Deep, Skinny Neural Networks are not Universal Approximators

Jesse Johnson

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: In order to choose a neural network architecture that will be effective for a particular modeling problem, one must understand the limitations imposed by each of the potential options. These limitations are typically described in terms of information theoretic bounds, or by comparing the relative complexity needed to approximate example functions between different architectures. In this paper, we examine the topological constraints that the architecture of a neural network imposes on the level sets of all the functions that it is able to approximate. This approach is novel for both the nature of the limitations and the fact that they are independent of network depth for a broad family of activation functions.
  • TL;DR: This paper proves that skinny neural networks cannot approximate certain functions, no matter how deep they are.
  • Keywords: neural network, universality, expressability
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