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Optimization/Probabilistic Methods

Room 310

Moderator: John Kirchenbauer


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Thu 21 July 12:30 - 12:35 PDT

Global Optimization Networks

Sen Zhao · Erez Louidor · Maya Gupta

We consider the problem of estimating a good maximizer of a black-box function given noisy examples. We propose to fit a new type of function called a global optimization network (GON), defined as any composition of an invertible function and a unimodal function, whose unique global maximizer can be inferred in $\mathcal{O}(D)$ time, and used as the estimate. As an example way to construct GON functions, and interesting in its own right, we give new results for specifying multi-dimensional unimodal functions using lattice models with linear inequality constraints. We extend to \emph{conditional} GONs that find a global maximizer conditioned on specified inputs of other dimensions. Experiments show the GON maximizers are statistically significantly better predictions than those produced by convex fits, GPR, or DNNs, and form more reasonable predictions for real-world problems.

Thu 21 July 12:35 - 12:40 PDT

Generalized Federated Learning via Sharpness Aware Minimization

Zhe Qu · Xingyu Li · Rui Duan · Yao Liu · Bo Tang · Zhuo Lu

Federated Learning (FL) is a promising framework for performing privacy-preserving, distributed learning with a set of clients. However, the data distribution among clients often exhibits non-IID, i.e., distribution shift, which makes efficient optimization difficult. To tackle this problem, many FL algorithms focus on mitigating the effects of data heterogeneity across clients by increasing the performance of the global model. However, almost all algorithms leverage Empirical Risk Minimization (ERM) to be the local optimizer, which is easy to make the global model fall into a sharp valley and increase a large deviation of parts of local clients. Therefore, in this paper, we revisit the solutions to the distribution shift problem in FL with a focus on local learning generality. To this end, we propose a general, effective algorithm, \texttt{FedSAM}, based on Sharpness Aware Minimization (SAM) local optimizer, and develop a momentum FL algorithm to bridge local and global models, \texttt{MoFedSAM}. Theoretically, we show the convergence analysis of these two algorithms and demonstrate the generalization bound of \texttt{FedSAM}. Empirically, our proposed algorithms substantially outperform existing FL studies and significantly decrease the learning deviation.

Thu 21 July 12:40 - 12:45 PDT

Delay-Adaptive Step-sizes for Asynchronous Learning

Xuyang Wu · Sindri Magnusson · Hamid Reza Feyzmahdavian · Mikael Johansson

In scalable machine learning systems, model training is often parallelized over multiple nodes that run without tight synchronization. Most analysis results for the related asynchronous algorithms use an upper bound on the information delays in the system to determine learning rates. Not only are such bounds hard to obtain in advance, but they also result in unnecessarily slow convergence. In this paper, we show that it is possible to use learning rates that depend on the actual time-varying delays in the system. We develop general convergence results for delay-adaptive asynchronous iterations and specialize these to proximal incremental gradient descent and block coordinate descent algorithms. For each of these methods, we demonstrate how delays can be measured on-line, present delay-adaptive step-size policies, and illustrate their theoretical and practical advantages over the state-of-the-art.

Thu 21 July 12:45 - 12:50 PDT

FedScale: Benchmarking Model and System Performance of Federated Learning at Scale

Fan Lai · Yinwei Dai · Sanjay Singapuram · Jiachen Liu · Xiangfeng Zhu · Harsha Madhyastha · Mosharaf Chowdhury

We present FedScale, a federated learning (FL) benchmarking suite with realistic datasets and a scalable runtime to enable reproducible FL research. FedScale datasets encompass a wide range of critical FL tasks, ranging from image classification and object detection to language modeling and speech recognition. Each dataset comes with a unified evaluation protocol using real-world data splits and evaluation metrics. To reproduce realistic FL behavior, FedScale contains a scalable and extensible runtime. It provides high-level APIs to implement FL algorithms, deploy them at scale across diverse hardware and software backends, and evaluate them at scale, all with minimal developer efforts. We combine the two to perform systematic benchmarking experiments and highlight potential opportunities for heterogeneity-aware co-optimizations in FL. FedScale is open-source and actively maintained by contributors from different institutions at We welcome feedback and contributions from the community.

Thu 21 July 12:50 - 12:55 PDT

Learning Augmented Binary Search Trees

Honghao Lin · Tian Luo · David Woodruff

A treap is a classic randomized binary search tree data structure that is easy to implement and supports O(log n) expected time access. However, classic treaps do not take advantage of the input distribution or patterns in the input. Given recent advances in algorithms with predictions, we propose pairing treaps with machine advice to form a learning-augmented treap. We are the first to propose a learning-augmented data structure that supports binary search tree operations such as range-query and successor functionalities. With the assumption that we have access to advice from a frequency estimation oracle, we assign learned priorities to the nodes to better improve the treap's structure. We theoretically analyze the learning-augmented treap's performance under various input distributions and show that under those circumstances, our learning-augmented treap has stronger guarantees than classic treaps and other classic tree-based data structures. Further, we experimentally evaluate our learned treap on synthetic datasets and demonstrate a performance advantage over other search tree data structures. We also present experiments on real world datasets with known frequency estimation oracles and show improvements as well.

