We'll describe a novel theoretical framework for unsupervised learning which is not based on generative assumptions. It is comparative, and allows to avoid known computational hardness results and improper algorithms based on convex relaxations. We show how several families of unsupervised learning models, which were previously only analyzed under probabilistic assumptions and are otherwise provably intractable, can be efficiently learned in our framework by convex optimization. These includes dictionary learning and learning of algebraic manifolds.
Joint work with Tengyu Ma.