Reparameterizing Mirror Descent as Gradient Descent

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

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Ehsan Amid, Manfred K. K. Warmuth


Most of the recent successful applications of neural networks have been based on training with gradient descent updates. However, for some small networks, other mirror descent updates learn provably more efficiently when the target is sparse. We present a general framework for casting a mirror descent update as a gradient descent update on a different set of parameters. In some cases, the mirror descent reparameterization can be described as training a modified network with standard backpropagation. The reparameterization framework is versatile and covers a wide range of mirror descent updates, even cases where the domain is constrained. Our construction for the reparameterization argument is done for the continuous versions of the updates. Finding general criteria for the discrete versions to closely track their continuous counterparts remains an interesting open problem.