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We develop a convex analytic approach to analyze finite width twolayer ReLU networks. We first prove that an optimal solution to the regularized training problem can be characterized as extreme points of a convex set, where simple solutions are encouraged via its convex geometrical properties. We then leverage this characterization to show that an optimal set of parameters yield linear spline interpolation for regression problems involving one dimensional or rankone data. We also characterize the classification decision regions in terms of a kernel matrix and minimum `1norm solutions. This is in contrast to Neural Tangent Kernel which is unable to explain predictions of finite width networks. Our convex geometric characterization also provides intuitive explanations of hidden neurons as autoencoders. In higher dimensions, we show that the training problem can be cast as a finite dimensional convex problem with infinitely many constraints. Then, we apply certain convex relaxations and introduce a cuttingplane algorithm to globally optimize the network. We further analyze the exactness of the relaxations to provide conditions for the convergence to a global optimum. Our analysis also shows that optimal network parameters can be also characterized as interpretable closedform formulas in some practically relevant special cases.

We study regularized deep neural networks (DNNs) and introduce a convex analytic framework to characterize the structure of the hidden layers. We show that a set of optimal hidden layer weights for a norm regularized DNN training problem can be explicitly found as the extreme points of a convex set. For the special case of deep linear networks, we prove that each optimal weight matrix aligns with the previous layers via duality. More importantly, we apply the same characterization to deep ReLU networks with whitened data and prove the same weight alignment holds. As a corollary, we also prove that norm regularized deep ReLU networks yield spline interpolation for onedimensional datasets which was previously known only for twolayer networks. Furthermore, we provide closedform solutions for the optimal layer weights when data is rankone or whitened. The same analysis also applies to architectures with batch normalization even for arbitrary data. Therefore, we obtain a complete explanation for a recent empirical observation termed Neural Collapse where class means collapse to the vertices of a simplex equiangular tight frame.

Understanding the fundamental mechanism behind the success of deep neural networks is one of the key challenges in the modern machine learning literature. Despite numerous attempts, a solid theoretical analysis is yet to be developed. In this paper, we develop a novel unified framework to reveal a hidden regularization mechanism through the lens of convex optimization. We first show that the training of multiple threelayer ReLU subnetworks with weight decay regularization can be equivalently cast as a convex optimization problem in a higher dimensional space, where sparsity is enforced via a group `1 norm regularization. Consequently, ReLU networks can be interpreted as high dimensional feature selection methods. More importantly, we then prove that the equivalent convex problem can be globally optimized by a standard convex optimization solver with a polynomialtime complexity with respect to the number of samples and data dimension when the width of the network is fixed. Finally, we numerically validate our theoretical results via experiments involving both synthetic and real datasets.

We describe the convex semiinfinite dual of the twolayer vectoroutput ReLU neural network training problem. This semiinfinite dual admits a finite dimensional representation, but its support is over a convex set which is difficult to characterize. In particular, we demonstrate that the nonconvex neural network training problem is equivalent to a finitedimensional convex copositive program. Our work is the first to identify this strong connection between the global optima of neural networks and those of copositive programs. We thus demonstrate how neural networks implicitly attempt to solve copositive programs via seminonnegative matrix factorization, and draw key insights from this formulation. We describe the first algorithms for provably finding the global minimum of the vector output neural network training problem, which are polynomial in the number of samples for a fixed data rank, yet exponential in the dimension. However, in the case of convolutional architectures, the computational complexity is exponential in only the filter size and polynomial in all other parameters. We describe the circumstances in which we can find the global optimum of this neural network training problem exactly with softthresholded SVD, and provide a copositive relaxation which is guaranteed to be exact for certain classes of problems, and whichmore »