Rylan Schaeffer

Kernel Papers

PCA Networks

Previously, we considered the linear neuron learning via supervised labels $y$. Here, we'll instead consider a linear neuron receiving data $x \in \mathbb{R}^d$ and learning a linear readout that produces a low dimension representation $y \in \mathbb{R}^k$, where $k < d$: $$y = w^T x $$ Rather than defining an objective function and then showing the emergent update rule, we'll instead consider an update rule inspired by Hebbian learning principles: if the model's output is correlated with a feature in the input space, the corresponding weight should be strengthened. This learning rule will be shown to a common linear unsupervised learning technique, principal component analysis on the data. The Hebbian update rule is: $$w_{t+1} = w_{t} + \eta y_t x_t $$

However, this naive Hebbian learning rule is unstable! We can see this by considering the continuous time differential equation and showing that the magnitude of $w$ diverges. $$w_{t+1} - w_t = \eta y_t x_t \approx \frac{\Delta w}{\Delta t} = \frac{\eta}{\Delta t} y_t x_t \approx \tau \frac{dw}{dt} = y(t) x(t) $$ But if we replace $y_t = w_t^T x_t$, we see the the change in $w$ scales proportional to the norm of $x(t)$: $$ \begin{align*} \tau \frac{dw}{dt} &= y(t) x(t) \\ &= w(t)^T x(t) x(t)\\ &= x(t) w(t)^T x(t) \\ \tau \frac{d}{dt} ||w_t||_2^2 &= w(t)^T x(t) w(t)^T x(t)\\ &= ||w(t) x(t)||_2^2 \end{align*} $$ This implies that $w(t)$ will diverge to infinity since the change is always positive, regardless of inputs. We can also show the direction that $w$ diverges in by projecting the weight vector onto the data covariance matrix $C = x(t) x(t)^T$: $$ \begin{align*} \tau \frac{dw}{dt} &= x(t) x(t)^T w(t)\\ &= C w(t)\\ &= C \sum_i w_i(t) \vec{\lambda}_i\\ \tau \frac{dw_i}{dt} &= \lambda_i w_i(t) \end{align*} $$ Solving the dynamics yields

To fix this, we propose a slight modification of the Hebbian learning rule called Oja's rule: