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Summary by Peter O'Connor 6 years ago
# Very Short
The authors propose **learning** an optimizer **to** optimally **learn** a function (the *optimizee*) which is being trained **by gradient descent**. This optimizer, a recurrent neural network, is trained to make optimal parameter updates to the optimizee **by gradient descent**.
# Short
Let's suppose we have a stochastic function $f: \mathbb R^{\text{dim}(\theta)} \rightarrow \mathbb R^+$, (the *optimizee*) which we wish to minimize with respect to $\theta$. Note that this is the typical situation we encounter when training a neural network with Stochastic Gradient Descent - where the stochasticity comes from sampling random minibatches of the data (the data is omitted as an argument here).
The "vanilla" gradient descent update is: $\theta_{t+1} = \theta_t - \alpha_t \nabla_{\theta_t} f(\theta_t)$, where $\alpha_t$ is some learning rate. Other optimizers (Adam, RMSProp, etc) replace the multiplication of the gradient by $-\alpha_t$ with some sort of weighted sum of the history of gradients.
This paper proposes to apply an optimization step $\theta_{t+1} = \theta_t + g_t$, where the update $g_t \in \mathbb R^{\text{dim}(\theta)}$ is defined by a recurrent network $m_\phi$:
$$(g_t, h_{t+1}) := m_\phi (\nabla_{\theta_t} f(\theta_t), h_t)$$
Where in their implementation, $h_t \in \mathbb R^{\text{dim}(\theta)}$ is the hidden state of the recurrent network. To make the number of parameters in the optimizer manageable, they implement their recurrent network $m$ as a *coordinatewise* LSTM (i.e. A set of $\text{dim}(\theta)$ small LSTMs that share parameters $\phi$). They train the optimizer networks's parameters $\phi$ by "unrolling" T subsequent steps of optimization, and minimizing:
$$\mathcal L(\phi) := \mathbb E_f[f(\theta^*(f, \phi))] \approx \frac1T \sum_{t=1}^T f(\theta_t)$$
Where $\theta^*(f, \phi)$ are the final optimizee parameters. In order to avoid computing second derivatives while calculating $\frac{\partial \mathcal L(\phi)}{\partial \phi}$, they make the approximation $\frac{\partial}{\partial \phi} \nabla_{\theta_t}f(\theta_t) \approx 0$ (corresponding to the dotted lines in the figure, along which gradients are not backpropagated).
https://i.imgur.com/HMaCeip.png
**The computational graph of the optimization of the optimizer, unrolled across 3 time-steps. Note that $\nabla_t := \nabla_{\theta_t}f(\theta_t)$. The dotted line indicates that we do not backpropagate across this path.**
The authors demonstrate that their method usually outperforms traditional optimizers (ADAM, RMSProp, SGD, NAG), on a synthetic dataset, MNIST, CIFAR-10, and Neural Style Transfer. They argue that their algorithm constitutes a form of transfer learning, since a pre-trained optimizer can be applied to accelerate training of a newly initialized network.

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