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Ballroom 3 & 4

Moderator: Nadav Cohen


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Wed 20 July 13:30 - 13:35 PDT

The dynamics of representation learning in shallow, non-linear autoencoders

Maria Refinetti · Sebastian Goldt

Autoencoders are the simplest neural network for unsupervised learning, and thus an ideal framework for studying feature learning. While a detailed understanding of the dynamics of linear autoencoders has recently been obtained, the study of non-linear autoencoders has been hindered by the technical difficulty of handling training data with non-trivial correlations – a fundamental prerequisite for feature extraction. Here, we study the dynamics of feature learning in non-linear, shallow autoencoders. We derive a set of asymptotically exact equations that describe the generalisation dynamics of autoencoders trained with stochastic gradient descent (SGD) in the limit of high-dimensional inputs. These equations reveal that autoencoders learn the leading principal components of their inputs sequentially. An analysis of the long-time dynamics explains the failure of sigmoidal autoencoders to learn with tied weights, and highlights the importance of training the bias in ReLU autoencoders. Building on previous results for linear networks, we analyse a modification of the vanilla SGD algorithm which allows learning of the exact principal components. Finally, we show that our equations accurately describe the generalisation dynamics of non-linear autoencoders on realistic datasets such as CIFAR10.

Wed 20 July 13:35 - 13:40 PDT

Implicit Regularization in Hierarchical Tensor Factorization and Deep Convolutional Neural Networks

Noam Razin · Asaf Maman · Nadav Cohen

In the pursuit of explaining implicit regularization in deep learning, prominent focus was given to matrix and tensor factorizations, which correspond to simplified neural networks. It was shown that these models exhibit an implicit tendency towards low matrix and tensor ranks, respectively. Drawing closer to practical deep learning, the current paper theoretically analyzes the implicit regularization in hierarchical tensor factorization, a model equivalent to certain deep convolutional neural networks. Through a dynamical systems lens, we overcome challenges associated with hierarchy, and establish implicit regularization towards low hierarchical tensor rank. This translates to an implicit regularization towards locality for the associated convolutional networks. Inspired by our theory, we design explicit regularization discouraging locality, and demonstrate its ability to improve the performance of modern convolutional networks on non-local tasks, in defiance of conventional wisdom by which architectural changes are needed. Our work highlights the potential of enhancing neural networks via theoretical analysis of their implicit regularization.

Wed 20 July 13:40 - 13:45 PDT

Estimation in Rotationally Invariant Generalized Linear Models via Approximate Message Passing

Ramji Venkataramanan · Kevin Kögler · Marco Mondelli

We consider the problem of signal estimation in generalized linear models defined via rotationally invariant design matrices. Since these matrices can have an arbitrary spectral distribution, this model is well suited for capturing complex correlation structures which often arise in applications. We propose a novel family of approximate message passing (AMP) algorithms for signal estimation, and rigorously characterize their performance in the high-dimensional limit via a state evolution recursion. Our rotationally invariant AMP has complexity of the same order as the existing AMP derived under the restrictive assumption of a Gaussian design; our algorithm also recovers this existing AMP as a special case. Numerical results showcase a performance close to Vector AMP (which is conjectured to be Bayes-optimal in some settings), but obtained with a much lower complexity, as the proposed algorithm does not require a computationally expensive singular value decomposition.

Wed 20 July 13:45 - 13:50 PDT

Failure and success of the spectral bias prediction for Laplace Kernel Ridge Regression: the case of low-dimensional data

