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Heavy Tails in SGD and Compressibility of Overparametrized Neural Networks

Melih Barsbey · Milad Sefidgaran · Murat Erdogdu · Gaël Richard · Umut Simsekli

Keywords: [ Optimization ] [ Deep Learning ] [ Theory ]

Abstract: Neural network compression techniques have become increasingly popular as they can drastically reduce the storage and computation requirements for very large networks. Recent empirical studies have illustrated that even simple pruning strategies can be surprisingly effective, and several theoretical studies have shown that compressible networks (in specific senses) should achieve a low generalization error. Yet, a theoretical characterization of the underlying causes that make the networks amenable to such simple compression schemes is still missing. In this study, focusing our attention on stochastic gradient descent (SGD), our main contribution is to link compressibility to two recently established properties of SGD: (i) as the network size goes to infinity, the system can converge to a mean-field limit, where the network weights behave independently [DBDFŞ20], (ii) for a large step-size/batch-size ratio, the SGD iterates can converge to a heavy-tailed stationary distribution [HM20, GŞZ21]. Assuming that both of these phenomena occur simultaneously, we prove that the networks are guaranteed to be '$\ell_p$-compressible', and the compression errors of different pruning techniques (magnitude, singular value, or node pruning) become arbitrarily small as the network size increases. We further prove generalization bounds adapted to our theoretical framework, which are consistent with the observation that the generalization error will be lower for more compressible networks. Our theory and numerical study on various neural networks show that large step-size/batch-size ratios introduce heavy tails, which, in combination with overparametrization, result in compressibility.

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