Learning Two Layer Rectified Neural Networks in Polynomial Time

Ainesh Bakshi, Rajesh Jayaram, David P. Woodruff

Consider the following fundamental learning problem: given input examples $x \in \mathbb{R}^d$ and their vector-valued labels, as defined by an underlying generative neural network, recover the weight matrices of this network. We consider two-layer networks, mapping $\mathbb{R}^d$ to $\mathbb{R}^m$, with $k$ non-linear activation units $f(\cdot)$, where $f(x) = \max \{x , 0\}$ is the ReLU. Such a network is specified by two weight matrices, $\mathbf{U}^* \in \mathbb{R}^{m \times k}, \mathbf{V}^* \in \mathbb{R}^{k \times d}$, such that the label of an example $x \in \mathbb{R}^{d}$ is given by $\mathbf{U}^* f(\mathbf{V}^* x)$, where $f(\cdot)$ is applied coordinate-wise. Given $n$ samples as a matrix $\mathbf{X} \in \mathbb{R}^{d \times n}$ and the (possibly noisy) labels $\mathbf{U}^* f(\mathbf{V}^* \mathbf{X}) + \mathbf{E}$ of the network on these samples, where $\mathbf{E}$ is a noise matrix, our goal is to recover the weight matrices $\mathbf{U}^*$ and $\mathbf{V}^*$. In this work, we develop algorithms and hardness results under varying assumptions on the input and noise. Although the problem is NP-hard even for $k=2$, by assuming Gaussian marginals over the input $\mathbf{X}$ we are able to develop polynomial time algorithms for the approximate recovery of $\mathbf{U}^*$ and $\mathbf{V}^*$. Perhaps surprisingly, in the noiseless case our algorithms recover $\mathbf{U}^*,\mathbf{V}^*$ exactly, i.e., with no error. To the best of the our knowledge, this is the first algorithm to accomplish exact recovery. For the noisy case, we give the first polynomial time algorithm that approximately recovers the weights in the presence of mean-zero noise $\mathbf{E}$. Our algorithms generalize to a larger class of rectified activation functions, $f(x) = 0$ when $x\leq 0$, and $f(x) > 0$ otherwise.

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