skip to main content

Title: Blended Coarse Gradient Descent for Full Quantization of Deep Neural Networks
Quantized deep neural networks (QDNNs) are attractive due to their much lower memory storage and faster inference speed than their regular full-precision counterparts. To maintain the same performance level especially at low bit-widths, QDNNs must be retrained. Their training involves piece-wise constant activation functions and discrete weights; hence, mathematical challenges arise. We introduce the notion of coarse gradient and propose the blended coarse gradient descent (BCGD) algorithm, for training fully quantized neural networks. Coarse gradient is generally not a gradient of any function but an artificial ascent direction. The weight update of BCGD goes by coarse gradient correction of a weighted average of the full-precision weights and their quantization (the so-called blending), which yields sufficient descent in the objective value and thus accelerates the training. Our experiments demonstrate that this simple blending technique is very effective for quantization at extremely low bit-width such as binarization. In full quantization of ResNet-18 for ImageNet classification task, BCGD gives 64.36% top-1 accuracy with binary weights across all layers and 4-bit adaptive activation. If the weights in the first and last layers are kept in full precision, this number increases to 65.46%. As theoretical justification, we show convergence analysis of coarse gradient descent for more » a two-linear-layer neural network model with Gaussian input data and prove that the expected coarse gradient correlates positively with the underlying true gradient. « less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Research in the mathematical sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. High-quality 3D image recognition is an important component of many vision and robotics systems. However, the accurate processing of these images requires the use of compute-expensive 3D Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs). To address this challenge, we propose the use of Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) that are generated from iso-architecture CNNs and trained with quantization-aware gradient descent to optimize their weights, membrane leak, and firing thresholds. During both training and inference, the analog pixel values of a 3D image are directly applied to the input layer of the SNN without the need to convert to a spike-train. This significantly reduces the training and inference latency and results in high degree of activation sparsity, which yields significant improvements in computational efficiency. However, this introduces energy-hungry digital multiplications in the first layer of our models, which we propose to mitigate using a processing-in-memory (PIM) architecture. To evaluate our proposal, we propose a 3D and a 3D/2D hybrid SNN-compatible convolutional architecture and choose hyperspectral imaging (HSI) as an application for 3D image recognition. We achieve overall test accuracy of 98.68, 99.50, and 97.95% with 5 time steps (inference latency) and 6-bit weight quantization on the Indian Pines, Pavia University, and Salinas Scene datasets, respectively.more »In particular, our models implemented using standard digital hardware achieved accuracies similar to state-of-the-art (SOTA) with ~560.6× and ~44.8× less average energy than an iso-architecture full-precision and 6-bit quantized CNN, respectively. Adopting the PIM architecture in the first layer, further improves the average energy, delay, and energy-delay-product (EDP) by 30, 7, and 38%, respectively.« less
  2. We present LBW-Net, an efficient optimization based method for quantization and training of the low bit-width convolutional neural networks (CNNs). Specifically, we quantize the weights to zero or powers of 2 by minimizing the Euclidean distance between full-precision weights and quantized weights during back-propagation (weight learning). We characterize the combinatorial nature of the low bit-width quantization problem. For 2-bit (ternary) CNNs, the quantization of N weights can be done by an exact formula in O(N log N) complexity. When the bit-width is 3 and above, we further propose a semi-analytical thresholding scheme with a single free parameter for quantization that is computationally inexpensive. The free parameter is further determined by network retraining and object detection tests. The LBW-Net has several desirable advantages over full-precision CNNs, including considerable memory savings, energy efficiency, and faster deployment. Our experiments on PASCAL VOC dataset show that compared with its 32-bit floating-point counterpart, the performance of the 6-bit LBW-Net is nearly lossless in the object detection tasks, and can even do better in real world visual scenes, while empirically enjoying more than 4× faster deployment.
  3. We consider the post-training quantization problem, which discretizes the weights of pre-trained deep neural networks without re-training the model. We propose multipoint quantization, a quantization method that approximates a full-precision weight vector using a linear combination of multiple vectors of low-bit numbers; this is in contrast to typical quantization methods that approximate each weight using a single low precision number. Computationally, we construct the multipoint quantization with an efficient greedy selection procedure, and adaptively decides the number of low precision points on each quantized weight vector based on the error of its output. This allows us to achieve higher precision levels for important weights that greatly influence the outputs, yielding an 'effect of mixed precision' but without physical mixed precision implementations (which requires specialized hardware accelerators). Empirically, our method can be implemented by common operands, bringing almost no memory and computation overhead. We show that our method outperforms a range of state-of-the-art methods on ImageNet classification and it can be generalized to more challenging tasks like PASCAL VOC object detection.
  4. Abstract Quantized or low-bit neural networks are attractive due to their inference efficiency. However, training deep neural networks with quantized activations involves minimizing a discontinuous and piecewise constant loss function. Such a loss function has zero gradient almost everywhere (a.e.), which makes the conventional gradient-based algorithms inapplicable. To this end, we study a novel class of biased first-order oracle, termed coarse gradient, for overcoming the vanished gradient issue. A coarse gradient is generated by replacing the a.e. zero derivative of quantized (i.e., staircase) ReLU activation composited in the chain rule with some heuristic proxy derivative called straight-through estimator (STE). Although having been widely used in training quantized networks empirically, fundamental questions like when and why the ad hoc STE trick works, still lack theoretical understanding. In this paper, we propose a class of STEs with certain monotonicity and consider their applications to the training of a two-linear-layer network with quantized activation functions for nonlinear multi-category classification. We establish performance guarantees for the proposed STEs by showing that the corresponding coarse gradient methods converge to the global minimum, which leads to a perfect classification. Lastly, we present experimental results on synthetic data as well as MNIST dataset to verify our theoreticalmore »findings and demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed STEs.« less
  5. Sparsification of neural networks is one of the effective complexity reduction methods to improve efficiency and generalizability. Binarized activation offers an additional computational saving for inference. Due to vanishing gradient issue in training networks with binarized activation, coarse gradient (a.k.a. straight through estimator) is adopted in practice. In this paper, we study the problem of coarse gradient descent (CGD) learning of a one hidden layer convolutional neural network (CNN) with binarized activation function and sparse weights. It is known that when the input data is Gaussian distributed, no-overlap one hidden layer CNN with ReLU activation and general weight can be learned by GD in polynomial time at high probability in regression problems with ground truth. We propose a relaxed variable splitting method integrating thresholding and coarse gradient descent. The sparsity in network weight is realized through thresholding during the CGD training process. We prove that under thresholding of L1, L0, and transformed-L1 penalties, no-overlap binary activation CNN can be learned with high probability, and the iterative weights converge to a global limit which is a transformation of the true weight under a novel sparsifying operation. We found explicit error estimates of sparse weights from the true weights.