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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! 
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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 preactivation and for the "inputs to hiddens" preactivation.** In other words, 2 separate BN operators are applied on each contributions to the preactivation, before summing and passing through the tanh and sigmoid nonlinearities. **3) Use of largest timestep BN statistics for longer testtime sequences.** Indeed, one issue with applying BN to RNNs is that if the input sequences have varying length, and if one uses pertimestep 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 preactivation 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. 
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How can we learn causal relationships that explain data? We can learn from nonstationary 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: $P(A,B) = P(A)P(BA)$ representing a causal graph like $A\rightarrow B$ $P(A,B) = P(AB)P(B)$ 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 viceversa). Changing the marginal probability of Raining (say because the weather changed) does not change the mechanism that relates $A$ and $B$ (captured by $P(BA)$), but will have an impact on the marginal $P(B)$. So after this distributional shift the function that modeled $P(BA)$ 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 $P(B)P(AB)$, adaptation to the change will be slow because both $P(B)$ and $P(AB)$ 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. 
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This paper proposes a variant of Neural Turing Machine (NTM) for metalearning or "learning to learn", in the specific context of fewshot 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 feedforward way. This is a form of metalearning 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 $({\bf x}_1, {\rm null}), ({\bf x}_2, y_1), \dots, ({\bf x}_T, y_{T1})$, where $T$ is the size of the episode. For instance, if the model is trained to learn how to do 5class 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 onehot 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 5class 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 metalearning 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 metalearning training set. This is clever I think, since a very large number of such "metalearning" 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 1nearest 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 4nearest 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 5letter words to describe classes, instead of onehot 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 onehot vectors are problematic. In fact, I would think that arbitrarily assigning 5letter 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 hyperparameter (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 feedforward 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 nonrecurrent feedforward 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 metalearning. 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 
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This paper derives an algorithm for passing gradients through a sample from a mixture of Gaussians. While the reparameterization trick allows to get the gradients with respect to the Gaussian means and covariances, the same trick cannot be invoked for the mixing proportions parameters (essentially because they are the parameters of a multinomial discrete distribution over the Gaussian components, and the reparameterization trick doesn't extend to discrete distributions). One can think of the derivation as proceeding in 3 steps: 1. Deriving an estimator for gradients a sample from a 1dimensional density $f(x)$ that is such that $f(x)$ is differentiable and its cumulative distribution function (CDF) $F(x)$ is tractable: $\frac{\partial \hat{x}}{\partial \theta} =  \frac{1}{f(\hat{x})}\int_{t=\infty}^{\hat{x}} \frac{\partial f(t)}{\partial \theta} dt$ where $\hat{x}$ is a sample from density $f(x)$ and $\theta$ is any parameter of $f(x)$ (the above is a simplified version of Equation 6). This is probably the most important result of the paper, and is based on a really clever use of the general form of the Leibniz integral rule. 2. Noticing that one can sample from a $D$dimensional Gaussian mixture by decomposing it with the product rule $f({\bf x}) = \prod_{d=1}^D f(x_d{\bf x}_{<d})$ and using ancestral sampling, where each $f(x_d{\bf x}_{<d})$ are themselves 1dimensional mixtures (i.e. with differentiable densities and tractable CDFs) 3. Using the 1dimensional gradient estimator (of Equation 6) and the chain rule to backpropagate through the ancestral sampling procedure. This requires computing the integral in the expression for $\frac{\partial \hat{x}}{\partial \theta}$ above, where $f(x)$ is one of the 1D conditional Gaussian mixtures and $\theta$ is a mixing proportion parameter $\pi_j$. As it turns out, this integral has an analytical form (see Equation 22). **My two cents** This is a really surprising and neat result. The author mentions it could be applicable to variational autoencoders (to support posteriors that are mixtures of Gaussians), and I'm really looking forward to read about whether that can be successfully done in practice. The paper provides the derivation only for mixtures of Gaussians with diagonal covariance matrices. It is mentioned that extending to nondiagonal covariances is doable. That said, ancestral sampling with nondiagonal covariances would become more computationally expensive, since the conditionals under each Gaussian involves a matrix inverse. Beyond the case of Gaussian mixtures, Equation 6 is super interesting in itself as its application could go beyond that case. This is probably why the paper also derived a samplingbased estimator for Equation 6, in Equation 9. However, that estimator might be inefficient, since it involves sampling from Equation 10 with rejection, and it might take a lot of time to get an accepted sample if $\hat{x}$ is very small. Also, a good estimate of Equation 6 might require *multiple* samples from Equation 10. Finally, while I couldn't find any obvious problem with the mathematical derivation, I'd be curious to see whether using the same approach to derive a gradient on one of the Gaussian mean or standard deviation parameters gave a gradient that is consistent with what the reparameterization trick provides.
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