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Towards Training Without Depth Limits: Batch Normalization Without Gradient Explosion

Alexandru Meterez · Amir Joudaki · Francesco Orabona · Alexander Immer · Gunnar Ratsch · Hadi Daneshmand

Halle B #186
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Tue 7 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Normalization layers are one of the key building blocks for deep neural networks. Several theoretical studies have shown that batch normalization improves the signal propagation, by avoiding the representations from becoming collinear across the layers. However, results on mean-field theory of batch normalization also conclude that this benefit comes at the expense of exploding gradients in depth. Motivated by these two aspects of batch normalization, in this study we pose the following question: Can a batch-normalized network keep the optimal signal propagation properties, but avoid exploding gradients? We answer this question in the affirmative by giving a particular construction of an MLP with linear activations and batch-normalization that provably has bounded gradients at any depth. Based on Weingarten calculus, we develop a rigorous and non-asymptotic theory for this constructed MLP that gives a precise characterization of forward signal propagation, while proving that gradients remain bounded for linearly independent input samples, which holds in most practical settings. Inspired by our theory, we also design an activation shaping scheme that empirically achieves the same properties for non-linear activations.

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