The COVID-19 pandemic has created a public health crisis. Because SARS-CoV-2 can spread from individuals with pre-symptomatic, symptomatic, and asymptomatic infections, the re-opening of societies and the control of virus spread will be facilitated by robust surveillance, for which virus testing will often be central. After infection, individuals undergo a period of incubation during which viral titers are usually too low to detect, followed by an exponential growth of virus, leading to a peak viral load and infectiousness, and ending with declining viral levels and clearance. Given the pattern of viral load kinetics, we model surveillance effectiveness considering test sensitivities, frequency, and sample-to-answer reporting time. These results demonstrate that effective surveillance, including time to first detection and outbreak control, depends largely on frequency of testing and the speed of reporting, and is only marginally improved by high test sensitivity. We therefore conclude that surveillance should prioritize accessibility, frequency, and sample-to-answer time; analytical limits of detection should be secondary.
Applications of artificial intelligence for wildlife protection have focused on learning models of poacher behavior based on historical patterns. However, poachers' behaviors are described not only by their historical preferences, but also their reaction to ranger patrols. Past work applying machine learning and game theory to combat poaching have hypothesized that ranger patrols deter poachers, but have been unable to find evidence to identify how or even if deterrence occurs. Here for the first time, we demonstrate a measurable deterrence effect on real-world poaching data. We show that increased patrols in one region deter poaching in the next timestep, but poachers then move to neighboring regions. Our findings offer guidance on how adversaries should be modeled in realistic game-theoretic settings.
Solving optimization problems with unknown parameters often requires learning a predictive model to predict the values of the unknown parameters and then solving the problem using these values. Recent work has shown that including the optimization problem as a layer in the model training pipeline results in predictions of the unobserved parameters that lead to higher decision quality. Unfortunately, this process comes at a large computational cost because the optimization problem must be solved and differentiated through in each training iteration; furthermore, it may also sometimes fail to improve solution quality due to non-smoothness issues that arise when training through a complex optimization layer. To address these shortcomings, we learn a low-dimensional surrogate model of a large optimization problem by representing the feasible space in terms of meta-variables, each of which is a linear combination of the original variables. By training a low-dimensional surrogate model end-to-end, and jointly with the predictive model, we achieve: i) a large reduction in training and inference time; and ii) improved performance by focusing attention on the more important variables in the optimization and learning in a smoother space. Empirically, we demonstrate these improvements on a non-convex adversary modeling task, a submodular recommendation task and a convex portfolio optimization task.
Background: The United States has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, accounting for almost one third of global cases and one quarter of global deaths from the disease that have been reported as of May 10, 2020. We extended our agent-based model for COVID-19 transmission to study the effect of alternative lockdown and reopening policies on disease dynamics in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. Specifically, for each state we simulated the spread of the disease had the state enforced its lockdown approximately one week earlier than it did. We also simulated Georgia's reopening plan under various levels of physical distancing if enacted in each state, making projections until June 15, 2020.
Methods: We used an agent-based SEIR model that uses population-specific age distribution, household structure, contact patterns, and comorbidity rates to perform tailored simulations for each region. The model was first calibrated to each state using publicly available COVID-19 death data as of April 23, then implemented to simulate given lockdown or reopening policies.
Results: Our model estimated that imposing lockdowns one week earlier could have resulted in hundreds fewer COVID-19 related deaths in the context of all three states. These estimates underscore that early action may be imperative in the event of a second wave of infection. Further, simulating Georgia’s plan to reopen as of April 27, our model found that a reopening policy that includes physical distancing to ensure no more than 25% of pre-lockdown contact rates at reopened businesses could allow limited economic activity to resume in any of the three states, while also eventually flattening the curve of COVID-19-related deaths by June 15, 2020.
Illegal wildlife poaching threatens ecosystems and drives endangered species toward extinction. However, efforts for wildlife protection are constrained by the limited resources of law enforcement agencies. To help combat poaching, the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) is a machine learning pipeline that has been developed as a data-driven approach to identify areas at high risk of poaching throughout protected areas and compute optimal patrol routes. In this paper, we take an end-to-end approach to the data-to-deployment pipeline for anti-poaching. In doing so, we address challenges including extreme class imbalance (up to 1:200), bias, and uncertainty in wildlife poaching data to enhance PAWS, and we apply our methodology to three national parks with diverse characteristics. (i) We use Gaussian processes to quantify predictive uncertainty, which we exploit to improve robustness of our prescribed patrols and increase detection of snares by an average of 30%. We evaluate our approach on real-world historical poaching data from Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks in Uganda and, for the first time, Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia. (ii) We present the results of large-scale field tests conducted in Murchison Falls and Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary which confirm that the predictive power of PAWS extends promisingly to multiple parks. This paper is part of an effort to expand PAWS to 800 parks around the world through integration with SMART conservation software.
