Deep Frank-Wolfe For Neural Network Optimization

Leonard Berrada, Andrew Zisserman, M. Pawan Kumar

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Learning a deep neural network requires solving a challenging optimization problem: it is a high-dimensional, non-convex and non-smooth minimization problem with a large number of terms. The current practice in neural network optimization is to rely on the stochastic gradient descent (SGD) algorithm or its adaptive variants. However, SGD requires a hand-designed schedule for the learning rate. In addition, its adaptive variants tend to produce solutions that generalize less well on unseen data than SGD with a hand-designed schedule. We present an optimization method that offers empirically the best of both worlds: our algorithm yields good generalization performance while requiring only one hyper-parameter. Our approach is based on a composite proximal framework, which exploits the compositional nature of deep neural networks and can leverage powerful convex optimization algorithms by design. Specifically, we employ the Frank-Wolfe (FW) algorithm for SVM, which computes an optimal step-size in closed-form at each time-step. We further show that the descent direction is given by a simple backward pass in the network, yielding the same computational cost per iteration as SGD. We present experiments on the CIFAR and SNLI data sets, where we demonstrate the significant superiority of our method over Adam, Adagrad, as well as the recently proposed BPGrad and AMSGrad. Furthermore, we compare our algorithm to SGD with a hand-designed learning rate schedule, and show that it provides similar generalization while often converging faster. The code is publicly available at
  • Keywords: optimization, conditional gradient, Frank-Wolfe, SVM
  • TL;DR: We train neural networks by locally linearizing them and using a linear SVM solver (Frank-Wolfe) at each iteration.
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