Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Zhongxiang Dai, Bryan Kian Hsiang Low, Patrick Jaillet
Bayesian optimization (BO) is a prominent approach to optimizing expensive-to-evaluate black-box functions. The massive computational capability of edge devices such as mobile phones, coupled with privacy concerns, has led to a surging interest in federated learning (FL) which focuses on collaborative training of deep neural networks (DNNs) via first-order optimization techniques. However, some common machine learning tasks such as hyperparameter tuning of DNNs lack access to gradients and thus require zeroth-order/black-box optimization. This hints at the possibility of extending BO to the FL setting (FBO) for agents to collaborate in these black-box optimization tasks. This paper presents federated Thompson sampling (FTS) which overcomes a number of key challenges of FBO and FL in a principled way: We (a) use random Fourier features to approximate the Gaussian process surrogate model used in BO, which naturally produces the parameters to be exchanged between agents, (b) design FTS based on Thompson sampling, which significantly reduces the number of parameters to be exchanged, and (c) provide a theoretical convergence guarantee that is robust against heterogeneous agents, which is a major challenge in FL and FBO. We empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of FTS in terms of communication efficiency, computational efficiency, and practical performance.