Deep Neural Networks Learn Non-Smooth Functions Effectively

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Masaaki Imaizumi, Kenji Fukumizu ;
Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, PMLR 89:869-878, 2019.

Abstract

We elucidate a theoretical reason that deep neural networks (DNNs) perform better than other models in some cases from the viewpoint of their statistical properties for non-smooth functions. While DNNs have empirically shown higher performance than other standard methods, understanding its mechanism is still a challenging problem. From an aspect of the statistical theory, it is known many standard methods attain the optimal rate of generalization errors for smooth functions in large sample asymptotics, and thus it has not been straightforward to find theoretical advantages of DNNs. This paper fills this gap by considering learning of a certain class of non-smooth functions, which was not covered by the previous theory. We derive the generalization error of estimators by DNNs with a ReLU activation, and show that convergence rates of the generalization by DNNs are almost optimal to estimate the non-smooth functions, while some of the popular models do not attain the optimal rate. In addition, our theoretical result provides guidelines for selecting an appropriate number of layers and edges of DNNs. We provide numerical experiments to support the theoretical results.

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