Variance-Reduced Methods for Machine Learning

10/02/2020 ∙ by Robert M. Gower, et al. ∙ 20

Stochastic optimization lies at the heart of machine learning, and its cornerstone is stochastic gradient descent (SGD), a method introduced over 60 years ago. The last 8 years have seen an exciting new development: variance reduction (VR) for stochastic optimization methods. These VR methods excel in settings where more than one pass through the training data is allowed, achieving a faster convergence than SGD in theory as well as practice. These speedups underline the surge of interest in VR methods and the fast-growing body of work on this topic. This review covers the key principles and main developments behind VR methods for optimization with finite data sets and is aimed at non-expert readers. We focus mainly on the convex setting, and leave pointers to readers interested in extensions for minimizing non-convex functions.

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