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SGD is a widely used optimization method for training the parameters of some model f on some given task. Since the convergence of SGD is related to the variance of the stochastic gradient estimate, there's been a lot of work on trying to come up with such stochastic estimates with smaller variance. This paper does it using an importance sampling (IS) Monte Carlo estimate of the gradient, and learning the proposal distribution $q$ of the IS estimate. The proposal distribution $q$ is parametrized in some way, and is trained to minimize the variance of the gradient estimate. It is trained simultaneously while the model $f$ that SGD (i.e. the SGD that uses IS to get its gradient) is training. To make this whole story more recursive, the proposal distribution $q$ is also trained with SGD :) This makes sense, since one expects the best proposal to depend on the value of the parameters of model $f$, so the best proposal $q$ should vary as $f$ is trained. One application of this idea is in optimizing a classification model over a distribution that is imbalanced classwise (e.g. there are classes with much fewer examples). In this case, the proposal distribution determines how frequently we sample examples from each class (conditioned on the class, training examples are chosen uniformly). #### My two cents This is a really cool idea. I particularly like the application to training on an imbalanced classification problem. People have mostly been using heuristics to tackle this problem, such as initially sampling each class equally as often, and then finetuning/calibrating the model using the real class proportions. This approach instead proposes a really elegant, coherent, solution to this problem. I would have liked to see a comparison with that aforementioned heuristic (for mainly selfish reasons :) ). They instead compare with an importance sampling approach with proposal that assigns the same probability to each class, which is a reasonable alternative (though I don't know if it's used as often as the more heuristic approach). There are other applications, to matrix factorization and reinforcement learning, that are presented in the paper and seem neat, though I haven't gone through those as much. Overall, one of my favorite paper this year: it's original, tackles a problem for which I've always hated the heuristic solution I'm using now, proposes an elegant solution to it, and is applicable even more widely than that setting. 
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Treebased ML models are becoming increasingly popular, but in the explanation space for these type of models is woefully lacking explanations on a local level. Local level explanations can give a clearer picture on specific usecases and help pin point exact areas where the ML model maybe lacking in accuracy. **Idea**: We need a local explanation system for trees, that is not based on simple decision path, but rather weighs each feature in comparison to every other feature to gain better insight on the model's inner workings. **Solution**: This paper outlines a new methodology using SHAP relative values, to weigh pairs of features to get a better local explanation of a treebased model. The paper also outlines how we can garner global level explanations from several local explanations, using the relative score for a large sample space. The paper also walks us through existing methodologies for local explanation, and why these are biased toward tree depth as opposed to actual feature importance. The proposed explanation model titled TreeExplainer exposes methods to compute optimal local explanation, garner global understanding from local explanations, and capture feature interaction within a tree based model. This method assigns Shapley interaction values to pairs of features essentially ranking the features so as to understand which features have a higher impact on overall outcomes, and analyze feature interaction. 
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If you read modern (that is, 20182020) papers using deep learning on molecular inputs, almost all of them use some variant of graph convolution. So, I decided to go back through the citation chain and read the earliest papers that thought to apply this technique to molecules, to get an idea of lineage of the technique within this domain. This 2015 paper, by Duvenaud et al, is the earliest one I can find. It focuses the entire paper on comparing differentiable, messagepassing networks to the state of the art standard at the time, circular fingerprints (more on that in a bit). I really appreciated this approach, which, rather than trying to claim an unrealistic level of novelty, goes into detail on the prior approach, and carves out specific areas of difference. At a high level, the authors' claim is: our model is, in its simplest case, a more flexible and super version of existing work. The unspoken corollary, which ended up being proven true, is that the flexibility of the neural network structure makes it easy to go beyond this initial level of simplicity. Circular Fingerprinting (or, more properly, ExtendedConnectivity Circular Fingerprints), is a fascinating algorithm that captures many of the elements of convolution: shared weights, a hierarchy of kernels that match patterns at different scales, and a clever way of aggregating information across an arbitrary number of input nodes. Mechanistically, Circular Fingerprints work by: 1) Taking each atom, and creating a concatenated vector of its basic features, along with the basic features of each atom it's bonded to (with bonded neighbors quasirandomly) 2) Calculating nextlevel features by applying some number of hash functions (roughly equivalent to convolutional kernels) to the neighborhood feature vector at the lower level to produce an integer 3) For each feature, setting the value of the fingerprint vector to 1 at the index implied by the integer in step (2) 4) Iterating this process at progressively higher layers, using the hash The effect of this is to assign each index of the vector to an binary feature (modulo hash collisions), where that feature is activated if an exact match is found to a structure within a given atom. Its main downside is that (a) its "kernel" equivalents are fixed and not trainable, since they're just random hashes, and (b) its features represent *exact* matches to lowerlevel feature patterns, which means you can't have one feature activated to different degrees by variations on a pattern it's identifying. https://i.imgur.com/V8FpfVE.png Duvenaud et al present their alternative in terms of keeping a similar structure, but swapping out fixed and binary components for trainable (because differentiable) and continuous ones. Instead of concatenating a random sorting of atom neighbors to enforce invariance to sorting, they simply sum feature vectors across neighbors, which is also an orderinvariantoperation. Instead of applying hash functions, they apply parametrized kernel functions, with the same parameters used across all aggregated neighborhood vectors . This will no longer look for exact matches, but will activate to the extent a structure within an atom matches against a kernel pattern. Then, these features are put into a softmax, which instead setting an index of a vector to a sharp one value, activates different feature indices in the final vector to differing degrees. The final fingerprint is simply the sum of these softmax feature activations for each atom. The authors do a few tests to confirm their substitution is working well, including starting out with a random network (to better approximate the random hash functions), comparing distances between atoms according to either the circular or neural footprint (which had a high correlation), and confirming that that performs similarly to circular fingerprints on a set of supervised learning tasks on modules. When they trained weights to be better than random on three such supervised tasks, they found that their model was comparable or better than circular fingerprints on all three (to break that down: it was basically equivalent on one, and notably better on the other two, according to mean squared error) This really is the simplest possible version of a messagepassing or graph convolutional network (it doesn't use edge features, it doesn't calculate features of a neighborconnection according to the features of each node, etc), but it's really satisfying to see it laid out as a nextstep alternative that offered value just by stepping away from exactmatch feature dynamics and nonrandom functions, even without all the sophisticated additions that would later be added to such models.
