Better depth-width trade-offs for neural networks through the lens of dynamical systems

Part of Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning 1 pre-proceedings (ICML 2020)

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Evangelos Chatziafratis, Sai Ganesh Nagarajan, Ioannis Panageas


The expressivity of neural networks as a function of their depth, width and type of activation units has been an important question in deep learning theory. Recently, depth separation results for ReLU networks were obtained via a new connection with dynamical systems, using a generalized notion of fixed points of a continuous map $f$, called periodic points. In this work, we strengthen the connection with dynamical systems and we improve the existing width lower bounds along several aspects. Our first main result is period-specific width lower bounds that hold under the stronger notion of $L^1$-approximation error, instead of the weaker classification error. Our second contribution is that we provide sharper width lower bounds, still yielding meaningful exponential depth-width separations, in regimes where previous results wouldn't apply. A byproduct of our results is that there exists a universal constant characterizing the depth-width trade-offs, as long as $f$ has odd periods. Technically, our results follow by unveiling a tighter connection between the following three quantities of a given function: its period, its Lipschitz constant and the growth rate of the number of oscillations arising under compositions of the function $f$ with itself.