Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

*Francis Bach, Eric Moulines*

We consider the stochastic approximation problem where a convex function has to be minimized, given only the knowledge of unbiased estimates of its gradients at certain points, a framework which includes machine learning methods based on the minimization of the empirical risk. We focus on problems without strong convexity, for which all previously known algorithms achieve a convergence rate for function values of $O(1/\sqrt{n})$. We consider and analyze two algorithms that achieve a rate of $O(1/n)$ for classical supervised learning problems. For least-squares regression, we show that averaged stochastic gradient descent with constant step-size achieves the desired rate. For logistic regression, this is achieved by a simple novel stochastic gradient algorithm that (a) constructs successive local quadratic approximations of the loss functions, while (b) preserving the same running time complexity as stochastic gradient descent. For these algorithms, we provide a non-asymptotic analysis of the generalization error (in expectation, and also in high probability for least-squares), and run extensive experiments showing that they often outperform existing approaches.

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