On the Global Convergence of Gradient Descent for Over-parameterized Models using Optimal Transport

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)

Bibtex Metadata Paper Reviews Supplemental


Lénaïc Chizat, Francis Bach


Many tasks in machine learning and signal processing can be solved by minimizing a convex function of a measure. This includes sparse spikes deconvolution or training a neural network with a single hidden layer. For these problems, we study a simple minimization method: the unknown measure is discretized into a mixture of particles and a continuous-time gradient descent is performed on their weights and positions. This is an idealization of the usual way to train neural networks with a large hidden layer. We show that, when initialized correctly and in the many-particle limit, this gradient flow, although non-convex, converges to global minimizers. The proof involves Wasserstein gradient flows, a by-product of optimal transport theory. Numerical experiments show that this asymptotic behavior is already at play for a reasonable number of particles, even in high dimension.