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Greed is Good: Near-Optimal Submodular Maximization via Greedy Optimization

Abstract · Apr 5, 2017 21:03 ·

cs-lg cs-ds

Arxiv Abstract

  • Moran Feldman
  • Christopher Harshaw
  • Amin Karbasi

It is known that greedy methods perform well for maximizing monotone submodular functions. At the same time, such methods perform poorly in the face of non-monotonicity. In this paper, we show - arguably, surprisingly - that invoking the classical greedy algorithm $O(\sqrt{k})$-times leads to the (currently) fastest deterministic algorithm, called Repeated Greedy, for maximizing a general submodular function subject to $k$-independent system constraints. Repeated Greedy achieves $(1 + O(1/\sqrt{k}))k$ approximation using $O(nr\sqrt{k})$ function evaluations (here, $n$ and $r$ denote the size of the ground set and the maximum size of a feasible solution, respectively). We then show that by a careful sampling procedure, we can run the greedy algorithm only once and obtain the (currently) fastest randomized algorithm, called Sample Greedy, for maximizing a submodular function subject to $k$-extendible system constraints (a subclass of $k$-independent system constrains). Sample Greedy achieves $(k + 3)$-approximation with only $O(nr/k)$ function evaluations. Finally, we derive an almost matching lower bound, and show that no polynomial time algorithm can have an approximation ratio smaller than $ k + 12 - \varepsilon$. To further support our theoretical results, we compare the performance of Repeated Greedy and Sample Greedy with prior art in a concrete application (movie recommendation). We consistently observe that while Sample Greedy achieves practically the same utility as the best baseline, it performs at least two orders of magnitude faster.

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