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Oral Session 3: Optimization

Moderator: Ioannis Mitliagkas


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Wed 8 Dec. 8:00 - 8:15 PST

Outstanding Paper
Continuized Accelerations of Deterministic and Stochastic Gradient Descents, and of Gossip Algorithms

Mathieu Even · Raphaël Berthier · Francis Bach · Nicolas Flammarion · Hadrien Hendrikx · Pierre Gaillard · Laurent Massoulié · Adrien Taylor

We introduce the ``continuized'' Nesterov acceleration, a close variant of Nesterov acceleration whose variables are indexed by a continuous time parameter. The two variables continuously mix following a linear ordinary differential equation and take gradient steps at random times. This continuized variant benefits from the best of the continuous and the discrete frameworks: as a continuous process, one can use differential calculus to analyze convergence and obtain analytical expressions for the parameters; but a discretization of the continuized process can be computed exactly with convergence rates similar to those of Nesterov original acceleration. We show that the discretization has the same structure as Nesterov acceleration, but with random parameters. We provide continuized Nesterov acceleration under deterministic as well as stochastic gradients, with either additive or multiplicative noise. Finally, using our continuized framework and expressing the gossip averaging problem as the stochastic minimization of a certain energy function, we provide the first rigorous acceleration of asynchronous gossip algorithms.

Wed 8 Dec. 8:15 - 8:20 PST


Wed 8 Dec. 8:20 - 8:35 PST

Oracle Complexity in Nonsmooth Nonconvex Optimization

Guy Kornowski · Ohad Shamir

It is well-known that given a smooth, bounded-from-below, and possibly nonconvex function, standard gradient-based methods can find $\epsilon$-stationary points (with gradient norm less than $\epsilon$) in $\mathcal{O}(1/\epsilon^2)$ iterations. However, many important nonconvex optimization problems, such as those associated with training modern neural networks, are inherently not smooth, making these results inapplicable. In this paper, we study nonsmooth nonconvex optimization from an oracle complexity viewpoint, where the algorithm is assumed to be given access only to local information about the function at various points. We provide two main results (under mild assumptions): First, we consider the problem of getting \emph{near} $\epsilon$-stationary points. This is perhaps the most natural relaxation of \emph{finding} $\epsilon$-stationary points, which is impossible in the nonsmooth nonconvex case. We prove that this relaxed goal cannot be achieved efficiently, for any distance and $\epsilon$ smaller than some constants. Our second result deals with the possibility of tackling nonsmooth nonconvex optimization by reduction to smooth optimization: Namely, applying smooth optimization methods on a smooth approximation of the objective function. For this approach, we prove an inherent trade-off between oracle complexity and smoothness: On the one hand, smoothing a nonsmooth nonconvex function can be done very efficiently (e.g., by randomized smoothing), but with dimension-dependent factors in the smoothness parameter, which can strongly affect iteration complexity when plugging into standard smooth optimization methods. On the other hand, these dimension factors can be eliminated with suitable smoothing methods, but only by making the oracle complexity of the smoothing process exponentially large.

Wed 8 Dec. 8:35 - 8:40 PST


Wed 8 Dec. 8:40 - 8:55 PST

Faster Matchings via Learned Duals

Michael Dinitz · Sungjin Im · Thomas Lavastida · Benjamin Moseley · Sergei Vassilvitskii

A recent line of research investigates how algorithms can be augmented with machine-learned predictions to overcome worst case lower bounds. This area has revealed interesting algorithmic insights into problems, with particular success in the design of competitive online algorithms. However, the question of improving algorithm running times with predictions has largely been unexplored. We take a first step in this direction by combining the idea of machine-learned predictions with the idea of ``warm-starting" primal-dual algorithms. We consider one of the most important primitives in combinatorial optimization: weighted bipartite matching and its generalization to $b$-matching. We identify three key challenges when using learned dual variables in a primal-dual algorithm. First, predicted duals may be infeasible, so we give an algorithm that efficiently maps predicted infeasible duals to nearby feasible solutions. Second, once the duals are feasible, they may not be optimal, so we show that they can be used to quickly find an optimal solution. Finally, such predictions are useful only if they can be learned, so we show that the problem of learning duals for matching has low sample complexity. We validate our theoretical findings through experiments on both real and synthetic data. As a result we give a rigorous, practical, and empirically effective method to compute bipartite matchings.

Wed 8 Dec. 8:55 - 9:00 PST