Abstract: The success of deep learning is due in large part to our ability to solve certain massive non-convex optimization problems with relative ease. Though non-convex optimization is NP-hard, simple algorithms -- often variants of stochastic gradient descent -- exhibit surprising effectiveness in fitting large neural networks in practice. We argue that neural network loss landscapes often contain (nearly) a single basin after accounting for all possible permutation symmetries of hidden units a la Entezari et al. 2021. We introduce three algorithms to permute the units of one model to bring them into alignment with a reference model in order to merge the two models in weight space. This transformation produces a functionally equivalent set of weights that lie in an approximately convex basin near the reference model. Experimentally, we demonstrate the single basin phenomenon across a variety of model architectures and datasets, including the first (to our knowledge) demonstration of zero-barrier linear mode connectivity between independently trained ResNet models on CIFAR-10. Additionally, we identify intriguing phenomena relating model width and training time to mode connectivity. Finally, we discuss shortcomings of the linear mode connectivity hypothesis, including a counterexample to the single basin theory.
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