Fast and Accurate Entity Recognition with Iterated Dilated Convolutions

Today when many practitioners run basic NLP on the entire web and large-volume traffic, faster methods are paramount to saving time and energy costs. Recent advances in GPU hardware have led to the emergence of bi-directional LSTMs as a standard method for obtaining per-token vector representations serving as input to labeling tasks such as NER (often followed by prediction in a linear-chain CRF). Though expressive and accurate, these models fail to fully exploit GPU parallelism, limiting their computational efficiency. This paper proposes a faster alternative to Bi-LSTMs for NER: Iterated Dilated Convolutional Neural Networks (ID-CNNs), which have better capacity than traditional CNNs for large context and structured prediction. Unlike LSTMs whose sequential processing on sentences of length N requires O(N) time even in the face of parallelism, ID-CNNs permit fixed-depth convolutions to run in parallel across entire documents. We describe a distinct combination of network structure, parameter sharing and training procedures that enable dramatic 14-20x test-time speedups while retaining accuracy comparable to the Bi-LSTM-CRF. Moreover, ID-CNNs trained to aggregate context from the entire document are even more accurate while maintaining 8x faster test time speeds.

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