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On the impact of activation and normalization in obtaining isometric embeddings at initialization
Amir Joudaki · Hadi Daneshmand · Francis Bach

Thu Dec 14 08:45 AM -- 10:45 AM (PST) @ Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 #908

In this paper, we explore the structure of the penultimate Gram matrix in deep neural networks, which contains the pairwise inner products of outputs corresponding to a batch of inputs. In several architectures it has been observed that this Gram matrix becomes degenerate with depth at initialization, which dramatically slows training. Normalization layers, such as batch or layer normalization, play a pivotal role in preventing the rank collapse issue. Despite promising advances, the existing theoretical results do not extend to layer normalization, which is widely used in transformers, and can not quantitatively characterize the role of non-linear activations. To bridge this gap, we prove that layer normalization, in conjunction with activation layers, biases the Gram matrix of a multilayer perceptron towards the identity matrix at an exponential rate with depth at initialization. We quantify this rate using the Hermite expansion of the activation function.

Author Information

Amir Joudaki (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
Hadi Daneshmand (MIT)
Francis Bach (INRIA - Ecole Normale Superieure)

Francis Bach is a researcher at INRIA, leading since 2011 the SIERRA project-team, which is part of the Computer Science Department at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. After completing his Ph.D. in Computer Science at U.C. Berkeley, he spent two years at Ecole des Mines, and joined INRIA and Ecole Normale Supérieure in 2007. He is interested in statistical machine learning, and especially in convex optimization, combinatorial optimization, sparse methods, kernel-based learning, vision and signal processing. He gave numerous courses on optimization in the last few years in summer schools. He has been program co-chair for the International Conference on Machine Learning in 2015.

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