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Andrew Ng

Lecture on 11/4/04

In this final set of notes on learning theory, we will introduce a different

model of machine learning. Specifically, we have so far been considering

batch learning settings in which we are first given a training set to learn

with, and our hypothesis h is then evaluated on separate test data. In this set

of notes, we will consider the online learning setting in which the algorithm

has to make predictions continuously even while it’s learning.

In this setting, the learning algorithm is given a sequence of examples

(x , y ), (x(2) , y (2) ), . . . (x(m) , y (m) ) in order. Specifically, the algorithm first

(1) (1)

sees x(1) and is asked to predict what it thinks y (1) is. After making its pre-

diction, the true value of y (1) is revealed to the algorithm (and the algorithm

may use this information to perform some learning). The algorithm is then

shown x(2) and again asked to make a prediction, after which y (2) is revealed,

and it may again perform some more learning. This proceeds until we reach

(x(m) , y (m) ). In the online learning setting, we are interested in the total

number of errors made by the algorithm during this process. Thus, it models

applications in which the algorithm has to make predictions even while it’s

still learning.

We will give a bound on the online learning error of the perceptron algo-

rithm. To make our subsequent derivations easier, we will use the notational

convention of denoting the class labels by y =∈ {−1, 1}.

Recall that the perceptron algorithm has parameters θ ∈ Rn+1 , and makes

its predictions according to

1

CS229 Winter 2003 2

where

1 if z ≥ 0

g(z) =

−1 if z < 0.

Also, given a training example (x, y), the perceptron learning rule updates

the parameters as follows. If hθ (x) = y, then it makes no change to the

parameters. Otherwise, it performs the update1

θ := θ + yx.

The following theorem gives a bound on the online learning error of the

perceptron algorithm, when it is run as an online algorithm that performs

an update each time it gets an example wrong. Note that the bound below

on the number of errors does not have an explicit dependence on the number

of examples m in the sequence, or on the dimension n of the inputs (!).

ples (x(1) , y (1) ), (x(2) , y (2) ), . . . (x(m) , y (m) ) be given. Suppose that ||x(i) || ≤ D

for all i, and further that there exists a unit-length vector u (||u|| 2 = 1) such

that y (i) · (uT x(i) ) ≥ γ for all examples in the sequence (i.e., uT x(i) ≥ γ if

y (i) = 1, and uT x(i) ≤ −γ if y (i) = −1, so that u separates the data with a

margin of at least γ). Then the total number of mistakes that the perceptron

algorithm makes on this sequence is at most (D/γ)2 .

Proof. The perceptron updates its weights only on those examples on which

it makes a mistake. Let θ (k) be the weights that were being used when it made

its k-th mistake. So, θ (1) = ~0 (since the weights are initialized to zero), and

if the k-th mistake was on the example (x(i) , y (i) ), then g((x(i) )T θ(k) ) 6= y (i) ,

which implies that

(x(i) )T θ(k) y (i) ≤ 0. (2)

Also, from the perceptron learning rule, we would have that θ (k+1) = θ(k) +

y (i) x(i) .

We then have

≥ (θ(k) )T u + γ

1

This looks slightly different from the update rule we had written down earlier in the

quarter because here we have changed the labels to be y ∈ {−1, 1}. Also, the learning rate

parameter α was dropped. The only effect of the learning rate is to scale all the parameters

θ by some fixed constant, which does not affect the behavior of the perceptron.

CS229 Winter 2003 3

= ||θ(k) ||2 + ||x(i) ||2 + 2y (i) (x(i) )T θ(i)

≤ ||θ(k) ||2 + ||x(i) ||2

≤ ||θ(k) ||2 + D2 (4)

The third step above used Equation (2). Moreover, again by applying a

straightfoward inductive argument, we see that (4) implies

√

kD ≥ ||θ (k+1) ||

≥ (θ(k+1) )T u

≥ kγ.

The second inequality above follows from the fact that u is a unit-length

vector (and z T u = ||z|| · ||u|| cos φ ≤ ||z|| · ||u||, where φ is the angle between

z and u). Our result implies that k ≤ (D/γ)2 . Hence, if the perceptron made

a k-th mistake, then k ≤ (D/γ)2 .

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