Wisdom, Scott, Powers, Thomas, Hershey, John, Roux, Jonathan Le, Atlas, Les

Recurrent neural networks are powerful models for processing sequential data, but they are generally plagued by vanishing and exploding gradient problems. Unitary recurrent neural networks (uRNNs), which use unitary recurrence matrices, have recently been proposed as a means to avoid these issues. However, in previous experiments, the recurrence matrices were restricted to be a product of parameterized unitary matrices, and an open question remains: when does such a parameterization fail to represent all unitary matrices, and how does this restricted representational capacity limit what can be learned? To address this question, we propose full-capacity uRNNs that optimize their recurrence matrix over all unitary matrices, leading to significantly improved performance over uRNNs that use a restricted-capacity recurrence matrix. Our contribution consists of two main components. First, we provide a theoretical argument to determine if a unitary parameterization has restricted capacity. Using this argument, we show that a recently proposed unitary parameterization has restricted capacity for hidden state dimension greater than 7. Second,we show how a complete, full-capacity unitary recurrence matrix can be optimized over the differentiable manifold of unitary matrices. The resulting multiplicative gradient step is very simple and does not require gradient clipping or learning rate adaptation. We confirm the utility of our claims by empirically evaluating our new full-capacity uRNNs on both synthetic and natural data, achieving superior performance compared to both LSTMs and the original restricted-capacity uRNNs.

Arjovsky, Martin, Shah, Amar, Bengio, Yoshua

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are notoriously difficult to train. When the eigenvalues of the hidden to hidden weight matrix deviate from absolute value 1, optimization becomes difficult due to the well studied issue of vanishing and exploding gradients, especially when trying to learn long-term dependencies. To circumvent this problem, we propose a new architecture that learns a unitary weight matrix, with eigenvalues of absolute value exactly 1. The challenge we address is that of parametrizing unitary matrices in a way that does not require expensive computations (such as eigendecomposition) after each weight update. We construct an expressive unitary weight matrix by composing several structured matrices that act as building blocks with parameters to be learned. Optimization with this parameterization becomes feasible only when considering hidden states in the complex domain. We demonstrate the potential of this architecture by achieving state of the art results in several hard tasks involving very long-term dependencies.

Sengupta, Biswa, Friston, Karl J.

Convolutional and Recurrent, deep neural networks have been successful in machine learning systems for computer vision, reinforcement learning, and other allied fields. However, the robustness of such neural networks is seldom apprised, especially after high classification accuracy has been attained. In this paper, we evaluate the robustness of three recurrent neural networks to tiny perturbations, on three widely used datasets, to argue that high accuracy does not always mean a stable and a robust (to bounded perturbations, adversarial attacks, etc.) system. Especially, normalizing the spectrum of the discrete recurrent network to bound the spectrum (using power method, Rayleigh quotient, etc.) on a unit disk produces stable, albeit highly non-robust neural networks. Furthermore, using the $\epsilon$-pseudo-spectrum, we show that training of recurrent networks, say using gradient-based methods, often result in non-normal matrices that may or may not be diagonalizable. Therefore, the open problem lies in constructing methods that optimize not only for accuracy but also for the stability and the robustness of the underlying neural network, a criterion that is distinct from the other.

Van Keirsbilck, Matthijs, Keller, Alexander, Yang, Xiaodong

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are omnipresent in sequence modeling tasks. Practical models usually consist of several layers of hundreds or thousands of neurons which are fully connected. This places a heavy computational and memory burden on hardware, restricting adoption in practical low-cost and low-power devices. Compared to fully convolutional models, the costly sequential operation of RNNs severely hinders performance on parallel hardware. This paper challenges the convention of full connectivity in RNNs. We study structurally sparse RNNs, showing that they are well suited for acceleration on parallel hardware, with a greatly reduced cost of the recurrent operations as well as orders of magnitude less recurrent weights. Extensive experiments on challenging tasks ranging from language modeling and speech recognition to video action recognition reveal that structurally sparse RNNs achieve competitive performance as compared to fully-connected networks. This allows for using large sparse RNNs for a wide range of real-world tasks that previously were too costly with fully connected networks.

Helfrich, Kyle, Willmott, Devin, Ye, Qiang

Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) are designed to handle sequential data but suffer from vanishing or exploding gradients. Recent work on Unitary Recurrent Neural Networks (uRNNs) have been used to address this issue and in some cases, exceed the capabilities of Long Short-Term Memory networks (LSTMs). We propose a simpler and novel update scheme to maintain orthogonal recurrent weight matrices without using complex valued matrices. This is done by parametrizing with a skew-symmetric matrix using the Cayley transform. Such a parametrization is unable to represent matrices with negative one eigenvalues, but this limitation is overcome by scaling the recurrent weight matrix by a diagonal matrix consisting of ones and negative ones. The proposed training scheme involves a straightforward gradient calculation and update step. In several experiments, the proposed scaled Cayley orthogonal recurrent neural network (scoRNN) achieves superior results with fewer trainable parameters than other unitary RNNs.