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We propose sparsemax, a new activation function similar to the traditional softmax, but able to output sparse probabilities. After deriving its properties, we show how its Jacobian can be efficiently computed, enabling its use in a network trained with backpropagation. Then, we propose a new smooth and convex loss function which is the sparsemax analogue of the logistic loss. We reveal an unexpected connection between this new loss and the Huber classification loss. We obtain promising empirical results in multi-label classification problems and in attention-based neural networks for natural language inference. For the latter, we achieve a similar performance as the traditional softmax, but with a selective, more compact, attention focus.

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We propose a conceptually simple and lightweight framework for deep reinforcement learning that uses asynchronous gradient descent for optimization of deep neural network controllers. We present asynchronous variants of four standard reinforcement learning algorithms and show that parallel actor-learners have a stabilizing effect on training allowing all four methods to successfully train neural network controllers. The best performing method, an asynchronous variant of actor-critic, surpasses the current state-of-the-art on the Atari domain while training for half the time on a single multi-core CPU instead of a GPU. Furthermore, we show that asynchronous actor-critic succeeds on a wide variety of continuous motor control problems as well as on a new task of navigating random 3D mazes using a visual input.

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State-of-the-art deep neural networks (DNNs) have hundreds of millions of connections and are both computationally and memory intensive, making them difficult to deploy on embedded systems with limited hardware resources and power budgets. While custom hardware helps the computation, fetching weights from DRAM is two orders of magnitude more expensive than ALU operations, and dominates the required power. Previously proposed 'Deep Compression' makes it possible to fit large DNNs (AlexNet and VGGNet) fully in on-chip SRAM. This compression is achieved by pruning the redundant connections and having multiple connections share the same weight. We propose an energy efficient inference engine (EIE) that performs inference on this compressed network model and accelerates the resulting sparse matrix-vector multiplication with weight sharing. Going from DRAM to SRAM gives EIE 120x energy saving; Exploiting sparsity saves 10x; Weight sharing gives 8x; Skipping zero activations from ReLU saves another 3x. Evaluated on nine DNN benchmarks, EIE is 189x and 13x faster when compared to CPU and GPU implementations of the same DNN without compression. EIE has a processing power of 102GOPS/s working directly on a compressed network, corresponding to 3TOPS/s on an uncompressed network, and processes FC layers of AlexNet at 1.88x10^4 frames/sec with a power dissipation of only 600mW. It is 24,000x and 3,400x more energy efficient than a CPU and GPU respectively. Compared with DaDianNao, EIE has 2.9x, 19x and 3x better throughput, energy efficiency and area efficiency.

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Modeling the distribution of natural images is a landmark problem in unsupervised learning. This task requires an image model that is at once expressive, tractable and scalable. We present a deep neural network that sequentially predicts the pixels in an image along the two spatial dimensions. Our method models the discrete probability of the raw pixel values and encodes the complete set of dependencies in the image. Architectural novelties include fast two-dimensional recurrent layers and an effective use of residual connections in deep recurrent networks. We achieve log-likelihood scores on natural images that are considerably better than the previous state of the art. Our main results also provide benchmarks on the diverse ImageNet dataset. Samples generated from the model appear crisp, varied and globally coherent.

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Based on the assumption that there exists a neural network that efficiently represents a set of Boolean functions between all binary inputs and outputs, we propose a process for developing and deploying neural networks whose weight parameters, bias terms, input, and intermediate hidden layer output signals, are all binary-valued, and require only basic bit logic for the feedforward pass. The proposed Bitwise Neural Network (BNN) is especially suitable for resource-constrained environments, since it replaces either floating or fixed-point arithmetic with significantly more efficient bitwise operations. Hence, the BNN requires for less spatial complexity, less memory bandwidth, and less power consumption in hardware. In order to design such networks, we propose to add a few training schemes, such as weight compression and noisy backpropagation, which result in a bitwise network that performs almost as well as its corresponding real-valued network. We test the proposed network on the MNIST dataset, represented using binary features, and show that BNNs result in competitive performance while offering dramatic computational savings.

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This paper studies a combination of generative Markov random field (MRF) models and discriminatively trained deep convolutional neural networks (dCNNs) for synthesizing 2D images. The generative MRF acts on higher-levels of a dCNN feature pyramid, controling the image layout at an abstract level. We apply the method to both photographic and non-photo-realistic (artwork) synthesis tasks. The MRF regularizer prevents over-excitation artifacts and reduces implausible feature mixtures common to previous dCNN inversion approaches, permitting synthezing photographic content with increased visual plausibility. Unlike standard MRF-based texture synthesis, the combined system can both match and adapt local features with considerable variability, yielding results far out of reach of classic generative MRF methods.

