Training Deep Neural Networks via Direct Loss Minimization

Supervised training of deep neural nets typically relies on minimizing cross-entropy. However, in many domains, we are interested in performing well on metrics specific to the application. In this paper we propose a direct loss minimization approach to train deep neural networks, which provably minimizes the application-specific loss function. This is often non-trivial, since these functions are neither smooth nor decomposable and thus are not amenable to optimization with standard gradient-based methods. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in the context of maximizing average precision for ranking problems. Towards this goal, we develop a novel dynamic programming algorithm that can efficiently compute the weight updates. Our approach proves superior to a variety of baselines in the context of action classification and object detection, especially in the presence of label noise.

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