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Abstract:We prove that a single-layer neural network trained with the online actor critic algorithm converges in distribution to a random ordinary differential equation (ODE) as the number of hidden units and the number of training steps $\rightarrow \infty$. In the online actor-critic algorithm, the distribution of the data samples dynamically changes as the model is updated, which is a key challenge for any convergence analysis. We establish the geometric ergodicity of the data samples under a fixed actor policy. Then, using a Poisson equation, we prove that the fluctuations of the model updates around the limit distribution due to the randomly-arriving data samples vanish as the number of parameter updates $\rightarrow \infty$. Using the Poisson equation and weak convergence techniques, we prove that the actor neural network and critic neural network converge to the solutions of a system of ODEs with random initial conditions. Analysis of the limit ODE shows that the limit critic network will converge to the true value function, which will provide the actor an asymptotically unbiased estimate of the policy gradient. We then prove that the limit actor network will converge to a stationary point.

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Abstract:Mathematical methods are developed to characterize the asymptotics of recurrent neural networks (RNN) as the number of hidden units, data samples in the sequence, hidden state updates, and training steps simultaneously grow to infinity. In the case of an RNN with a simplified weight matrix, we prove the convergence of the RNN to the solution of an infinite-dimensional ODE coupled with the fixed point of a random algebraic equation. The analysis requires addressing several challenges which are unique to RNNs. In typical mean-field applications (e.g., feedforward neural networks), discrete updates are of magnitude $\mathcal{O}(\frac{1}{N})$ and the number of updates is $\mathcal{O}(N)$. Therefore, the system can be represented as an Euler approximation of an appropriate ODE/PDE, which it will converge to as $N \rightarrow \infty$. However, the RNN hidden layer updates are $\mathcal{O}(1)$. Therefore, RNNs cannot be represented as a discretization of an ODE/PDE and standard mean-field techniques cannot be applied. Instead, we develop a fixed point analysis for the evolution of the RNN memory states, with convergence estimates in terms of the number of update steps and the number of hidden units. The RNN hidden layer is studied as a function in a Sobolev space, whose evolution is governed by the data sequence (a Markov chain), the parameter updates, and its dependence on the RNN hidden layer at the previous time step. Due to the strong correlation between updates, a Poisson equation must be used to bound the fluctuations of the RNN around its limit equation. These mathematical methods give rise to the neural tangent kernel (NTK) limits for RNNs trained on data sequences as the number of data samples and size of the neural network grow to infinity.

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