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Umut Simsekli

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Approximate Heavy Tails in Offline (Multi-Pass) Stochastic Gradient Descent

Oct 27, 2023
Krunoslav Lehman Pavasovic, Alain Durmus, Umut Simsekli

A recent line of empirical studies has demonstrated that SGD might exhibit a heavy-tailed behavior in practical settings, and the heaviness of the tails might correlate with the overall performance. In this paper, we investigate the emergence of such heavy tails. Previous works on this problem only considered, up to our knowledge, online (also called single-pass) SGD, in which the emergence of heavy tails in theoretical findings is contingent upon access to an infinite amount of data. Hence, the underlying mechanism generating the reported heavy-tailed behavior in practical settings, where the amount of training data is finite, is still not well-understood. Our contribution aims to fill this gap. In particular, we show that the stationary distribution of offline (also called multi-pass) SGD exhibits 'approximate' power-law tails and the approximation error is controlled by how fast the empirical distribution of the training data converges to the true underlying data distribution in the Wasserstein metric. Our main takeaway is that, as the number of data points increases, offline SGD will behave increasingly 'power-law-like'. To achieve this result, we first prove nonasymptotic Wasserstein convergence bounds for offline SGD to online SGD as the number of data points increases, which can be interesting on their own. Finally, we illustrate our theory on various experiments conducted on synthetic data and neural networks.

* In Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS), Spotlight Presentation, 2023 
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Nonparametric Linear Feature Learning in Regression Through Regularisation

Jul 25, 2023
Bertille Follain, Umut Simsekli, Francis Bach

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Representation learning plays a crucial role in automated feature selection, particularly in the context of high-dimensional data, where non-parametric methods often struggle. In this study, we focus on supervised learning scenarios where the pertinent information resides within a lower-dimensional linear subspace of the data, namely the multi-index model. If this subspace were known, it would greatly enhance prediction, computation, and interpretation. To address this challenge, we propose a novel method for linear feature learning with non-parametric prediction, which simultaneously estimates the prediction function and the linear subspace. Our approach employs empirical risk minimisation, augmented with a penalty on function derivatives, ensuring versatility. Leveraging the orthogonality and rotation invariance properties of Hermite polynomials, we introduce our estimator, named RegFeaL. By utilising alternative minimisation, we iteratively rotate the data to improve alignment with leading directions and accurately estimate the relevant dimension in practical settings. We establish that our method yields a consistent estimator of the prediction function with explicit rates. Additionally, we provide empirical results demonstrating the performance of RegFeaL in various experiments.

* 42 pages, 5 figures 
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Generalization Guarantees via Algorithm-dependent Rademacher Complexity

Jul 04, 2023
Sarah Sachs, Tim van Erven, Liam Hodgkinson, Rajiv Khanna, Umut Simsekli

Algorithm- and data-dependent generalization bounds are required to explain the generalization behavior of modern machine learning algorithms. In this context, there exists information theoretic generalization bounds that involve (various forms of) mutual information, as well as bounds based on hypothesis set stability. We propose a conceptually related, but technically distinct complexity measure to control generalization error, which is the empirical Rademacher complexity of an algorithm- and data-dependent hypothesis class. Combining standard properties of Rademacher complexity with the convenient structure of this class, we are able to (i) obtain novel bounds based on the finite fractal dimension, which (a) extend previous fractal dimension-type bounds from continuous to finite hypothesis classes, and (b) avoid a mutual information term that was required in prior work; (ii) we greatly simplify the proof of a recent dimension-independent generalization bound for stochastic gradient descent; and (iii) we easily recover results for VC classes and compression schemes, similar to approaches based on conditional mutual information.

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Implicit Compressibility of Overparametrized Neural Networks Trained with Heavy-Tailed SGD

Jun 13, 2023
Yijun Wan, Abdellatif Zaidi, Umut Simsekli

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Neural network compression has been an increasingly important subject, due to its practical implications in terms of reducing the computational requirements and its theoretical implications, as there is an explicit connection between compressibility and the generalization error. Recent studies have shown that the choice of the hyperparameters of stochastic gradient descent (SGD) can have an effect on the compressibility of the learned parameter vector. Even though these results have shed some light on the role of the training dynamics over compressibility, they relied on unverifiable assumptions and the resulting theory does not provide a practical guideline due to its implicitness. In this study, we propose a simple modification for SGD, such that the outputs of the algorithm will be provably compressible without making any nontrivial assumptions. We consider a one-hidden-layer neural network trained with SGD and we inject additive heavy-tailed noise to the iterates at each iteration. We then show that, for any compression rate, there exists a level of overparametrization (i.e., the number of hidden units), such that the output of the algorithm will be compressible with high probability. To achieve this result, we make two main technical contributions: (i) we build on a recent study on stochastic analysis and prove a 'propagation of chaos' result with improved rates for a class of heavy-tailed stochastic differential equations, and (ii) we derive strong-error estimates for their Euler discretization. We finally illustrate our approach on experiments, where the results suggest that the proposed approach achieves compressibility with a slight compromise from the training and test error.

