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Stochastic Optimization for Large-scale Optimal Transport
Aude Genevay · Marco Cuturi · Gabriel Peyré · Francis Bach

Mon Dec 05 09:00 AM -- 12:30 PM (PST) @ Area 5+6+7+8 #18

Optimal transport (OT) defines a powerful framework to compare probability distributions in a geometrically faithful way. However, the practical impact of OT is still limited because of its computational burden. We propose a new class of stochastic optimization algorithms to cope with large-scale problems routinely encountered in machine learning applications. These methods are able to manipulate arbitrary distributions (either discrete or continuous) by simply requiring to be able to draw samples from them, which is the typical setup in high-dimensional learning problems. This alleviates the need to discretize these densities, while giving access to provably convergent methods that output the correct distance without discretization error. These algorithms rely on two main ideas: (a) the dual OT problem can be re-cast as the maximization of an expectation; (b) entropic regularization of the primal OT problem results in a smooth dual optimization optimization which can be addressed with algorithms that have a provably faster convergence. We instantiate these ideas in three different computational setups: (i) when comparing a discrete distribution to another, we show that incremental stochastic optimization schemes can beat the current state of the art finite dimensional OT solver (Sinkhorn's algorithm) ; (ii) when comparing a discrete distribution to a continuous density, a re-formulation (semi-discrete) of the dual program is amenable to averaged stochastic gradient descent, leading to better performance than approximately solving the problem by discretization ; (iii) when dealing with two continuous densities, we propose a stochastic gradient descent over a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS). This is currently the only known method to solve this problem, and is more efficient than discretizing beforehand the two densities. We backup these claims on a set of discrete, semi-discrete and continuous benchmark problems.

Author Information

Aude Genevay (Université Paris Dauphine)
Marco Cuturi (Apple)

Marco Cuturi is a research scientist at Apple, in Paris. He received his Ph.D. in 11/2005 from the Ecole des Mines de Paris in applied mathematics. Before that he graduated from National School of Statistics (ENSAE) with a master degree (MVA) from ENS Cachan. He worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Statistical Mathematics, Tokyo, between 11/2005 and 3/2007 and then in the financial industry between 4/2007 and 9/2008. After working at the ORFE department of Princeton University as a lecturer between 2/2009 and 8/2010, he was at the Graduate School of Informatics of Kyoto University between 9/2010 and 9/2016 as a tenured associate professor. He joined ENSAE in 9/2016 as a professor, where he is now working part-time. He was at Google between 10/2018 and 1/2022. His main employment is now with Apple, since 1/2022, as a research scientist working on fundamental aspects of machine learning.

Gabriel Peyré (CNRS and DMA)
Francis Bach (INRIA - Ecole Normale Superieure)

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