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# Identification of mixtures of discrete product distributions in near-optimal sample and time complexity

*Proceedings of Thirty Seventh Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 247:2071-2091, 2024.

#### Abstract

We consider the problem of \emph{identifying,} from statistics, a distribution of discrete random variables $X_1 \ldots,X_n$ that is a mixture of $k$ product distributions. The best previous sample complexity for $n \in O(k)$ was $(1/\zeta)^{O(k^2 \log k)}$ (under a mild separation assumption parameterized by $\zeta$). The best known lower bound was $\exp(\Omega(k))$. It is known that $n\geq 2k-1$ is necessary and sufficient for identification. We show, for any $n\geq 2k-1$, how to achieve sample complexity and run-time complexity $(1/\zeta)^{O(k)}$. We also extend the known lower bound of $e^{\Omega(k)}$ to match our upper bound across a broad range of $\zeta$. Our results are obtained by combining (a) a classic method for robust tensor decomposition, (b) a novel way of bounding the condition number of key matrices called Hadamard extensions, by studying their action only on flattened rank-1 tensors.