Towards Non-saturating Recurrent Units for Modelling Long-term Dependencies

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Modelling long-term dependencies is a challenge for recurrent neural networks. This is primarily due to the fact that gradients vanish during training, as the sequence length increases. Gradients can be attenuated by transition operators and are attenuated or dropped by activation functions. Canonical architectures like LSTM alleviate this issue by skipping information through a memory mechanism. We propose a new recurrent architecture (Non-saturating Recurrent Unit; NRU) that relies on a memory mechanism but forgoes both saturating activation functions and saturating gates, in order to further alleviate vanishing gradients. In a series of synthetic and real world tasks, we demonstrate that the proposed model is the only model that performs among the top 2 models across all tasks with and without long-term dependencies, when compared against a range of other architectures.


Can recurrent neural networks warp time?

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Successful recurrent models such as long short-term memories (LSTMs) and gated recurrent units (GRUs) use ad hoc gating mechanisms. Empirically these models have been found to improve the learning of medium to long term temporal dependencies and to help with vanishing gradient issues. We prove that learnable gates in a recurrent model formally provide quasi- invariance to general time transformations in the input data. We recover part of the LSTM architecture from a simple axiomatic approach. This result leads to a new way of initializing gate biases in LSTMs and GRUs. Ex- perimentally, this new chrono initialization is shown to greatly improve learning of long term dependencies, with minimal implementation effort.


Reducing state updates via Gaussian-gated LSTMs

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Recurrent neural networks can be difficult to train on long sequence data due to the well-known vanishing gradient problem. Some architectures incorporate methods to reduce RNN state updates, therefore allowing the network to preserve memory over long temporal intervals. To address these problems of convergence, this paper proposes a timing-gated LSTM RNN model, called the Gaussian-gated LSTM (g-LSTM). The time gate controls when a neuron can be updated during training, enabling longer memory persistence and better error-gradient flow. This model captures long-temporal dependencies better than an LSTM and the time gate parameters can be learned even from non-optimal initialization values. Because the time gate limits the updates of the neuron state, the number of computes needed for the network update is also reduced. By adding a computational budget term to the training loss, we can obtain a network which further reduces the number of computes by at least 10x. Finally, by employing a temporal curriculum learning schedule for the g-LSTM, we can reduce the convergence time of the equivalent LSTM network on long sequences.


Recurrent Neural Networks with Flexible Gates using Kernel Activation Functions

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Gated recurrent neural networks have achieved remarkable results in the analysis of sequential data. Inside these networks, gates are used to control the flow of information, allowing to model even very long-term dependencies in the data. In this paper, we investigate whether the original gate equation (a linear projection followed by an element-wise sigmoid) can be improved. In particular, we design a more flexible architecture, with a small number of adaptable parameters, which is able to model a wider range of gating functions than the classical one. To this end, we replace the sigmoid function in the standard gate with a non-parametric formulation extending the recently proposed kernel activation function (KAF), with the addition of a residual skip-connection. A set of experiments on sequential variants of the MNIST dataset shows that the adoption of this novel gate allows to improve accuracy with a negligible cost in terms of computational power and with a large speed-up in the number of training iterations.


Learning Longer-term Dependencies in RNNs with Auxiliary Losses

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Despite recent advances in training recurrent neural networks (RNNs), capturing long-term dependencies in sequences remains a fundamental challenge. Most approaches use backpropagation through time (BPTT), which is difficult to scale to very long sequences. This paper proposes a simple method that improves the ability to capture long term dependencies in RNNs by adding an unsupervised auxiliary loss to the original objective. This auxiliary loss forces RNNs to either reconstruct previous events or predict next events in a sequence, making truncated backpropagation feasible for long sequences and also improving full BPTT. We evaluate our method on a variety of settings, including pixel-by-pixel image classification with sequence lengths up to 16\,000, and a real document classification benchmark. Our results highlight good performance and resource efficiency of this approach over competitive baselines, including other recurrent models and a comparable sized Transformer. Further analyses reveal beneficial effects of the auxiliary loss on optimization and regularization, as well as extreme cases where there is little to no backpropagation.