DSelect-k: Differentiable Selection in the Mixture of Experts with Applications to Multi-Task Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Authors

Hussein Hazimeh, Zhe Zhao, Aakanksha Chowdhery, Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy, Yihua Chen, Rahul Mazumder, Lichan Hong, Ed Chi

Abstract

The Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) architecture is showing promising results in improving parameter sharing in multi-task learning (MTL) and in scaling high-capacity neural networks. State-of-the-art MoE models use a trainable "sparse gate'" to select a subset of the experts for each input example. While conceptually appealing, existing sparse gates, such as Top-k, are not smooth. The lack of smoothness can lead to convergence and statistical performance issues when training with gradient-based methods. In this paper, we develop DSelect-k: a continuously differentiable and sparse gate for MoE, based on a novel binary encoding formulation. The gate can be trained using first-order methods, such as stochastic gradient descent, and offers explicit control over the number of experts to select. We demonstrate the effectiveness of DSelect-k on both synthetic and real MTL datasets with up to 128 tasks. Our experiments indicate that DSelect-k can achieve statistically significant improvements in prediction and expert selection over popular MoE gates. Notably, on a real-world, large-scale recommender system, DSelect-k achieves over 22% improvement in predictive performance compared to Top-k. We provide an open-source implementation of DSelect-k.