Section: New Results

Optimization Methods

This section describes six contributions on optimization.

  • In [9], we propose an interior-point method for linearly constrained – and possibly nonconvex – optimization problems. The proposed method – which we call the Hessian barrier algorithm (HBA) – combines a forward Euler discretization of Hessian Riemannian gradient flows with an Armijo backtracking step-size policy. In this way, HBA can be seen as an alternative to mirror descent (MD), and contains as special cases the affine scaling algorithm, regularized Newton processes, and several other iterative solution methods. Our main result is that, modulo a non-degeneracy condition, the algorithm converges to the problem’s critical set; hence, in the convex case, the algorithm converges globally to the problem’s minimum set. In the case of linearly constrained quadratic programs (not necessarily convex), we also show that the method's convergence rate is O(1/kρ) for some ρ(0,1] that depends only on the choice of kernel function (i.e., not on the problem’s primitives). These theoretical results are validated by numerical experiments in standard non-convex test functions and large-scale traffic assignment problems.

  • In[15], Lipschitz continuity is a central requirement for achieving the optimal O(1/T) rate of convergence in monotone, deterministic variational inequalities (a setting that includes convex minimization, convex-concave optimization, nonatomic games, and many other problems). However, in many cases of practical interest, the operator defining the variational inequality may exhibit singularities at the boundary of the feasible region, precluding in this way the use of fast gradient methods that attain this optimal rate (such as Nemirovski's mirror-prox algorithm and its variants). To address this issue, we propose a novel regularity condition which we call Bregman continuity, and which relates the variation of the operator to that of a suitably chosen Bregman function. Leveraging this condition, we derive an adaptive mirror-prox algorithm which attains the optimal O(1/T) rate of convergence in problems with possibly singular operators, without any prior knowledge of the degree of smoothness (the Bregman analogue of the Lipschitz constant). We also show that, under Bregman continuity, the mirror-prox algorithm achieves a O(1/T) convergence rate in stochastic variational inequalities.

  • In [23] Variational inequalities have recently attracted considerable interest in machine learning as a flexible paradigm for models that go beyond ordinary loss function minimization (such as generative adversarial networks and related deep learning systems). In this setting, the optimal O(1/t) convergence rate for solving smooth monotone variational inequalities is achieved by the Extra-Gradient (EG) algorithm and its variants. Aiming to alleviate the cost of an extra gradient step per iteration (which can become quite substantial in deep learning applications), several algorithms have been proposed as surrogates to Extra-Gradient with a single oracle call per iteration. In this paper, we develop a synthetic view of such algorithms, and we complement the existing literature by showing that they retain a O(1/t) ergodic convergence rate in smooth, deterministic problems. Subsequently, beyond the monotone deterministic case, we also show that the last iterate of single-call, stochastic extra-gradient methods still enjoys a O(1/t) local convergence rate to solutions of non-monotone variational inequalities that satisfy a second-order sufficient condition.

  • In [25], we study a class of online convex optimization problems with long-term budget constraints that arise naturally as reliability guarantees or total consumption constraints. In this general setting, prior work by Mannor et al. (2009) has shown that achieving no regret is impossible if the functions defining the agent’s budget are chosen by an adversary. To overcome this obstacle, we refine the agent's regret metric by introducing the notion of a “K-benchmark”, i.e., a comparator which meets the problem's allotted budget over any window of length K. The impossibility analysis of Mannor et al. (2009) is recovered when K=T; however, for K=o(T), we show that it is possible to minimize regret while still meeting the problem’s long-term budget constraints. We achieve this via an online learning policy based on Cautious Online Lagrangiant Descent (COLD) for which we derive explicit bounds, in terms of both the incurred regret and the residual budget violations.

  • In [26], owing to their connection with generative adversarial networks (GANs), saddle-point problems have recently attracted considerable interest in machine learning and beyond. By necessity, most theoretical guarantees revolve around convex-concave (or even linear) problems; however, making theoretical inroads towards efficient GAN training depends crucially on moving beyond this classic framework. To make piecemeal progress along these lines, we analyze the behavior of mirror descent (MD) in a class of non-monotone problems whose solutions coincide with those of a naturally associated variational inequality - a property which we call coherence. We first show that ordinary, "vanilla" MD converges under a strict version of this condition, but not otherwise; in particular, it may fail to converge even in bilinear models with a unique solution. We then show that this deficiency is mitigated by optimism: by taking an "extra-gradient" step, optimistic mirror descent (OMD) converges in all coherent problems. Our analysis generalizes and extends the results of Daskalakis et al. (2018) for optimistic gradient descent (OGD) in bilinear problems, and makes concrete headway for establishing convergence beyond convex-concave games. We also provide stochastic analogues of these results, and we validate our analysis by numerical experiments in a wide array of GAN models (including Gaussian mixture models, as well as the CelebA and CIFAR-10 datasets).

  • In [30], we develop a new stochastic algorithm with variance reduction for solving pseudo-monotone stochastic variational inequalities. Our method builds on Tseng’s forward-backward-forward algorithm, which is known in the deterministic literature to be a valuable alternative to Korpelevich’s extragradient method when solving variational inequalities over a convex and closed set governed with pseudo-monotone and Lipschitz continuous operators. The main computational advantage of Tseng’s algorithm is that it relies only on a single projection step, and two independent queries of a stochastic oracle. Our algorithm incorporates a variance reduction mechanism, and leads to a.s. convergence to solutions of a merely pseudo-monotone stochastic variational inequality problem. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first stochastic algorithm achieving this by using only a single projection at each iteration.