Training recurrent networks online without backtracking

28 Jul 2015  ·  Yann Ollivier, Corentin Tallec, Guillaume Charpiat ·

We introduce the "NoBackTrack" algorithm to train the parameters of dynamical systems such as recurrent neural networks. This algorithm works in an online, memoryless setting, thus requiring no backpropagation through time, and is scalable, avoiding the large computational and memory cost of maintaining the full gradient of the current state with respect to the parameters. The algorithm essentially maintains, at each time, a single search direction in parameter space. The evolution of this search direction is partly stochastic and is constructed in such a way to provide, at every time, an unbiased random estimate of the gradient of the loss function with respect to the parameters. Because the gradient estimate is unbiased, on average over time the parameter is updated as it should. The resulting gradient estimate can then be fed to a lightweight Kalman-like filter to yield an improved algorithm. For recurrent neural networks, the resulting algorithms scale linearly with the number of parameters. Small-scale experiments confirm the suitability of the approach, showing that the stochastic approximation of the gradient introduced in the algorithm is not detrimental to learning. In particular, the Kalman-like version of NoBackTrack is superior to backpropagation through time (BPTT) when the time span of dependencies in the data is longer than the truncation span for BPTT.

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