The Worst Case Complexity of Direct Search and Beyond

Dr Zaikun Zhang

This talk focuses on the direct search method, arguably one of the simplest optimization algorithms. The algorithm minimizes an objective function by iteratively evaluating it along a number of (polling) directions, which are typically taken from so-called positive spanning sets. It does not use derivatives.

We first introduce the worst case complexity theory of direct search, and discuss how to choose the positive spanning set to minimize the complexity bound. The discussion leads us to a long-standing open
problem in Discrete Geometry. A recent result on this problem enables us to establish the optimal order for the worst case complexity of direct search.

We then show how to achieve even lower complexity bound by using random polling directions. It turns out that polling along two random directions at each iteration is sufficient to guarantee the convergence
of direct search for any dimension, and the resultant algorithm enjoys lower complexity both in theory and in practice.

The last part of the talk is devoted to direct search based on inaccurate function values. We address three questions:
i) what kind of solution 
can we obtain by direct search if the function values are inaccurate? 
ii) what is the worst case complexity to attain such a solution? iii) given
the inaccuracy in the function values, when to stop the algorithm in order
to guarantee the quality of the solution and also avoid “over-optimization”?

This talk is based on joint works with F. Delbos, M. Dodangeh, S. Gratton, B. Pauwels, C. W. Royer, and L. N. Vicente.

  • Computational Mathematics and Applications Seminar