More is Better: when Infinite Overparameterization is Optimal and Overfitting is Obligatory

Published: 16 Jan 2024, Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024ICLR 2024 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
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Keywords: overparameterization, interpolation, random feature regression, kernel regression, generalization, overfitting
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TL;DR: We show that (a) random feature regression strictly benefits from additional features and (b) a realistic class of kernel learning task requires (near-)zero regularization to reach optimal performance.
Abstract: In our era of enormous neural networks, empirical progress has been driven by the philosophy that *more is better.* Recent deep learning practice has found repeatedly that larger model size, more data, and more computation (resulting in lower training loss) optimizing to near-interpolation improves performance. In this paper, we give theoretical backing to these empirical observations by showing that these three properties hold in random feature (RF) regression, a class of models equivalent to shallow networks with only the last layer trained. Concretely, we first show that the test risk of RF regression decreases monotonically with both the number of features and samples, provided the ridge penalty is tuned optimally. In particular, this implies that infinite width RF architectures are preferable to those of any finite width. We then proceed to demonstrate that, for a large class of tasks characterized by powerlaw eigenstructure, training to near-zero training loss is *obligatory:* near-optimal performance can *only* be achieved when the training error is much smaller than the test error. Grounding our theory in real-world data, we find empirically that standard computer vision tasks with convolutional neural kernels clearly fall into this class. Taken together, our results tell a simple, testable story of the benefits of overparameterization and overfitting in random feature models.
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Primary Area: learning theory
Submission Number: 4301