Convergence rate of sign stochastic gradient descent for non-convex functions

The sign stochastic gradient descent method (signSGD) utilizes only the sign of the stochastic gradient in its updates. Since signSGD carries out one-bit quantization of the gradients, it is extremely practical for distributed optimization where gradients need to be aggregated from different processors... For the first time, we establish convergence rates for signSGD on general non-convex functions under transparent conditions. We show that the rate of signSGD to reach first-order critical points matches that of SGD in terms of number of stochastic gradient calls, up to roughly a linear factor in the dimension. We carry out simple experiments to explore the behaviour of sign gradient descent (without the stochasticity) close to saddle points and show that it often helps completely avoid them without using either stochasticity or curvature information. read more

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