Thu 21 July 12:55 - 13:00 PDT

Communication-efficient Distributed Learning for Large Batch Optimization

Rui Liu · Barzan Mozafari

Many communication-efficient methods have been proposed for distributed learning, whereby gradient compression is used to reduce the communication cost. However, given recent advances in large batch optimization (e.g., large batch SGD and its variant LARS with layerwise adaptive learning rates), the compute power of each machine is being fully utilized. This means, in modern distributed learning, the per-machine computation cost is no longer negligible compared to the communication cost. In this paper, we propose new gradient compression methods for large batch optimization, JointSpar and its variant JointSpar-LARS with layerwise adaptive learning rates, that jointly reduce both the computation and the communication cost. To achieve this, we take advantage of the redundancy in the gradient computation, unlike the existing methods compute all coordinates of the gradient vector, even if some coordinates are later dropped for communication efficiency. JointSpar and its variant further reduce the training time by avoiding the wasted computation on dropped coordinates. While computationally more efficient, we prove that JointSpar and its variant also maintain the same convergence rates as their respective baseline methods. Extensive experiments show that, by reducing the time per iteration, our methods converge faster than state-of-the-art compression methods in terms of wall-clock time.

Thu 21 July 13:00 - 13:20 PDT

Born-Infeld (BI) for AI: Energy-Conserving Descent (ECD) for Optimization

Giuseppe Bruno De Luca · Eva Silverstein

We introduce a novel framework for optimization based on energy-conserving Hamiltonian dynamics in a strongly mixing (chaotic) regime and establish its key properties analytically and numerically. The prototype is a discretization of Born-Infeld dynamics, with a squared relativistic speed limit depending on the objective function. This class of frictionless, energy-conserving optimizers proceeds unobstructed until slowing naturally near the minimal loss, which dominates the phase space volume of the system. Building from studies of chaotic systems such as dynamical billiards, we formulate a specific algorithm with good performance on machine learning and PDE-solving tasks, including generalization. It cannot stop at a high local minimum, an advantage in non-convex loss functions, and proceeds faster than GD+momentum in shallow valleys.

Thu 21 July 13:20 - 13:25 PDT

A Simple Guard for Learned Optimizers

Isabeau Prémont-Schwarz · Jaroslav Vítků · Jan Feyereisl

If the trend of learned components eventually outperforming their hand-crafted version continues, learned optimizers will eventually outperform hand-crafted optimizers like SGD or Adam. Even if learned optimizers (L2Os) eventually outpace hand-crafted ones in practice however, they are still not provably convergent and might fail out of distribution. These are the questions addressed here. Currently, learned optimizers frequently outperform generic hand-crafted optimizers (such as gradient descent) at the beginning of learning but they generally plateau after some time while the generic algorithms continue to make progress and often overtake the learned algorithm as Aesop’s tortoise which overtakes the hare. L2Os also still have a difficult time generalizing out of distribution. \cite{heatonsafeguarded2020} proposed Safeguarded L2O (GL2O) which can take a learned optimizer and safeguard it with a generic learning algorithm so that by conditionally switching between the two, the resulting algorithm is provably convergent. We propose a new class of Safeguarded L2O, called Loss-Guarded L2O (LGL2O), which is both conceptually simpler and computationally less expensive. The guarding mechanism decides solely based on the expected future loss value of both optimizers. Furthermore, we show theoretical proof of LGL2O's convergence guarantee and empirical results comparing to GL2O and other baselines showing that it combines the best of both L2O and SGD and that in practice converges much better than GL2O.

Thu 21 July 13:25 - 13:30 PDT

An Exact Symbolic Reduction of Linear Smart Predict+Optimize to Mixed Integer Linear Programming

Jihwan Jeong · Parth Jaggi · Andrew Butler · Scott Sanner

Predictive models are traditionally optimized independently of their use in downstream decision-based optimization. The `smart, predict then optimize' (SPO) framework addresses this shortcoming by optimizing predictive models in order to \emph{minimize} the final downstream decision loss. To date, several local first-order methods and convex approximations have been proposed. These methods have proven to be effective in practice, however, it remains generally unclear as to how close these local solutions are to global optimality. In this paper, we cast the SPO problem as a bi-level program and apply Symbolic Variable Elimination (SVE) to analytically solve the lower optimization. The resulting program can then be formulated as a mixed-integer linear program (MILP) which is solved to global optimality using standard off-the-shelf solvers. To our knowledge, our framework is the first to provide a globally optimal solution to the linear SPO problem. Experimental results comparing with state-of-the-art local SPO solvers show that the globally optimal solution obtains up to \emph{two orders of magnitude reduction} in decision regret.

