Analytic Insights into Structure and Rank of Neural Network Hessian Maps

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

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Sidak Pal Singh, Gregor Bachmann, Thomas Hofmann


The Hessian of a neural network captures parameter interactions through second-order derivatives of the loss. It is a fundamental object of study, closely tied to various problems in deep learning, including model design, optimization, and generalization. Most prior work has been empirical, typically focusing on low-rank approximations and heuristics that are blind to the network structure. In contrast, we develop theoretical tools to analyze the range of the Hessian map, which provide us with a precise understanding of its rank deficiency and the structural reasons behind it. This yields exact formulas and tight upper bounds for the Hessian rank of deep linear networks --- allowing for an elegant interpretation in terms of rank deficiency. Moreover, we demonstrate that our bounds remain faithful as an estimate of the numerical Hessian rank, for a larger class of models such as rectified and hyperbolic tangent networks. Further, we also investigate the implications of model architecture (e.g.~width, depth, bias) on the rank deficiency. Overall, our work provides novel insights into the source and extent of redundancy in overparameterized neural networks.