The Impact of Neural Network Overparameterization on Gradient Confusion and Stochastic Gradient Descent

Jul 12, 2020



In this paper we study how neural network architecture affects the speed of training. We introduce a simple concept called gradient confusion to help formally analyze this. When confusion is high, stochastic gradients produced by different data samples may be negatively correlated, slowing down convergence. But when gradient confusion is low, data samples interact harmoniously, and training proceeds quickly. Through novel theoretical and experimental results, we show how the neural net architecture affects gradient confusion, and thus the efficiency of training. We show that for popular initialization techniques used in deep learning, increasing the width of neural networks leads to lower gradient confusion, and thus easier model training. On the other hand, increasing the depth of neural networks has the opposite effect. Finally, we observe that the combination of batch normalization and skip connections reduces gradient confusion, which helps reduce the training burden of very deep networks.



About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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