ICML 2022

Neural Tangent Kernel Empowered Federated Learning


Kai Yue, Richeng Jin, Ryan Pilgrim, Chau-Wai Wong, Dror Baron, and Huaiyu Dai

NC State University

[Paper] [Code] [News] [Poster]



Federated learning (FL) is a privacy-preserving paradigm where multiple participants jointly solve a machine learning problem without sharing raw data. Unlike traditional distributed learning, a unique characteristic of FL is statistical heterogeneity, namely, data distributions across participants are different from each other. Meanwhile, recent advances in the interpretation of neural networks have seen a wide use of neural tangent kernels (NTKs) for convergence analyses. In this paper, we propose a novel FL paradigm empowered by the NTK framework. The paradigm addresses the challenge of statistical heterogeneity by transmitting update data that are more expressive than those of the conventional FL paradigms. Specifically, sample-wise Jacobian matrices, rather than model weights/gradients, are uploaded by participants. The server then constructs an empirical kernel matrix to update a global model without explicitly performing gradient descent. We further develop a variant with improved communication efficiency and enhanced privacy. Numerical results show that the proposed paradigm can achieve the same accuracy while reducing the number of communication rounds by an order of magnitude compared to federated averaging.



Fig 1. Schematic of NTK-FL. Each client first receives the weight, and then uploads the Jacobian tensor, labels, and initial condition. The server builds a global kernel and performs the weight evolution.



Fig 2. Schematic of CP-NTK-FL. A trusted key server (orange) sends an encrypted seed with the public key for random projection. The client transmits the required message to the shuffling server (blue) to perform a permutation.








title={Neural tangent kernel empowered federated learning},
author={Yue, Kai and Jin, Richeng and Pilgrim, Ryan and Wong, Chau-Wai and Baron, Dror and Dai, Huaiyu},
booktitle={International Conference on Machine Learning},