Conformal Symplectic and Relativistic Optimization

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

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Guilherme Franca, Jeremias Sulam, Daniel Robinson, Rene Vidal


Arguably, the two most popular accelerated or momentum-based optimization methods are Nesterov's accelerated gradient and Polyaks's heavy ball, both corresponding to different discretizations of a particular second order differential equation with a friction term. Such connections with continuous-time dynamical systems have been instrumental in demystifying acceleration phenomena in optimization. Here we study structure-preserving discretizations for a certain class of dissipative (conformal) Hamiltonian systems, allowing us to analyze the symplectic structure of both Nesterov and heavy ball, besides providing several new insights into these methods. Moreover, we propose a new algorithm based on a dissipative relativistic system that normalizes the momentum and may result in more stable/faster optimization. Importantly, such a method generalizes both Nesterov and heavy ball, each being recovered as distinct limiting cases, and has potential advantages at no additional cost.