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Enea Monzio Compagnoni, Antonio Orvieto, Hans Kersting, Frank Norbert Proske, Aurelien Lucchi

Minimax optimization problems have attracted a lot of attention over the past few years, with applications ranging from economics to machine learning. While advanced optimization methods exist for such problems, characterizing their dynamics in stochastic scenarios remains notably challenging. In this paper, we pioneer the use of stochastic differential equations (SDEs) to analyze and compare Minimax optimizers. Our SDE models for Stochastic Gradient Descent-Ascent, Stochastic Extragradient, and Stochastic Hamiltonian Gradient Descent are provable approximations of their algorithmic counterparts, clearly showcasing the interplay between hyperparameters, implicit regularization, and implicit curvature-induced noise. This perspective also allows for a unified and simplified analysis strategy based on the principles of It\^o calculus. Finally, our approach facilitates the derivation of convergence conditions and closed-form solutions for the dynamics in simplified settings, unveiling further insights into the behavior of different optimizers.

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Tin Sum Cheng, Aurelien Lucchi, Anastasis Kratsios, David Belius

We derive new bounds for the condition number of kernel matrices, which we then use to enhance existing non-asymptotic test error bounds for kernel ridgeless regression in the over-parameterized regime for a fixed input dimension. For kernels with polynomial spectral decay, we recover the bound from previous work; for exponential decay, our bound is non-trivial and novel. Our conclusion on overfitting is two-fold: (i) kernel regressors whose eigenspectrum decays polynomially must generalize well, even in the presence of noisy labeled training data; these models exhibit so-called tempered overfitting; (ii) if the eigenspectrum of any kernel ridge regressor decays exponentially, then it generalizes poorly, i.e., it exhibits catastrophic overfitting. This adds to the available characterization of kernel ridge regressors exhibiting benign overfitting as the extremal case where the eigenspectrum of the kernel decays sub-polynomially. Our analysis combines new random matrix theory (RMT) techniques with recent tools in the kernel ridge regression (KRR) literature.

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Tin Sum Cheng, Aurelien Lucchi, Ivan Dokmanić, Anastasis Kratsios, David Belius

Existing statistical learning guarantees for general kernel regressors often yield loose bounds when used with finite-rank kernels. Yet, finite-rank kernels naturally appear in several machine learning problems, e.g.\ when fine-tuning a pre-trained deep neural network's last layer to adapt it to a novel task when performing transfer learning. We address this gap for finite-rank kernel ridge regression (KRR) by deriving sharp non-asymptotic upper and lower bounds for the KRR test error of any finite-rank KRR. Our bounds are tighter than previously derived bounds on finite-rank KRR, and unlike comparable results, they also remain valid for any regularization parameters.

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Xuwei Yang, Anastasis Kratsios, Florian Krach, Matheus Grasselli, Aurelien Lucchi

We propose an optimal iterative scheme for federated transfer learning, where a central planner has access to datasets ${\cal D}_1,\dots,{\cal D}_N$ for the same learning model $f_{\theta}$. Our objective is to minimize the cumulative deviation of the generated parameters $\{\theta_i(t)\}_{t=0}^T$ across all $T$ iterations from the specialized parameters $\theta^\star_{1},\ldots,\theta^\star_N$ obtained for each dataset, while respecting the loss function for the model $f_{\theta(T)}$ produced by the algorithm upon halting. We only allow for continual communication between each of the specialized models (nodes/agents) and the central planner (server), at each iteration (round). For the case where the model $f_{\theta}$ is a finite-rank kernel regression, we derive explicit updates for the regret-optimal algorithm. By leveraging symmetries within the regret-optimal algorithm, we further develop a nearly regret-optimal heuristic that runs with $\mathcal{O}(Np^2)$ fewer elementary operations, where $p$ is the dimension of the parameter space. Additionally, we investigate the adversarial robustness of the regret-optimal algorithm showing that an adversary which perturbs $q$ training pairs by at-most $\varepsilon>0$, across all training sets, cannot reduce the regret-optimal algorithm's regret by more than $\mathcal{O}(\varepsilon q \bar{N}^{1/2})$, where $\bar{N}$ is the aggregate number of training pairs. To validate our theoretical findings, we conduct numerical experiments in the context of American option pricing, utilizing a randomly generated finite-rank kernel.

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Emanuele Francazi, Aurelien Lucchi, Marco Baity-Jesi

The initial state of neural networks plays a central role in conditioning the subsequent training dynamics. In the context of classification problems, we provide a theoretical analysis demonstrating that the structure of a neural network can condition the model to assign all predictions to the same class, even before the beginning of training, and in the absence of explicit biases. We show that the presence of this phenomenon, which we call "Initial Guessing Bias" (IGB), depends on architectural choices such as activation functions, max-pooling layers, and network depth. Our analysis of IGB has practical consequences, in that it guides architecture selection and initialization. We also highlight theoretical consequences, such as the breakdown of node-permutation symmetry, the violation of self-averaging, the validity of some mean-field approximations, and the non-trivial differences arising with depth.

