Why are learned indexes so effective?

Jul 12, 2020

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A recent trend in algorithm design consists of augmenting classic data structures with machine learning models, which are better suited to reveal and exploit patterns and trends in the input data so to achieve outstanding practical improvements in space occupancy and time efficiency. This is especially known in the context of indexing data structures where, despite few attempts in evaluating their asymptotic efficiency, theoretical results are yet missing in showing that learned indexes are provably better than classic indexes, such as B+trees and their variants. We present the first mathematically-grounded answer to this open problem. We obtain this result by discovering and exploiting a link between the original problem and a mean exit time problem over a proper stochastic process which, we show, is related to the space and time occupancy of those learned indexes. Our general result is then specialised to five well-known distributions: Uniform, Lognormal, Pareto, Exponential, and Gamma; and it is corroborated in precision and robustness by a large set of experiments.

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About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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