From Gradient Flow on Population Loss to Learning with Stochastic Gradient Descent

Ayush Sekhari, Satyen Kale, Jason D. Lee, Chris De Sa, Karthik Sridharan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) has been the method of choice for learning large-scale non-convex models. While a general analysis of when SGD works has been elusive, there has been a lot of recent progress in understanding the convergence of Gradient Flow (GF) on the population loss, partly due to the simplicity that a continuous-time analysis buys us. An overarching theme of our paper is providing general conditions under which SGD converges, assuming that GF on the population loss converges. Our main tool to establish this connection is a general converse Lyapunov like theorem, which implies the existence of a Lyapunov potential under mild assumptions on the rates of convergence of GF. In fact, using these potentials, we show a one-to-one correspondence between rates of convergence of GF and geometrical properties of the underlying objective. When these potentials further satisfy certain self-bounding properties, we show that they can be used to provide a convergence guarantee for Gradient Descent (GD) and SGD (even when the paths of GF and GD/SGD are quite far apart). It turns out that these self-bounding assumptions are in a sense also necessary for GD/SGD to work. Using our framework, we provide a unified analysis for GD/SGD not only for classical settings like convex losses, or objectives that satisfy PŁ/KŁ properties, but also for more complex problems including Phase Retrieval and Matrix sq-root, and extending the results in the recent work of Chatterjee [13].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 - 36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
EditorsS. Koyejo, S. Mohamed, A. Agarwal, D. Belgrave, K. Cho, A. Oh
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Electronic)9781713871088
StatePublished - 2022
Event36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Nov 28 2022Dec 9 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing

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