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Google AI

Abstract:Stacking, a heuristic technique for training deep residual networks by progressively increasing the number of layers and initializing new layers by copying parameters from older layers, has proven quite successful in improving the efficiency of training deep neural networks. In this paper, we propose a theoretical explanation for the efficacy of stacking: viz., stacking implements a form of Nesterov's accelerated gradient descent. The theory also covers simpler models such as the additive ensembles constructed in boosting methods, and provides an explanation for a similar widely-used practical heuristic for initializing the new classifier in each round of boosting. We also prove that for certain deep linear residual networks, stacking does provide accelerated training, via a new potential function analysis of the Nesterov's accelerated gradient method which allows errors in updates. We conduct proof-of-concept experiments to validate our theory as well.

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Authors:Abhishek Panigrahi, Nikunj Saunshi, Kaifeng Lyu, Sobhan Miryoosefi, Sashank Reddi, Satyen Kale, Sanjiv Kumar

Abstract:Recent developments in large language models have sparked interest in efficient pretraining methods. A recent effective paradigm is to perform stage-wise training, where the size of the model is gradually increased over the course of training (e.g. gradual stacking (Reddi et al., 2023)). While the resource and wall-time savings are appealing, it has limitations, particularly the inability to evaluate the full model during earlier stages, and degradation in model quality due to smaller model capacity in the initial stages. In this work, we propose an alternative framework, progressive subnetwork training, that maintains the full model throughout training, but only trains subnetworks within the model in each step. We focus on a simple instantiation of this framework, Random Path Training (RaPTr) that only trains a sub-path of layers in each step, progressively increasing the path lengths in stages. RaPTr achieves better pre-training loss for BERT and UL2 language models while requiring 20-33% fewer FLOPs compared to standard training, and is competitive or better than other efficient training methods. Furthermore, RaPTr shows better downstream performance on UL2, improving QA tasks and SuperGLUE by 1-5% compared to standard training and stacking. Finally, we provide a theoretical basis for RaPTr to justify (a) the increasing complexity of subnetworks in stages, and (b) the stability in loss across stage transitions due to residual connections and layer norm.

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Authors:Bo Liu, Rachita Chhaparia, Arthur Douillard, Satyen Kale, Andrei A. Rusu, Jiajun Shen, Arthur Szlam, Marc'Aurelio Ranzato

Abstract:Local stochastic gradient descent (Local-SGD), also referred to as federated averaging, is an approach to distributed optimization where each device performs more than one SGD update per communication. This work presents an empirical study of {\it asynchronous} Local-SGD for training language models; that is, each worker updates the global parameters as soon as it has finished its SGD steps. We conduct a comprehensive investigation by examining how worker hardware heterogeneity, model size, number of workers, and optimizer could impact the learning performance. We find that with naive implementations, asynchronous Local-SGD takes more iterations to converge than its synchronous counterpart despite updating the (global) model parameters more frequently. We identify momentum acceleration on the global parameters when worker gradients are stale as a key challenge. We propose a novel method that utilizes a delayed Nesterov momentum update and adjusts the workers' local training steps based on their computation speed. This approach, evaluated with models up to 150M parameters on the C4 dataset, matches the performance of synchronous Local-SGD in terms of perplexity per update step, and significantly surpasses it in terms of wall clock time.

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Abstract:We study the task of $(\epsilon, \delta)$-differentially private online convex optimization (OCO). In the online setting, the release of each distinct decision or iterate carries with it the potential for privacy loss. This problem has a long history of research starting with Jain et al. [2012] and the best known results for the regime of {\epsilon} not being very small are presented in Agarwal et al. [2023]. In this paper we improve upon the results of Agarwal et al. [2023] in terms of the dimension factors as well as removing the requirement of smoothness. Our results are now the best known rates for DP-OCO in this regime. Our algorithms builds upon the work of [Asi et al., 2023] which introduced the idea of explicitly limiting the number of switches via rejection sampling. The main innovation in our algorithm is the use of sampling from a strongly log-concave density which allows us to trade-off the dimension factors better leading to improved results.

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Abstract:Federated Averaging (FedAvg) and its variants are the most popular optimization algorithms in federated learning (FL). Previous convergence analyses of FedAvg either assume full client participation or partial client participation where the clients can be uniformly sampled. However, in practical cross-device FL systems, only a subset of clients that satisfy local criteria such as battery status, network connectivity, and maximum participation frequency requirements (to ensure privacy) are available for training at a given time. As a result, client availability follows a natural cyclic pattern. We provide (to our knowledge) the first theoretical framework to analyze the convergence of FedAvg with cyclic client participation with several different client optimizers such as GD, SGD, and shuffled SGD. Our analysis discovers that cyclic client participation can achieve a faster asymptotic convergence rate than vanilla FedAvg with uniform client participation under suitable conditions, providing valuable insights into the design of client sampling protocols.

