Born again neural networks


Tommaso Furlanello, Zachary C. Lipton, Michael Tschannen, Laurent Itti, and Anima Anandkumar


Proc. of International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), pp. 1602–1611, July 2018.

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Knowledge distillation (KD) consists of transferring knowledge from one machine learning model (the teacher}) to another (the student). Commonly, the teacher is a high-capacity model with formidable performance, while the student is more compact. By transferring knowledge, one hopes to benefit from the student's compactness. %we desire a compact model with performance close to the teacher's. We study KD from a new perspective: rather than compressing models, we train students parameterized identically to their teachers. Surprisingly, these {Born-Again Networks (BANs), outperform their teachers significantly, both on computer vision and language modeling tasks. Our experiments with BANs based on DenseNets demonstrate state-of-the-art performance on the CIFAR-10 (3.5%) and CIFAR-100 (15.5%) datasets, by validation error. Additional experiments explore two distillation objectives: (i) Confidence-Weighted by Teacher Max (CWTM) and (ii) Dark Knowledge with Permuted Predictions (DKPP). Both methods elucidate the essential components of KD, demonstrating a role of the teacher outputs on both predicted and non-predicted classes. We present experiments with students of various capacities, focusing on the under-explored case where students overpower teachers. Our experiments show significant advantages from transferring knowledge between DenseNets and ResNets in either direction.

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Copyright Notice: © 2018 T. Furlanello, Z. C. Lipton, M. Tschannen, L. Itti, and A. Anandkumar.

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