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Anant Raj, Umut Şimşekli, Alessandro Rudi

This paper deals with the problem of efficient sampling from a stochastic differential equation, given the drift function and the diffusion matrix. The proposed approach leverages a recent model for probabilities \citep{rudi2021psd} (the positive semi-definite -- PSD model) from which it is possible to obtain independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) samples at precision $\varepsilon$ with a cost that is $m^2 d \log(1/\varepsilon)$ where $m$ is the dimension of the model, $d$ the dimension of the space. The proposed approach consists in: first, computing the PSD model that satisfies the Fokker-Planck equation (or its fractional variant) associated with the SDE, up to error $\varepsilon$, and then sampling from the resulting PSD model. Assuming some regularity of the Fokker-Planck solution (i.e. $\beta$-times differentiability plus some geometric condition on its zeros) We obtain an algorithm that: (a) in the preparatory phase obtains a PSD model with L2 distance $\varepsilon$ from the solution of the equation, with a model of dimension $m = \varepsilon^{-(d+1)/(\beta-2s)} (\log(1/\varepsilon))^{d+1}$ where $0<s\leq1$ is the fractional power to the Laplacian, and total computational complexity of $O(m^{3.5} \log(1/\varepsilon))$ and then (b) for Fokker-Planck equation, it is able to produce i.i.d.\ samples with error $\varepsilon$ in Wasserstein-1 distance, with a cost that is $O(d \varepsilon^{-2(d+1)/\beta-2} \log(1/\varepsilon)^{2d+3})$ per sample. This means that, if the probability associated with the SDE is somewhat regular, i.e. $\beta \geq 4d+2$, then the algorithm requires $O(\varepsilon^{-0.88} \log(1/\varepsilon)^{4.5d})$ in the preparatory phase, and $O(\varepsilon^{-1/2}\log(1/\varepsilon)^{2d+2})$ for each sample. Our results suggest that as the true solution gets smoother, we can circumvent the curse of dimensionality without requiring any sort of convexity.

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Mert Gürbüzbalaban, Yuanhan Hu, Umut Şimşekli, Lingjiong Zhu

Cyclic and randomized stepsizes are widely used in the deep learning practice and can often outperform standard stepsize choices such as constant stepsize in SGD. Despite their empirical success, not much is currently known about when and why they can theoretically improve the generalization performance. We consider a general class of Markovian stepsizes for learning, which contain i.i.d. random stepsize, cyclic stepsize as well as the constant stepsize as special cases, and motivated by the literature which shows that heaviness of the tails (measured by the so-called "tail-index") in the SGD iterates is correlated with generalization, we study tail-index and provide a number of theoretical results that demonstrate how the tail-index varies on the stepsize scheduling. Our results bring a new understanding of the benefits of cyclic and randomized stepsizes compared to constant stepsize in terms of the tail behavior. We illustrate our theory on linear regression experiments and show through deep learning experiments that Markovian stepsizes can achieve even a heavier tail and be a viable alternative to cyclic and i.i.d. randomized stepsize rules.

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Benjamin Dupuis, George Deligiannidis, Umut Şimşekli

Providing generalization guarantees for modern neural networks has been a crucial task in statistical learning. Recently, several studies have attempted to analyze the generalization error in such settings by using tools from fractal geometry. While these works have successfully introduced new mathematical tools to apprehend generalization, they heavily rely on a Lipschitz continuity assumption, which in general does not hold for neural networks and might make the bounds vacuous. In this work, we address this issue and prove fractal geometry-based generalization bounds without requiring any Lipschitz assumption. To achieve this goal, we build up on a classical covering argument in learning theory and introduce a data-dependent fractal dimension. Despite introducing a significant amount of technical complications, this new notion lets us control the generalization error (over either fixed or random hypothesis spaces) along with certain mutual information (MI) terms. To provide a clearer interpretation to the newly introduced MI terms, as a next step, we introduce a notion of "geometric stability" and link our bounds to the prior art. Finally, we make a rigorous connection between the proposed data-dependent dimension and topological data analysis tools, which then enables us to compute the dimension in a numerically efficient way. We support our theory with experiments conducted on various settings.

