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Understanding Incremental Learning of Gradient Descent: A Fine-grained Analysis of Matrix Sensing

Jikai Jin · Zhiyuan Li · Kaifeng Lyu · Simon Du · Jason Lee

Exhibit Hall 1 #332


It is believed that Gradient Descent (GD) induces an implicit bias towards good generalization in training machine learning models. This paper provides a fine-grained analysis of the dynamics of GD for the matrix sensing problem, whose goal is to recover a low-rank ground-truth matrix from near-isotropic linear measurements. It is shown that GD with small initialization behaves similarly to the greedy low-rank learning heuristics and follows an incremental learning procedure: GD sequentially learns solutions with increasing ranks until it recovers the ground truth matrix. Compared to existing works which only analyze the first learning phase for rank-1 solutions, our result provides characterizations for the whole learning process. Moreover, besides the over-parameterized regime that many prior works focused on, our analysis of the incremental learning procedure also applies to the under-parameterized regime. Finally, we conduct numerical experiments to confirm our theoretical findings.

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