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Workshop: OPT 2021: Optimization for Machine Learning

Faster Perturbed Stochastic Gradient Methods for Finding Local Minima

Zixiang Chen · Dongruo Zhou · Quanquan Gu

Abstract: Escaping from saddle points and finding local minimum is a central problem in nonconvex optimization. Perturbed gradient methods are perhaps the simplest approach for this problem. However, to find $(\epsilon, \sqrt{\epsilon})$-approximate local minima, the existing best stochastic gradient complexity for this type of algorithms is $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3.5})$, which is not optimal. In this paper, we propose \texttt{Pullback}, a faster perturbed stochastic gradient framework for finding local minima. We show that Pullback with stochastic gradient estimators such as SARAH/SPIDER and STORM can find $(\epsilon, \epsilon_{H})$-approximate local minima within $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3} + \epsilon_{H}^{-6})$ stochastic gradient evaluations (or $\tilde O(\epsilon^{-3})$ when $\epsilon_H = \sqrt{\epsilon}$). The core idea of our framework is a step-size ``pullback'' scheme to control the average movement of the iterates, which leads to faster convergence to the local minima.

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