In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper

Loss Landscapes are All You Need: Neural Network Generalization Can Be Explained Without the Implicit Bias of Gradient Descent

Ping-yeh Chiang · Renkun Ni · David Y. Miller · Arpit Bansal · Jonas Geiping · Micah Goldblum · Tom Goldstein


It is commonly believed that the implicit regularization of optimizers is needed for neural networks to generalize in the overparameterized regime. In this paper, we observe experimentally that this implicit regularization behavior is {\em generic}, i.e. it does not depend strongly on the choice of optimizer. We demonstrate this by training neural networks using several gradient-free optimizers, which do not benefit from properties that are often attributed to gradient-based optimizers. This includes a guess-and-check optimizer that generates uniformly random parameter vectors until finding one that happens to achieve perfect train accuracy, and a zeroth-order Pattern Search optimizer that uses no gradient computations. In the low sample and few-shot regimes, where zeroth order optimizers are most computationally tractable, we find that these non-gradient optimizers achieve test accuracy comparable to SGD. The code to reproduce results can be found at .

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