Umberto M. Tomasini · Antonio Sclocchi · Matthieu Wyart

Recently, several theories including the replica method made predictions for the generalization error of Kernel Ridge Regression. In some regimes, they predict that the method has a `spectral bias': decomposing the true function $f^*$ on the eigenbasis of the kernel, it fits well the coefficients associated with the O(P) largest eigenvalues, where $P$ is the size of the training set. This prediction works very well on benchmark data sets such as images, yet the assumptions these approaches make on the data are never satisfied in practice. To clarify when the spectral bias prediction holds, we first focus on a one-dimensional model where rigorous results are obtained and then use scaling arguments to generalize and test our findings in higher dimensions. Our predictions include the classification case $f(x)=$sign$(x_1)$ with a data distribution that vanishes at the decision boundary $p(x)\sim x_1^{\chi}$. For $\chi>0$ and a Laplace kernel, we find that (i) there exists a cross-over ridge $\lambda^*_{d,\chi}(P)\sim P^{-\frac{1}{d+\chi}}$ such that for $\lambda\gg \lambda^*_{d,\chi}(P)$, the replica method applies, but not for $\lambda\ll\lambda^*_{d,\chi}(P)$, (ii) in the ridge-less case, spectral bias predicts the correct training curve exponent only in the limit $d\rightarrow\infty$.

Wed 20 July 13:50 - 13:55 PDT

Regret Bounds for Stochastic Shortest Path Problems with Linear Function Approximation

Daniel Vial · Advait Parulekar · Sanjay Shakkottai · R Srikant

We propose an algorithm that uses linear function approximation (LFA) for stochastic shortest path (SSP). Under minimal assumptions, it obtains sublinear regret, is computationally efficient, and uses stationary policies. To our knowledge, this is the first such algorithm in the LFA literature (for SSP or other formulations). Our algorithm is a special case of a more general one, which achieves regret square root in the number of episodes given access to a computation oracle.

Wed 20 July 13:55 - 14:00 PDT

Universal Joint Approximation of Manifolds and Densities by Simple Injective Flows

Michael Puthawala · Matti Lassas · Ivan Dokmanic · Maarten de Hoop

We study approximation of probability measures supported on n-dimensional manifolds embedded in R^m by injective flows---neural networks composed of invertible flows and injective layers. We show that in general, injective flows between R^n and R^m universally approximate measures supported on images of extendable embeddings, which are a subset of standard embeddings: when the embedding dimension m is small, topological obstructions may preclude certain manifolds as admissible targets. When the embedding dimension is sufficiently large, m >= 3n+1, we use an argument from algebraic topology known as the clean trick to prove that the topological obstructions vanish and injective flows universally approximate any differentiable embedding. Along the way we show that the studied injective flows admit efficient projections on the range, and that their optimality can be established "in reverse," resolving a conjecture made in Brehmer & Cranmer 2020.

Wed 20 July 14:00 - 14:05 PDT

Bounding the Width of Neural Networks via Coupled Initialization - A Worst Case Analysis

Alexander Munteanu · Simon Omlor · Zhao Song · David Woodruff

A common method in training neural networks is to initialize all the weights to be independent Gaussian vectors. We observe that by instead initializing the weights into independent pairs, where each pair consists of two identical Gaussian vectors, we can significantly improve the convergence analysis. While a similar technique has been studied for random inputs [Daniely, NeurIPS 2020], it has not been analyzed with arbitrary inputs. Using this technique, we show how to significantly reduce the number of neurons required for two-layer ReLU networks, both in the under-parameterized setting with logistic loss, from roughly $\gamma^{-8}$ [Ji and Telgarsky, ICLR 2020] to $\gamma^{-2}$, where $\gamma$ denotes the separation margin with a Neural Tangent Kernel, as well as in the over-parameterized setting with squared loss, from roughly $n^4$ [Song and Yang, 2019] to $n^2$, implicitly also improving the recent running time bound of [Brand, Peng, Song and Weinstein, ITCS 2021]. For the under-parameterized setting we also prove new lower bounds that improve upon prior work, and that under certain assumptions, are best possible.

