A Random Matrix Perspective on Mixtures of Nonlinearities in High Dimensions

Ben Adlam · Jake Levinson · Jeffrey Pennington

Abstract: One of the distinguishing characteristics of modern deep learning systems is their use of neural network architectures with enormous numbers of parameters, often in the millions and sometimes even in the billions. While this paradigm has inspired significant research on the properties of large networks, relatively little work has been devoted to the fact that these networks are often used to model large complex datasets, which may themselves contain millions or even billions of constraints. In this work, we focus on this high-dimensional regime in which both the dataset size and the number of features tend to infinity. We analyze the performance of random feature regression with features $F=f(WX+B)$ for a random weight matrix $W$ and bias vector $B$, obtaining exact formulae for the asymptotic training and test errors for data generated by a linear teacher model. The role of the bias can be understood as parameterizing a distribution over activation functions, and our analysis directly generalizes to such distributions, even those not expressible with a traditional additive bias. Intriguingly, we find that a mixture of nonlinearities can improve both the training and test errors over the best single nonlinearity, suggesting that mixtures of nonlinearities might be useful for approximate kernel methods or neural network architecture design.

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