Limiting fluctuation and trajectorial stability of multilayer neural networks with mean field training

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Huy Pham, Phan-Minh Nguyen


The mean field theory of multilayer neural networks centers around a particular infinite-width scaling, in which the learning dynamics is shown to be closely tracked by the mean field limit. A random fluctuation around this infinite-width limit is expected from a large-width expansion to the next order. This fluctuation has been studied only in the case of shallow networks, where previous works employ heavily technical notions or additional formulation ideas amenable only to that case. Treatment of the multilayer case has been missing, with the chief difficulty in finding a formulation that must capture the stochastic dependency across not only time but also depth.In this work, we initiate the study of the fluctuation in the case of multilayer networks, at any network depth. Leveraging on the neuronal embedding framework recently introduced by Nguyen and Pham, we systematically derive a system of dynamical equations, called the second-order mean field limit, that captures the limiting fluctuation distribution. We demonstrate through the framework the complex interaction among neurons in this second-order mean field limit, the stochasticity with cross-layer dependency and the nonlinear time evolution inherent in the limiting fluctuation. A limit theorem is proven to relate quantitatively this limit to the fluctuation realized by large-width networks.We apply the result to show a stability property of gradient descent mean field training: in the large-width regime, along the training trajectory, it progressively biases towards a solution with "minimal fluctuation" (in fact, vanishing fluctuation) in the learned output function, even after the network has been initialized at or has converged (sufficiently fast) to a global optimum. This extends a similar phenomenon previously shown only for shallow networks with a squared loss in the empirical risk minimization setting, to multilayer networks with a loss function that is not necessarily convex in a more general setting.