, where $c_\infty=0.16997\dots$ is a universal constant, $\nu=m/d$, $m$ is the size of the training sample, and $d$ is the Vapnik--Chervonenkis dimension of the hypothesis class. In the case when randomization of learning algorithms is allowed, we also provide an exact non-asymptotic lower bound on the minimax EER and identify minimax learning algorithms as certain maximally symmetric and minimally randomized "voting" procedures. It is shown that the differences between these asymptotic and non-asymptotic bounds, as well as the differences between these two bounds and the maximum EER of any learning algorithms that minimize the empirical risk, are asymptotically negligible, and all these differences are due to ties in the mentioned "voting" procedures. A few easy to compute non-asymptotic lower bounds on the minimax EER are also obtained, which are shown to be close to the exact asymptotic lower bound $c_\infty/\sqrt{\nu}$ even for rather small values of the ratio $\nu=m/d$. As an application of these results, we substantially improve existing lower bounds on the tail probability of the excess risk. Among the tools used are Bayes estimation and apparently new identities and inequalities for binomial distributions.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016