Slope and generalization properties of neural networks
Preprint, 2021

Neural networks are very successful tools in for example advanced classification.
From a statistical point of view, fitting a neural network may be seen as a kind of
regression, where we seek a function from the input space to a space of classification
probabilities that follows the "general" shape of the data, but avoids overfitting by
avoiding memorization of individual data points. In statistics, this can be done by
controlling the geometric complexity of the regression function. We propose to
do something similar when fitting neural networks by controlling the slope of the
After defining the slope and discussing some of its theoretical properties, we go
on to show empirically in examples, using ReLU networks, that the distribution
of the slope of a well-trained neural network classifier is generally independent
of the width of the layers in a fully connected network, and that the mean of the
distribution only has a weak dependence on the model architecture in general. The
slope is of similar size throughout the relevant volume, and varies smoothly. It also
behaves as predicted in rescaling examples. We discuss possible applications of the
slope concept, such as using it as a part of the loss function or stopping criterion
during network training, or ranking data sets in terms of their complexity.


Anton Johansson

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Niklas Engsner

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Data Science

Claes Strannegård

Data Science and AI 1

Petter Mostad

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

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Communication Systems

Bioinformatics (Computational Biology)

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