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# On the Correctness of Automatic Differentiation for Neural Networks with Machine-Representable Parameters

*Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 202:19094-19140, 2023.

#### Abstract

Recent work has shown that forward- and reverse- mode automatic differentiation (AD) over the reals is almost always correct in a mathematically precise sense. However, actual programs work with machine-representable numbers (e.g., floating-point numbers), not reals. In this paper, we study the correctness of AD when the parameter space of a neural network consists solely of machine-representable numbers. In particular, we analyze two sets of parameters on which AD can be incorrect: the incorrect set on which the network is differentiable but AD does not compute its derivative, and the non-differentiable set on which the network is non-differentiable. For a neural network with bias parameters, we first prove that the incorrect set is always empty. We then prove a tight bound on the size of the non-differentiable set, which is linear in the number of non-differentiabilities in activation functions, and give a simple necessary and sufficient condition for a parameter to be in this set. We further prove that AD always computes a Clarke subderivative even on the non-differentiable set. We also extend these results to neural networks possibly without bias parameters.