Research papers and code for "Léon Bottou":
A plausible definition of "reasoning" could be "algebraically manipulating previously acquired knowledge in order to answer a new question". This definition covers first-order logical inference or probabilistic inference. It also includes much simpler manipulations commonly used to build large learning systems. For instance, we can build an optical character recognition system by first training a character segmenter, an isolated character recognizer, and a language model, using appropriate labeled training sets. Adequately concatenating these modules and fine tuning the resulting system can be viewed as an algebraic operation in a space of models. The resulting model answers a new question, that is, converting the image of a text page into a computer readable text. This observation suggests a conceptual continuity between algebraically rich inference systems, such as logical or probabilistic inference, and simple manipulations, such as the mere concatenation of trainable learning systems. Therefore, instead of trying to bridge the gap between machine learning systems and sophisticated "all-purpose" inference mechanisms, we can instead algebraically enrich the set of manipulations applicable to training systems, and build reasoning capabilities from the ground up.

* 15 pages - fix broken pagination in v2
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We introduce a new normalization technique that exhibits the fast convergence properties of batch normalization using a transformation of layer weights instead of layer outputs. The proposed technique keeps the contribution of positive and negative weights to the layer output in equilibrium. We validate our method on a set of standard benchmarks including CIFAR-10/100, SVHN and ILSVRC 2012 ImageNet.

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The application of stochastic variance reduction to optimization has shown remarkable recent theoretical and practical success. The applicability of these techniques to the hard non-convex optimization problems encountered during training of modern deep neural networks is an open problem. We show that naive application of the SVRG technique and related approaches fail, and explore why.

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The goal of this paper is not to introduce a single algorithm or method, but to make theoretical steps towards fully understanding the training dynamics of generative adversarial networks. In order to substantiate our theoretical analysis, we perform targeted experiments to verify our assumptions, illustrate our claims, and quantify the phenomena. This paper is divided into three sections. The first section introduces the problem at hand. The second section is dedicated to studying and proving rigorously the problems including instability and saturation that arize when training generative adversarial networks. The third section examines a practical and theoretically grounded direction towards solving these problems, while introducing new tools to study them.

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This paper presents a lower bound for optimizing a finite sum of $n$ functions, where each function is $L$-smooth and the sum is $\mu$-strongly convex. We show that no algorithm can reach an error $\epsilon$ in minimizing all functions from this class in fewer than $\Omega(n + \sqrt{n(\kappa-1)}\log(1/\epsilon))$ iterations, where $\kappa=L/\mu$ is a surrogate condition number. We then compare this lower bound to upper bounds for recently developed methods specializing to this setting. When the functions involved in this sum are not arbitrary, but based on i.i.d. random data, then we further contrast these complexity results with those for optimal first-order methods to directly optimize the sum. The conclusion we draw is that a lot of caution is necessary for an accurate comparison, and identify machine learning scenarios where the new methods help computationally.

* Added an erratum, we are currently working on extending the result to randomized algorithms
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Adaptive gradient methods such as AdaGrad and its variants update the stepsize in stochastic gradient descent on the fly according to the gradients received along the way; such methods have gained widespread use in large-scale optimization for their ability to converge robustly, without the need to fine tune parameters such as the stepsize schedule. Yet, the theoretical guarantees to date for AdaGrad are for online and convex optimization, which is quite different from the offline and nonconvex setting where adaptive gradient methods shine in practice. We bridge this gap by providing strong theoretical guarantees in batch and stochastic setting, for the convergence of AdaGrad over smooth, nonconvex landscapes, from any initialization of the stepsize, without knowledge of Lipschitz constant of the gradient. We show in the stochastic setting that AdaGrad converges to a stationary point at the optimal $O(1/\sqrt{N})$ rate (up to a $\log(N)$ factor), and in the batch setting, at the optimal $O(1/N)$ rate. Moreover, in both settings, the constant in the rate matches the constant obtained as if the variance of the gradient noise and Lipschitz constant of the gradient were known in advance and used to tune the stepsize, up to a logarithmic factor of the mismatch between the optimal stepsize and the stepsize used to initialize AdaGrad. In particular, our results imply that AdaGrad is robust to both the unknown Lipschitz constant and level of stochastic noise on the gradient, in a near-optimal sense. When there is noise, AdaGrad converges at the rate of $O(1/\sqrt{N})$ with well-tuned stepsize, and when there is not noise, the same algorithm converges at the rate of $O(1/N)$ like well-tuned batch gradient descent.