Wed 20 July 14:05 - 14:25 PDT

Last Iterate Risk Bounds of SGD with Decaying Stepsize for Overparameterized Linear Regression

Jingfeng Wu · Difan Zou · Vladimir Braverman · Quanquan Gu · Sham Kakade

Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) has been shown to generalize well in many deep learning applications. In practice, one often runs SGD with a geometrically decaying stepsize, i.e., a constant initial stepsize followed by multiple geometric stepsize decay, and uses the last iterate as the output. This kind of SGD is known to be nearly minimax optimal for classical finite-dimensional linear regression problems (Ge et al., 2019). However, a sharp analysis for the last iterate of SGD in the overparameterized setting is still open. In this paper, we provide a problem-dependent analysis on the last iterate risk bounds of SGD with decaying stepsize, for (overparameterized) linear regression problems. In particular, for last iterate SGD with (tail) geometrically decaying stepsize, we prove nearly matching upper and lower bounds on the excess risk. Moreover, we provide an excess risk lower bound for last iterate SGD with polynomially decaying stepsize and demonstrate the advantage of geometrically decaying stepsize in an instance-wise manner, which complements the minimax rate comparison made in prior work.

Wed 20 July 14:25 - 14:30 PDT

The Neural Race Reduction: Dynamics of Abstraction in Gated Networks

Andrew Saxe · Shagun Sodhani · Sam Lewallen

Our theoretical understanding of deep learning has not kept pace with its empirical success. While network architecture is known to be critical, we do not yet understand its effect on learned representations and network behavior, or how this architecture should reflect task structure.In this work, we begin to address this gap by introducing the Gated Deep Linear Network framework that schematizes how pathways of information flow impact learning dynamics within an architecture. Crucially, because of the gating, these networks can compute nonlinear functions of their input. We derive an exact reduction and, for certain cases, exact solutions to the dynamics of learning. Our analysis demonstrates that the learning dynamics in structured networks can be conceptualized as a neural race with an implicit bias towards shared representations, which then govern the model's ability to systematically generalize, multi-task, and transfer. We validate our key insights on naturalistic datasets and with relaxed assumptions. Taken together, our work gives rise to general hypotheses relating neural architecture to learning and provides a mathematical approach towards understanding the design of more complex architectures and the role of modularity and compositionality in solving real-world problems. The code and results are available at

Wed 20 July 14:30 - 14:35 PDT

Efficient Learning of CNNs using Patch Based Features

Alon Brutzkus · Amir Globerson · Eran Malach · Alon Regev Netser · Shai Shalev-Shwartz

Recent work has demonstrated the effectiveness of using patch based representations when learning from image data. Here we provide theoretical support for this observation, by showing that a simple semi-supervised algorithm that uses patch statistics can efficiently learn labels produced by a one-hidden-layer Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). Since CNNs are known to be computationally hard to learn in the worst case, our analysis holds under some distributional assumptions. We show that these assumptions are necessary and sufficient for our results to hold. We verify that the distributional assumptions hold on real-world data by experimenting on the CIFAR-10 dataset, and find that the analyzed algorithm outperforms a vanilla one-hidden-layer CNN. Finally, we demonstrate that by running the algorithm in a layer-by-layer fashion we can build a deep model which gives further improvements, hinting that this method provides insights about the behavior of deep CNNs.

Wed 20 July 14:35 - 14:40 PDT

Neural Tangent Kernel Analysis of Deep Narrow Neural Networks

Jongmin Lee · Joo Young Choi · Ernest Ryu · Albert No

The tremendous recent progress in analyzing the training dynamics of overparameterized neural networks has primarily focused on wide networks and therefore does not sufficiently address the role of depth in deep learning. In this work, we present the first trainability guarantee of infinitely deep but narrow neural networks. We study the infinite-depth limit of a multilayer perceptron (MLP) with a specific initialization and establish a trainability guarantee using the NTK theory. We then extend the analysis to an infinitely deep convolutional neural network (CNN) and perform brief experiments.