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Anant Raj, Lingjiong Zhu, Mert Gürbüzbalaban, Umut Şimşekli

Heavy-tail phenomena in stochastic gradient descent (SGD) have been reported in several empirical studies. Experimental evidence in previous works suggests a strong interplay between the heaviness of the tails and generalization behavior of SGD. To address this empirical phenomena theoretically, several works have made strong topological and statistical assumptions to link the generalization error to heavy tails. Very recently, new generalization bounds have been proven, indicating a non-monotonic relationship between the generalization error and heavy tails, which is more pertinent to the reported empirical observations. While these bounds do not require additional topological assumptions given that SGD can be modeled using a heavy-tailed stochastic differential equation (SDE), they can only apply to simple quadratic problems. In this paper, we build on this line of research and develop generalization bounds for a more general class of objective functions, which includes non-convex functions as well. Our approach is based on developing Wasserstein stability bounds for heavy-tailed SDEs and their discretizations, which we then convert to generalization bounds. Our results do not require any nontrivial assumptions; yet, they shed more light to the empirical observations, thanks to the generality of the loss functions.

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Sejun Park, Umut Şimşekli, Murat A. Erdogdu

In this paper, we propose a new covering technique localized for the trajectories of SGD. This localization provides an algorithm-specific complexity measured by the covering number, which can have dimension-independent cardinality in contrast to standard uniform covering arguments that result in exponential dimension dependency. Based on this localized construction, we show that if the objective function is a finite perturbation of a piecewise strongly convex and smooth function with $P$ pieces, i.e. non-convex and non-smooth in general, the generalization error can be upper bounded by $O(\sqrt{(\log n\log(nP))/n})$, where $n$ is the number of data samples. In particular, this rate is independent of dimension and does not require early stopping and decaying step size. Finally, we employ these results in various contexts and derive generalization bounds for multi-index linear models, multi-class support vector machines, and $K$-means clustering for both hard and soft label setups, improving the known state-of-the-art rates.

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Anant Raj, Melih Barsbey, Mert Gürbüzbalaban, Lingjiong Zhu, Umut Şimşekli

Recent studies have shown that heavy tails can emerge in stochastic optimization and that the heaviness of the tails has links to the generalization error. While these studies have shed light on interesting aspects of the generalization behavior in modern settings, they relied on strong topological and statistical regularity assumptions, which are hard to verify in practice. Furthermore, it has been empirically illustrated that the relation between heavy tails and generalization might not always be monotonic in practice, contrary to the conclusions of existing theory. In this study, we establish novel links between the tail behavior and generalization properties of stochastic gradient descent (SGD), through the lens of algorithmic stability. We consider a quadratic optimization problem and use a heavy-tailed stochastic differential equation as a proxy for modeling the heavy-tailed behavior emerging in SGD. We then prove uniform stability bounds, which reveal the following outcomes: (i) Without making any exotic assumptions, we show that SGD will not be stable if the stability is measured with the squared-loss $x\mapsto x^2$, whereas it in turn becomes stable if the stability is instead measured with a surrogate loss $x\mapsto |x|^p$ with some $p<2$. (ii) Depending on the variance of the data, there exists a \emph{`threshold of heavy-tailedness'} such that the generalization error decreases as the tails become heavier, as long as the tails are lighter than this threshold. This suggests that the relation between heavy tails and generalization is not globally monotonic. (iii) We prove matching lower-bounds on uniform stability, implying that our bounds are tight in terms of the heaviness of the tails. We support our theory with synthetic and real neural network experiments.

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Soon Hoe Lim, Yijun Wan, Umut Şimşekli

Recent studies have shown that gradient descent (GD) can achieve improved generalization when its dynamics exhibits a chaotic behavior. However, to obtain the desired effect, the step-size should be chosen sufficiently large, a task which is problem dependent and can be difficult in practice. In this study, we incorporate a chaotic component to GD in a controlled manner, and introduce multiscale perturbed GD (MPGD), a novel optimization framework where the GD recursion is augmented with chaotic perturbations that evolve via an independent dynamical system. We analyze MPGD from three different angles: (i) By building up on recent advances in rough paths theory, we show that, under appropriate assumptions, as the step-size decreases, the MPGD recursion converges weakly to a stochastic differential equation (SDE) driven by a heavy-tailed L\'evy-stable process. (ii) By making connections to recently developed generalization bounds for heavy-tailed processes, we derive a generalization bound for the limiting SDE and relate the worst-case generalization error over the trajectories of the process to the parameters of MPGD. (iii) We analyze the implicit regularization effect brought by the dynamical regularization and show that, in the weak perturbation regime, MPGD introduces terms that penalize the Hessian of the loss function. Empirical results are provided to demonstrate the advantages of MPGD.