* 17 pages, 3 figures
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Adjusting the learning rate schedule in stochastic gradient methods is an important unresolved problem which requires tuning in practice. If certain parameters of the loss function such as smoothness or strong convexity constants are known, theoretical learning rate schedules can be applied. However, in practice, such parameters are not known, and the loss function of interest is not convex in any case. The recently proposed batch normalization reparametrization is widely adopted in most neural network architectures today because, among other advantages, it is robust to the choice of Lipschitz constant of the gradient in loss function, allowing one to set a large learning rate without worry. Inspired by batch normalization, we propose a general nonlinear update rule for the learning rate in batch and stochastic gradient descent so that the learning rate can be initialized at a high value, and is subsequently decreased according to gradient observations along the way. The proposed method is shown to achieve robustness to the relationship between the learning rate and the Lipschitz constant, and near-optimal convergence rates in both the batch and stochastic settings ($O(1/T)$ for smooth loss in the batch setting, and $O(1/\sqrt{T})$ for convex loss in the stochastic setting). We also show through numerical evidence that such robustness of the proposed method extends to highly nonconvex and possibly non-smooth loss function in deep learning problems.Our analysis establishes some first theoretical understanding into the observed robustness for batch normalization and weight normalization.

* 10 pages, 3 figures, conference
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We introduce a new algorithm named WGAN, an alternative to traditional GAN training. In this new model, we show that we can improve the stability of learning, get rid of problems like mode collapse, and provide meaningful learning curves useful for debugging and hyperparameter searches. Furthermore, we show that the corresponding optimization problem is sound, and provide extensive theoretical work highlighting the deep connections to other distances between distributions.

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We look at the eigenvalues of the Hessian of a loss function before and after training. The eigenvalue distribution is seen to be composed of two parts, the bulk which is concentrated around zero, and the edges which are scattered away from zero. We present empirical evidence for the bulk indicating how over-parametrized the system is, and for the edges that depend on the input data.

* ICLR submission, 2016 - updated to match the openreview.net version
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We define a second-order neural network stochastic gradient training algorithm whose block-diagonal structure effectively amounts to normalizing the unit activations. Investigating why this algorithm lacks in robustness then reveals two interesting insights. The first insight suggests a new way to scale the stepsizes, clarifying popular algorithms such as RMSProp as well as old neural network tricks such as fanin stepsize scaling. The second insight stresses the practical importance of dealing with fast changes of the curvature of the cost.

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This paper provides a review and commentary on the past, present, and future of numerical optimization algorithms in the context of machine learning applications. Through case studies on text classification and the training of deep neural networks, we discuss how optimization problems arise in machine learning and what makes them challenging. A major theme of our study is that large-scale machine learning represents a distinctive setting in which the stochastic gradient (SG) method has traditionally played a central role while conventional gradient-based nonlinear optimization techniques typically falter. Based on this viewpoint, we present a comprehensive theory of a straightforward, yet versatile SG algorithm, discuss its practical behavior, and highlight opportunities for designing algorithms with improved performance. This leads to a discussion about the next generation of optimization methods for large-scale machine learning, including an investigation of two main streams of research on techniques that diminish noise in the stochastic directions and methods that make use of second-order derivative approximations.

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Algorithms for hyperparameter optimization abound, all of which work well under different and often unverifiable assumptions. Motivated by the general challenge of sequentially choosing which algorithm to use, we study the more specific task of choosing among distributions to use for random hyperparameter optimization. This work is naturally framed in the extreme bandit setting, which deals with sequentially choosing which distribution from a collection to sample in order to minimize (maximize) the single best cost (reward). Whereas the distributions in the standard bandit setting are primarily characterized by their means, a number of subtleties arise when we care about the minimal cost as opposed to the average cost. For example, there may not be a well-defined "best" distribution as there is in the standard bandit setting. The best distribution depends on the rewards that have been obtained and on the remaining time horizon. Whereas in the standard bandit setting, it is sensible to compare policies with an oracle which plays the single best arm, in the extreme bandit setting, there are multiple sensible oracle models. We define a sensible notion of "extreme regret" in the extreme bandit setting, which parallels the concept of regret in the standard bandit setting. We then prove that no policy can asymptotically achieve no extreme regret.

* 11 pages, International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, 2016
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This paper proposes a novel parallel stochastic gradient descent (SGD) method that is obtained by applying parallel sets of SGD iterations (each set operating on one node using the data residing in it) for finding the direction in each iteration of a batch descent method. The method has strong convergence properties. Experiments on datasets with high dimensional feature spaces show the value of this method.

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Training examples are not all equally informative. Active learning strategies leverage this observation in order to massively reduce the number of examples that need to be labeled. We leverage the same observation to build a generic strategy for parallelizing learning algorithms. This strategy is effective because the search for informative examples is highly parallelizable and because we show that its performance does not deteriorate when the sifting process relies on a slightly outdated model. Parallel active learning is particularly attractive to train nonlinear models with non-linear representations because there are few practical parallel learning algorithms for such models. We report preliminary experiments using both kernel SVMs and SGD-trained neural networks.

