Accelerating Rescaled Gradient Descent: Fast Optimization of Smooth Functions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Ashia C. Wilson, Lester Mackey, Andre Wibisono


We present a family of algorithms, called descent algorithms, for optimizing convex and non-convex functions. We also introduce a new first-order algorithm, called rescaled gradient descent (RGD), and show that RGD achieves a faster convergence rate than gradient descent provided the function is strongly smooth - a natural generalization of the standard smoothness assumption on the objective function. When the objective function is convex, we present two frameworks for “accelerating” descent methods, one in the style of Nesterov and the other in the style of Monteiro and Svaiter. Rescaled gradient descent can be accelerated under the same strong smoothness assumption using both frameworks. We provide several examples of strongly smooth loss functions in machine learning and numerical experiments that verify our theoretical findings.