Retrospective Approximation for Smooth Stochastic Optimization

03/07/2021 ∙ by David Newton, et al. ∙ 0

We consider stochastic optimization problems where a smooth (and potentially nonconvex) objective is to be minimized using a stochastic first-order oracle. These type of problems arise in many settings from simulation optimization to deep learning. We present Retrospective Approximation (RA) as a universal sequential sample-average approximation (SAA) paradigm where during each iteration k, a sample-path approximation problem is implicitly generated using an adapted sample size M_k, and solved (with prior solutions as "warm start") to an adapted error tolerance ϵ_k, using a "deterministic method" such as the line search quasi-Newton method. The principal advantage of RA is that decouples optimization from stochastic approximation, allowing the direct adoption of existing deterministic algorithms without modification, thus mitigating the need to redesign algorithms for the stochastic context. A second advantage is the obvious manner in which RA lends itself to parallelization. We identify conditions on {M_k, k ≥ 1} and {ϵ_k, k≥ 1} that ensure almost sure convergence and convergence in L_1-norm, along with optimal iteration and work complexity rates. We illustrate the performance of RA with line-search quasi-Newton on an ill-conditioned least squares problem, as well as an image classification problem using a deep convolutional neural net.

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