Convexity Certificates from Hessians

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Julien Klaus, Niklas Merk, Konstantin Wiedom, Sören Laue, Joachim Giesen


The Hessian of a differentiable convex function is positive semidefinite. Therefore, checking the Hessian of a given function is a natural approach to certify convexity. However, implementing this approach is not straightforward, since it requires a representation of the Hessian that allows its analysis. Here, we implement this approach for a class of functions that is rich enough to support classical machine learning. For this class of functions, it was recently shown how to compute computational graphs of their Hessians. We show how to check these graphs for positive-semidefiniteness. We compare our implementation of the Hessian approach with the well-established disciplined convex programming (DCP) approach and prove that the Hessian approach is at least as powerful as the DCP approach for differentiable functions. Furthermore, we show for a state-of-the-art implementation of the DCP approach that the Hessian approach is actually more powerful, that is, it can certify the convexity of a larger class of differentiable functions.