Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
Difan Zou, Jingfeng Wu, Vladimir Braverman, Quanquan Gu, Sham Kakade
Stochastic gradient descent (SGD) has achieved great success due to its superior performance in both optimization and generalization. Most of existing generalization analyses are made for single-pass SGD, which is a less practical variant compared to the commonly-used multi-pass SGD. Besides, theoretical analyses for multi-pass SGD often concern a worst-case instance in a class of problems, which may be pessimistic to explain the superior generalization ability for some particular problem instance. The goal of this paper is to provide an instance-dependent excess risk bound of multi-pass SGD for least squares in the interpolation regime, which is expressed as a function of the iteration number, stepsize, and data covariance. We show that the excess risk of SGD can be exactly decomposed into the excess risk of GD and a positive fluctuation error, suggesting that SGD always performs worse, instance-wisely, than GD, in generalization. On the other hand, we show that although SGD needs more iterations than GD to achieve the same level of excess risk, it saves the number of stochastic gradient evaluations, and therefore is preferable in terms of computational time.