proximal-optimize 0.1.0

A simple proximal search hill-climbing optimizer


This crate contains a simple proximal search hill-climbing optimizer, suitable for use in (some) machine-learning applications. Roughly speaking, the algorithm works by iteratively searching for better values starting from a user-specified starting point. As long as the function's value continues to improve, size of these steps will start to grow exponentially. When the function's value deteriorates, the iterations start looking in both directions, exponentially decreasing the step size until the function's value starts to improve again.

This approach has two advantages that might make it suitable for your application.

  1. There is no requirement to calculate a gradient; the technique should work as long as the objective function implements PartialOrd.
  2. The API is very simple (i.e., it doesn't need to be adapted from some other more comprehensive library that may make other assumptions about its use).


Here's an example of use, finding a minimum for the "pathological" Rosenbrock function with a=1,b=100.

In mathematical optimization, the Rosenbrock function is a non-convex function, introduced by Howard H. Rosenbrock in 1960, which is used as a performance test problem for optimization algorithms. It is also known as Rosenbrock's valley or Rosenbrock's banana function. The global minimum is inside a long, narrow, parabolic shaped flat valley. To find the valley is trivial. To converge to the global minimum, however, is difficult.

use proximal_optimize::ProximalOptimizer;

fn test() {
    let mut po = ProximalOptimizer::new(2); // Our function take two parameters
    let initial_position = vec![-1.2, 1.0];
    let optimized = po.optimize(&initial_position, |x: &[f64]| {
        // This is the Rosenbrock function, with a=1, b=100.
          ((1.0 - x[0]) * (1.0 - x[0])
        + 100.0 * (x[1] - x[0] * x[0]) * (x[1] - x[0] * x[0]))
    println!("Optimized values is: {:?}", &optimized);
    assert_eq!(optimized, vec![0.999208314861111, 0.998416214890118]);


While this has been tested with the Rosenbrock function (and a few other relatively simple concave/convex functions), this is more of a quick-and-dirty implementation that was "good enough" for my application, written after having some trouble finding an existing crate that was suitable and simple to adapt. It has not been subjected to a wide range of test functions, nor was it based directly on academic work in the area. Contributions on either front would be welcome; the Parikh and Boyd (2013) monograph on proximal algorithms would probably be a good resource.^1

What this means in practice is that you should experiment to see if this algorithm is a good fit for your problem set. Actually, that's probably good advice for most AI/machine learning situations... In any case, if fire-and-forget robustness or very high efficiency on large problem sets are important to you, you may consider a more sophisticated and mature package if one is available. In other words... this worked for me, YMMV.

Notes and TODO

  • This package depends only on a few core interfaces (notably in core::cmp) and alloc::vec::Vec, meaning it should work in a #![no_std] environment as long as the alloc crate is also included.
  • When rust's const generics are ready, even the dependence on alloc will be trivial to remove. (It's technically possible now, but it'd make the API too awkward.)