Path Regularization: A Convexity and Sparsity Inducing Regularization for Parallel ReLU Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Tolga Ergen, Mert Pilanci


Understanding the fundamental principles behind the success of deep neural networks is one of the most important open questions in the current literature. To this end, we study the training problem of deep neural networks and introduce an analytic approach to unveil hidden convexity in the optimization landscape. We consider a deep parallel ReLU network architecture, which also includes standard deep networks and ResNets as its special cases. We then show that pathwise regularized training problems can be represented as an exact convex optimization problem. We further prove that the equivalent convex problem is regularized via a group sparsity inducing norm. Thus, a path regularized parallel ReLU network can be viewed as a parsimonious convex model in high dimensions. More importantly, since the original training problem may not be trainable in polynomial-time, we propose an approximate algorithm with a fully polynomial-time complexity in all data dimensions. Then, we prove strong global optimality guarantees for this algorithm. We also provide experiments corroborating our theory.