How to Guess a Gradient

TitleHow to Guess a Gradient
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsSinghal, U, Cheung, B, Chandra, K, Ragan-Kelley, J, Tenenbaum, JB, Poggio, TA, Yu, SX
Date Published12/2023

How much can you say about the gradient of a neural network without computing a loss or knowing the label? This may sound like a strange question: surely the answer is “very little.” However, in this paper, we show that gradients are more structured than previously thought. Gradients lie in a predictable low-dimensional subspace which depends on the network architecture and incoming features. Exploiting this structure can significantly improve gradient-free optimization schemes based on directional derivatives, which have struggled to scale beyond small networks trained on toy datasets. We study how to narrow the gap in optimization performance between methods that calculate exact gradients and those that use directional derivatives. Furthermore, we highlight new challenges in overcoming the large gap between optimizing with exact gradients and guessing the gradients.


Associated Module: 

CBMM Relationship: 

  • CBMM Funded