Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

*Guy Bresler, Dheeraj Nagaraj*

We prove dimension free representation results for neural networks with D ReLU layers under square loss for a class of functions G_D defined in the paper. These results capture the precise benefits of depth in the following sense:

```
1. The rates for representing the class of functions G_D via D ReLU layers is sharp up to constants, as shown by matching lower bounds.
2.G_D is a proper subset of G_{D+1} and as D grows the class of functions G_D grow to contain less smooth functions.
3. If D^{\prime} < D, then the approximation rate achieved by depth D^{\prime} networks is strictly worse than that achieved by depth D networks for the class G_D.
```

This constitutes a fine-grained characterization of the representation power of feedforward networks of arbitrary depth D and number of neurons N, in contrast to existing representation results which either require D growing quickly with N or assume that the function being represented is highly smooth. In the latter case similar rates can be obtained with a single nonlinear layer. Our results confirm the prevailing hypothesis that deeper networks are better at representing less smooth functions, and indeed, the main technical novelty is to fully exploit the fact that deep networks can produce highly oscillatory functions with few activation functions.

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