Generalization in Deep Networks: The Role of Distance from Initialization

7 Jan 2019  ·  Vaishnavh Nagarajan, J. Zico Kolter ·

Why does training deep neural networks using stochastic gradient descent (SGD) result in a generalization error that does not worsen with the number of parameters in the network? To answer this question, we advocate a notion of effective model capacity that is dependent on {\em a given random initialization of the network} and not just the training algorithm and the data distribution. We provide empirical evidences that demonstrate that the model capacity of SGD-trained deep networks is in fact restricted through implicit regularization of {\em the $\ell_2$ distance from the initialization}. We also provide theoretical arguments that further highlight the need for initialization-dependent notions of model capacity. We leave as open questions how and why distance from initialization is regularized, and whether it is sufficient to explain generalization.

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