Moderator: Praneeth Netrapalli

Abstract:

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Tue 20 July 7:00 - 7:20 PDT

(Oral)

Vien Mai · Mikael Johansson

Stochastic gradient algorithms are often unstable when applied to functions that do not have Lipschitz-continuous and/or bounded gradients. Gradient clipping is a simple and effective technique to stabilize the training process for problems that are prone to the exploding gradient problem. Despite its widespread popularity, the convergence properties of the gradient clipping heuristic are poorly understood, especially for stochastic problems. This paper establishes both qualitative and quantitative convergence results of the clipped stochastic (sub)gradient method (SGD) for non-smooth convex functions with rapidly growing subgradients. Our analyses show that clipping enhances the stability of SGD and that the clipped SGD algorithm enjoys finite convergence rates in many cases. We also study the convergence of a clipped method with momentum, which includes clipped SGD as a special case, for weakly convex problems under standard assumptions. With a novel Lyapunov analysis, we show that the proposed method achieves the best-known rate for the considered class of problems, demonstrating the effectiveness of clipped methods also in this regime. Numerical results confirm our theoretical developments.

Tue 20 July 7:20 - 7:25 PDT

(Spotlight)

Zeke Xie · Li Yuan · Zhanxing Zhu · Masashi Sugiyama

It is well-known that stochastic gradient noise (SGN) acts as implicit regularization for deep learning and is essentially important for both optimization and generalization of deep networks. Some works attempted to artificially simulate SGN by injecting random noise to improve deep learning. However, it turned out that the injected simple random noise cannot work as well as SGN, which is anisotropic and parameter-dependent. For simulating SGN at low computational costs and without changing the learning rate or batch size, we propose the Positive-Negative Momentum (PNM) approach that is a powerful alternative to conventional Momentum in classic optimizers. The introduced PNM method maintains two approximate independent momentum terms. Then, we can control the magnitude of SGN explicitly by adjusting the momentum difference. We theoretically prove the convergence guarantee and the generalization advantage of PNM over Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD). By incorporating PNM into the two conventional optimizers, SGD with Momentum and Adam, our extensive experiments empirically verified the significant advantage of the PNM-based variants over the corresponding conventional Momentum-based optimizers. Code: \url{https://github.com/zeke-xie/Positive-Negative-Momentum}.

Tue 20 July 7:25 - 7:30 PDT

(Spotlight)

Thomas Frerix · Dmitrii Kochkov · Jamie Smith · Daniel Cremers · Michael Brenner · Stephan Hoyer

Variational data assimilation optimizes for an initial state of a dynamical system such that its evolution fits observational data. The physical model can subsequently be evolved into the future to make predictions. This principle is a cornerstone of large scale forecasting applications such as numerical weather prediction. As such, it is implemented in current operational systems of weather forecasting agencies across the globe. However, finding a good initial state poses a difficult optimization problem in part due to the non-invertible relationship between physical states and their corresponding observations. We learn a mapping from observational data to physical states and show how it can be used to improve optimizability. We employ this mapping in two ways: to better initialize the non-convex optimization problem, and to reformulate the objective function in better behaved physics space instead of observation space. Our experimental results for the Lorenz96 model and a two-dimensional turbulent fluid flow demonstrate that this procedure significantly improves forecast quality for chaotic systems.

Tue 20 July 7:30 - 7:35 PDT

(Spotlight)

Ilnura Usmanova · Maryam Kamgarpour · Andreas Krause · Kfir Levy

The Euclidean projection onto a convex set is an important problem that arises in numerous constrained optimization tasks. Unfortunately, in many cases, computing projections is computationally demanding. In this work, we focus on projection problems where the constraints are smooth and the number of constraints is significantly smaller than the dimension. The runtime of existing approaches to solving such problems is either cubic in the dimension or polynomial in the inverse of the target accuracy. Conversely, we propose a simple and efficient primal-dual approach, with a runtime that scales only linearly with the dimension, and only logarithmically in the inverse of the target accuracy. We empirically demonstrate its performance, and compare it with standard baselines.

Tue 20 July 7:35 - 7:40 PDT

(Spotlight)

Kyriakos Axiotis · Adam Karczmarz · Anish Mukherjee · Piotr Sankowski · Adrian Vladu

This paper bridges discrete and continuous optimization approaches for decomposable submodular function minimization, in both the standard and parametric settings. We provide improved running times for this problem by reducing it to a number of calls to a maximum flow oracle. When each function in the decomposition acts on O(1) elements of the ground set V and is polynomially bounded, our running time is up to polylogarithmic factors equal to that of solving maximum flow in a sparse graph with O(|V|) vertices and polynomial integral capacities. We achieve this by providing a simple iterative method which can optimize to high precision any convex function defined on the submodular base polytope, provided we can efficiently minimize it on the base polytope corresponding to the cut function of a certain graph that we construct. We solve this minimization problem by lifting the solutions of a parametric cut problem, which we obtain via a new efficient combinatorial reduction to maximum flow. This reduction is of independent interest and implies some previously unknown bounds for the parametric minimum s,t-cut problem in multiple settings.

Tue 20 July 7:40 - 7:45 PDT

(Spotlight)

Liam Hodgkinson · Michael Mahoney

Although stochastic optimization is central to modern machine learning, the precise mechanisms underlying its success, and in particular, the precise role of the stochasticity, still remain unclear. Modeling stochastic optimization algorithms as discrete random recurrence relations, we show that multiplicative noise, as it commonly arises due to variance in local rates of convergence, results in heavy-tailed stationary behaviour in the parameters. Theoretical results are obtained characterizing this for a large class of (non-linear and even non-convex) models and optimizers (including momentum, Adam, and stochastic Newton), demonstrating that this phenomenon holds generally. We describe dependence on key factors, including step size, batch size, and data variability, all of which exhibit similar qualitative behavior to recent empirical results on state-of-the-art neural network models. Furthermore, we empirically illustrate how multiplicative noise and heavy-tailed structure improve capacity for basin hopping and exploration of non-convex loss surfaces, over commonly-considered stochastic dynamics with only additive noise and light-tailed structure.

Tue 20 July 7:45 - 7:50 PDT

(Spotlight)

Rustem Islamov · Xun Qian · Peter Richtarik

We develop several new communication-efficient second-order methods for distributed optimization. Our first method, NEWTON-STAR, is a variant of Newton's method from which it inherits its fast local quadratic rate. However, unlike Newton's method, NEWTON-STAR enjoys the same per iteration communication cost as gradient descent. While this method is impractical as it relies on the use of certain unknown parameters characterizing the Hessian of the objective function at the optimum, it serves as the starting point which enables us to design practical variants thereof with strong theoretical guarantees. In particular, we design a stochastic sparsification strategy for learning the unknown parameters in an iterative fashion in a communication efficient manner. Applying this strategy to NEWTON-STAR leads to our next method, NEWTON-LEARN, for which we prove local linear and superlinear rates independent of the condition number. When applicable, this method can have dramatically superior convergence behavior when compared to state-of-the-art methods. Finally, we develop a globalization strategy using cubic regularization which leads to our next method, CUBIC-NEWTON-LEARN, for which we prove global sublinear and linear convergence rates, and a fast superlinear rate. Our results are supported with experimental results on real datasets, and show several orders of magnitude improvement on baseline and state-of-the-art methods in terms of communication complexity.