Tight Bounds for Approximate Carathéodory and Beyond


Vahab Mirrokni, Renato Paes Leme, Adrian Vladu, Sam Chiu-wai Wong ;
Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 70:2440-2448, 2017.


We present a deterministic nearly-linear time algorithm for approximating any point inside a convex polytope with a sparse convex combination of the polytope’s vertices. Our result provides a constructive proof for the Approximate Carathéodory Problem, which states that any point inside a polytope contained in the $\ell_p$ ball of radius $D$ can be approximated to within $\epsilon$ in $\ell_p$ norm by a convex combination of $O\left(D^2 p/\epsilon^2\right)$ vertices of the polytope for $p \geq 2$. While for the particular case of $p=2$, this can be achieved by the well-known Perceptron algorithm, we follow a more principled approach which generalizes to arbitrary $p\geq 2$; furthermore, this naturally extends to domains with more complicated geometry, as it is the case for providing an approximate Birkhoff-von Neumann decomposition. Secondly, we show that the sparsity bound is tight for $\ell_p$ norms, using an argument based on anti-concentration for the binomial distribution, thus resolving an open question posed by Barman. Experimentally, we verify that our deterministic optimization-based algorithms achieve in practice much better sparsity than previously known sampling-based algorithms. We also show how to apply our techniques to SVM training and rounding fractional points in matroid and flow polytopes.

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