# Why update all parameters at each step of the Adam optimiser even when we have sparse observations?

Adam is a method for stochastic optimisation. The algorithm is given below.

Consider our parameters that we wish to optimise

$$\boldsymbol{\theta} = [\theta_1, \theta_2]$$

observations

$$\boldsymbol{x}_1, \dots, \boldsymbol{x}_N \in \mathbb{R}^2$$

and target values

$$y_1, \dots, y_N \in \mathbb{R}$$

such that our stochastic objective function is

$$f_t(\boldsymbol{\theta}) = (y_{I_t} - \boldsymbol{\theta} \cdot \boldsymbol{x}_{I_t})^2$$

for some indexing set $$I$$ of the targets and observations.

What I am now confused about is if one of the dimensions of our observations $$\boldsymbol{x}_i$$ is sparse i.e. if we assume it is the first dimension, then in most cases the stochastic objective function would be

$$f_t(\boldsymbol{\theta}) = (y_{I_t} - \theta_2 \cdot (\boldsymbol{x}_{I_t})_2)^2 \tag{1}$$

and only rarely

$$f_t(\boldsymbol{\theta}) = (y_{I_t} - \theta_1 \cdot (\boldsymbol{x}_{I_t})_1 - \theta_2 \cdot (\boldsymbol{x}_{I_t})_2)^2 \tag{2}$$

In Adam all the dimensions of $$\boldsymbol{\theta}$$ are getting updated every time any observation occurs (based on their momentum). My question is then, why not treat the optimisation along each dimension according to the sparsity structure i.e. only update $$\theta_1$$ in case (2)?

EDIT:

Apparently tensorflow has a "Lazy Adam Optimizer" that only updates the gradient for variables whose indices appear in the current batch.

This may be a good idea for very sparse data like language models.

Otherwise, here is my original response

Original:

In a general case you do not know which parts of the input, if any, are sparse. So assuming they are not makes the algorithm more generally applicable.

Furthermore, the momentum serves the purpose of "remembering" previous gradients. Since stochastic gradient descent trains on different examples at each step the momentum helps smooth out the updates.

So if an input is only rarely present than the momentum will help update the weights corresponding to it more often. Otherwise these weights would take a lot longer to converge.

• I have corrected some spellings - please check that I have corrected them to the intended words! Aug 19 '17 at 16:26
• It looks LazyAdam is not better than Adam in practice. Jun 18 '19 at 23:55

The convergence of LazyAdam is lower than Adam. The main problem is if the gradient is 0, we don't update m, and v. Actually, m and v should be updated when other weights are updated. This is why LazyAdam convergence is low. I have proposed a method to fix this issue. The performance is about the same as LazyAdam, and the convergence is the same as Adam.

https://github.com/tensorflow/tensorflow/issues/23668

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