# How to use a loss function that is not differentiable?

I am trying to find a codebook at the output of a fully connected neural network which chooses points such that the minimum distance (Euclidean norm) between the so produced codebook is maximized. The input to the neural network is the points that need to be mapped into higher dimension of the output space.

For instance, if the input dimension is 2 and output dimension is 3, the following mapping (and any permutations) works best: 00 - 000, 01 - 011, 10 - 101, 11 - 110

import tensorflow as tf
import numpy as np
import itertools

input_bits = tf.placeholder(dtype=tf.float32, shape=[None, 2], name='input_bits')
code_out = tf.placeholder(dtype=tf.float32, shape=[None, 3], name='code_out')
np.random.seed(1331)

def find_code(message):
weight1 = np.random.normal(loc=0.0, scale=0.01, size=[2, 3])
init1 = tf.constant_initializer(weight1)
out = tf.layers.dense(inputs=message, units=3, activation=tf.nn.sigmoid, kernel_initializer=init1)
return out

code = find_code(input_bits)

distances = []
for i in range(0, 3):
for j in range(i+1, 3):
distances.append(tf.linalg.norm(code_out[i]-code_out[j]))
min_dist = tf.reduce_min(distances)
# avg_dist = tf.reduce_mean(distances)

loss = -min_dist

opt = tf.train.AdamOptimizer().minimize(loss)

init_variables = tf.global_variables_initializer()
sess = tf.Session()
sess.run(init_variables)

saver = tf.train.Saver()

count = int(1e4)

for i in range(count):
input_bit = [list(k) for k in itertools.product([0, 1], repeat=2)]
code_preview = sess.run(code, feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit})
sess.run(opt, feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit, code_out: code_preview})


Since the loss function itself is not differentiable, I am getting the error

ValueError: No gradients provided for any variable, check your graph for ops that do not support gradients, between variables


Am I doing something silly or is there a way to circumvent this? Any help in this regard is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

UPDATE:

import tensorflow as tf
import numpy as np
import itertools
from random import shuffle

input_bits = tf.placeholder(dtype=tf.float32, shape=[None, 2], name='input_bits')
learning_rate_val = tf.placeholder(dtype=tf.float32, shape=(), name='learning_rate')

def find_code(message):
weight1 = np.random.normal(loc=0.0, scale=0.01, size=[2, 3])
init1 = tf.constant_initializer(weight1)
out1 = tf.layers.dense(inputs=message, units=3, activation=tf.nn.sigmoid, kernel_initializer=init1)
return out1

code = find_code(input_bits)

distances = []
for i in range(0, 4):
for j in range(i+1, 4):
distances.append(tf.linalg.norm(code[i]-code[j]))
min_dist = tf.reduce_min(distances)
# avg_dist = tf.reduce_mean(distances)

loss = - min_dist

opt = tf.train.AdamOptimizer().minimize(loss)

init_variables = tf.global_variables_initializer()
sess = tf.Session()
sess.run(init_variables)

saver = tf.train.Saver()

count = int(9e5)
threshold = 0.5

for i in range(count):
input_bit = [list(k) for k in itertools.product([0, 1], repeat=2)]
shuffle(input_bit)
input_bit = 2 * np.array(input_bit) - 1
code_preview = sess.run(code, feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit})
sess.run(opt, feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit, learning_rate_val: initial_learning_rate})
train_loss_track.append(sess.run(loss, feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit}))
if i % 5000 == 0 or i == 0 or i == count - 1:
input_bit = [list(k) for k in itertools.product([0, 1], repeat=2)]
input_bit = 2 * np.array(input_bit) - 1
output, train_loss = sess.run([code, loss], feed_dict={input_bits: input_bit,
learning_rate_val: initial_learning_rate})
print("\nEpoch: " + str(i))
print("Code: " + str(output))
output[output > threshold] = 1
output[output <= threshold] = 0
print("Code: " + str(output))
print("Loss: " + str(train_loss) + "\n")



This seems to work fine. But the final output is

Code: [[9.9976158e-01 0.0000000e+00 1.0000000e+00]
[4.9997061e-01 0.0000000e+00 0.0000000e+00]
[5.0000829e-01 1.0000000e+00 1.0000000e+00]
[2.3837961e-04 1.0000000e+00 4.6849247e-11]]
Code: [[1. 0. 1.]
[0. 0. 0.]
[1. 1. 1.]
[0. 1. 0.]]
Loss: -1.1179142


Although it is close to the expected output, it gets stuck here. Is there anyway to reach the expected output?

## 1 Answer

Typically, neural nets are trained using the backpropagation algorithm. The algorithm searches for optimal weights by making small adjustments in the direction opposite the gradient. Computing the gradient requires a differentiable loss function, so you cannot train a network with backpropagation if your loss function is not differentiable.

However, there are other optimization algorithms you can try. Genetic algorithms were once commonly used to find weights for a neural network, and they can be used with virtually any loss function. GAs are also pretty easy to code from scratch. If you want to learn more, this is a pretty accessible blog post (with code), and here is a more in-depth paper on the topic.

• zachdj, thanks for your response. I have updated the question. Also tf.reduce_min is differentiable. The problem was with the code_out variable I was using. However I am partially successful. Can you please go through the updated question? Thanks in advance – learner Aug 20 '19 at 13:56