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Federated learning is the problem of training a model that incorporates updates from the data of many individuals, without having direct access to that data, or having to store it. This is potentially desirable both for reasons of privacy (not wanting to have access to private data in a centralized way), and for potential benefits to transport cost when data needed to train models exists on a user's device, and would require a lot of bandwidth to transfer to a centralized server. Historically, the default way to do Federated Learning was with an algorithm called FedSGD, which worked by:  Sending a copy of the current model to each device/client  Calculating a gradient update to be applied on top of that current model given a batch of data sampled from the client's device  Sending that gradient back to the central server  Averaging those gradients and applying them all at once to a central model The authors note that this approach is equivalent to one where a single device performs a step of gradient descent locally, sends the resulting *model* back to the the central server, and performs model averaging by averaging the parameter vectors there. Given that, and given their observation that, in federated learning, communication of gradients and models is generally much more costly than the computation itself (since the computation happens across so many machines), they ask whether the communication required to get to a certain accuracy could be better optimized by performing multiple steps of gradient calculation and update on a given device, before sending the resulting model back to a central server to be average with other clients models. Specifically, their algorithm, FedAvg, works by:  Dividing the data on a given device into batches of size B  Calculating an update on each batch and applying them sequentially to the starting model sent over the wire from the server  Repeating this for E epochs Conceptually, this should work perfectly well in the world where data from each batch is IID  independently drawn from the same distribution. But that is especially unlikely to be true in the case of federated learning, when a given user and device might have very specialized parts of the data space, and prior work has shown that there exist pathological cases where averaged models can perform worse than either model independently, even *when* the IID condition is met. The authors experiment empirically ask the question whether these sorts of pathological cases arise when simulating a federated learning procedure over MNIST and a language model trained on Shakespeare, trying over a range of hyperparameters (specifically B and E), and testing the case where data is heavily nonIID (in their case: where different "devices" had nonoverlapping sets of digits). https://i.imgur.com/xq9vi8S.png They show that, in both the IID and nonIID settings, they are able to reach their target accuracy, and are able to do so with many fewer rounds of communciation than are required by FedSGD (where an update is sent over the wire, and a model sent back, for each round of calculation done on the device.) The authors argue that this shows the practical usefulness of a Federated Learning approach that does more computation on individual devices before updating, even in the face of theoretical pathological cases. 