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Milad Sefidgaran, Amin Gohari, Gaël Richard, Umut Şimşekli

Understanding generalization in modern machine learning settings has been one of the major challenges in statistical learning theory. In this context, recent years have witnessed the development of various generalization bounds suggesting different complexity notions such as the mutual information between the data sample and the algorithm output, compressibility of the hypothesis space, and the fractal dimension of the hypothesis space. While these bounds have illuminated the problem at hand from different angles, their suggested complexity notions might appear seemingly unrelated, thereby restricting their high-level impact. In this study, we prove novel generalization bounds through the lens of rate-distortion theory, and explicitly relate the concepts of mutual information, compressibility, and fractal dimensions in a single mathematical framework. Our approach consists of (i) defining a generalized notion of compressibility by using source coding concepts, and (ii) showing that the `compression error rate' can be linked to the generalization error both in expectation and with high probability. We show that in the `lossless compression' setting, we recover and improve existing mutual information-based bounds, whereas a `lossy compression' scheme allows us to link generalization to the rate-distortion dimension -- a particular notion of fractal dimension. Our results bring a more unified perspective on generalization and open up several future research directions.

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Tolga Birdal, Aaron Lou, Leonidas Guibas, Umut Şimşekli

Disobeying the classical wisdom of statistical learning theory, modern deep neural networks generalize well even though they typically contain millions of parameters. Recently, it has been shown that the trajectories of iterative optimization algorithms can possess fractal structures, and their generalization error can be formally linked to the complexity of such fractals. This complexity is measured by the fractal's intrinsic dimension, a quantity usually much smaller than the number of parameters in the network. Even though this perspective provides an explanation for why overparametrized networks would not overfit, computing the intrinsic dimension (e.g., for monitoring generalization during training) is a notoriously difficult task, where existing methods typically fail even in moderate ambient dimensions. In this study, we consider this problem from the lens of topological data analysis (TDA) and develop a generic computational tool that is built on rigorous mathematical foundations. By making a novel connection between learning theory and TDA, we first illustrate that the generalization error can be equivalently bounded in terms of a notion called the 'persistent homology dimension' (PHD), where, compared with prior work, our approach does not require any additional geometrical or statistical assumptions on the training dynamics. Then, by utilizing recently established theoretical results and TDA tools, we develop an efficient algorithm to estimate PHD in the scale of modern deep neural networks and further provide visualization tools to help understand generalization in deep learning. Our experiments show that the proposed approach can efficiently compute a network's intrinsic dimension in a variety of settings, which is predictive of the generalization error.

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Liam Hodgkinson, Umut Şimşekli, Rajiv Khanna, Michael W. Mahoney

Despite the ubiquitous use of stochastic optimization algorithms in machine learning, the precise impact of these algorithms on generalization performance in realistic non-convex settings is still poorly understood. In this paper, we provide an encompassing theoretical framework for investigating the generalization properties of stochastic optimizers, which is based on their dynamics. We first prove a generalization bound attributable to the optimizer dynamics in terms of the celebrated Fernique-Talagrand functional applied to the trajectory of the optimizer. This data- and algorithm-dependent bound is shown to be the sharpest possible in the absence of further assumptions. We then specialize this result by exploiting the Markovian structure of stochastic optimizers, deriving generalization bounds in terms of the (data-dependent) transition kernels associated with the optimization algorithms. In line with recent work that has revealed connections between generalization and heavy-tailed behavior in stochastic optimization, we link the generalization error to the local tail behavior of the transition kernels. We illustrate that the local power-law exponent of the kernel acts as an effective dimension, which decreases as the transitions become "less Gaussian". We support our theory with empirical results from a variety of neural networks, and we show that both the Fernique-Talagrand functional and the local power-law exponent are predictive of generalization performance.

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