* 28 pages, 1 figure 
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Learning via Wasserstein-Based High Probability Generalisation Bounds

Jun 07, 2023
Paul Viallard, Maxime Haddouche, Umut Simsekli, Benjamin Guedj

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Minimising upper bounds on the population risk or the generalisation gap has been widely used in structural risk minimisation (SRM) - this is in particular at the core of PAC-Bayesian learning. Despite its successes and unfailing surge of interest in recent years, a limitation of the PAC-Bayesian framework is that most bounds involve a Kullback-Leibler (KL) divergence term (or its variations), which might exhibit erratic behavior and fail to capture the underlying geometric structure of the learning problem - hence restricting its use in practical applications. As a remedy, recent studies have attempted to replace the KL divergence in the PAC-Bayesian bounds with the Wasserstein distance. Even though these bounds alleviated the aforementioned issues to a certain extent, they either hold in expectation, are for bounded losses, or are nontrivial to minimize in an SRM framework. In this work, we contribute to this line of research and prove novel Wasserstein distance-based PAC-Bayesian generalisation bounds for both batch learning with independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) data, and online learning with potentially non-i.i.d. data. Contrary to previous art, our bounds are stronger in the sense that (i) they hold with high probability, (ii) they apply to unbounded (potentially heavy-tailed) losses, and (iii) they lead to optimizable training objectives that can be used in SRM. As a result we derive novel Wasserstein-based PAC-Bayesian learning algorithms and we illustrate their empirical advantage on a variety of experiments.

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Uniform-in-Time Wasserstein Stability Bounds for (Noisy) Stochastic Gradient Descent

May 20, 2023
Lingjiong Zhu, Mert Gurbuzbalaban, Anant Raj, Umut Simsekli

Algorithmic stability is an important notion that has proven powerful for deriving generalization bounds for practical algorithms. The last decade has witnessed an increasing number of stability bounds for different algorithms applied on different classes of loss functions. While these bounds have illuminated various properties of optimization algorithms, the analysis of each case typically required a different proof technique with significantly different mathematical tools. In this study, we make a novel connection between learning theory and applied probability and introduce a unified guideline for proving Wasserstein stability bounds for stochastic optimization algorithms. We illustrate our approach on stochastic gradient descent (SGD) and we obtain time-uniform stability bounds (i.e., the bound does not increase with the number of iterations) for strongly convex losses and non-convex losses with additive noise, where we recover similar results to the prior art or extend them to more general cases by using a single proof technique. Our approach is flexible and can be generalizable to other popular optimizers, as it mainly requires developing Lyapunov functions, which are often readily available in the literature. It also illustrates that ergodicity is an important component for obtaining time-uniform bounds -- which might not be achieved for convex or non-convex losses unless additional noise is injected to the iterates. Finally, we slightly stretch our analysis technique and prove time-uniform bounds for SGD under convex and non-convex losses (without additional additive noise), which, to our knowledge, is novel.

* 47 pages 
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Heavy-Tail Phenomenon in Decentralized SGD

May 16, 2022
Mert Gurbuzbalaban, Yuanhan Hu, Umut Simsekli, Kun Yuan, Lingjiong Zhu

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Recent theoretical studies have shown that heavy-tails can emerge in stochastic optimization due to `multiplicative noise', even under surprisingly simple settings, such as linear regression with Gaussian data. While these studies have uncovered several interesting phenomena, they consider conventional stochastic optimization problems, which exclude decentralized settings that naturally arise in modern machine learning applications. In this paper, we study the emergence of heavy-tails in decentralized stochastic gradient descent (DE-SGD), and investigate the effect of decentralization on the tail behavior. We first show that, when the loss function at each computational node is twice continuously differentiable and strongly convex outside a compact region, the law of the DE-SGD iterates converges to a distribution with polynomially decaying (heavy) tails. To have a more explicit control on the tail exponent, we then consider the case where the loss at each node is a quadratic, and show that the tail-index can be estimated as a function of the step-size, batch-size, and the topological properties of the network of the computational nodes. Then, we provide theoretical and empirical results showing that DE-SGD has heavier tails than centralized SGD. We also compare DE-SGD to disconnected SGD where nodes distribute the data but do not communicate. Our theory uncovers an interesting interplay between the tails and the network structure: we identify two regimes of parameters (stepsize and network size), where DE-SGD can have lighter or heavier tails than disconnected SGD depending on the regime. Finally, to support our theoretical results, we provide numerical experiments conducted on both synthetic data and neural networks.

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Quantitative Propagation of Chaos for SGD in Wide Neural Networks

Jul 14, 2020
Valentin De Bortoli, Alain Durmus, Xavier Fontaine, Umut Simsekli

In this paper, we investigate the limiting behavior of a continuous-time counterpart of the Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) algorithm applied to two-layer overparameterized neural networks, as the number or neurons (ie, the size of the hidden layer) $N \to +\infty$. Following a probabilistic approach, we show 'propagation of chaos' for the particle system defined by this continuous-time dynamics under different scenarios, indicating that the statistical interaction between the particles asymptotically vanishes. In particular, we establish quantitative convergence with respect to $N$ of any particle to a solution of a mean-field McKean-Vlasov equation in the metric space endowed with the Wasserstein distance. In comparison to previous works on the subject, we consider settings in which the sequence of stepsizes in SGD can potentially depend on the number of neurons and the iterations. We then identify two regimes under which different mean-field limits are obtained, one of them corresponding to an implicitly regularized version of the minimization problem at hand. We perform various experiments on real datasets to validate our theoretical results, assessing the existence of these two regimes on classification problems and illustrating our convergence results.

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