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This paper presents a recurrent neural network architecture in which some of the recurrent weights dynamically change during the forward pass, using a hebbianlike rule. They correspond to the matrices $A(t)$ in the figure below: ![Fast weights RNN figure](http://i.imgur.com/DCznSf4.png) These weights $A(t)$ are referred to as *fast weights*. Comparatively, the recurrent weights $W$ are referred to as slow weights, since they are only changing due to normal training and are otherwise kept constant at test time. More specifically, the proposed fast weights RNN compute a series of hidden states $h(t)$ over time steps $t$, but, unlike regular RNNs, the transition from $h(t)$ to $h(t+1)$ consists of multiple ($S$) recurrent layers $h_1(t+1), \dots, h_{S1}(t+1), h_S(t+1)$, defined as follows: $$h_{s+1}(t+1) = f(W h(t) + C x(t) + A(t) h_s(t+1))$$ where $f$ is an elementwise nonlinearity such as the ReLU activation. The next hidden state $h(t+1)$ is simply defined as the last "inner loop" hidden state $h_S(t+1)$, before moving to the next time step. As for the fast weights $A(t)$, they too change between time steps, using the hebbianlike rule: $$A(t+1) = \lambda A(t) + \eta h(t) h(t)^T$$ where $\lambda$ acts as a decay rate (to partially forget some of what's in the past) and $\eta$ as the fast weight's "learning rate" (not to be confused with the learning rate used during backprop). Thus, the role played by the fast weights is to rapidly adjust to the recent hidden states and remember the recent past. In fact, the authors show an explicit relation between these fast weights and memoryaugmented architectures that have recently been popular. Indeed, by recursively applying and expending the equation for the fast weights, one obtains $$A(t) = \eta \sum_{\tau = 1}^{\tau = t1}\lambda^{t\tau1} h(\tau) h(\tau)^T$$ *(note the difference with Equation 3 of the paper... I think there was a typo)* which implies that when computing the $A(t) h_s(t+1)$ term in the expression to go from $h_s(t+1)$ to $h_{s+1}(t+1)$, this term actually corresponds to $$A(t) h_s(t+1) = \eta \sum_{\tau =1}^{\tau = t1} \lambda^{t\tau1} h(\tau) (h(\tau)^T h_s(t+1))$$ i.e. $A(t) h_s(t+1)$ is a weighted sum of all previous hidden states $h(\tau)$, with each hidden states weighted by an "attention weight" $h(\tau)^T h_s(t+1)$. The difference with many recent memoryaugmented architectures is thus that the attention weights aren't computed using a softmax nonlinearity. Experimentally, they find it beneficial to use [layer normalization](https://arxiv.org/abs/1607.06450). Good values for $\eta$ and $\lambda$ seem to be 0.5 and 0.9 respectively. I'm not 100% sure, but I also understand that using $S=1$, i.e. using the fast weights only once per time steps, was usually found to be optimal. Also see Figure 3 for the architecture used on the image classification datasets, which is slightly more involved. The authors present a series 4 experiments, comparing with regular RNNs (IRNNs, which are RNNs with ReLU units and whose recurrent weights are initialized to a scaled identity matrix) and LSTMs (as well as an associative LSTM for a synthetic associative retrieval task and ConvNets for the two image datasets). Generally, experiments illustrate that the fast weights RNN tends to train faster (in number of updates) and better than the other recurrent architectures. Surprisingly, the fast weights RNN can even be competitive with a ConvNet on the two image classification benchmarks, where the RNN traverses glimpses from the image using a fixed policy. **My two cents** This is a very thought provoking paper which, based on the comparison with LSTMs, suggests that fast weights RNNs might be a very good alternative. I'd be quite curious to see what would happen if one was to replace LSTMs with them in the myriad of papers using LSTMs (e.g. all the Seq2Seq work). Intuitively, LSTMs seem to be able to do more than just attending to the recent past. But, for a given task, if one was to observe that fast weights RNNs are competitive to LSTMs, it would suggests that the LSTM isn't doing something that much more complex. So it would be interesting to determine what are the tasks where the extra capacity of an LSTM is actually valuable and exploitable. Hopefully the authors will release some code, to facilitate this exploration. The discussion at the end of Section 3 on how exploiting the "memory augmented" view of fast weights is useful to allow the use of minibatches is interesting. However, it also suggests that computations in the fast weights RNN scales quadratically with the sequence size (since in this view, the RNN technically must attend to all previous hidden states, since the beginning of the sequence). This is something to keep in mind, if one was to consider applying this to very long sequences (i.e. much longer than the hidden state dimensionality). Also, I don't quite get the argument that the "memory augmented" view of fast weights is more amenable to minibatch training. I understand that having an explicit weight matrix $A(t)$ for each minibatch sequence complicates things. However, in the memory augmented view, we also have a "memory matrix" that is different for each sequence, and yet we can handle that fine. The problem I can imagine is that storing a *sequence of arbitrary weight matrices* for each sequence might be storage demanding (and thus perhaps make it impossible to store a forward/backward pass for more than one sequence at a time), while the implicit memory matrix only requires appending a new row at each time step. Perhaps the argument to be made here is more that there's already minibatch compatible code out there for dealing with the use of a memory matrix of stored previous memory states. This work strikes some (partial) resemblance to other recent work, which may serve as food for thought here. The use of possibly multiple computation layers between time steps reminds me of [Adaptive Computation Time (ACT) RNN]( http://www.shortscience.org/paper?bibtexKey=journals/corr/Graves16). Also, expressing a backpropable architecture that involves updates to weights (here, hebbianlike updates) reminds me of recent work that does backprop through the updates of a gradient descent procedure (for instance as in [this work]( http://www.shortscience.org/paper?bibtexKey=conf/icml/MaclaurinDA15)). Finally, while I was familiar with the notion of fast weights from the work on [Using Fast Weights to Improve Persistent Contrastive Divergence](http://people.ee.duke.edu/~lcarin/FastGibbsMixing.pdf), I didn't realize that this concept dated as far back as the late 80s. So, for young researchers out there looking for inspiration for research ideas, this paper confirms that looking at the older neural network literature for inspiration is probably a very good strategy :) To sum up, this is really nice work, and I'm looking forward to the NIPS 2016 oral presentation of it! 