Background: On March 24, India ordered a 3-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. While the lockdown has been effective, our model suggests that completely ending the lockdown after three weeks could have considerable adverse public health ramifications. We extend our individual-level model for COVID-19 transmission  to study the disease dynamics in India at the state level for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to estimate the effect of further lockdown policies in each region. Specifically, we test policies which alternate between total lockdown and simple physical distancing to find "middle ground" policies that can provide social and economic relief as well as salutary population-level health effects.
Methods: We use an agent-based SEIR model that uses population-specific age distribution, household structure, contact patterns, and comorbidity rates to perform tailored simulations for each region. The model is first calibrated to each region using publicly available COVID-19 death data, then implemented to simulate a range of policies. We also compute the basic reproduction number R0 and case documentation rate for both regions.
Results: After the initial lockdown, our simulations demonstrate that even policies that enforce strict physical distancing while returning to normal activity could lead to widespread outbreaks in both states. However, "middle ground" policies that alternate weekly between total lockdown and physical distancing may lead to much lower rates of infection while simultaneously permitting some return to normalcy.
Network security games (NSGs) are widely used in security related domain to model the interaction between the attacker and the defender. However, due to the complex graph structure of the entire network, finding a Nash equilibrium even when the attacker is fully rational is not well-studied yet. There is no efficient algorithms known with valid guarantees. We identify two major issues of NSGs: i) non-linearity ii) correlation between edges. NSGs with non-linear objective function are usually hard to optimize, while correlated edges might create exponentially many strategies and impact the scalability. In this paper, we analyze the distortion of linear and non-linear formulations of NSGs with fully rational attacker. We provide theoretical bounds on these different formulations, which can quantify the approximation ratio between linear and non-linear assumption. This result can help us understand how much loss will the linearization incur in exchange for the scalability.
A serious challenge when finding influential actors in real-world social networks is the lack of knowledge about the structure of the underlying network. Current state-of-the-art methods rely on hand-crafted sampling algorithms; these methods sample nodes and their neighbours in a carefully constructed order and choose opinion leaders from this discovered network to maximize influence spread in the (unknown) complete network. In this work, we propose a reinforcement learning framework for network discovery that automatically learns useful node and graph representations that encode important structural properties of the network. At training time, the method identifies portions of the network such that the nodes selected from this sampled subgraph can effectively influence nodes in the complete network. The realization of such transferable network structure based adaptable policies is attributed to the meticulous design of the framework that encodes relevant node and graph signatures driven by an appropriate reward scheme. We experiment with real-world social networks from four different domains and show that the policies learned by our RL agent provide a 10-36% improvement over the current state-of-the-art method.
Machine learning components commonly appear in larger decision-making pipelines; however, the model training process typically focuses only on a loss that measures average accuracy between predicted values and ground truth values. Decision-focused learning explicitly integrates the downstream decision problem when training the predictive model, in order to optimize the quality of decisions induced by the predictions. It has been successfully applied to several limited combinatorial problem classes, such as those that can be expressed as linear programs (LP), and submodular optimization. However, these previous applications have uniformly focused on problems with simple constraints. Here, we enable decision-focused learning for the broad class of problems that can be encoded as a mixed integer linear program (MIP), hence supporting arbitrary linear constraints over discrete and continuous variables. We show how to differentiate through a MIP by employing a cutting planes solution approach, an algorithm that iteratively tightens the continuous relaxation by adding constraints removing fractional solutions. We evaluate our new end-to-end approach on several real world domains and show that it outperforms the standard two phase approaches that treat prediction and optimization separately, as well as a baseline approach of simply applying decision-focused learning to the LP relaxation of the MIP. Lastly, we demonstrate generalization performance in several transfer learning tasks.
Previous approaches to adversary modeling in network security games (NSGs) have been caught in the paradigm of first building a full adversary model, either from expert input or historical attack data, and then solving the game. Motivated by the need to disrupt the multibillion dollar illegal smuggling networks, such as wildlife and drug trafficking, this paper introduces a fundamental shift in learning adversary behavior in NSGs by focusing on the accuracy of the model using the downstream game that will be solved. Further, the paper addresses technical challenges in building such a game-focused learning model by i) applying graph convolutional networks to NSGs to achieve tractability and differentiability and ii) using randomized block updates of the coefficients of the defender's optimization in order to scale the approach to large networks. We show that our game-focused approach yields scalability and higher defender expected utility than models trained for accuracy only.