Pruning Redundant Mappings in Transformer Models via Spectral-Normalized Identity Prior

Traditional (unstructured) pruning methods for a Transformer model focus on regularizing the individual weights by penalizing them toward zero. In this work, we explore spectral-normalized identity priors (SNIP), a structured pruning approach that penalizes an entire residual module in a Transformer model toward an identity mapping. Our method identifies and discards unimportant non-linear mappings in the residual connections by applying a thresholding operator on the function norm. It is applicable to any structured module, including a single attention head, an entire attention block, or a feed-forward subnetwork. Furthermore, we introduce spectral normalization to stabilize the distribution of the post-activation values of the Transformer layers, further improving the pruning effectiveness of the proposed methodology. We conduct experiments with BERT on 5 GLUE benchmark tasks to demonstrate that SNIP achieves effective pruning results while maintaining comparable performance. Specifically, we improve the performance over the state-of-the-art by 0.5 to 1.0% on average at 50% compression ratio.

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