Dense for the price of sparse: Initialising deep nets with efficient sparse affine transforms

23 February 2021

That neural networks may be pruned to high sparsities and retain high accuracy is well established. Recent research efforts focus on pruning immediately after initialization so as to allow the computational savings afforded by sparsity to extend to the training process. In this work, we introduce a new `DCT plus Sparse' layer architecture, which maintains information propagation and trainability even with as little as 0.01% trainable kernel parameters remaining. We show that standard training of networks built with these layers, and pruned at initialization, achieves state-of-the-art accuracy for extreme sparsities on a variety of benchmark network architectures and datasets. Moreover, these results are achieved using only simple heuristics to determine the locations of the trainable parameters in the network, and thus without having to initially store or compute with the full, unpruned network, as is required by competing prune-at-initialization algorithms. Switching from standard sparse layers to DCT plus Sparse layers does not increase the storage footprint of a network and incurs only a small additional computational overhead.


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  • Numerical Analysis Group Internal Seminar