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# On the Lower Bound of Minimizing Polyak-Łojasiewicz functions

*Proceedings of Thirty Sixth Conference on Learning Theory*, PMLR 195:2948-2968, 2023.

#### Abstract

Polyak-Łojasiewicz (PL) (Polyak, 1963) condition is a weaker condition than the strong convexity but suffices to ensure a global convergence for the Gradient Descent algorithm. In this paper, we study the lower bound of algorithms using first-order oracles to find an approximate optimal solution. We show that any first-order algorithm requires at least ${\Omega}\left(\frac{L}{\mu}\log\frac{1}{\epsilon}\right)$ gradient costs to με find an $\epsilon$-approximate optimal solution for a general $L$-smooth function that has an $\mu$-PL constant. This result demonstrates the optimality of the Gradient Descent algorithm to minimize smooth PL functions in the sense that there exists a “hard” PL function such that no first-order algorithm can be faster than Gradient Descent when ignoring a numerical constant. In contrast, it is well-known that the momentum technique, e.g. Nesterov (2003, chap. 2), can provably accelerate Gradient Descent to ${O}\left(\sqrt{\frac{L}{\hat{\mu}}}\log\frac{1}{\epsilon}\right)$ gradient costs for functions that are $L$-smooth and $\hat{\mu}$-strongly convex. Therefore, our result distinguishes the hardness of minimizing a smooth PL function and a smooth strongly convex function as the complexity of the former cannot be improved by any polynomial order in general.