Gradient Descent Provably Optimizes Over-parameterized Neural Networks

Simon S. Du, Xiyu Zhai, Barnabas Poczos, Aarti Singh

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: One of the mysteries in the success of neural networks is randomly initialized first order methods like gradient descent can achieve zero training loss even though the objective function is non-convex and non-smooth. This paper demystifies this surprising phenomenon for two-layer fully connected ReLU activated neural networks. For an $m$ hidden node shallow neural network with ReLU activation and $n$ training data, we show as long as $m$ is large enough and no two inputs are parallel, randomly initialized gradient descent converges to a globally optimal solution at a linear convergence rate for the quadratic loss function. Our analysis relies on the following observation: over-parameterization and random initialization jointly restrict every weight vector to be close to its initialization for all iterations, which allows us to exploit a strong convexity-like property to show that gradient descent converges at a global linear rate to the global optimum. We believe these insights are also useful in analyzing deep models and other first order methods.
  • Keywords: theory, non-convex optimization, overparameterization, gradient descent
  • TL;DR: We prove gradient descent achieves zero training loss with a linear rate on over-parameterized neural networks.
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