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Aaron Defazio, Ashok Cutkosky, Harsh Mehta, Konstantin Mishchenko

Learning rate schedules used in practice bear little resemblance to those recommended by theory. We close much of this theory/practice gap, and as a consequence are able to derive new problem-adaptive learning rate schedules. Our key technical contribution is a refined analysis of learning rate schedules for a wide class of optimization algorithms (including SGD). In contrast to most prior works that study the convergence of the average iterate, we study the last iterate, which is what most people use in practice. When considering only worst-case analysis, our theory predicts that the best choice is the linear decay schedule: a popular choice in practice that sets the stepsize proportionally to $1 - t/T$, where $t$ is the current iteration and $T$ is the total number of steps. To go beyond this worst-case analysis, we use the observed gradient norms to derive schedules refined for any particular task. These refined schedules exhibit learning rate warm-up and rapid learning rate annealing near the end of training. Ours is the first systematic approach to automatically yield both of these properties. We perform the most comprehensive evaluation of learning rate schedules to date, evaluating across 10 diverse deep learning problems, a series of LLMs, and a suite of logistic regression problems. We validate that overall, the linear-decay schedule matches or outperforms all commonly used default schedules including cosine annealing, and that our schedule refinement method gives further improvements.

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Zhiyu Zhang, Heng Yang, Ashok Cutkosky, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

We study unconstrained Online Linear Optimization with Lipschitz losses. The goal is to simultaneously achieve ($i$) second order gradient adaptivity; and ($ii$) comparator norm adaptivity also known as "parameter freeness" in the literature. Existing regret bounds (Cutkosky and Orabona, 2018; Mhammedi and Koolen, 2020; Jacobsen and Cutkosky, 2022) have the suboptimal $O(\sqrt{V_T\log V_T})$ dependence on the gradient variance $V_T$, while the present work improves it to the optimal rate $O(\sqrt{V_T})$ using a novel continuous-time-inspired algorithm, without any impractical doubling trick. This result can be extended to the setting with unknown Lipschitz constant, eliminating the range ratio problem from prior works (Mhammedi and Koolen, 2020). Concretely, we first show that the aimed simultaneous adaptivity can be achieved fairly easily in a continuous time analogue of the problem, where the environment is modeled by an arbitrary continuous semimartingale. Then, our key innovation is a new discretization argument that preserves such adaptivity in the discrete time adversarial setting. This refines a non-gradient-adaptive discretization argument from (Harvey et al., 2023), both algorithmically and analytically, which could be of independent interest.

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Andrew Jacobsen, Ashok Cutkosky

Algorithms for online learning typically require one or more boundedness assumptions: that the domain is bounded, that the losses are Lipschitz, or both. In this paper, we develop a new setting for online learning with unbounded domains and non-Lipschitz losses. For this setting we provide an algorithm which guarantees $R_{T}(u)\le \tilde O(G\|u\|\sqrt{T}+L\|u\|^{2}\sqrt{T})$ regret on any problem where the subgradients satisfy $\|g_{t}\|\le G+L\|w_{t}\|$, and show that this bound is unimprovable without further assumptions. We leverage this algorithm to develop new saddle-point optimization algorithms that converge in duality gap in unbounded domains, even in the absence of meaningful curvature. Finally, we provide the first algorithm achieving non-trivial dynamic regret in an unbounded domain for non-Lipschitz losses, as well as a matching lower bound. The regret of our dynamic regret algorithm automatically improves to a novel $L^{*}$ bound when the losses are smooth.

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Ashok Cutkosky, Aaron Defazio, Harsh Mehta

We introduce a technique for tuning the learning rate scale factor of any base optimization algorithm and schedule automatically, which we call \textsc{mechanic}. Our method provides a practical realization of recent theoretical reductions for accomplishing a similar goal in online convex optimization. We rigorously evaluate \textsc{mechanic} on a range of large scale deep learning tasks with varying batch sizes, schedules, and base optimization algorithms. These experiments demonstrate that depending on the problem, \textsc{mechanic} either comes very close to, matches or even improves upon manual tuning of learning rates.