Thu 21 July 13:30 - 13:35 PDT

Multi-Level Branched Regularization for Federated Learning

Jinkyu Kim · Geeho Kim · Bohyung Han

A critical challenge of federated learning is data heterogeneity and imbalance across clients, which leads to inconsistency between local networks and unstable convergence of global models.To alleviate the limitations, we propose a novel architectural regularization technique that constructs multiple auxiliary branches in each local model by grafting local and global subnetworks at several different levels and that learns the representations of the main pathway in the local model congruent to the auxiliary hybrid pathways via online knowledge distillation.The proposed technique is effective to robustify the global model even in the non-iid setting and is applicable to various federated learning frameworks conveniently without incurring extra communication costs. We perform comprehensive empirical studies and demonstrate remarkable performance gains in terms of accuracy and efficiency compared to existing methods.The source code is available at our project page.

Thu 21 July 13:35 - 13:40 PDT

Revisiting the Effects of Stochasticity for Hamiltonian Samplers

Giulio Franzese · Dimitrios Milios · Maurizio Filippone · Pietro Michiardi

We revisit the theoretical properties of Hamiltonian stochastic differential equations (SDES) for Bayesian posterior sampling, and we study the two types of errors that arise from numerical SDE simulation: the discretization error and the error due to noisy gradient estimates in the context of data subsampling. Our main result is a novel analysis for the effect of mini-batches through the lens of differential operator splitting, revising previous literature results. The stochastic component of a Hamiltonian SDE is decoupled from the gradient noise, for which we make no normality assumptions.This leads to the identification of a convergence bottleneck: when considering mini-batches, the best achievable error rate is $\mathcal{O}(\eta^2)$, with $\eta$ being the integrator step size.Our theoretical results are supported by an empirical study on a variety of regression and classification tasks for Bayesian neural networks.

Thu 21 July 13:40 - 13:45 PDT

Scaling Structured Inference with Randomization

Yao Fu · John Cunningham · Mirella Lapata

Deep discrete structured models have seen considerable progress recently, but traditional inference using dynamic programming (DP) typically works with a small number of states (less than hundreds), which severely limits model capacity. At the same time, across machine learning, there is a recent trend of using randomized truncation techniques to accelerate computations involving large sums. Here, we propose a family of randomized dynamic programming (RDP) algorithms for scaling structured models to tens of thousands of latent states. Our method is widely applicable to classical DP-based inference (partition, marginal, reparameterization, entropy) and different graph structures (chains, trees, and more general hypergraphs). It is also compatible with automatic differentiation: it can be integrated with neural networks seamlessly and learned with gradient-based optimizers. Our core technique approximates the sum-product by restricting and reweighting DP on a small subset of nodes, which reduces computation by orders of magnitude. We further achieve low bias and variance via Rao-Blackwellization and importance sampling. Experiments over different graphs demonstrate the accuracy and efficiency of our approach. Furthermore, when using RDP for training a structured variational autoencoder with a scaled inference network, we achieve better test likelihood than baselines and successfully prevent posterior collapse.

Thu 21 July 13:45 - 13:50 PDT

Discrete Tree Flows via Tree-Structured Permutations

Mai Elkady · Jim Lim · David I. Inouye

While normalizing flows for continuous data have been extensively researched, flows for discrete data have only recently been explored. These prior models, however, suffer from limitations that are distinct from those of continuous flows. Most notably, discrete flow-based models cannot be straightforwardly optimized with conventional deep learning methods because gradients of discrete functions are undefined or zero. Previous works approximate pseudo-gradients of the discrete functions but do not solve the problem on a fundamental level. In addition to that, backpropagation can be computationally burdensome compared to alternative discrete algorithms such as decision tree algorithms. Our approach seeks to reduce computational burden and remove the need for pseudo-gradients by developing a discrete flow based on decision trees---building upon the success of efficient tree-based methods for classification and regression for discrete data. We first define a tree-structured permutation (TSP) that compactly encodes a permutation of discrete data where the inverse is easy to compute; thus, we can efficiently compute the density value and sample new data. We then propose a decision tree algorithm to build TSPs that learns the tree structure and permutations at each node via novel criteria. We empirically demonstrate the feasibility of our method on multiple datasets.

Thu 21 July 13:50 - 13:55 PDT

Calibrated and Sharp Uncertainties in Deep Learning via Density Estimation

Volodymyr Kuleshov · Shachi Deshpande

Accurate probabilistic predictions can be characterized by two properties—calibration and sharpness. However, standard maximum likelihood training yields models that are poorly calibrated and thus inaccurate—a 90% confidence interval typically does not contain the true outcome 90% of the time. This paper argues that calibration is important in practice and is easy to maintain by performing low-dimensional density estimation. We introduce a simple training procedure based on recalibration that yields calibrated models without sacrificing overall performance; unlike previous approaches, ours ensures the most general property of distribution calibration and applies to any model, including neural networks. We formally prove the correctness of our procedure assuming that we can estimate densities in low dimensions and we establish uniform convergence bounds. Our results yield empirical performance improvements on linear and deep Bayesian models and suggest that calibration should be increasingly leveraged across machine learning.