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Algorithmic Stability of Heavy-Tailed SGD with General Loss Functions

Anant Raj · Lingjiong Zhu · Mert Gurbuzbalaban · Umut Simsekli

Exhibit Hall 1 #517


Heavy-tail phenomena in stochastic gradient descent (SGD) have been reported in several empirical studies. Experimental evidence in previous works suggests a strong interplay between the heaviness of the tails and generalization behavior of SGD. To address this empirical phenomena theoretically, several works have made strong topological and statistical assumptions to link the generalization error to heavy tails. Very recently, new generalization bounds have been proven, indicating a non-monotonic relationship between the generalization error and heavy tails, which is more pertinent to the reported empirical observations. While these bounds do not require additional topological assumptions given that SGD can be modeled using a heavy-tailed stochastic differential equation (SDE), they can only apply to simple quadratic problems. In this paper, we build on this line of research and develop generalization bounds for a more general class of objective functions, which includes non-convex functions as well. Our approach is based on developing Wasserstein stability bounds for heavy-tailed SDEs and their discretizations, which we then convert to generalization bounds. Our results do not require any nontrivial assumptions; yet, they shed more light to the empirical observations, thanks to the generality of the loss functions.

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