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Spotlight Poster

Bilevel Optimization under Unbounded Smoothness: A New Algorithm and Convergence Analysis

Jie Hao · Xiaochuan Gong · Mingrui Liu

Halle B #272
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: Bilevel optimization is an important formulation for many machine learning problems, such as meta-learning and hyperparameter optimization. Current bilevel optimization algorithms assume that the gradient of the upper-level function is Lipschitz (i.e., the upper-level function has a bounded smoothness parameter). However, recent studies reveal that certain neural networks such as recurrent neural networks (RNNs) and long-short-term memory networks (LSTMs) exhibit potential unbounded smoothness, rendering conventional bilevel optimization algorithms unsuitable for these neural networks. In this paper, we design a new bilevel optimization algorithm, namely BO-REP, to address this challenge. This algorithm updates the upper-level variable using normalized momentum and incorporates two novel techniques for updating the lower-level variable: \textit{initialization refinement} and \textit{periodic updates}. Specifically, once the upper-level variable is initialized, a subroutine is invoked to obtain a refined estimate of the corresponding optimal lower-level variable, and the lower-level variable is updated only after every specific period instead of each iteration. When the upper-level problem is nonconvex and unbounded smooth, and the lower-level problem is strongly convex, we prove that our algorithm requires $\widetilde{O}(1/\epsilon^4)$ \footnote{Here $\widetilde{O}(\cdot)$ compresses logarithmic factors of $1/\epsilon$ and $1/\delta$, where $\delta\in(0,1)$ denotes the failure probability.} iterations to find an $\epsilon$-stationary point in the stochastic setting, where each iteration involves calling a stochastic gradient or Hessian-vector product oracle. Notably, this result matches the state-of-the-art complexity results under the bounded smoothness setting and without mean-squared smoothness of the stochastic gradient, up to logarithmic factors. Our proof relies on novel technical lemmas for the periodically updated lower-level variable, which are of independent interest. Our experiments on hyper-representation learning, hyperparameter optimization, and data hyper-cleaning for text classification tasks demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed algorithm. The code is available at [](

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