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- ShortScience.org is a platform for post-publication discussion aiming to improve accessibility and reproducibility of research ideas.
- The website has 1567 public summaries, mostly in machine learning, written by the community and organized by paper, conference, and year.
- Reading summaries of papers is useful to obtain the perspective and insight of another reader, why they liked or disliked it, and their attempt to demystify complicated sections.
- Also, writing summaries is a good exercise to understand the content of a paper because you are forced to challenge your assumptions when explaining it.
- Finally, you can keep up to date with the flood of research by reading the latest summaries on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Using Fast Weights to Attend to the Recent Past

Jimmy Ba and Geoffrey Hinton and Volodymyr Mnih and Joel Z. Leibo and Catalin Ionescu

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local arXiv

Keywords: stat.ML, cs.LG, cs.NE

**First published:** 2016/10/20 (5 years ago)

**Abstract:** Until recently, research on artificial neural networks was largely restricted
to systems with only two types of variable: Neural activities that represent
the current or recent input and weights that learn to capture regularities
among inputs, outputs and payoffs. There is no good reason for this
restriction. Synapses have dynamics at many different time-scales and this
suggests that artificial neural networks might benefit from variables that
change slower than activities but much faster than the standard weights. These
"fast weights" can be used to store temporary memories of the recent past and
they provide a neurally plausible way of implementing the type of attention to
the past that has recently proved very helpful in sequence-to-sequence models.
By using fast weights we can avoid the need to store copies of neural activity
patterns.
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Jimmy Ba and Geoffrey Hinton and Volodymyr Mnih and Joel Z. Leibo and Catalin Ionescu

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local arXiv

Keywords: stat.ML, cs.LG, cs.NE

[link]
This paper presents a recurrent neural network architecture in which some of the recurrent weights dynamically change during the forward pass, using a hebbian-like 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 $h_1(t+1), \dots, h_{S-1}(t+1), h_S(t+1)$, 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 element-wise non-linearity 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 hebbian-like 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 memory-augmented architectures that have recently been popular. Indeed, by recursively applying and expending the equation for the fast weights, one obtains $$A(t) = \eta \sum_{\tau = 1}^{\tau = t-1}\lambda^{t-\tau-1} h(\tau) h(\tau)^T$$ *(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 $$A(t) h_s(t+1) = \eta \sum_{\tau =1}^{\tau = t-1} \lambda^{t-\tau-1} h(\tau) (h(\tau)^T h_s(t+1))$$ 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 memory-augmented architectures is thus that the attention weights aren't computed using a softmax non-linearity. 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 mini-batch 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 mini-batch 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, hebbian-like 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! |

Recurrent Batch Normalization

Cooijmans, Tim and Ballas, Nicolas and Laurent, César and Courville, Aaron

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local Bibsonomy

Keywords: dblp

Cooijmans, Tim and Ballas, Nicolas and Laurent, César and Courville, Aaron

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local Bibsonomy

Keywords: dblp

[link]
This paper describes how to apply the idea of batch normalization (BN) successfully to recurrent neural networks, specifically to LSTM networks. The technique involves the 3 following ideas: **1) Careful initialization of the BN scaling parameter.** While standard practice is to initialize it to 1 (to have unit variance), they show that this situation creates problems with the gradient flow through time, which vanishes quickly. A value around 0.1 (used in the experiments) preserves gradient flow much better. **2) Separate BN for the "hiddens to hiddens pre-activation and for the "inputs to hiddens" pre-activation.** In other words, 2 separate BN operators are applied on each contributions to the pre-activation, before summing and passing through the tanh and sigmoid non-linearities. **3) Use of largest time-step BN statistics for longer test-time sequences.** Indeed, one issue with applying BN to RNNs is that if the input sequences have varying length, and if one uses per-time-step mean/variance statistics in the BN transformation (which is the natural thing to do), it hasn't been clear how do deal with the last time steps of longer sequences seen at test time, for which BN has no statistics from the training set. The paper shows evidence that the pre-activation statistics tend to gradually converge to stationary values over time steps, which supports the idea of simply using the training set's last time step statistics. Among these ideas, I believe the most impactful idea is 1). The papers mentions towards the end that improper initialization of the BN scaling parameter probably explains previous failed attempts to apply BN to recurrent networks. Experiments on 4 datasets confirms the method's success. **My two cents** This is an excellent development for LSTMs. BN has had an important impact on our success in training deep neural networks, and this approach might very well have a similar impact on the success of LSTMs in practice. |