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Ashok Cutkosky, Harsh Mehta, Francesco Orabona

We present new algorithms for optimizing non-smooth, non-convex stochastic objectives based on a novel analysis technique. This improves the current best-known complexity for finding a $(\delta,\epsilon)$-stationary point from $O(\epsilon^{-4}\delta^{-1})$ stochastic gradient queries to $O(\epsilon^{-3}\delta^{-1})$, which we also show to be optimal. Our primary technique is a reduction from non-smooth non-convex optimization to online learning, after which our results follow from standard regret bounds in online learning. For deterministic and second-order smooth objectives, applying more advanced optimistic online learning techniques enables a new complexity of $O(\epsilon^{-1.5}\delta^{-0.5})$. Our techniques also recover all optimal or best-known results for finding $\epsilon$ stationary points of smooth or second-order smooth objectives in both stochastic and deterministic settings.

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Zhiyu Zhang, Ashok Cutkosky, Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

Motivated by time series forecasting, we study Online Linear Optimization (OLO) under the coupling of two problem structures: the domain is unbounded, and the performance of an algorithm is measured by its dynamic regret. Handling either of them requires the regret bound to depend on certain complexity measure of the comparator sequence -- specifically, the comparator norm in unconstrained OLO, and the path length in dynamic regret. In contrast to a recent work (Jacobsen & Cutkosky, 2022) that adapts to the combination of these two complexity measures, we propose an alternative complexity measure by recasting the problem into sparse coding. Adaptivity can be achieved by a simple modular framework, which naturally exploits more intricate prior knowledge of the environment. Along the way, we also present a new gradient adaptive algorithm for static unconstrained OLO, designed using novel continuous time machinery. This could be of independent interest.

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Harsh Mehta, Walid Krichene, Abhradeep Thakurta, Alexey Kurakin, Ashok Cutkosky

Leveraging transfer learning has recently been shown to be an effective strategy for training large models with Differential Privacy (DP). Moreover, somewhat surprisingly, recent works have found that privately training just the last layer of a pre-trained model provides the best utility with DP. While past studies largely rely on algorithms like DP-SGD for training large models, in the specific case of privately learning from features, we observe that computational burden is low enough to allow for more sophisticated optimization schemes, including second-order methods. To that end, we systematically explore the effect of design parameters such as loss function and optimization algorithm. We find that, while commonly used logistic regression performs better than linear regression in the non-private setting, the situation is reversed in the private setting. We find that linear regression is much more effective than logistic regression from both privacy and computational aspects, especially at stricter epsilon values ($\epsilon < 1$). On the optimization side, we also explore using Newton's method, and find that second-order information is quite helpful even with privacy, although the benefit significantly diminishes with stricter privacy guarantees. While both methods use second-order information, least squares is effective at lower epsilons while Newton's method is effective at larger epsilon values. To combine the benefits of both, we propose a novel algorithm called DP-FC, which leverages feature covariance instead of the Hessian of the logistic regression loss and performs well across all $\epsilon$ values we tried. With this, we obtain new SOTA results on ImageNet-1k, CIFAR-100 and CIFAR-10 across all values of $\epsilon$ typically considered. Most remarkably, on ImageNet-1K, we obtain top-1 accuracy of 88\% under (8, $8 * 10^{-7}$)-DP and 84.3\% under (0.1, $8 * 10^{-7}$)-DP.

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Jiujia Zhang, Ashok Cutkosky

We present new algorithms for online convex optimization over unbounded domains that obtain parameter-free regret in high-probability given access only to potentially heavy-tailed subgradient estimates. Previous work in unbounded domains considers only in-expectation results for sub-exponential subgradients. Unlike in the bounded domain case, we cannot rely on straight-forward martingale concentration due to exponentially large iterates produced by the algorithm. We develop new regularization techniques to overcome these problems. Overall, with probability at most $\delta$, for all comparators $\mathbf{u}$ our algorithm achieves regret $\tilde{O}(\| \mathbf{u} \| T^{1/\mathfrak{p}} \log (1/\delta))$ for subgradients with bounded $\mathfrak{p}^{th}$ moments for some $\mathfrak{p} \in (1, 2]$.

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Qinzi Zhang, Hoang Tran, Ashok Cutkosky

We develop a new reduction that converts any online convex optimization algorithm suffering $O(\sqrt{T})$ regret into an $\epsilon$-differentially private stochastic convex optimization algorithm with the optimal convergence rate $\tilde O(1/\sqrt{T} + \sqrt{d}/\epsilon T)$ on smooth losses in linear time, forming a direct analogy to the classical non-private "online-to-batch" conversion. By applying our techniques to more advanced adaptive online algorithms, we produce adaptive differentially private counterparts whose convergence rates depend on apriori unknown variances or parameter norms.

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