Stochastic Mirror Descent in Variationally Coherent Optimization Problems

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30 (NIPS 2017)

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Zhengyuan Zhou, Panayotis Mertikopoulos, Nicholas Bambos, Stephen Boyd, Peter W. Glynn


In this paper, we examine a class of non-convex stochastic optimization problems which we call variationally coherent, and which properly includes pseudo-/quasiconvex and star-convex optimization problems. To solve such problems, we focus on the widely used stochastic mirror descent (SMD) family of algorithms (which contains stochastic gradient descent as a special case), and we show that the last iterate of SMD converges to the problem’s solution set with probability 1. This result contributes to the landscape of non-convex stochastic optimization by clarifying that neither pseudo-/quasi-convexity nor star-convexity is essential for (almost sure) global convergence; rather, variational coherence, a much weaker requirement, suffices. Characterization of convergence rates for the subclass of strongly variationally coherent optimization problems as well as simulation results are also presented.