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Deep Learning Optimization

Moderator: Yi Ma

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Wed 21 July 17:00 - 17:20 PDT

Outstanding Paper Honorable Mention
Understanding self-supervised learning dynamics without contrastive pairs

Yuandong Tian · Xinlei Chen · Surya Ganguli

While contrastive approaches of self-supervised learning (SSL) learn representations by minimizing the distance between two augmented views of the same data point (positive pairs) and maximizing views from different data points (negative pairs), recent \emph{non-contrastive} SSL (e.g., BYOL and SimSiam) show remarkable performance {\it without} negative pairs, with an extra learnable predictor and a stop-gradient operation. A fundamental question rises: why they do not collapse into trivial representation? In this paper, we answer this question via a simple theoretical study and propose a novel approach, \ourmethod{}, that \emph{directly} sets the linear predictor based on the statistics of its inputs, rather than trained with gradient update. On ImageNet, it performs comparably with more complex two-layer non-linear predictors that employ BatchNorm and outperforms linear predictor by $2.5\%$ in 300-epoch training (and $5\%$ in 60-epoch). \ourmethod{} is motivated by our theoretical study of the nonlinear learning dynamics of non-contrastive SSL in simple linear networks. Our study yields conceptual insights into how non-contrastive SSL methods learn, how they avoid representational collapse, and how multiple factors, like predictor networks, stop-gradients, exponential moving averages, and weight decay all come into play. Our simple theory recapitulates the results of real-world ablation studies in both STL-10 and ImageNet. Code is released\footnote{\url{}}.

Wed 21 July 17:20 - 17:25 PDT

Learning by Turning: Neural Architecture Aware Optimisation

Yang Liu · Jeremy Bernstein · Markus Meister · Yisong Yue

Descent methods for deep networks are notoriously capricious: they require careful tuning of step size, momentum and weight decay, and which method will work best on a new benchmark is a priori unclear. To address this problem, this paper conducts a combined study of neural architecture and optimisation, leading to a new optimiser called Nero: the neuronal rotator. Nero trains reliably without momentum or weight decay, works in situations where Adam and SGD fail, and requires little to no learning rate tuning. Also, Nero's memory footprint is ~ square root that of Adam or LAMB. Nero combines two ideas: (1) projected gradient descent over the space of balanced networks; (2) neuron-specific updates, where the step size sets the angle through which each neuron's hyperplane turns. The paper concludes by discussing how this geometric connection between architecture and optimisation may impact theories of generalisation in deep learning.

Wed 21 July 17:25 - 17:30 PDT

Consensus Control for Decentralized Deep Learning

Lingjing Kong · Tao Lin · Anastasiia Koloskova · Martin Jaggi · Sebastian Stich

Decentralized training of deep learning models enables on-device learning over networks, as well as efficient scaling to large compute clusters. Experiments in earlier works reveal that, even in a data-center setup, decentralized training often suffers from the degradation in the quality of the model: the training and test performance of models trained in a decentralized fashion is in general worse than that of models trained in a centralized fashion, and this performance drop is impacted by parameters such as network size, communication topology and data partitioning. We identify the changing consensus distance between devices as a key parameter to explain the gap between centralized and decentralized training. We show in theory that when the training consensus distance is lower than a critical quantity, decentralized training converges as fast as the centralized counterpart. We empirically validate that the relation between generalization performance and consensus distance is consistent with this theoretical observation. Our empirical insights allow the principled design of better decentralized training schemes that mitigate the performance drop. To this end, we provide practical training guidelines and exemplify its effectiveness on the data-center setup as the important first step.

