Keywords: deep linear network, trajectory analysis
Abstract: This work characterizes the effect of depth on the optimization landscape of linear regression, showing that, despite their nonconvexity, deeper models have more desirable optimization landscape. We consider a robust and over-parameterized setting, where a subset of measurements are grossly corrupted with noise, and the true linear model is captured via an $N$-layer diagonal linear neural network. On the negative side, we show that this problem does not have a benign landscape: given any $N\geq 1$, with constant probability, there exists a solution corresponding to the ground truth that is neither local nor global minimum. However, on the positive side, we prove that, for any $N$-layer model with $N\geq 2$, a simple sub-gradient method becomes oblivious to such “problematic” solutions; instead, it converges to a balanced solution that is not only close to the ground truth but also enjoys a flat local landscape, thereby eschewing the need for “early stopping”. Lastly, we empirically verify that the desirable optimization landscape of deeper models extends to other robust learning tasks, including deep matrix recovery and deep ReLU networks with $\ell_1$-loss.
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