Complexity-Optimal and Curvature-Free First-Order Methods for Finding Stationary Points of Composite Optimization Problems

This paper develops and analyzes an accelerated proximal descent method for finding stationary points of nonconvex composite optimization problems. The objective function is of the form f+h where h is a proper closed convex function, f is a differentiable function on the domain of h, and the gradient of f is Lipschitz continuous on the domain of h. The main advantage of this method is that it is “curvature-free” in the sense that it does not require knowledge of the Lipschitz constant of the gradient of f or of any global topological properties of f. It is shown that the proposed method can obtain a rho-approximate stationary point with iteration complexity bounds that are optimal, up to logarithmic terms over rho, in both the convex and nonconvex settings. Some discussion is also given about how the proposed method can be leveraged in other existing optimization frameworks, such as min-max smoothing and penalty frameworks for constrained programming, to create more specialized curvature-free methods. Finally, numerical experiments on a set of nonconvex quadratic semidefinite programming problems are given to support the practical viability of the method.

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