Embedding Principle of Loss Landscape of Deep Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Yaoyu Zhang, Zhongwang Zhang, Tao Luo, Zhiqin Xu


Understanding the structure of loss landscape of deep neural networks (DNNs) is obviously important. In this work, we prove an embedding principle that the loss landscape of a DNN "contains" all the critical points of all the narrower DNNs. More precisely, we propose a critical embedding such that any critical point, e.g., local or global minima, of a narrower DNN can be embedded to a critical point/affine subspace of the target DNN with higher degeneracy and preserving the DNN output function. Note that, given any training data, differentiable loss function and differentiable activation function, this embedding structure of critical points holds.This general structure of DNNs is starkly different from other nonconvex problems such as protein-folding.Empirically, we find that a wide DNN is often attracted by highly-degenerate critical points that are embedded from narrow DNNs. The embedding principle provides a new perspective to study the general easy optimization of wide DNNs and unravels a potential implicit low-complexity regularization during the training.Overall, our work provides a skeleton for the study of loss landscape of DNNs and its implication, by which a more exact and comprehensive understanding can be anticipated in the near future.