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Learning algorithms for implicit generative models can optimize a variety of criteria that measure how the data distribution differs from the implicit model distribution, including the Wasserstein distance, the Energy distance, and the Maximum Mean Discrepancy criterion. A careful look at the geometries induced by these distances on the space of probability measures reveals interesting differences. In particular, we can establish surprising approximate global convergence guarantees for the $1$-Wasserstein distance,even when the parametric generator has a nonconvex parametrization.

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Distillation (Hinton et al., 2015) and privileged information (Vapnik & Izmailov, 2015) are two techniques that enable machines to learn from other machines. This paper unifies these two techniques into generalized distillation, a framework to learn from multiple machines and data representations. We provide theoretical and causal insight about the inner workings of generalized distillation, extend it to unsupervised, semisupervised and multitask learning scenarios, and illustrate its efficacy on a variety of numerical simulations on both synthetic and real-world data.

* Proceedings of the International Conference on Learning Representations (2016) 1-10
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Recent progress in deep learning for audio synthesis opens the way to models that directly produce the waveform, shifting away from the traditional paradigm of relying on vocoders or MIDI synthesizers for speech or music generation. Despite their successes, current state-of-the-art neural audio synthesizers such as WaveNet and SampleRNN suffer from prohibitive training and inference times because they are based on autoregressive models that generate audio samples one at a time at a rate of 16kHz. In this work, we study the more computationally efficient alternative of generating the waveform frame-by-frame with large strides. We present SING, a lightweight neural audio synthesizer for the original task of generating musical notes given desired instrument, pitch and velocity. Our model is trained end-to-end to generate notes from nearly 1000 instruments with a single decoder, thanks to a new loss function that minimizes the distances between the log spectrograms of the generated and target waveforms. On the generalization task of synthesizing notes for pairs of pitch and instrument not seen during training, SING produces audio with significantly improved perceptual quality compared to a state-of-the-art autoencoder based on WaveNet as measured by a Mean Opinion Score (MOS), and is about 32 times faster for training and 2, 500 times faster for inference.

* Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS), Dec 2018, Montr{\'e}al, Canada
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Scalable machine learning over big data is an important problem that is receiving a lot of attention in recent years. On popular distributed environments such as Hadoop running on a cluster of commodity machines, communication costs are substantial and algorithms need to be designed suitably considering those costs. In this paper we give a novel approach to the distributed training of linear classifiers (involving smooth losses and L2 regularization) that is designed to reduce the total communication costs. At each iteration, the nodes minimize locally formed approximate objective functions; then the resulting minimizers are combined to form a descent direction to move. Our approach gives a lot of freedom in the formation of the approximate objective function as well as in the choice of methods to solve them. The method is shown to have $O(log(1/\epsilon))$ time convergence. The method can be viewed as an iterative parameter mixing method. A special instantiation yields a parallel stochastic gradient descent method with strong convergence. When communication times between nodes are large, our method is much faster than the Terascale method (Agarwal et al., 2011), which is a state of the art distributed solver based on the statistical query model (Chuet al., 2006) that computes function and gradient values in a distributed fashion. We also evaluate against other recent distributed methods and demonstrate superior performance of our method.

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We study the properties of common loss surfaces through their Hessian matrix. In particular, in the context of deep learning, we empirically show that the spectrum of the Hessian is composed of two parts: (1) the bulk centered near zero, (2) and outliers away from the bulk. We present numerical evidence and mathematical justifications to the following conjectures laid out by Sagun et al. (2016): Fixing data, increasing the number of parameters merely scales the bulk of the spectrum; fixing the dimension and changing the data (for instance adding more clusters or making the data less separable) only affects the outliers. We believe that our observations have striking implications for non-convex optimization in high dimensions. First, the flatness of such landscapes (which can be measured by the singularity of the Hessian) implies that classical notions of basins of attraction may be quite misleading. And that the discussion of wide/narrow basins may be in need of a new perspective around over-parametrization and redundancy that are able to create large connected components at the bottom of the landscape. Second, the dependence of small number of large eigenvalues to the data distribution can be linked to the spectrum of the covariance matrix of gradients of model outputs. With this in mind, we may reevaluate the connections within the data-architecture-algorithm framework of a model, hoping that it would shed light into the geometry of high-dimensional and non-convex spaces in modern applications. In particular, we present a case that links the two observations: small and large batch gradient descent appear to converge to different basins of attraction but we show that they are in fact connected through their flat region and so belong to the same basin.

* Minor update for ICLR 2018 Workshop Track presentation
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This paper establishes the existence of observable footprints that reveal the "causal dispositions" of the object categories appearing in collections of images. We achieve this goal in two steps. First, we take a learning approach to observational causal discovery, and build a classifier that achieves state-of-the-art performance on finding the causal direction between pairs of random variables, given samples from their joint distribution. Second, we use our causal direction classifier to effectively distinguish between features of objects and features of their contexts in collections of static images. Our experiments demonstrate the existence of a relation between the direction of causality and the difference between objects and their contexts, and by the same token, the existence of observable signals that reveal the causal dispositions of objects.

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