Optimization (Convex) 1

Moderator: Aymeric Dieuleveut


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Tue 20 July 6:00 - 6:20 PDT
Variance Reduction via Primal-Dual Accelerated Dual Averaging for Nonsmooth Convex Finite-Sums

Chaobing Song · Stephen Wright · Jelena Diakonikolas

Structured nonsmooth convex finite-sum optimization appears in many machine learning applications, including support vector machines and least absolute deviation. For the primal-dual formulation of this problem, we propose a novel algorithm called \emph{Variance Reduction via Primal-Dual Accelerated Dual Averaging (\vrpda)}. In the nonsmooth and general convex setting, \vrpda~has the overall complexity $O(nd\log\min \{1/\epsilon, n\} + d/\epsilon )$ in terms of the primal-dual gap, where $n$ denotes the number of samples, $d$ the dimension of the primal variables, and $\epsilon$ the desired accuracy. In the nonsmooth and strongly convex setting, the overall complexity of \vrpda~becomes $O(nd\log\min\{1/\epsilon, n\} + d/\sqrt{\epsilon})$ in terms of both the primal-dual gap and the distance between iterate and optimal solution. Both these results for \vrpda~improve significantly on state-of-the-art complexity estimates---which are $O(nd\log \min\{1/\epsilon, n\} + \sqrt{n}d/\epsilon)$ for the nonsmooth and general convex setting and $O(nd\log \min\{1/\epsilon, n\} + \sqrt{n}d/\sqrt{\epsilon})$ for the nonsmooth and strongly convex setting---with a simpler and more straightforward algorithm and analysis. Moreover, both complexities are better than \emph{lower} bounds for general convex finite-sum optimization, because our approach makes use of additional, commonly occurring structure. Numerical experiments reveal competitive performance of \vrpda~compared to state-of-the-art approaches.

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Tue 20 July 6:20 - 6:25 PDT
Dueling Convex Optimization

Aadirupa Saha · Tomer Koren · Yishay Mansour

We address the problem of convex optimization with preference (dueling) feedback. Like the traditional optimization objective, the goal is to find the optimal point with the least possible query complexity, however, without the luxury of even a zeroth order feedback. Instead, the learner can only observe a single noisy bit which is win-loss feedback for a pair of queried points based on their function values. % The problem is certainly of great practical relevance as in many real-world scenarios, such as recommender systems or learning from customer preferences, where the system feedback is often restricted to just one binary-bit preference information. % We consider the problem of online convex optimization (OCO) solely by actively querying $\{0,1\}$ noisy-comparison feedback of decision point pairs, with the objective of finding a near-optimal point (function minimizer) with the least possible number of queries. %a very general class of monotonic, non-decreasing transfer functions, and analyze the problem for any $d$-dimensional smooth convex function. % For the non-stationary OCO setup, where the underlying convex function may change over time, we prove an impossibility result towards achieving the above objective. We next focus only on the stationary OCO problem, and our main contribution lies in designing a normalized gradient descent based algorithm towards finding a $\epsilon$-best optimal point. Towards this, our algorithm is shown to yield a convergence rate of $\tilde O(\nicefrac{d\beta}{\epsilon \nu^2})$ ($\nu$ being the noise parameter) when the underlying function is $\beta$-smooth. Further we show an improved convergence rate of just $\tilde O(\nicefrac{d\beta}{\alpha \nu^2} \log \frac{1}{\epsilon})$ when the function is additionally also $\alpha$-strongly convex.

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Tue 20 July 6:25 - 6:30 PDT
Global Optimality Beyond Two Layers: Training Deep ReLU Networks via Convex Programs

Tolga Ergen · Mert Pilanci

Understanding the fundamental mechanism behind the success of deep neural networks is one of the key challenges in the modern machine learning literature. Despite numerous attempts, a solid theoretical analysis is yet to be developed. In this paper, we develop a novel unified framework to reveal a hidden regularization mechanism through the lens of convex optimization. We first show that the training of multiple three-layer ReLU sub-networks with weight decay regularization can be equivalently cast as a convex optimization problem in a higher dimensional space, where sparsity is enforced via a group $\ell_1$-norm regularization. Consequently, ReLU networks can be interpreted as high dimensional feature selection methods. More importantly, we then prove that the equivalent convex problem can be globally optimized by a standard convex optimization solver with a polynomial-time complexity with respect to the number of samples and data dimension when the width of the network is fixed. Finally, we numerically validate our theoretical results via experiments involving both synthetic and real datasets.

