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# What Can Be Learnt With Wide Convolutional Neural Networks?

*Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 202:3347-3379, 2023.

#### Abstract

Understanding how convolutional neural networks (CNNs) can efficiently learn high-dimensional functions remains a fundamental challenge. A popular belief is that these models harness the local and hierarchical structure of natural data such as images. Yet, we lack a quantitative understanding of how such structure affects performance, e.g., the rate of decay of the generalisation error with the number of training samples. In this paper, we study infinitely-wide deep CNNs in the kernel regime. First, we show that the spectrum of the corresponding kernel inherits the hierarchical structure of the network, and we characterise its asymptotics. Then, we use this result together with generalisation bounds to prove that deep CNNs adapt to the spatial scale of the target function. In particular, we find that if the target function depends on low-dimensional subsets of adjacent input variables, then the decay of the error is controlled by the effective dimensionality of these subsets. Conversely, if the target function depends on the full set of input variables, then the error decay is controlled by the input dimension. We conclude by computing the generalisation error of a deep CNN trained on the output of another deep CNN with randomly-initialised parameters. Interestingly, we find that, despite their hierarchical structure, the functions generated by infinitely-wide deep CNNs are too rich to be efficiently learnable in high dimension.