CPT: Efficient Deep Neural Network Training via Cyclic Precision

International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR)


Low-precision deep neural network (DNN) training has gained tremendous attention as reducing precision is one of the most effective knobs for boosting DNNs’ training time/energy efficiency. In this paper, we attempt to explore low-precision training from a new perspective as inspired by recent findings in understanding DNN training: we conjecture that DNNs’ precision might have a similar effect as the learning rate during DNN training, and advocate dynamic precision along the training trajectory for further boosting the time/energy efficiency of DNN training. Specifically, we propose Cyclic Precision Training (CPT) to cyclically vary the precision between two boundary values which can be identified using a simple precision range test within the first few training epochs. Extensive simulations and ablation studies on five datasets and ten models demonstrate that CPT’s effectiveness is consistent across various models/tasks (including classification and language modeling). Furthermore, through experiments and visualization we show that CPT helps to (1) converge to a wider minima with a lower generalization error and (2) reduce training variance which we believe opens up a new design knob for simultaneously improving the optimization and efficiency of DNN training. Our codes are available at: https://github.com/RICE-EIC/CPT.

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