Moderator: Yi Ma

Abstract:

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Wed 21 July 18:00 - 18:20 PDT

(Oral)

Florian Graf · Christoph Hofer · Marc Niethammer · Roland Kwitt

Minimizing cross-entropy over the softmax scores of a linear map composed with a high-capacity encoder is arguably the most popular choice for training neural networks on supervised learning tasks. However, recent works show that one can directly optimize the encoder instead, to obtain equally (or even more) discriminative representations via a supervised variant of a contrastive objective. In this work, we address the question whether there are fundamental differences in the sought-for representation geometry in the output space of the encoder at minimal loss. Specifically, we prove, under mild assumptions, that both losses attain their minimum once the representations of each class collapse to the vertices of a regular simplex, inscribed in a hypersphere. We provide empirical evidence that this configuration is attained in practice and that reaching a close-to-optimal state typically indicates good generalization performance. Yet, the two losses show remarkably different optimization behavior. The number of iterations required to perfectly fit to data scales superlinearly with the amount of randomly flipped labels for the supervised contrastive loss. This is in contrast to the approximately linear scaling previously reported for networks trained with cross-entropy.

Wed 21 July 18:20 - 18:25 PDT

(Spotlight)

Kangqiao Liu · Liu Ziyin · Masahito Ueda

In the vanishing learning rate regime, stochastic gradient descent (SGD) is now relatively well understood. In this work, we propose to study the basic properties of SGD and its variants in the non-vanishing learning rate regime. The focus is on deriving exactly solvable results and discussing their implications. The main contributions of this work are to derive the stationary distribution for discrete-time SGD in a quadratic loss function with and without momentum; in particular, one implication of our result is that the fluctuation caused by discrete-time dynamics takes a distorted shape and is dramatically larger than a continuous-time theory could predict. Examples of applications of the proposed theory considered in this work include the approximation error of variants of SGD, the effect of minibatch noise, the optimal Bayesian inference, the escape rate from a sharp minimum, and the stationary covariance of a few second-order methods including damped Newton's method, natural gradient descent, and Adam.

Wed 21 July 18:25 - 18:30 PDT

(Spotlight)

Greg Yang · Edward Hu

As its width tends to infinity, a deep neural network's behavior under gradient descent can become simplified and predictable (e.g. given by the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK)), if it is parametrized appropriately (e.g. the NTK parametrization).
However, we show that the standard and NTK parametrizations of a neural network do not admit infinite-width limits that can *learn* features, which is crucial for pretraining and transfer learning such as with BERT.
We propose simple modifications to the standard parametrization to allow for feature learning in the limit.
Using the *Tensor Programs* technique, we derive explicit formulas for such limits.
On Word2Vec and few-shot learning on Omniglot via MAML, two canonical tasks that rely crucially on feature learning, we compute these limits exactly.
We find that they outperform both NTK baselines and finite-width networks, with the latter approaching the infinite-width feature learning performance as width increases.

Wed 21 July 18:30 - 18:35 PDT

(Spotlight)

Alain-Sam Cohen · Rama Cont · Alain Rossier · Renyuan Xu

Residual networks (ResNets) have displayed impressive results in pattern recognition and, recently, have garnered considerable theoretical interest due to a perceived link with neural ordinary differential equations (neural ODEs). This link relies on the convergence of network weights to a smooth function as the number of layers increases. We investigate the properties of weights trained by stochastic gradient descent and their scaling with network depth through detailed numerical experiments. We observe the existence of scaling regimes markedly different from those assumed in neural ODE literature. Depending on certain features of the network architecture, such as the smoothness of the activation function, one may obtain an alternative ODE limit, a stochastic differential equation or neither of these. These findings cast doubts on the validity of the neural ODE model as an adequate asymptotic description of deep ResNets and point to an alternative class of differential equations as a better description of the deep network limit.

Wed 21 July 18:35 - 18:40 PDT

(Spotlight)

Roland S. Zimmermann · Yash Sharma · Steffen Schneider · Matthias Bethge · Wieland Brendel

Contrastive learning has recently seen tremendous success in self-supervised learning. So far, however, it is largely unclear why the learned representations generalize so effectively to a large variety of downstream tasks. We here prove that feedforward models trained with objectives belonging to the commonly used InfoNCE family learn to implicitly invert the underlying generative model of the observed data. While the proofs make certain statistical assumptions about the generative model, we observe empirically that our findings hold even if these assumptions are severely violated. Our theory highlights a fundamental connection between contrastive learning, generative modeling, and nonlinear independent component analysis, thereby furthering our understanding of the learned representations as well as providing a theoretical foundation to derive more effective contrastive losses.

Wed 21 July 18:40 - 18:45 PDT

(Spotlight)

Greg Yang · Etai Littwin

Yang (2020) recently showed that the Neural Tangent Kernel (NTK) at initialization has an infinite-width limit for a large class of architectures including modern staples such as ResNet and Transformers. However, their analysis does not apply to training. Here, we show the same neural networks (in the so-called NTK parametrization) during training follow a kernel gradient descent dynamics in function space, where the kernel is the infinite-width NTK. This completes the proof of the architectural universality of NTK behavior. To achieve this result, we apply the Tensor Programs technique: Write the entire SGD dynamics inside a Tensor Program and analyze it via the Master Theorem. To facilitate this proof, we develop a graphical notation for Tensor Programs, which we believe is also an important contribution toward the pedagogy and exposition of the Tensor Programs technique.

Wed 21 July 18:45 - 18:50 PDT

(Spotlight)

Shiwei Liu · Lu Yin · Decebal Constantin Mocanu · Mykola Pechenizkiy

In this paper, we introduce a new perspective on training deep neural networks capable of state-of-the-art performance without the need for the expensive over-parameterization by proposing the concept of In-Time Over-Parameterization (ITOP) in sparse training. By starting from a random sparse network and continuously exploring sparse connectivities during training, we can perform an Over-Parameterization over the course of training, closing the gap in the expressibility between sparse training and dense training. We further use ITOP to understand the underlying mechanism of Dynamic Sparse Training (DST) and discover that the benefits of DST come from its ability to consider across time all possible parameters when searching for the optimal sparse connectivity. As long as sufficient parameters have been reliably explored, DST can outperform the dense neural network by a large margin. We present a series of experiments to support our conjecture and achieve the state-of-the-art sparse training performance with ResNet-50 on ImageNet. More impressively, ITOP achieves dominant performance over the overparameterization-based sparse methods at extreme sparsities. When trained with ResNet-34 on CIFAR-100, ITOP can match the performance of the dense model at an extreme sparsity 98%.