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In this paper we present a connection between two dynamical systems arising in entirely different contexts: one in signal processing and the other in biology. The first is the famous Iteratively Reweighted Least Squares (IRLS) algorithm used in compressed sensing and sparse recovery while the second is the dynamics of a slime mold (Physarum polycephalum). Both of these dynamics are geared towards finding a minimum l1-norm solution in an affine subspace. Despite its simplicity the convergence of the IRLS method has been shown only for a certain regularization of it and remains an important open problem. Our first result shows that the two dynamics are projections of the same dynamical system in higher dimensions. As a consequence, and building on the recent work on Physarum dynamics, we are able to prove convergence and obtain complexity bounds for a damped version of the IRLS algorithm.

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Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN) have obtained excellent result in many natural language processing (NLP) tasks. However, understanding and interpreting the source of this success remains a challenge. In this paper, we propose Recurrent Memory Network (RMN), a novel RNN architecture, that not only amplifies the power of RNN but also facilitates our understanding of its internal functioning and allows us to discover underlying patterns in data. We demonstrate the power of RMN on language modeling and sentence completion tasks. On language modeling, RMN outperforms Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) network on three large German, Italian, and English dataset. Additionally we perform in-depth analysis of various linguistic dimensions that RMN captures. On Sentence Completion Challenge, for which it is essential to capture sentence coherence, our RMN obtains 69.2% accuracy, surpassing the previous state-of-the-art by a large margin.

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One of the core problems of modern statistics is to approximate difficult-to-compute probability densities. This problem is especially important in Bayesian statistics, which frames all inference about unknown quantities as a calculation involving the posterior density. In this paper, we review variational inference (VI), a method from machine learning that approximates probability densities through optimization. VI has been used in many applications and tends to be faster than classical methods, such as Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling. The idea behind VI is to first posit a family of densities and then to find the member of that family which is close to the target. Closeness is measured by Kullback-Leibler divergence. We review the ideas behind mean-field variational inference, discuss the special case of VI applied to exponential family models, present a full example with a Bayesian mixture of Gaussians, and derive a variant that uses stochastic optimization to scale up to massive data. We discuss modern research in VI and highlight important open problems. VI is powerful, but it is not yet well understood. Our hope in writing this paper is to catalyze statistical research on this class of algorithms.

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During the past decade, several areas of speech and language understanding have witnessed substantial breakthroughs from the use of data-driven models. In the area of dialogue systems, the trend is less obvious, and most practical systems are still built through significant engineering and expert knowledge. Nevertheless, several recent results suggest that data-driven approaches are feasible and quite promising. To facilitate research in this area, we have carried out a wide survey of publicly available datasets suitable for data-driven learning of dialogue systems. We discuss important characteristics of these datasets, how they can be used to learn diverse dialogue strategies, and their other potential uses. We also examine methods for transfer learning between datasets and the use of external knowledge. Finally, we discuss appropriate choice of evaluation metrics for the learning objective.

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Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) stand at the forefront of many recent developments in deep learning. Yet a major difficulty with these models is their tendency to overfit, with dropout shown to fail when applied to recurrent layers. Recent results at the intersection of Bayesian modelling and deep learning offer a Bayesian interpretation of common deep learning techniques such as dropout. This grounding of dropout in approximate Bayesian inference suggests an extension of the theoretical results, offering insights into the use of dropout with RNN models. We apply this new variational inference based dropout technique in LSTM and GRU models, assessing it on language modelling and sentiment analysis tasks. The new approach outperforms existing techniques, and to the best of our knowledge improves on the single model state-of-the-art in language modelling with the Penn Treebank (73.4 test perplexity). This extends our arsenal of variational tools in deep learning.

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Training neural network language models over large vocabularies is still computationally very costly compared to count-based models such as Kneser-Ney. At the same time, neural language models are gaining popularity for many applications such as speech recognition and machine translation whose success depends on scalability. We present a systematic comparison of strategies to represent and train large vocabularies, including softmax, hierarchical softmax, target sampling, noise contrastive estimation and self normalization. We further extend self normalization to be a proper estimator of likelihood and introduce an efficient variant of softmax. We evaluate each method on three popular benchmarks, examining performance on rare words, the speed/accuracy trade-off and complementarity to Kneser-Ney.

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We show that there is a simple (approximately radial) function on $\reals^d$, expressible by a small 3-layer feedforward neural networks, which cannot be approximated by any 2-layer network, to more than a certain constant accuracy, unless its width is exponential in the dimension. The result holds for virtually all known activation functions, including rectified linear units, sigmoids and thresholds, and formally demonstrates that depth -- even if increased by 1 -- can be exponentially more valuable than width for standard feedforward neural networks. Moreover, compared to related results in the context of Boolean functions, our result requires fewer assumptions, and the proof techniques and construction are very different.

