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# Testable Learning with Distribution Shift

*Proceedings of Thirty Seventh Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 247:2887-2943, 2024.

#### Abstract

We revisit the fundamental problem of learning with distribution shift, in which a learner is given labeled samples from training distribution D, unlabeled samples from test distribution D’ and is asked to output a classifier with low test error. The standard approach in this setting is to bound the loss of a classifier in terms of some notion of distance between D and D’. These distances, however, seem difficult to compute and do not lead to efficient algorithms. We depart from this paradigm and define a new model called testable learning with distribution shift, where we can obtain provably efficient algorithms for certifying the performance of a classifier on a test distribution. In this model, a learner outputs a classifier with low test error whenever samples from D and D’ pass an associated test; moreover, the test must accept (with high probability) if the marginal of D equals the marginal of D’. We give several positive results for learning well-studied concept classes such as halfspaces, intersections of halfspaces, and decision trees when the marginal of D is Gaussian or uniform on the hypercube. Prior to our work, no efficient algorithms for these basic cases were known without strong assumptions on D’. For halfspaces in the realizable case (where there exists a halfspace consistent with both D and D’), we combine a moment-matching approach with ideas from active learning to simulate an efficient oracle for estimating disagreement regions. To extend to the non-realizable setting, we apply recent work from testable (agnostic) learning. More generally, we prove that any function class with low-degree $\mathcal{L}_2$-sandwiching polynomial approximators can be learned in our model. Since we require $\mathcal{L}_2$- sandwiching (instead of the usual $\mathcal{L}_1$ loss), we cannot directly appeal to convex duality and instead apply constructions from the pseudorandomness literature to obtain the required approximators. We also provide lower bounds to show that the guarantees we obtain on the performance of our output hypotheses are best possible up to constant factors, as well as a separation showing that realizable learning in our model is incomparable to (ordinary) agnostic learning.