A Meta-Transfer Objective for Learning to Disentangle Causal Mechanisms

Yoshua Bengio and Tristan Deleu and Nasim Rahaman and Rosemary Ke and Sébastien Lachapelle and Olexa Bilaniuk and Anirudh Goyal and Christopher Pal

arXiv e-Print archive - 2019 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG, stat.ML

**First published:** 2019/01/30 (2 years ago)

**Abstract:** We propose to meta-learn causal structures based on how fast a learner adapts
to new distributions arising from sparse distributional changes, e.g. due to
interventions, actions of agents and other sources of non-stationarities. We
show that under this assumption, the correct causal structural choices lead to
faster adaptation to modified distributions because the changes are
concentrated in one or just a few mechanisms when the learned knowledge is
modularized appropriately. This leads to sparse expected gradients and a lower
effective number of degrees of freedom needing to be relearned while adapting
to the change. It motivates using the speed of adaptation to a modified
distribution as a meta-learning objective. We demonstrate how this can be used
to determine the cause-effect relationship between two observed variables. The
distributional changes do not need to correspond to standard interventions
(clamping a variable), and the learner has no direct knowledge of these
interventions. We show that causal structures can be parameterized via
continuous variables and learned end-to-end. We then explore how these ideas
could be used to also learn an encoder that would map low-level observed
variables to unobserved causal variables leading to faster adaptation
out-of-distribution, learning a representation space where one can satisfy the
assumptions of independent mechanisms and of small and sparse changes in these
mechanisms due to actions and non-stationarities.
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Yoshua Bengio and Tristan Deleu and Nasim Rahaman and Rosemary Ke and Sébastien Lachapelle and Olexa Bilaniuk and Anirudh Goyal and Christopher Pal

arXiv e-Print archive - 2019 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG, stat.ML

[link]
How can we learn causal relationships that explain data? We can learn from non-stationary distributions. If we experiment with different factorizations of relationships between variables we can observe which ones provide better sample complexity when adapting to distributional shift and therefore are likely to be causal. If we consider the variables A and B we can factor them in two ways: $P(A,B) = P(A)P(B|A)$ representing a causal graph like $A\rightarrow B$ $P(A,B) = P(A|B)P(B)$ representing a causal graph like $A \leftarrow B$ The idea is if we train a model with one of these structures; when adapting to a new shifted distribution of data it will take longer to adapt if the model does not have the correct inductive bias. For example let's say that the true relationship is $A$=Raining causes $B$=Open Umbrella (and not vice-versa). Changing the marginal probability of Raining (say because the weather changed) does not change the mechanism that relates $A$ and $B$ (captured by $P(B|A)$), but will have an impact on the marginal $P(B)$. So after this distributional shift the function that modeled $P(B|A)$ will not need to change because the relationship is the same. Only the function that modeled $P(A)$ will need to change. Under the incorrect factorization $P(B)P(A|B)$, adaptation to the change will be slow because both $P(B)$ and $P(A|B)$ need to be modified to account for the change in $P(A)$ (due to Bayes rule). Here a difference in sample complexity can be observed when modeling the joint of the shifted distribution. $B\rightarrow A$ takes longer to adapt: https://i.imgur.com/B9FEmA7.png Here the idea is that sample complexity when adapting to a new distribution of data is a heuristic to inform us which causal graph inductive bias is correct. Experimentally this works and they also observe that when models have more capacity it seems that the difference between the models grows. This summary was written with the help of Yoshua Bengio. |

