Geometric Lower Bounds for Distributed Parameter Estimation under Communication Constraints
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Proceedings of the 31st Conference On Learning Theory, PMLR 75:31633188, 2018.
Abstract
We consider parameter estimation in distributed networks, where each sensor in the network observes an independent sample from an underlying distribution and has $k$ bits to communicate its sample to a centralized processor which computes an estimate of a desired parameter. We develop lower bounds for the minimax risk of estimating the underlying parameter under squared $\ell_2$ loss for a large class of distributions. Our results show that under mild regularity conditions, the communication constraint reduces the effective sample size by a factor of $d$ when $k$ is small, where $d$ is the dimension of the estimated parameter. Furthermore, this penalty reduces at most exponentially with increasing $k$, which is the case for some models, e.g., estimating highdimensional distributions. For other models however, we show that the sample size reduction is remediated only linearly with increasing $k$, e.g. when some subGaussian structure is available. We apply our results to the distributed setting with product Bernoulli model, multinomial model, and dense/sparse Gaussian location models which recover or strengthen existing results. Our approach significantly deviates from existing approaches for developing informationtheoretic lower bounds for communicationefficient estimation. We circumvent the need for strong data processing inequalities used in prior work and develop a geometric approach which builds on a new representation of the communication constraint. This approach allows us to strengthen and generalize existing results with simpler and more transparent proofs.
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