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# Functional Graphical Models: Structure Enables Offline Data-Driven Optimization

*Proceedings of The 27th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics*, PMLR 238:2449-2457, 2024.

#### Abstract

While machine learning models are typically trained to solve prediction problems, we might often want to use them for optimization problems. For example, given a dataset of proteins and their corresponding fluorescence levels, we might want to optimize for a new protein with the highest possible fluorescence. This kind of data-driven optimization (DDO) presents a range of challenges beyond those in standard prediction problems, since we need models that successfully predict the performance of new designs that are better than the best designs seen in the training set. It is not clear theoretically when existing approaches can even perform better than the na ïve approach that simply selects the best design in the dataset. In this paper, we study how structure can enable sample-efficient data-driven optimization. To formalize the notion of structure, we introduce functional graphical models (FGMs) and show theoretically how they can provide for principled data-driven optimization by decomposing the original high-dimensional optimization problem into smaller sub-problems. This allows us to derive much more practical regret bounds for DDO, and the result implies that DDO with FGMs can achieve nearly optimal designs in situations where naïve approaches fail due to insufficient coverage of the offline data. We further present a data-driven optimization algorithm that inferes the FGM structure itself, either over the original input variables or a latent variable representation of the inputs.