One-shot Learning with Memory-Augmented Neural Networks

Adam Santoro and Sergey Bartunov and Matthew Botvinick and Daan Wierstra and Timothy Lillicrap

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG

**First published:** 2016/05/19 (5 years ago)

**Abstract:** Despite recent breakthroughs in the applications of deep neural networks, one
setting that presents a persistent challenge is that of "one-shot learning."
Traditional gradient-based networks require a lot of data to learn, often
through extensive iterative training. When new data is encountered, the models
must inefficiently relearn their parameters to adequately incorporate the new
information without catastrophic interference. Architectures with augmented
memory capacities, such as Neural Turing Machines (NTMs), offer the ability to
quickly encode and retrieve new information, and hence can potentially obviate
the downsides of conventional models. Here, we demonstrate the ability of a
memory-augmented neural network to rapidly assimilate new data, and leverage
this data to make accurate predictions after only a few samples. We also
introduce a new method for accessing an external memory that focuses on memory
content, unlike previous methods that additionally use memory location-based
focusing mechanisms.
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Adam Santoro and Sergey Bartunov and Matthew Botvinick and Daan Wierstra and Timothy Lillicrap

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local arXiv

Keywords: cs.LG

[link]
This paper proposes a variant of Neural Turing Machine (NTM) for meta-learning or "learning to learn", in the specific context of few-shot learning (i.e. learning from few examples). Specifically, the proposed model is trained to ingest as input a training set of examples and improve its output predictions as examples are processed, in a purely feed-forward way. This is a form of meta-learning because the model is trained so that its forward pass effectively executes a form of "learning" from the examples it is fed as input. During training, the model is fed multiples sequences (referred to as episodes) of labeled examples $({\bf x}_1, {\rm null}), ({\bf x}_2, y_1), \dots, ({\bf x}_T, y_{T-1})$, where $T$ is the size of the episode. For instance, if the model is trained to learn how to do 5-class classification from 10 examples per class, $T$ would be $5 \times 10 = 50$. Mainly, the paper presents experiments on the Omniglot dataset, which has 1623 classes. In these experiments, classes are separated into 1200 "training classes" and 423 "test classes", and each episode is generated by randomly selecting 5 classes (each assigned some arbitrary vector representation, e.g. a one-hot vector that is consistent within the episode, but not across episodes) and constructing a randomly ordered sequence of 50 examples from within the chosen 5 classes. Moreover, the correct label $y_t$ of a given input ${\bf x}_t$ is always provided only at the next time step, but the model is trained to be good at its prediction of the label of ${\bf x}_t$ at the current time step. This is akin to the scenario of online learning on a stream of examples, where the label of an example is revealed only once the model has made a prediction. The proposed NTM is different from the original NTM of Alex Graves, mostly in how it writes into its memory. The authors propose to focus writing to either the least recently used memory location or the most recently used memory location. Moreover, the least recently used memory location is reset to zero before every write (an operation that seems to be ignored when backpropagating gradients). Intuitively, the proposed NTM should learn a strategy by which, given a new input, it looks into its memory for information from other examples earlier in the episode (perhaps similarly to what a nearest neighbor classifier would do) to predict the class of the new input. The paper presents experiments in learning to do multiclass classification on the Omniglot dataset and regression based on functions synthetically generated by a GP. The highlights are that: 1. The proposed model performs much better than an LSTM and better than an NTM with the original write mechanism of Alex Graves (for classification). 2. The proposed model even performs better than a 1st nearest neighbor classifier. 3. The proposed model is even shown to outperform human performance, for the 5-class scenario. 4. The proposed model has decent performance on the regression task, compared to GP predictions using the groundtruth kernel. **My two cents** This is probably one of my favorite ICML 2016 papers. I really think meta-learning is a problem that deserves more attention, and this paper presents both an interesting proposal for how to do it and an interesting empirical investigation of it. Much like previous work [\[1\]][1] [\[2\]][2], learning is based on automatically generating a meta-learning training set. This is clever I think, since a very large number of such "meta-learning" examples (the episodes) can be constructed, thus transforming what is normally a "small data problem" (few shot learning) into a "big data problem", for which deep learning is more effective. I'm particularly impressed by how the proposed model outperforms a 1-nearest neighbor classifier. That said, the proposed NTM actually performs 4 reads at each time step, which suggests that a fairer comparison might be with a 4-nearest neighbor classifier. I do wonder how this baseline would compare. I'm also impressed with the observation that the proposed model surpassed humans. The paper also proposes to use 5-letter words to describe classes, instead of one-hot vectors. The motivation is that this should make it easier for the model to scale to much more than 5 classes. However, I don't entirely follow the logic as to why one-hot vectors are problematic. In fact, I would think that arbitrarily assigning 5-letter words to classes would instead imply some similarity between classes that share letters that is arbitrary and doesn't reflect true class similarity. Also, while I find it encouraging that the performance for regression of the proposed model is decent, I'm curious about how it would compare with a GP approach that incrementally learns the kernel's hyper-parameter (instead of using the groundtruth values, which makes this baseline unrealistically strong). Finally, I'm still not 100% sure how exactly the NTM is able to implement the type of feed-forward inference I'd expect to be required. I would expect it to learn a memory representation of examples that combines information from the input vector ${\bf x}_t$ *and* its label $y_t$. However, since the label of an input is presented at the following time step in an episode, it is not intuitive to me then how the read/write mechanisms are able to deal with this misalignment. My only guess is that since the controller is an LSTM, then it can somehow remember ${\bf x}_t$ until it gets $y_t$ and appropriately include the combined information into the memory. This could be supported by the fact that using a non-recurrent feed-forward controller is much worse than using an LSTM controller. But I'm not 100% sure of this either. All the above being said, this is still a really great paper, which I hope will help stimulate more research on meta-learning. Hopefully code for this paper can eventually be released, which would help in popularizing the topic. [1]: http://snowedin.net/tmp/Hochreiter2001.pdf [2]: http://www.thespermwhale.com/jaseweston/ram/papers/paper_16.pdf |

