Theoretical Issues in Deep Networks

TitleTheoretical Issues in Deep Networks
Publication TypeCBMM Memos
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsPoggio, T, Banburski, A, Liao, Q
Date Published08/2019

While deep learning is successful in a number of applications, it is not yet well understood theoretically.  A theoretical characterization of deep learning should answer questions about their approximation power, the dynamics of optimization by gradient descent and good out-of-sample performance --- why the expected error does not suffer, despite the absence of explicit regularization, when the networks are overparametrized. We review our recent results towards this goal. In {\it approximation theory} both shallow and deep networks are known to approximate any continuous functions on a bounded domain at a cost which is exponential (the number of parameters is exponential in the dimensionality of the function). However, we proved that for certain types of compositional functions, deep networks of the convolutional type (even without weight sharing) can have a linear dependence on dimensionality, unlike shallow networks. In characterizing {\it minimization} of the empirical exponential loss we consider the gradient descent dynamics of the weight directions rather than the weights themselves, since the relevant function underlying classification corresponds to the normalized network. The dynamics of the normalized weights implied by standard gradient descent turns out to be equivalent to the dynamics of the constrained problem of minimizing an exponential-type loss subject to a unit $L_2$ norm constraint. In particular, the dynamics of the typical, unconstrained gradient descent converges to the same critical points of the constrained problem. Thus, there is {\it implicit regularization} in training deep networks under exponential-type loss functions with gradient descent. The critical points of the flow are hyperbolic minima (for any long but finite time) and minimum norm minimizers (e.g. maxima of the margin). Though appropriately normalized networks can show a small generalization gap (difference between empirical and expected loss) even for finite $N$ (number of training examples) wrt the exponential loss, they do not generalize in terms of the classification error. Bounds on it for finite $N$ remain an open problem. Nevertheless, our results, together with other recent papers, characterize an implicit vanishing regularization by gradient descent which is likely to be a key prerequisite -- in terms of complexity control -- for the good performance of deep overparametrized ReLU classifiers.


CBMM Memo No:  100

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