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Overview of Neural Architecture Search Paperspace Blog


The hyperparameter optimization problem has been solved in many different ways for classical machine learning algorithms. Some examples include the use of grid search, random search, Bayesian optimization, meta-learning, and so on. But when considering deep learning architectures, the problem becomes much harder to deal with. In this article we will cover the problem of neural architecture search and the current state of the art. This article assumes a basic knowledge of different neural networks and deep learning architectures. This is Part 1 of a series which will take you through what the problem of neural architecture search (NAS) is, and how to implement various interesting approaches for NAS using Keras. Deep learning engineers are expected to have an intuitive understanding of what architecture might work best for what situation, but this is rarely the case. The possible architectures one can create are endless.

A Study of the Learning Progress in Neural Architecture Search Techniques Machine Learning

In neural architecture search, the structure of the neural network to best model a given dataset is determined by an automated search process. Efficient Neural Architecture Search (ENAS), proposed by Pham et al. (2018), has recently received considerable attention due to its ability to find excellent architectures within a comparably short search time. In this work, which is motivated by the quest to further improve the learning speed of architecture search, we evaluate the learning progress of the controller which generates the architectures in ENAS. We measure the progress by comparing the architectures generated by it at different controller training epochs, where architectures are evaluated after having re-trained them from scratch. As a surprising result, we find that the learning curves are completely flat, i.e., there is no observable progress of the controller in terms of the performance of its generated architectures. This observation is consistent across the CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 datasets and two different search spaces. We conclude that the high quality of the models generated by ENAS is a result of the search space design rather than the controller training, and our results indicate that one-shot architecture design is an efficient alternative to architecture search by ENAS.

Efficient Novelty-Driven Neural Architecture Search Machine Learning

One-Shot Neural architecture search (NAS) attracts broad attention recently due to its capacity to reduce the computational hours through weight sharing. However, extensive experiments on several recent works show that there is no positive correlation between the validation accuracy with inherited weights from the supernet and the test accuracy after re-training for One-Shot NAS. Different from devising a controller to find the best performing architecture with inherited weights, this paper focuses on how to sample architectures to train the supernet to make it more predictive. A single-path supernet is adopted, where only a small part of weights are optimized in each step, to reduce the memory demand greatly. Furthermore, we abandon devising complicated reward based architecture sampling controller, and sample architectures to train supernet based on novelty search. An efficient novelty search method for NAS is devised in this paper, and extensive experiments demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of our novelty search based architecture sampling method. The best architecture obtained by our algorithm with the same search space achieves the state-of-the-art test error rate of 2.51\% on CIFAR-10 with only 7.5 hours search time in a single GPU, and a validation perplexity of 60.02 and a test perplexity of 57.36 on PTB. We also transfer these search cell structures to larger datasets ImageNet and WikiText-2, respectively.

Deep Frank-Wolfe For Neural Network Optimization Machine Learning

Learning a deep neural network requires solving a challenging optimization problem: it is a high-dimensional, non-convex and non-smooth minimization problem with a large number of terms. The current practice in neural network optimization is to rely on the stochastic gradient descent (SGD) algorithm or its adaptive variants. However, SGD requires a hand-designed schedule for the learning rate. In addition, its adaptive variants tend to produce solutions that generalize less well on unseen data than SGD with a hand-designed schedule. We present an optimization method that offers empirically the best of both worlds: our algorithm yields good generalization performance while requiring only one hyper-parameter. Our approach is based on a composite proximal framework, which exploits the compositional nature of deep neural networks and can leverage powerful convex optimization algorithms by design. Specifically, we employ the Frank-Wolfe (FW) algorithm for SVM, which computes an optimal step-size in closed-form at each time-step. We further show that the descent direction is given by a simple backward pass in the network, yielding the same computational cost per iteration as SGD. We present experiments on the CIFAR and SNLI data sets, where we demonstrate the significant superiority of our method over Adam, Adagrad, as well as the recently proposed BPGrad and AMSGrad. Furthermore, we compare our algorithm to SGD with a hand-designed learning rate schedule, and show that it provides similar generalization while converging faster. The code is publicly available at

Evolutionary Optimization of Deep Learning Activation Functions Machine Learning

The choice of activation function can have a large effect on the performance of a neural network. While there have been some attempts to hand-engineer novel activation functions, the Rectified Linear Unit (ReLU) remains the most commonly-used in practice. This paper shows that evolutionary algorithms can discover novel activation functions that outperform ReLU. A tree-based search space of candidate activation functions is defined and explored with mutation, crossover, and exhaustive search. Experiments on training wide residual networks on the CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100 image datasets show that this approach is effective. Replacing ReLU with evolved activation functions results in statistically significant increases in network accuracy. Optimal performance is achieved when evolution is allowed to customize activation functions to a particular task; however, these novel activation functions are shown to generalize, achieving high performance across tasks. Evolutionary optimization of activation functions is therefore a promising new dimension of metalearning in neural networks.