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Role of Locality and Weight Sharing in Image-Based Tasks: A Sample Complexity Separation between CNNs, LCNs, and FCNs

Aakash Sunil Lahoti · Stefani Karp · Ezra Winston · Aarti Singh · Yuanzhi Li

Halle B #54
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Wed 8 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT

Abstract: Vision tasks are characterized by the properties of locality and translation invariance. The superior performance of convolutional neural networks (CNNs) on these tasks is widely attributed to the inductive bias of locality and weight sharing baked into their architecture. Existing attempts to quantify the statistical benefits of these biases in CNNs over locally connected convolutional neural networks (LCNs) and fully connected neural networks (FCNs) fall into one of the following categories: either they disregard the optimizer and only provide uniform convergence upper bounds with no separating lower bounds, or they consider simplistic tasks that do not truly mirror the locality and translation invariance as found in real-world vision tasks. To address these deficiencies, we introduce the Dynamic Signal Distribution (DSD) classification task that models an image as consisting of $k$ patches, each of dimension $d$, and the label is determined by a $d$-sparse signal vector that can freely appear in any one of the $k$ patches. On this task, for any orthogonally equivariant algorithm like gradient descent, we prove that CNNs require $\tilde{O}(k+d)$ samples, whereas LCNs require $\Omega(kd)$ samples, establishing the statistical advantages of weight sharing in translation invariant tasks. Furthermore, LCNs need $\tilde{O}(k(k+d))$ samples, compared to $\Omega(k^2d)$ samples for FCNs, showcasing the benefits of locality in local tasks. Additionally, we develop information theoretic tools for analyzing randomized algorithms, which may be of interest for statistical research.

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