Modified Frank Wolfe in Probability Space

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Carson Kent, Jiajin Li, Jose Blanchet, Peter W Glynn


We propose a novel Frank-Wolfe (FW) procedure for the optimization of infinite-dimensional functionals of probability measures - a task which arises naturally in a wide range of areas including statistical learning (e.g. variational inference) and artificial intelligence (e.g. generative adversarial networks). Our FW procedure takes advantage of Wasserstein gradient flows and strong duality results recently developed in Distributionally Robust Optimization so that gradient steps (in the Wasserstein space) can be efficiently computed using finite-dimensional, convex optimization methods. We show how to choose the step sizes in order to guarantee exponentially fast iteration convergence, under mild assumptions on the functional to optimize. We apply our algorithm to a range of functionals arising from applications in nonparametric estimation.