Keywords: Generalization Error, Zeroth-Order Optimization, Black-Box Learning
TL;DR: We show generalization error bounds and algorithmic stability guarantees of zeroth-order learning
Abstract: We provide the first generalization error analysis for black-box learning through derivative-free optimization. Under the assumption of a Lipschitz and smooth unknown loss, we consider the Zeroth-order Stochastic Search (ZoSS) algorithm, that updates a $d$-dimensional model by replacing stochastic gradient directions with stochastic differences of $K+1$ perturbed loss evaluations per dataset (example) query. For both unbounded and bounded possibly nonconvex losses, we present the first generalization bounds for the ZoSS algorithm. These bounds coincide with those for SGD, and they are independent of $d$, $K$ and the batch size $m$, under appropriate choices of a slightly decreased learning rate. For bounded nonconvex losses and a batch size $m=1$, we additionally show that both generalization error and learning rate are independent of $d$ and $K$, and remain essentially the same as for the SGD, even for two function evaluations. Our results extensively extend and consistently recover established results for SGD in prior work, on both generalization bounds and corresponding learning rates. If additionally $m=n$, where $n$ is the dataset size, we recover generalization guarantees for full-batch GD as well.
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