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Abstract:Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) has been the method of choice for learning large-scale non-convex models. While a general analysis of when SGD works has been elusive, there has been a lot of recent progress in understanding the convergence of Gradient Flow (GF) on the population loss, partly due to the simplicity that a continuous-time analysis buys us. An overarching theme of our paper is providing general conditions under which SGD converges, assuming that GF on the population loss converges. Our main tool to establish this connection is a general converse Lyapunov like theorem, which implies the existence of a Lyapunov potential under mild assumptions on the rates of convergence of GF. In fact, using these potentials, we show a one-to-one correspondence between rates of convergence of GF and geometrical properties of the underlying objective. When these potentials further satisfy certain self-bounding properties, we show that they can be used to provide a convergence guarantee for Gradient Descent (GD) and SGD (even when the paths of GF and GD/SGD are quite far apart). It turns out that these self-bounding assumptions are in a sense also necessary for GD/SGD to work. Using our framework, we provide a unified analysis for GD/SGD not only for classical settings like convex losses, or objectives that satisfy PL / KL properties, but also for more complex problems including Phase Retrieval and Matrix sq-root, and extending the results in the recent work of Chatterjee 2022.

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Abstract:Consider the following optimization problem: Given $n \times n$ matrices $A$ and $\Lambda$, maximize $\langle A, U\Lambda U^*\rangle$ where $U$ varies over the unitary group $\mathrm{U}(n)$. This problem seeks to approximate $A$ by a matrix whose spectrum is the same as $\Lambda$ and, by setting $\Lambda$ to be appropriate diagonal matrices, one can recover matrix approximation problems such as PCA and rank-$k$ approximation. We study the problem of designing differentially private algorithms for this optimization problem in settings where the matrix $A$ is constructed using users' private data. We give efficient and private algorithms that come with upper and lower bounds on the approximation error. Our results unify and improve upon several prior works on private matrix approximation problems. They rely on extensions of packing/covering number bounds for Grassmannians to unitary orbits which should be of independent interest.

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Abstract:Most prior convergence results on differentially private stochastic gradient descent (DP-SGD) are derived under the simplistic assumption of uniform Lipschitzness, i.e., the per-sample gradients are uniformly bounded. This assumption is unrealistic in many problems, e.g., linear regression with Gaussian data. We relax uniform Lipschitzness by instead assuming that the per-sample gradients have \textit{sample-dependent} upper bounds, i.e., per-sample Lipschitz constants, which themselves may be unbounded. We derive new convergence results for DP-SGD on both convex and nonconvex functions when the per-sample Lipschitz constants have bounded moments. Furthermore, we provide principled guidance on choosing the clip norm in DP-SGD for convex settings satisfying our relaxed version of Lipschitzness, without making distributional assumptions on the Lipschitz constants. We verify the effectiveness of our recommendation via experiments on benchmarking datasets.

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Abstract:Existing theory predicts that data heterogeneity will degrade the performance of the Federated Averaging (FedAvg) algorithm in federated learning. However, in practice, the simple FedAvg algorithm converges very well. This paper explains the seemingly unreasonable effectiveness of FedAvg that contradicts the previous theoretical predictions. We find that the key assumption of bounded gradient dissimilarity in previous theoretical analyses is too pessimistic to characterize data heterogeneity in practical applications. For a simple quadratic problem, we demonstrate there exist regimes where large gradient dissimilarity does not have any negative impact on the convergence of FedAvg. Motivated by this observation, we propose a new quantity, average drift at optimum, to measure the effects of data heterogeneity, and explicitly use it to present a new theoretical analysis of FedAvg. We show that the average drift at optimum is nearly zero across many real-world federated training tasks, whereas the gradient dissimilarity can be large. And our new analysis suggests FedAvg can have identical convergence rates in homogeneous and heterogeneous data settings, and hence, leads to better understanding of its empirical success.

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Abstract:The Fokker-Planck equation (FPE) is the partial differential equation that governs the density evolution of the It\^o process and is of great importance to the literature of statistical physics and machine learning. The FPE can be regarded as a continuity equation where the change of the density is completely determined by a time varying velocity field. Importantly, this velocity field also depends on the current density function. As a result, the ground-truth velocity field can be shown to be the solution of a fixed-point equation, a property that we call self-consistency. In this paper, we exploit this concept to design a potential function of the hypothesis velocity fields, and prove that, if such a function diminishes to zero during the training procedure, the trajectory of the densities generated by the hypothesis velocity fields converges to the solution of the FPE in the Wasserstein-2 sense. The proposed potential function is amenable to neural-network based parameterization as the stochastic gradient with respect to the parameter can be efficiently computed. Once a parameterized model, such as Neural Ordinary Differential Equation is trained, we can generate the entire trajectory to the FPE.

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