Understanding Approximate Fisher Information for Fast Convergence of Natural Gradient Descent in Wide Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Ryo Karakida, Kazuki Osawa


<p>Natural Gradient Descent (NGD) helps to accelerate the convergence of gradient descent dynamics, but it requires approximations in large-scale deep neural networks because of its high computational cost. Empirical studies have confirmed that some NGD methods with approximate Fisher information converge sufficiently fast in practice. Nevertheless, it remains unclear from the theoretical perspective why and under what conditions such heuristic approximations work well. In this work, we reveal that, under specific conditions, NGD with approximate Fisher information achieves the same fast convergence to global minima as exact NGD. We consider deep neural networks in the infinite-width limit, and analyze the asymptotic training dynamics of NGD in function space via the neural tangent kernel. In the function space, the training dynamics with the approximate Fisher information are identical to those with the exact Fisher information, and they converge quickly. The fast convergence holds in layer-wise approximations; for instance, in block diagonal approximation where each block corresponds to a layer as well as in block tri-diagonal and K-FAC approximations. We also find that a unit-wise approximation achieves the same fast convergence under some assumptions. All of these different approximations have an isotropic gradient in the function space, and this plays a fundamental role in achieving the same convergence properties in training. Thus, the current study gives a novel and unified theoretical foundation with which to understand NGD methods in deep learning. </p>