Oral Session

Oral 1D DL Theory

Room R06-R09 (level 2)
Tue 12 Dec 8 a.m. PST — 8:45 a.m. PST


Tue 12 Dec. 8:00 - 8:15 PST

Sharpness Minimization Algorithms Do Not Only Minimize Sharpness To Achieve Better Generalization

Kaiyue Wen · Zhiyuan Li · Tengyu Ma

Despite extensive studies, the underlying reason as to why overparameterizedneural networks can generalize remains elusive. Existing theory shows that common stochastic optimizers prefer flatter minimizers of the training loss, and thusa natural potential explanation is that flatness implies generalization. This workcritically examines this explanation. Through theoretical and empirical investigation, we identify the following three scenarios for two-layer ReLU networks: (1)flatness provably implies generalization; (2) there exist non-generalizing flattestmodels and sharpness minimization algorithms fail to generalize poorly, and (3)perhaps most strikingly, there exist non-generalizing flattest models, but sharpnessminimization algorithms still generalize. Our results suggest that the relationshipbetween sharpness and generalization subtly depends on the data distributionsand the model architectures and sharpness minimization algorithms do not onlyminimize sharpness to achieve better generalization. This calls for the search forother explanations for the generalization of over-parameterized neural networks

Tue 12 Dec. 8:15 - 8:30 PST

Abide by the law and follow the flow: conservation laws for gradient flows

Sibylle Marcotte · Remi Gribonval · Gabriel Peyré

Understanding the geometric properties of gradient descent dynamics is a key ingredient in deciphering the recent success of very large machine learning models. A striking observation is that trained over-parameterized models retain some properties of the optimization initialization. This "implicit bias" is believed to be responsible for some favorable properties of the trained models and could explain their good generalization properties. The purpose of this article is threefold. First, we rigorously expose the definition and basic properties of "conservation laws", that define quantities conserved during gradient flows of a given model (e.g. of a ReLU network with a given architecture) with any training data and any loss. Then we explain how to find the maximal number of independent conservation lawsby performing finite-dimensional algebraic manipulations on the Lie algebra generated by the Jacobian of the model. Finally, we provide algorithms to: a) compute a family of polynomial laws; b) compute the maximal number of (not necessarily polynomial) independent conservation laws. We provide showcase examples that we fully work out theoretically. Besides, applying the two algorithms confirms for a number of ReLU network architectures that all known laws are recovered by the algorithm, and that there are no other independent laws. Such computational tools pave the way to understanding desirable properties of optimization initialization in large machine learning models.

Tue 12 Dec. 8:30 - 8:45 PST

A U-turn on Double Descent: Rethinking Parameter Counting in Statistical Learning

Alicia Curth · Alan Jeffares · Mihaela van der Schaar

Conventional statistical wisdom established a well-understood relationship between model complexity and prediction error, typically presented as a _U-shaped curve_ reflecting a transition between under- and overfitting regimes. However, motivated by the success of overparametrized neural networks, recent influential work has suggested this theory to be generally incomplete, introducing an additional regime that exhibits a second descent in test error as the parameter count $p$ grows past sample size $n$ -- a phenomenon dubbed _double descent_. While most attention has naturally been given to the deep-learning setting, double descent was shown to emerge more generally across non-neural models: known cases include _linear regression, trees, and boosting_. In this work, we take a closer look at the evidence surrounding these more classical statistical machine learning methods and challenge the claim that observed cases of double descent truly extend the limits of a traditional U-shaped complexity-generalization curve therein. We show that once careful consideration is given to _what is being plotted_ on the x-axes of their double descent plots, it becomes apparent that there are implicitly multiple, distinct complexity axes along which the parameter count grows. We demonstrate that the second descent appears exactly (and _only_) when and where the transition between these underlying axes occurs, and that its location is thus _not_ inherently tied to the interpolation threshold $p=n$. We then gain further insight by adopting a classical nonparametric statistics perspective. We interpret the investigated methods as _smoothers_ and propose a generalized measure for the _effective_ number of parameters they use _on unseen examples_, using which we find that their apparent double descent curves do indeed fold back into more traditional convex shapes -- providing a resolution to the ostensible tension between double descent and traditional statistical intuition.