Masked Training of Neural Networks with Partial Gradients

Amirkeivan Mohtashami · Martin Jaggi · Sebastian Stich


State-of-the-art training algorithms for deep learning models are based on stochastic gradient descent (SGD). Recently, many variations have been explored: perturbing parameters for better accuracy (such as in Extragradient), limiting SGD updates to a subset of parameters for increased efficiency (such as meProp) or a combination of both (such as Dropout). However, the convergence of these methods is often not studied in theory. We propose a unified theoretical framework to study such SGD variants---encompassing the aforementioned algorithms and additionally a broad variety of methods used for communication efficient training or model compression. Our insights can be used as a guide to improve the efficiency of such methods and facilitate generalization to new applications. As an example, we tackle the task of jointly training networks, a version of which (limited to sub-networks) is used to create Slimmable Networks. By training a low-rank Transformer jointly with a standard one we obtain superior performance than when it is trained separately.

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