Improving Neural Network Training in Low Dimensional Random Bases

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Frithjof Gressmann, Zach Eaton-Rosen, Carlo Luschi


Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) has proven to be remarkably effective in optimizing deep neural networks that employ ever-larger numbers of parameters. Yet, improving the efficiency of large-scale optimization remains a vital and highly active area of research. Recent work has shown that deep neural networks can be optimized in randomly-projected subspaces of much smaller dimensionality than their native parameter space. While such training is promising for more efficient and scalable optimization schemes, its practical application is limited by inferior optimization performance. Here, we improve on recent random subspace approaches as follows. We show that keeping the random projection fixed throughout training is detrimental to optimization. We propose re-drawing the random subspace at each step, which yields significantly better performance. We realize further improvements by applying independent projections to different parts of the network, making the approximation more efficient as network dimensionality grows. To implement these experiments, we leverage hardware-accelerated pseudo-random number generation to construct the random projections on-demand at every optimization step, allowing us to distribute the computation of independent random directions across multiple workers with shared random seeds. This yields significant reductions in memory and is up to 10x faster for the workloads in question.