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Sotiris Anagnostidis, Dario Pavllo, Luca Biggio, Lorenzo Noci, Aurelien Lucchi, Thomas Hoffmann

Autoregressive Transformers adopted in Large Language Models (LLMs) are hard to scale to long sequences. Despite several works trying to reduce their computational cost, most of LLMs still adopt attention layers between all pairs of tokens in the sequence, thus incurring a quadratic cost. In this study, we present a novel approach that dynamically prunes contextual information while preserving the model's expressiveness, resulting in reduced memory and computational requirements during inference. Our method employs a learnable mechanism that determines which uninformative tokens can be dropped from the context at any point across the generation process. By doing so, our approach not only addresses performance concerns but also enhances interpretability, providing valuable insight into the model's decision-making process. Our technique can be applied to existing pre-trained models through a straightforward fine-tuning process, and the pruning strength can be specified by a sparsity parameter. Notably, our empirical findings demonstrate that we can effectively prune up to 80\% of the context without significant performance degradation on downstream tasks, offering a valuable tool for mitigating inference costs. Our reference implementation achieves up to $2\times$ increase in inference throughput and even greater memory savings.

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Enea Monzio Compagnoni, Antonio Orvieto, Luca Biggio, Hans Kersting, Frank Norbert Proske, Aurelien Lucchi

We study the SAM (Sharpness-Aware Minimization) optimizer which has recently attracted a lot of interest due to its increased performance over more classical variants of stochastic gradient descent. Our main contribution is the derivation of continuous-time models (in the form of SDEs) for SAM and its unnormalized variant USAM, both for the full-batch and mini-batch settings. We demonstrate that these SDEs are rigorous approximations of the real discrete-time algorithms (in a weak sense, scaling linearly with the step size). Using these models, we then offer an explanation of why SAM prefers flat minima over sharp ones - by showing that it minimizes an implicitly regularized loss with a Hessian-dependent noise structure. Finally, we prove that perhaps unexpectedly SAM is attracted to saddle points under some realistic conditions. Our theoretical results are supported by detailed experiments.

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Sotiris Anagnostidis, Aurelien Lucchi, Thomas Hofmann

Accurately predicting road networks from satellite images requires a global understanding of the network topology. We propose to capture such high-level information by introducing a graph-based framework that simulates the addition of sequences of graph edges using a reinforcement learning (RL) approach. In particular, given a partially generated graph associated with a satellite image, an RL agent nominates modifications that maximize a cumulative reward. As opposed to standard supervised techniques that tend to be more restricted to commonly used surrogate losses, these rewards can be based on various complex, potentially non-continuous, metrics of interest. This yields more power and flexibility to encode problem-dependent knowledge. Empirical results on several benchmark datasets demonstrate enhanced performance and increased high-level reasoning about the graph topology when using a tree-based search. We further highlight the superiority of our approach under substantial occlusions by introducing a new synthetic benchmark dataset for this task.

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Aurelien Lucchi, Frank Proske, Antonio Orvieto, Francis Bach, Hans Kersting

Studying the properties of stochastic noise to optimize complex non-convex functions has been an active area of research in the field of machine learning. Prior work has shown that the noise of stochastic gradient descent improves optimization by overcoming undesirable obstacles in the landscape. Moreover, injecting artificial Gaussian noise has become a popular idea to quickly escape saddle points. Indeed, in the absence of reliable gradient information, the noise is used to explore the landscape, but it is unclear what type of noise is optimal in terms of exploration ability. In order to narrow this gap in our knowledge, we study a general type of continuous-time non-Markovian process, based on fractional Brownian motion, that allows for the increments of the process to be correlated. This generalizes processes based on Brownian motion, such as the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process. We demonstrate how to discretize such processes which gives rise to the new algorithm fPGD. This method is a generalization of the known algorithms PGD and Anti-PGD. We study the properties of fPGD both theoretically and empirically, demonstrating that it possesses exploration abilities that, in some cases, are favorable over PGD and Anti-PGD. These results open the field to novel ways to exploit noise for training machine learning models.

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Emanuele Francazi, Marco Baity-Jesi, Aurelien Lucchi

Data imbalance is a common problem in the machine learning literature that can have a critical effect on the performance of a model. Various solutions exist - such as the ones that focus on resampling or data generation - but their impact on the convergence of gradient-based optimizers used in deep learning is not understood. We here elucidate the significant negative impact of data imbalance on learning, showing that the learning curves for minority and majority classes follow sub-optimal trajectories when training with a gradient-based optimizer. The reason is not only that the gradient signal neglects the minority classes, but also that the minority classes are subject to a larger directional noise, which slows their learning by an amount related to the imbalance ratio. To address this problem, we propose a new algorithmic solution, for which we provide a detailed analysis of its convergence behavior. We show both theoretically and empirically that this new algorithm exhibits a better behavior with more stable learning curves for each class, as well as a better generalization performance.

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