Delegated Classification

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


When machine learning is outsourced to a rational agent, conflicts of interest might arise and severely impact predictive performance. In this work, we propose a theoretical framework for incentive-aware delegation of machine learning tasks. We model delegation as a principal-agent game, in which accurate learning can be incentivized by the principal using performance-based contracts. Adapting the economic theory of contract design to this setting, we define budget-optimal contracts and prove they take a simple threshold form under reasonable assumptions. In the binary-action case, the optimality of such contracts is shown to be equivalent to the classic Neyman-Pearson lemma, establishing a formal connection between contract design and statistical hypothesis testing. Empirically, we demonstrate that budget-optimal contracts can be constructed using small-scale data, leveraging recent advances in the study of learning curves and scaling laws. Performance and economic outcomes are evaluated using synthetic and real-world classification tasks.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
StatePublished - 2023
Event37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2023 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: 10 Dec 202316 Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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