Wed 21 July 17:30 - 17:35 PDT

Selfish Sparse RNN Training

Shiwei Liu · Decebal Mocanu · Yulong Pei · Mykola Pechenizkiy

Sparse neural networks have been widely applied to reduce the computational demands of training and deploying over-parameterized deep neural networks. For inference acceleration, methods that discover a sparse network from a pre-trained dense network (dense-to-sparse training) work effectively. Recently, dynamic sparse training (DST) has been proposed to train sparse neural networks without pre-training a dense model (sparse-to-sparse training), so that the training process can also be accelerated. However, previous sparse-to-sparse methods mainly focus on Multilayer Perceptron Networks (MLPs) and Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), failing to match the performance of dense-to-sparse methods in the Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) setting. In this paper, we propose an approach to train intrinsically sparse RNNs with a fixed parameter count in one single run, without compromising performance. During training, we allow RNN layers to have a non-uniform redistribution across cell gates for better regularization. Further, we propose SNT-ASGD, a novel variant of the averaged stochastic gradient optimizer, which significantly improves the performance of all sparse training methods for RNNs. Using these strategies, we achieve state-of-the-art sparse training results, better than the dense-to-sparse methods, with various types of RNNs on Penn TreeBank and Wikitext-2 datasets. Our codes are available at

Wed 21 July 17:35 - 17:40 PDT

Catastrophic Fisher Explosion: Early Phase Fisher Matrix Impacts Generalization

Stanislaw Jastrzebski · Devansh Arpit · Oliver Astrand · Giancarlo Kerg · Huan Wang · Caiming Xiong · Richard Socher · Kyunghyun Cho · Krzysztof J Geras

The early phase of training a deep neural network has a dramatic effect on the local curvature of the loss function. For instance, using a small learning rate does not guarantee stable optimization because the optimization trajectory has a tendency to steer towards regions of the loss surface with increasing local curvature. We ask whether this tendency is connected to the widely observed phenomenon that the choice of the learning rate strongly influences generalization. We first show that stochastic gradient descent (SGD) implicitly penalizes the trace of the Fisher Information Matrix (FIM), a measure of the local curvature, from the start of training. We argue it is an implicit regularizer in SGD by showing that explicitly penalizing the trace of the FIM can significantly improve generalization. We highlight that poor final generalization coincides with the trace of the FIM attaining a large value early in training, to which we refer as catastrophic Fisher explosion. Finally, to gain insight into the regularization effect of penalizing the trace of the FIM, we show that it limits memorization by reducing the learning speed of examples with noisy labels more than that of the examples with clean labels.

Wed 21 July 17:40 - 17:45 PDT

Quasi-global Momentum: Accelerating Decentralized Deep Learning on Heterogeneous Data

Tao Lin · Sai Praneeth Reddy Karimireddy · Sebastian Stich · Martin Jaggi

Decentralized training of deep learning models is a key element for enabling data privacy and on-device learning over networks. In realistic learning scenarios, the presence of heterogeneity across different clients' local datasets poses an optimization challenge and may severely deteriorate the generalization performance. In this paper, we investigate and identify the limitation of several decentralized optimization algorithms for different degrees of data heterogeneity. We propose a novel momentum-based method to mitigate this decentralized training difficulty. We show in extensive empirical experiments on various CV/NLP datasets (CIFAR-10, ImageNet, and AG News) and several network topologies (Ring and Social Network) that our method is much more robust to the heterogeneity of clients' data than other existing methods, by a significant improvement in test performance (1%-20%).

Wed 21 July 17:45 - 17:50 PDT

Understanding the Dynamics of Gradient Flow in Overparameterized Linear models

Salma Tarmoun · Guilherme Franca · Benjamin Haeffele · Rene Vidal

We provide a detailed analysis of the dynamics ofthe gradient flow in overparameterized two-layerlinear models. A particularly interesting featureof this model is that its nonlinear dynamics can beexactly solved as a consequence of a large num-ber of conservation laws that constrain the systemto follow particular trajectories. More precisely,the gradient flow preserves the difference of theGramian matrices of the input and output weights,and its convergence to equilibrium depends onboth the magnitude of that difference (which isfixed at initialization) and the spectrum of the data.In addition, and generalizing prior work, we proveour results without assuming small, balanced orspectral initialization for the weights. Moreover,we establish interesting mathematical connectionsbetween matrix factorization problems and differ-ential equations of the Riccati type.

Wed 21 July 17:50 - 17:55 PDT