Random Search for Hyper-Parameter Optimization

James Bergstra, Yoshua Bengio; 13(Feb):281−305, 2012.


Grid search and manual search are the most widely used strategies for hyper-parameter optimization. This paper shows empirically and theoretically that randomly chosen trials are more efficient for hyper-parameter optimization than trials on a grid. Empirical evidence comes from a comparison with a large previous study that used grid search and manual search to configure neural networks and deep belief networks. Compared with neural networks configured by a pure grid search, we find that random search over the same domain is able to find models that are as good or better within a small fraction of the computation time. Granting random search the same computational budget, random search finds better models by effectively searching a larger, less promising configuration space. Compared with deep belief networks configured by a thoughtful combination of manual search and grid search, purely random search over the same 32-dimensional configuration space found statistically equal performance on four of seven data sets, and superior performance on one of seven. A Gaussian process analysis of the function from hyper-parameters to validation set performance reveals that for most data sets only a few of the hyper-parameters really matter, but that different hyper-parameters are important on different data sets. This phenomenon makes grid search a poor choice for configuring algorithms for new data sets. Our analysis casts some light on why recent "High Throughput" methods achieve surprising success−they appear to search through a large number of hyper-parameters because most hyper-parameters do not matter much. We anticipate that growing interest in large hierarchical models will place an increasing burden on techniques for hyper-parameter optimization; this work shows that random search is a natural baseline against which to judge progress in the development of adaptive (sequential) hyper-parameter optimization algorithms.


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