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SNAS: Stochastic Neural Architecture Search

arXiv.org Machine Learning

We propose Stochastic Neural Architecture Search (SNAS), an economical end-to-end solution to Neural Architecture Search (NAS) that trains neural operation parameters and architecture distribution parameters in same round of back-propagation, while maintaining the completeness and differentiability of the NAS pipeline. In this work, NAS is reformulated as an optimization problem on parameters of a joint distribution for the search space in a cell. To leverage the gradient information in generic differentiable loss for architecture search, a novel search gradient is proposed. We prove that this search gradient optimizes the same objective as reinforcement-learning-based NAS, but assigns credits to structural decisions more efficiently. This credit assignment is further augmented with locally decomposable reward to enforce a resource-efficient constraint. In experiments on CIFAR-10, SNAS takes less epochs to find a cell architecture with state-of-the-art accuracy than non-differentiable evolution-based and reinforcement-learning-based NAS, which is also transferable to ImageNet. It is also shown that child networks of SNAS can maintain the validation accuracy in searching, with which attention-based NAS requires parameter retraining to compete, exhibiting potentials to stride towards efficient NAS on big datasets.


Fitting the Search Space of Weight-sharing NAS with Graph Convolutional Networks

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Neural architecture search has attracted wide attentions in both academia and industry. To accelerate it, researchers proposed weight-sharing methods which first train a super-network to reuse computation among different operators, from which exponentially many sub-networks can be sampled and efficiently evaluated. These methods enjoy great advantages in terms of computational costs, but the sampled sub-networks are not guaranteed to be estimated precisely unless an individual training process is taken. This paper owes such inaccuracy to the inevitable mismatch between assembled network layers, so that there is a random error term added to each estimation. We alleviate this issue by training a graph convolutional network to fit the performance of sampled sub-networks so that the impact of random errors becomes minimal. With this strategy, we achieve a higher rank correlation coefficient in the selected set of candidates, which consequently leads to better performance of the final architecture. In addition, our approach also enjoys the flexibility of being used under different hardware constraints, since the graph convolutional network has provided an efficient lookup table of the performance of architectures in the entire search space.


Resource-Efficient Neural Architect

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Neural Architecture Search (NAS) is a laborious process. Prior work on automated NAS targets mainly on improving accuracy, but lacks consideration of computational resource use. We propose the Resource-Efficient Neural Architect (RENA), an efficient resource-constrained NAS using reinforcement learning with network embedding. RENA uses a policy network to process the network embeddings to generate new configurations. We demonstrate RENA on image recognition and keyword spotting (KWS) problems. RENA can find novel architectures that achieve high performance even with tight resource constraints. For CIFAR10, it achieves 2.95% test error when compute intensity is greater than 100 FLOPs/byte, and 3.87% test error when model size is less than 3M parameters. For Google Speech Commands Dataset, RENA achieves the state-of-the-art accuracy without resource constraints, and it outperforms the optimized architectures with tight resource constraints.


Differentiable Neural Architecture Search via Proximal Iterations

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Neural architecture search (NAS) recently attracts much research attention because of its ability to identify better architectures than handcrafted ones. However, many NAS methods, which optimize the search process in a discrete search space, need many GPU days for convergence. Recently, DARTS, which constructs a differentiable search space and then optimizes it by gradient descent, can obtain high-performance architecture and reduces the search time to several days. However, DARTS is still slow as it updates an ensemble of all operations and keeps only one after convergence. Besides, DARTS can converge to inferior architectures due to the strong correlation among operations. In this paper, we propose a new differentiable Neural Architecture Search method based on Proximal gradient descent (denoted as NASP). Different from DARTS, NASP reformulates the search process as an optimization problem with a constraint that only one operation is allowed to be updated during forward and backward propagation. Since the constraint is hard to deal with, we propose a new algorithm inspired by proximal iterations to solve it. Experiments on various tasks demonstrate that NASP can obtain high-performance architectures with 10 times of speedup on the computational time than DARTS.


Understanding Neural Architecture Search Techniques

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Automatic methods for generating state-of-the-art neural network architectures without human experts have generated significant attention recently. This is because of the potential to remove human experts from the design loop which can reduce costs and decrease time to model deployment. Neural architecture search (NAS) techniques have improved significantly in their computational efficiency since the original NAS was proposed. This reduction in computation is enabled via weight sharing such as in Efficient Neural Architecture Search (ENAS). However, recently a body of work confirms our discovery that ENAS does not do significantly better than random search with weight sharing, contradicting the initial claims of the authors. We provide an explanation for this phenomenon by investigating the interpretability of the ENAS controller's hidden state. We are interested in seeing if the controller embeddings are predictive of any properties of the final architecture - for example, graph properties like the number of connections, or validation performance. We find models sampled from identical controller hidden states have no correlation in various graph similarity metrics. This failure mode implies the RNN controller does not condition on past architecture choices. Importantly, we may need to condition on past choices if certain connection patterns prevent vanishing or exploding gradients. Lastly, we propose a solution to this failure mode by forcing the controller's hidden state to encode pasts decisions by training it with a memory buffer of previously sampled architectures. Doing this improves hidden state interpretability by increasing the correlation controller hidden states and graph similarity metrics.