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DeepZero: Scaling Up Zeroth-Order Optimization for Deep Model Training

AOCHUAN CHEN · Yimeng Zhang · Jinghan Jia · James Diffenderfer · Konstantinos Parasyris · Jiancheng Liu · Yihua Zhang · Zheng Zhang · Bhavya Kailkhura · Sijia Liu

Halle B #43
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Tue 7 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT


Zeroth-order (ZO) optimization has become a popular technique for solving machine learning (ML) problems when first-order (FO) information is difficult or impossible to obtain. However, the scalability of ZO optimization remains an open problem: Its use has primarily been limited to relatively small-scale ML problems, such as sample-wise adversarial attack generation. To our best knowledge, no prior work has demonstrated the effectiveness of ZO optimization in training deep neural networks (DNNs) without a significant decrease in performance. To overcome this roadblock, we develop DeepZero, a principled and practical ZO deep learning (DL) framework that can scale ZO optimization to DNN training from scratch through three primary innovations. First, we demonstrate the advantages of coordinate-wise gradient estimation (CGE) over randomized vector-wise gradient estimation in training accuracy and computational efficiency. Second, we propose a sparsity-induced ZO training protocol that extends the model pruning methodology using only finite differences to explore and exploit the sparse DL prior in CGE. Third, we develop the methods of feature reuse and forward parallelization to advance the practical implementations of ZO training. Our extensive experiments show that DeepZero achieves state-of-the-art (SOTA) accuracy on ResNet-20 trained on CIFAR-10, approaching FO training performance for the first time. Furthermore, we show the practical utility of DeepZero in applications of certified adversarial defense and DL-based partial differential equation error correction, achieving 10-20% improvement over SOTA. We believe our results will inspire future research on scalable ZO optimization and contribute to advancing deep learning.

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