Wed 20 July 14:40 - 14:45 PDT

Modality Competition: What Makes Joint Training of Multi-modal Network Fail in Deep Learning? (Provably)

Yu Huang · Junyang Lin · Chang Zhou · Hongxia Yang · Longbo Huang

Despite the remarkable success of deep multi-modal learning in practice, it has not been well-explained in theory. Recently, it has been observed that the best uni-modal network outperforms the jointly trained multi-modal network across different combinations of modalities on various tasks, which is counter-intuitive since multiple signals would bring more information (Wang et al., 2020). This work provides a theoretical explanation for the emergence of such performance gap in neural networks for the prevalent joint training framework. Based on a simplified data distribution that captures the realistic property of multi-modal data, we prove that for multi-modal late-fusion network with (smoothed) ReLU activation trained jointly by gradient descent, different modalities will compete with each other and only a subset of modalities will be learned by its corresponding encoder networks. We refer to this phenomenon as modality competition, and the losing modalities, which fail to be discovered, are the origins where the sub-optimality of joint training comes from. In contrast, for uni-modal networks with similar learning settings, we provably show that the networks will focus on learning modality-associated features. Experimentally, we illustrate that modality competition matches the intrinsic behavior of late-fusion joint training to supplement our theoretical results. To the best of our knowledge, our work is the first theoretical treatment towards the degenerating aspect of multi-modal learning in neural networks.

Wed 20 July 14:45 - 14:50 PDT

Fully-Connected Network on Noncompact Symmetric Space and Ridgelet Transform based on Helgason-Fourier Analysis

Sho Sonoda · Isao Ishikawa · Masahiro Ikeda

Neural network on Riemannian symmetric space such as hyperbolic space and the manifold of symmetric positive definite (SPD) matrices is an emerging subject of research in geometric deep learning. Based on the well-established framework of the Helgason-Fourier transform on the noncompact symmetric space, we present a fully-connected network and its associated ridgelet transform on the noncompact symmetric space, covering the hyperbolic neural network (HNN) and the SPDNet as special cases. The ridgelet transform is an analysis operator of a depth-2 continuous network spanned by neurons, namely, it maps an arbitrary given function to the weights of a network. Thanks to the coordinate-free reformulation, the role of nonlinear activation functions is revealed to be a wavelet function. Moreover, the reconstruction formula is applied to present a constructive proof of the universality of finite networks on symmetric spaces.

Wed 20 July 14:50 - 14:55 PDT

Non-Vacuous Generalisation Bounds for Shallow Neural Networks

Feix Biggs · Benjamin Guedj

We focus on a specific class of shallow neural networks with a single hidden layer, namely those with $L_2$-normalised data and either a sigmoid-shaped Gaussian error function (``erf'') activation or a Gaussian Error Linear Unit (GELU) activation. For these networks, we derive new generalisation bounds through the PAC-Bayesian theory; unlike most existing such bounds they apply to neural networks with deterministic rather than randomised parameters. Our bounds are empirically non-vacuous when the network is trained with vanilla stochastic gradient descent on MNIST and Fashion-MNIST.

Wed 20 July 14:55 - 15:00 PDT

Maslow's Hammer in Catastrophic Forgetting: Node Re-Use vs. Node Activation

Sebastian Lee · Stefano Sarao Mannelli · Claudia Clopath · Sebastian Goldt · Andrew Saxe

Continual learning---learning new tasks in sequence while maintaining performance on old tasks---remains particularly challenging for artificial neural networks. Surprisingly, the amount of forgetting does not increase with the dissimilarity between the learned tasks, but appears to be worst in an intermediate similarity regime.In this paper we theoretically analyse both a synthetic teacher-student framework and a real data setup to provide an explanation of this phenomenon that we name Maslow's Hammer hypothesis. Our analysis reveals the presence of a trade-off between node activation and node re-use that results in worst forgetting in the intermediate regime. Using this understanding we reinterpret popular algorithmic interventions for catastrophic interference in terms of this trade-off, and identify the regimes in which they are most effective.