Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)
Tyler B. Johnson, Carlos Guestrin
In theory, importance sampling speeds up stochastic gradient algorithms for supervised learning by prioritizing training examples. In practice, the cost of computing importances greatly limits the impact of importance sampling. We propose a robust, approximate importance sampling procedure (RAIS) for stochastic gradient de- scent. By approximating the ideal sampling distribution using robust optimization, RAIS provides much of the benefit of exact importance sampling with drastically reduced overhead. Empirically, we find RAIS-SGD and standard SGD follow similar learning curves, but RAIS moves faster through these paths, achieving speed-ups of at least 20% and sometimes much more.