- Abstract: Many machine learning problems reduce to the problem of minimizing an expected risk. Incremental gradient (IG) methods, such as stochastic gradient descent and its variants, have been successfully used to train the largest of machine learning models. IG methods, however, are in general slow to converge and sensitive to stepsize choices. Therefore, much work has focused on speeding them up by reducing the variance of the estimated gradient or choosing better stepsizes. An alternative strategy would be to select a carefully chosen subset of training data, train only on that subset, and hence speed up optimization. However, it remains an open question how to achieve this, both theoretically as well as practically, while not compromising on the quality of the final model. Here we develop CRAIG, a method for selecting a weighted subset (or coreset) of training data in order to speed up IG methods. We prove that by greedily selecting a subset S of training data that minimizes the upper-bound on the estimation error of the full gradient, running IG on this subset will converge to the (near)optimal solution in the same number of epochs as running IG on the full data. But because at each epoch the gradients are computed only on the subset S, we obtain a speedup that is inversely proportional to the size of S. Our subset selection algorithm is fully general and can be applied to most IG methods. We further demonstrate practical effectiveness of our algorithm, CRAIG, through an extensive set of experiments on several applications, including logistic regression and deep neural networks. Experiments show that CRAIG, while achieving practically the same loss, speeds up IG methods by up to 10x for convex and 3x for non-convex (deep learning) problems.
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