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Understanding Gradient Descent on the Edge of Stability in Deep Learning
Sanjeev Arora · Zhiyuan Li · Abhishek Panigrahi

Wed Jul 20 03:30 PM -- 05:30 PM (PDT) @ Hall E #1434
Deep learning experiments in ~\cite{cohen2021gradient} using deterministic Gradient Descent (GD) revealed an {\em Edge of Stability (EoS)} phase when learning rate (LR) and sharpness (\emph{i.e.}, the largest eigenvalue of hessian) no longer behave as in traditional optimization. Sharpness stabilizes around $2/$LR and loss goes up and down across iterations, yet still with an overall downward trend. The current paper mathematically analyzes a new mechanism of implicit regularization in the EoS phase, whereby GD updates due to non-smooth loss landscape turn out to evolve along some deterministic flow on the manifold of minimum loss. This is in contrast to many previous results about implicit bias either relying on infinitesimal updates or noise in gradient. Formally, for any smooth function $L$ with certain regularity condition, this effect is demonstrated for (1) {\em Normalized GD}, i.e., GD with a varying LR $\eta_t = \frac{\eta}{\norm{\nabla L(x(t))}}$ and loss $L$; (2) GD with constant LR and loss $\sqrt{L}$. Both provably enter the Edge of Stability, with the associated flow on the manifold minimizing $\lambda_{\max}(\nabla^2 L)$. The above theoretical results have been corroborated by an experimental study.

Author Information

Sanjeev Arora (Princeton University)
Zhiyuan Li (Princeton University)
Abhishek Panigrahi (Princeton University)

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