Google Research

GradInit: Learning to Initialize Neural Networks for Stable and Efficient Training

Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) (2021) (to appear)

Abstract

Innovations in neural architectures have fostered significant breakthroughs in language modeling and computer vision. Unfortunately, novel architectures often result in challenging hyper-parameter choices and training instability if the network parameters are not properly initialized. A number of architecture-specific initialization schemes have been proposed, but these schemes are not always portable to new architectures. This paper presents GradInit, an automated and architecture agnostic method for initializing neural networks. GradInit is based on a simple heuristic; the norm of each network layer is adjusted so that a single step of SGD or Adam with prescribed hyperparameters results in the smallest possible loss value. This adjustment is done by introducing a scalar multiplier variable in front of each parameter block, and then optimizing these variables using a simple numerical scheme. GradInit accelerates the convergence and test performance of many convolutional architectures, both with or without skip connections, and even without normalization layers. It also improves the stability of the Post-LN Transformer for machine translation, enabling training it without learning rate warmup using either Adam or SGD under a wide range of learning rates and momentum coefficients.

Research Areas

Learn more about how we do research

We maintain a portfolio of research projects, providing individuals and teams the freedom to emphasize specific types of work