NeuroEvoBench: Benchmarking Evolutionary Optimizers for Deep Learning Applications

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Datasets and Benchmarks Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Robert Lange, Yujin Tang, Yingtao Tian


Recently, the Deep Learning community has become interested in evolutionary optimization (EO) as a means to address hard optimization problems, e.g. meta-learning through long inner loop unrolls or optimizing non-differentiable operators. One core reason for this trend has been the recent innovation in hardware acceleration and compatible software -- making distributed population evaluations much easier than before. Unlike for gradient descent-based methods though, there is a lack of hyperparameter understanding and best practices for EO – arguably due to severely less `graduate student descent' and benchmarking being performed for EO methods. Additionally, classical benchmarks from the evolutionary community provide few practical insights for Deep Learning applications. This poses challenges for newcomers to hardware-accelerated EO and hinders significant adoption. Hence, we establish a new benchmark of EO methods (NEB) tailored toward Deep Learning applications and exhaustively evaluate traditional and meta-learned EO. We investigate core scientific questions including resource allocation, fitness shaping, normalization, regularization & scalability of EO. The benchmark is open-sourced at under Apache-2.0 license.