Functions with average smoothness: structure, algorithms, and learning

Yair Ashlagi, Lee Ad Gottlieb, Aryeh Kontorovich

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We initiate a program of average smoothness analysis for efficiently learning real-valued functions on metric spaces. Rather than using the Lipschitz constant as the regularizer, we define a local slope at each point and gauge the function complexity as the average of these values. Since the mean can be dramatically smaller than the maximum, this complexity measure can yield considerably sharper generalization bounds — assuming that these admit a refinement where the Lipschitz constant is replaced by our average of local slopes. In addition to the usual average, we also examine a “weak” average that is more forgiving and yields a much wider function class. Our first major contribution is to obtain just such distribution-sensitive bounds. This required overcoming a number of technical challenges, perhaps the most formidable of which was bounding the empirical covering numbers, which can be much worse-behaved than the ambient ones. Our combinatorial results are accompanied by efficient algorithms for smoothing the labels of the random sample, as well as guarantees that the extension from the sample to the whole space will continue to be, with high probability, smooth on average. Along the way we discover a surprisingly rich combinatorial and analytic structure in the function class we define.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-236
Number of pages51
JournalProceedings of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - 2021
Event34th Conference on Learning Theory, COLT 2021 - Boulder, United States
Duration: 15 Aug 202119 Aug 2021


  • Lipschitz
  • average case
  • doubling dimension
  • metric space
  • smoothness


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