Uniform-in-Time Wasserstein Stability Bounds for (Noisy) Stochastic Gradient Descent

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Lingjiong Zhu, Mert Gurbuzbalaban, Anant Raj, Umut Simsekli


Algorithmic stability is an important notion that has proven powerful for deriving generalization bounds for practical algorithms. The last decade has witnessed an increasing number of stability bounds for different algorithms applied on different classes of loss functions. While these bounds have illuminated various properties of optimization algorithms, the analysis of each case typically required a different proof technique with significantly different mathematical tools. In this study, we make a novel connection between learning theory and applied probability and introduce a unified guideline for proving Wasserstein stability bounds for stochastic optimization algorithms. We illustrate our approach on stochastic gradient descent (SGD) and we obtain time-uniform stability bounds (i.e., the bound does not increase with the number of iterations) for strongly convex losses and non-convex losses with additive noise, where we recover similar results to the prior art or extend them to more general cases by using a single proof technique. Our approach is flexible and can be generalizable to other popular optimizers, as it mainly requires developing Lyapunov functions, which are often readily available in the literature. It also illustrates that ergodicity is an important component for obtaining time-uniform bounds -- which might not be achieved for convex or non-convex losses unless additional noise is injected to the iterates. Finally, we slightly stretch our analysis technique and prove time-uniform bounds for SGD under convex and non-convex losses (without additional additive noise), which, to our knowledge, is novel.