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Nikhil Ghosh, Spencer Frei, Wooseok Ha, Bin Yu

In this work, we investigate the dynamics of stochastic gradient descent (SGD) when training a single-neuron autoencoder with linear or ReLU activation on orthogonal data. We show that for this non-convex problem, randomly initialized SGD with a constant step size successfully finds a global minimum for any batch size choice. However, the particular global minimum found depends upon the batch size. In the full-batch setting, we show that the solution is dense (i.e., not sparse) and is highly aligned with its initialized direction, showing that relatively little feature learning occurs. On the other hand, for any batch size strictly smaller than the number of samples, SGD finds a global minimum which is sparse and nearly orthogonal to its initialization, showing that the randomness of stochastic gradients induces a qualitatively different type of "feature selection" in this setting. Moreover, if we measure the sharpness of the minimum by the trace of the Hessian, the minima found with full batch gradient descent are flatter than those found with strictly smaller batch sizes, in contrast to previous works which suggest that large batches lead to sharper minima. To prove convergence of SGD with a constant step size, we introduce a powerful tool from the theory of non-homogeneous random walks which may be of independent interest.

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Cenk Baykal, Dylan J Cutler, Nishanth Dikkala, Nikhil Ghosh, Rina Panigrahy, Xin Wang

One way of introducing sparsity into deep networks is by attaching an external table of parameters that is sparsely looked up at different layers of the network. By storing the bulk of the parameters in the external table, one can increase the capacity of the model without necessarily increasing the inference time. Two crucial questions in this setting are then: what is the lookup function for accessing the table and how are the contents of the table consumed? Prominent methods for accessing the table include 1) using words/wordpieces token-ids as table indices, 2) LSH hashing the token vector in each layer into a table of buckets, and 3) learnable softmax style routing to a table entry. The ways to consume the contents include adding/concatenating to input representation, and using the contents as expert networks that specialize to different inputs. In this work, we conduct rigorous experimental evaluations of existing ideas and their combinations. We also introduce a new method, alternating updates, that enables access to an increased token dimension without increasing the computation time, and demonstrate its effectiveness in language modeling.

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Cenk Baykal, Dylan Cutler, Nishanth Dikkala, Nikhil Ghosh, Rina Panigrahy, Xin Wang

It is well established that increasing scale in deep transformer networks leads to improved quality and performance. This increase in scale often comes with an increase in compute cost and inference latency. Consequently, research into methods which help realize the benefits of increased scale without leading to an increase in the compute cost becomes important. We introduce Alternating Updates (AltUp), a simple-to-implement method to increase a model's capacity without the computational burden. AltUp enables the widening of the learned representation without increasing the computation time by working on a subblock of the representation at each layer. Our experiments on various transformer models and language tasks demonstrate the consistent effectiveness of alternating updates on a diverse set of benchmarks. Finally, we present extensions of AltUp to the sequence dimension, and demonstrate how AltUp can be synergistically combined with existing approaches, such as Sparse Mixture-of-Experts models, to obtain efficient models with even higher capacity.

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Nikhil Ghosh, Mikhail Belkin

In this work we establish an algorithm and distribution independent non-asymptotic trade-off between the model size, excess test loss, and training loss of linear predictors. Specifically, we show that models that perform well on the test data (have low excess loss) are either "classical" -- have training loss close to the noise level, or are "modern" -- have a much larger number of parameters compared to the minimum needed to fit the training data exactly. We also provide a more precise asymptotic analysis when the limiting spectral distribution of the whitened features is Marchenko-Pastur. Remarkably, while the Marchenko-Pastur analysis is far more precise near the interpolation peak, where the number of parameters is just enough to fit the training data, in settings of most practical interest it differs from the distribution independent bound by only a modest multiplicative constant.

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Gal Kaplun, Nikhil Ghosh, Saurabh Garg, Boaz Barak, Preetum Nakkiran

In machine learning, we traditionally evaluate the performance of a single model, averaged over a collection of test inputs. In this work, we propose a new approach: we measure the performance of a collection of models when evaluated on a $\textit{single input point}$. Specifically, we study a point's $\textit{profile}$: the relationship between models' average performance on the test distribution and their pointwise performance on this individual point. We find that profiles can yield new insights into the structure of both models and data -- in and out-of-distribution. For example, we empirically show that real data distributions consist of points with qualitatively different profiles. On one hand, there are "compatible" points with strong correlation between the pointwise and average performance. On the other hand, there are points with weak and even $\textit{negative}$ correlation: cases where improving overall model accuracy actually $\textit{hurts}$ performance on these inputs. We prove that these experimental observations are inconsistent with the predictions of several simplified models of learning proposed in prior work. As an application, we use profiles to construct a dataset we call CIFAR-10-NEG: a subset of CINIC-10 such that for standard models, accuracy on CIFAR-10-NEG is $\textit{negatively correlated}$ with accuracy on CIFAR-10 test. This illustrates, for the first time, an OOD dataset that completely inverts "accuracy-on-the-line" (Miller, Taori, Raghunathan, Sagawa, Koh, Shankar, Liang, Carmon, and Schmidt 2021)

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Nikhil Ghosh, Song Mei, Bin Yu

To understand how deep learning works, it is crucial to understand the training dynamics of neural networks. Several interesting hypotheses about these dynamics have been made based on empirically observed phenomena, but there exists a limited theoretical understanding of when and why such phenomena occur. In this paper, we consider the training dynamics of gradient flow on kernel least-squares objectives, which is a limiting dynamics of SGD trained neural networks. Using precise high-dimensional asymptotics, we characterize the dynamics of the fitted model in two "worlds": in the Oracle World the model is trained on the population distribution and in the Empirical World the model is trained on a sampled dataset. We show that under mild conditions on the kernel and $L^2$ target regression function the training dynamics undergo three stages characterized by the behaviors of the models in the two worlds. Our theoretical results also mathematically formalize some interesting deep learning phenomena. Specifically, in our setting we show that SGD progressively learns more complex functions and that there is a "deep bootstrap" phenomenon: during the second stage, the test error of both worlds remain close despite the empirical training error being much smaller. Finally, we give a concrete example comparing the dynamics of two different kernels which shows that faster training is not necessary for better generalization.

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Nikhil Ghosh, Yuxin Chen, Yisong Yue

In this paper, we aim to learn a low-dimensional Euclidean representation from a set of constraints of the form "item j is closer to item i than item k". Existing approaches for this "ordinal embedding" problem require expensive optimization procedures, which cannot scale to handle increasingly larger datasets. To address this issue, we propose a landmark-based strategy, which we call Landmark Ordinal Embedding (LOE). Our approach trades off statistical efficiency for computational efficiency by exploiting the low-dimensionality of the latent embedding. We derive bounds establishing the statistical consistency of LOE under the popular Bradley-Terry-Luce noise model. Through a rigorous analysis of the computational complexity, we show that LOE is significantly more efficient than conventional ordinal embedding approaches as the number of items grows. We validate these characterizations empirically on both synthetic and real datasets. We also present a practical approach that achieves the "best of both worlds", by using LOE to warm-start existing methods that are more statistically efficient but computationally expensive.

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