Proximal Stochastic Methods for Nonsmooth Nonconvex Finite-Sum Optimization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

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Sashank J. Reddi, Suvrit Sra, Barnabas Poczos, Alexander J. Smola


We analyze stochastic algorithms for optimizing nonconvex, nonsmooth finite-sum problems, where the nonsmooth part is convex. Surprisingly, unlike the smooth case, our knowledge of this fundamental problem is very limited. For example, it is not known whether the proximal stochastic gradient method with constant minibatch converges to a stationary point. To tackle this issue, we develop fast stochastic algorithms that provably converge to a stationary point for constant minibatches. Furthermore, using a variant of these algorithms, we obtain provably faster convergence than batch proximal gradient descent. Our results are based on the recent variance reduction techniques for convex optimization but with a novel analysis for handling nonconvex and nonsmooth functions. We also prove global linear convergence rate for an interesting subclass of nonsmooth nonconvex functions, which subsumes several recent works.