SERF: Towards better training of deep neural networks using log-Softplus ERror activation Function

21 Aug 2021  ·  Sayan Nag, Mayukh Bhattacharyya ·

Activation functions play a pivotal role in determining the training dynamics and neural network performance. The widely adopted activation function ReLU despite being simple and effective has few disadvantages including the Dying ReLU problem. In order to tackle such problems, we propose a novel activation function called Serf which is self-regularized and nonmonotonic in nature. Like Mish, Serf also belongs to the Swish family of functions. Based on several experiments on computer vision (image classification and object detection) and natural language processing (machine translation, sentiment classification and multimodal entailment) tasks with different state-of-the-art architectures, it is observed that Serf vastly outperforms ReLU (baseline) and other activation functions including both Swish and Mish, with a markedly bigger margin on deeper architectures. Ablation studies further demonstrate that Serf based architectures perform better than those of Swish and Mish in varying scenarios, validating the effectiveness and compatibility of Serf with varying depth, complexity, optimizers, learning rates, batch sizes, initializers and dropout rates. Finally, we investigate the mathematical relation between Swish and Serf, thereby showing the impact of preconditioner function ingrained in the first derivative of Serf which provides a regularization effect making gradients smoother and optimization faster.

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