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We show that the Graph Isomorphism (GI) problem and the related problems of String Isomorphism (under group action) (SI) and Coset Intersection (CI) can be solved in quasipolynomial ($\exp((\log n)^{O(1)})$) time. The best previous bound for GI was $\exp(O(\sqrt{n\log n}))$, where $n$ is the number of vertices (Luks, 1983); for the other two problems, the bound was similar, $\exp(\tilde{O}(\sqrt{n}))$, where $n$ is the size of the permutation domain (Babai, 1983). The algorithm builds on Luks's SI framework and attacks the barrier configurations for Luks's algorithm by group theoretic "local certificates" and combinatorial canonical partitioning techniques. We show that in a well-defined sense, Johnson graphs are the only obstructions to effective canonical partitioning. Luks's barrier situation is characterized by a homomorphism {\phi} that maps a given permutation group $G$ onto $S_k$ or $A_k$, the symmetric or alternating group of degree $k$, where $k$ is not too small. We say that an element $x$ in the permutation domain on which $G$ acts is affected by {\phi} if the {\phi}-image of the stabilizer of $x$ does not contain $A_k$. The affected/unaffected dichotomy underlies the core "local certificates" routine and is the central divide-and-conquer tool of the algorithm.

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Neural networks are becoming central in several areas of computer vision and image processing and different architectures have been proposed to solve specific problems. The impact of the loss layer of neural networks, however, has not received much attention in the context of image processing: the default and virtually only choice is L2. In this paper we bring attention to alternative choices. We study the performance of several losses, including perceptually-motivated losses, and propose a novel, differentiable error function. We show that the quality of the results improves significantly with better loss functions, even when the network architecture is left unchanged.

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We stabilize the activations of Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) by penalizing the squared distance between successive hidden states' norms. This penalty term is an effective regularizer for RNNs including LSTMs and IRNNs, improving performance on character-level language modeling and phoneme recognition, and outperforming weight noise and dropout. We achieve competitive performance (18.6\% PER) on the TIMIT phoneme recognition task for RNNs evaluated without beam search or an RNN transducer. With this penalty term, IRNN can achieve similar performance to LSTM on language modeling, although adding the penalty term to the LSTM results in superior performance. Our penalty term also prevents the exponential growth of IRNN's activations outside of their training horizon, allowing them to generalize to much longer sequences.

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This is a lecture note for the course DS-GA 3001 <Natural Language Understanding with Distributed Representation> at the Center for Data Science , New York University in Fall, 2015. As the name of the course suggests, this lecture note introduces readers to a neural network based approach to natural language understanding/processing. In order to make it as self-contained as possible, I spend much time on describing basics of machine learning and neural networks, only after which how they are used for natural languages is introduced. On the language front, I almost solely focus on language modelling and machine translation, two of which I personally find most fascinating and most fundamental to natural language understanding.

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State-of-the-art models for semantic segmentation are based on adaptations of convolutional networks that had originally been designed for image classification. However, dense prediction and image classification are structurally different. In this work, we develop a new convolutional network module that is specifically designed for dense prediction. The presented module uses dilated convolutions to systematically aggregate multi-scale contextual information without losing resolution. The architecture is based on the fact that dilated convolutions support exponential expansion of the receptive field without loss of resolution or coverage. We show that the presented context module increases the accuracy of state-of-the-art semantic segmentation systems. In addition, we examine the adaptation of image classification networks to dense prediction and show that simplifying the adapted network can increase accuracy.

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We propose BlackOut, an approximation algorithm to efficiently train massive recurrent neural network language models (RNNLMs) with million word vocabularies. BlackOut is motivated by using a discriminative loss, and we describe a new sampling strategy which significantly reduces computation while improving stability, sample efficiency, and rate of convergence. One way to understand BlackOut is to view it as an extension of the DropOut strategy to the output layer, wherein we use a discriminative training loss and a weighted sampling scheme. We also establish close connections between BlackOut, importance sampling, and noise contrastive estimation (NCE). Our experiments, on the recently released one billion word language modeling benchmark, demonstrate scalability and accuracy of BlackOut; we outperform the state-of-the art, and achieve the lowest perplexity scores on this dataset. Moreover, unlike other established methods which typically require GPUs or CPU clusters, we show that a carefully implemented version of BlackOut requires only 1-10 days on a single machine to train a RNNLM with a million word vocabulary and billions of parameters on one billion words. Although we describe BlackOut in the context of RNNLM training, it can be used to any networks with large softmax output layers.

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Deep feedforward and recurrent networks have achieved impressive results in many perception and language processing applications. This success is partially attributed to architectural innovations such as convolutional and long short-term memory networks. The main motivation for these architectural innovations is that they capture better domain knowledge, and importantly are easier to optimize than more basic architectures. Recently, more complex architectures such as Neural Turing Machines and Memory Networks have been proposed for tasks including question answering and general computation, creating a new set of optimization challenges. In this paper, we discuss a low-overhead and easy-to-implement technique of adding gradient noise which we find to be surprisingly effective when training these very deep architectures. The technique not only helps to avoid overfitting, but also can result in lower training loss. This method alone allows a fully-connected 20-layer deep network to be trained with standard gradient descent, even starting from a poor initialization. We see consistent improvements for many complex models, including a 72% relative reduction in error rate over a carefully-tuned baseline on a challenging question-answering task, and a doubling of the number of accurate binary multiplication models learned across 7,000 random restarts. We encourage further application of this technique to additional complex modern architectures.

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