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Predicting the utility of search spaces for black-box optimization: a simple, budget-aware approach

Setareh Ariafar · Justin Gilmer · Zachary Nado · Jasper Snoek · Rodolphe Jenatton · George Dahl


Black box optimization requires specifying a search space to explore for solutions, e.g. a d-dimensional compact space, and this choice is critical for getting the best results at a reasonable budget. Unfortunately, determining a high quality search space can be challenging in many applications. For example, when tuning hyperparameters for machine learning pipelines on a new problem given a limited budget, one must strike a balance between excluding potentially promising regions and keeping the search space small enough to be tractable. The goal of this work is to motivate---through example applications in tuning deep neural networks---the problem of predicting the quality of search spaces conditioned on budgets, as well as to provide a simple scoring method based on a utility function applied to a probabilistic response surface model, similar to Bayesian optimization. We show that the method we present can compute meaningful budget-conditional scores in a variety of situations. We also provide experimental evidence that accurate scores can be useful in constructing and pruning search spaces. Ultimately, we believe scoring search spaces should become standard practice in the experimental workflow for deep learning.

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