As mentioned in the "Bibliography Comments" of their 1994 book, self-concordant functions were introduced in 1988 by Yurii Nesterov and further developed with Arkadi Nemirovski. As explained in their basic observation was that the Newton method is affine invariant, in the sense that if for a function we have Newton steps then for a function where is a non-degenerate linear transformation, starting from we have the Newton steps which can be shown recursively
However the standard analysis of the Newton method supposes that the Hessian of is Lipschitz continuous, that is for some constant . If we suppose that is 3 times continuously differentiable, then this is equivalent to
where . Then the left hand side of the above inequality is invariant under the affine transformation , however the right hand side is not.
The authors note that the right hand side can be made also invariant if we replace the Euclidean metric by the scalar product defined by the Hessian of defined as for . They then arrive at the definition of a self concordant function as
If is self-concordant and the domain of contains no straight line (infinite in both directions), then is non-singular.
Conversely, if for some in the domain of and we have , then for all for which is in the domain of and then is linear and cannot have a maximum so all of is in the domain of . We note also that cannot have a minimum inside its domain.
Among other things, self-concordant functions are useful in the analysis of Newton's method. Self-concordant barrier functions are used to develop the barrier functions used in interior point methods for convex and nonlinear optimization. The usual analysis of the Newton method would not work for barrier functions as their second derivative cannot be Lipschitz continuous, otherwise they would be bounded on any compact subset of .
Self-concordant barrier functions
are a class of functions that can be used as barriers in constrained optimization methods
can be minimized using the Newton algorithm with provable convergence properties analogous to the usual case (but these results are somewhat more difficult to derive)
to have both of the above, the usual constant bound on the third derivative of the function (required to get the usual convergence results for the Newton method) is replaced by a bound relative to the Hessian
A self-concordant function may be minimized with a modified Newton method where we have a bound on the number of steps required for convergence. We suppose here that is a standard self-concordant function, that is it is self-concordant with parameter .
We define the Newton decrement of at as the size of the Newton step in the local norm defined by the Hessian of at
Then for in the domain of , if then it is possible to prove that the Newton iterate
will be also in the domain of . This is because, based on the self-concordance of , it is possible to give some finite bounds on the value of . We further have
Then if we have
then it is also guaranteed that , so that we can continue to use the Newton method until convergence. Note that for for some we have quadratic convergence of to 0 as . This then gives quadratic convergence of to and of to , where , by the following theorem. If then
with the following definitions
If we start the Newton method from some with then we have to start by using a damped Newton method defined by
For this it can be shown that with as defined previously. Note that is an increasing function for so that for any , so the value of is guaranteed to decrease by a certain amount in each iteration, which also proves that is in the domain of .
^Yu. E. NESTEROV, Polynomial time methods in linear and quadratic programming, Izvestija AN SSSR, Tekhnitcheskaya kibernetika,No. 3, 1988, pp. 324-326. (In Russian.)
^Yu. E. NESTEROV, Polynomial time iterative methods in linear and quadratic programming, Voprosy kibernetiki, Moscow,1988, pp. 102-125. (In Russian.)
^Y.E. Nesterov and A.S. Nemirovski, Self–concordant functions and polynomial–time methods in convex programming, Technical report, Central Economic and Mathematical Institute, USSR Academy of Science, Moscow, USSR, 1989.