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# Second-Order Information in Non-Convex Stochastic Optimization: Power and Limitations

; Proceedings of Thirty Third Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 125:242-299, 2020.

#### Abstract

We design an algorithm which finds an $\epsilon$-approximate stationary point (with $\|\nabla F(x)\|\le \epsilon$) using $O(\epsilon^{-3})$ stochastic gradient and Hessian-vector products, matching guarantees that were previously available only under a stronger assumption of access to multiple queries with the same random seed. We prove a lower bound which establishes that this rate is optimal and—surprisingly—that it cannot be improved using stochastic $p$th order methods for any $p\ge 2$, even when the first $p$ derivatives of the objective are Lipschitz. Together, these results characterize the complexity of non-convex stochastic optimization with second-order methods and beyond. Expanding our scope to the oracle complexity of finding $(\epsilon,\gamma)$-approximate second-order stationary points, we establish nearly matching upper and lower bounds for stochastic second-order methods. Our lower bounds here are novel even in the noiseless case.