On the Quality of the Initial Basin in Overspecified Neural Networks

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Itay Safran, Ohad Shamir ;
Proceedings of The 33rd International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 48:774-782, 2016.

Abstract

Deep learning, in the form of artificial neural networks, has achieved remarkable practical success in recent years, for a variety of difficult machine learning applications. However, a theoretical explanation for this remains a major open problem, since training neural networks involves optimizing a highly non-convex objective function, and is known to be computationally hard in the worst case. In this work, we study the \emphgeometric structure of the associated non-convex objective function, in the context of ReLU networks and starting from a random initialization of the network parameters. We identify some conditions under which it becomes more favorable to optimization, in the sense of (i) High probability of initializing at a point from which there is a monotonically decreasing path to a global minimum; and (ii) High probability of initializing at a basin (suitably defined) with a small minimal objective value. A common theme in our results is that such properties are more likely to hold for larger (“overspecified”) networks, which accords with some recent empirical and theoretical observations.

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