Beyond NTK with Vanilla Gradient Descent: A Mean-Field Analysis of Neural Networks with Polynomial Width, Samples, and Time

Arvind Mahankali · Haochen Zhang · Kefan Dong · Margalit Glasgow · Tengyu Ma

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #828
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Wed 13 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST

Abstract: Despite recent theoretical progress on the non-convex optimization of two-layer neural networks, it is still an open question whether gradient descent on neural networks without unnatural modifications can achieve better sample complexity than kernel methods. This paper provides a clean mean-field analysis of projected gradient flow on polynomial-width two-layer neural networks. Different from prior works, our analysis does not require unnatural modifications of the optimization algorithm. We prove that with sample size $n = O(d^{3.1})$ where $d$ is the dimension of the inputs, the network trained with projected gradient flow converges in polynomial time to a non-trivial error that is not achievable by kernel methods using $n \ll d^4$ samples, hence demonstrating a clear separation between unmodified gradient descent and NTK. As a corollary, we show that projected gradient descent with a positive learning rate and a polynomial number of iterations converges to low error with the same sample complexity.

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