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Tue 20 July 6:30 - 6:35 PDT
Parameter-free Locally Accelerated Conditional Gradients

Alejandro Carderera · Jelena Diakonikolas · Cheuk Yin Lin · Sebastian Pokutta

Projection-free conditional gradient (CG) methods are the algorithms of choice for constrained optimization setups in which projections are often computationally prohibitive but linear optimization over the constraint set remains computationally feasible. Unlike in projection-based methods, globally accelerated convergence rates are in general unattainable for CG. However, a very recent work on Locally accelerated CG (LaCG) has demonstrated that local acceleration for CG is possible for many settings of interest. The main downside of LaCG is that it requires knowledge of the smoothness and strong convexity parameters of the objective function. We remove this limitation by introducing a novel, Parameter-Free Locally accelerated CG (PF-LaCG) algorithm, for which we provide rigorous convergence guarantees. Our theoretical results are complemented by numerical experiments, which demonstrate local acceleration and showcase the practical improvements of PF-LaCG over non-accelerated algorithms, both in terms of iteration count and wall-clock time.

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Tue 20 July 6:35 - 6:40 PDT
Principal Component Hierarchy for Sparse Quadratic Programs

Robbie Vreugdenhil · Viet Anh Nguyen · Armin Eftekhari · Peyman Mohajerin Esfahani

We propose a novel approximation hierarchy for cardinality-constrained, convex quadratic programs that exploits the rank-dominating eigenvectors of the quadratic matrix. Each level of approximation admits a min-max characterization whose objective function can be optimized over the binary variables analytically, while preserving convexity in the continuous variables. Exploiting this property, we propose two scalable optimization algorithms, coined as the best response" and thedual program", that can efficiently screen the potential indices of the nonzero elements of the original program. We show that the proposed methods are competitive with the existing screening methods in the current sparse regression literature, and it is particularly fast on instances with high number of measurements in experiments with both synthetic and real datasets.

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Tue 20 July 6:40 - 6:45 PDT
One-sided Frank-Wolfe algorithms for saddle problems

Vladimir Kolmogorov · Thomas Pock

We study a class of convex-concave saddle-point problems of the form $\min_x\max_y \langle Kx,y\rangle+f_{\cal P}(x)-h^*(y)$ where $K$ is a linear operator, $f_{\cal P}$ is the sum of a convex function $f$ with a Lipschitz-continuous gradient and the indicator function of a bounded convex polytope ${\cal P}$, and $h^\ast$ is a convex (possibly nonsmooth) function. Such problem arises, for example, as a Lagrangian relaxation of various discrete optimization problems. Our main assumptions are the existence of an efficient {\em linear minimization oracle} ($lmo$) for $f_{\cal P}$ and an efficient {\em proximal map} ($prox$) for $h^*$ which motivate the solution via a blend of proximal primal-dual algorithms and Frank-Wolfe algorithms. In case $h^*$ is the indicator function of a linear constraint and function $f$ is quadratic, we show a $O(1/n^2)$ convergence rate on the dual objective, requiring $O(n \log n)$ calls of $lmo$. If the problem comes from the constrained optimization problem $\min_{x\in\mathbb R^d}\{f_{\cal P}(x)\:|\:Ax-b=0\}$ then we additionally get bound $O(1/n^2)$ both on the primal gap and on the infeasibility gap. In the most general case, we show a $O(1/n)$ convergence rate of the primal-dual gap again requiring $O(n\log n)$ calls of $lmo$. To the best of our knowledge, this improves on the known convergence rates for the considered class of saddle-point problems. We show applications to labeling problems frequently appearing in machine learning and computer vision.

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Tue 20 July 6:45 - 6:50 PDT
ConvexVST: A Convex Optimization Approach to Variance-stabilizing Transformation

Mengfan Wang · Boyu Lyu · Guoqiang Yu

The variance-stabilizing transformation (VST) problem is to transform heteroscedastic data to homoscedastic data so that they are more tractable for subsequent analysis. However, most of the existing approaches focus on finding an analytical solution for a certain parametric distribution, which severely limits the applications, because simple distributions cannot faithfully describe the real data while more complicated distributions cannot be analytically solved. In this paper, we converted the VST problem into a convex optimization problem, which can always be efficiently solved, identified the specific structure of the convex problem, which further improved the efficiency of the proposed algorithm, and showed that any finite discrete distributions and the discretized version of any continuous distributions from real data can be variance-stabilized in an easy and nonparametric way. We demonstrated the new approach on bioimaging data and achieved superior performance compared to peer algorithms in terms of not only the variance homoscedasticity but also the impact on subsequent analysis such as denoising. Source codes are available at

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Tue 20 July 6:50 - 6:55 PDT

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