Attend, Infer, Repeat: Fast Scene Understanding with Generative Models

Eslami, S. M. Ali and Heess, Nicolas and Weber, Theophane and Tassa, Yuval and Kavukcuoglu, Koray and Hinton, Geoffrey E.

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local Bibsonomy

Keywords: dblp

Eslami, S. M. Ali and Heess, Nicolas and Weber, Theophane and Tassa, Yuval and Kavukcuoglu, Koray and Hinton, Geoffrey E.

arXiv e-Print archive - 2016 via Local Bibsonomy

Keywords: dblp

[link]
This paper presents an unsupervised generative model, based on the variational autoencoder framework, but where the encoder is a recurrent neural network that sequentially infers the identity, pose and number of objects in some input scene (2D image or 3D scene). In short, this is done by extending the DRAW model to incorporate discrete latent variables that determine whether an additional object is present or not. Since the reparametrization trick cannot be used for discrete variables, the authors estimate the gradient through the sampling operation using a likelihood ratio estimator. Another innovation over DRAW is the application to 3D scenes, in which the decoder is a graphics renderer. Since it is not possible to backpropagate through the renderer, gradients are estimated using finite-difference estimates (which require going through the renderer several times). Experiments are presented where the evaluation is focused on the ability of the model to detect and count the number of objects in the image or scene. **My two cents** This is a nice, natural extension of DRAW. I'm particularly impressed by the results for the 3D scene setting. Despite the fact that setup is obviously synthetic and simplistic, I really surprised that estimating the decoder gradients using finite-differences worked at all. It's also interesting to see that the proposed model does surprisingly well compared to a CNN supervised approach that directly predicts the objects identity and pose. Quite cool! To see the model in action, see [this cute video][1]. [1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tc84kKdpY4 |

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