Keywords: credit assignment, energy-based models, biologically plausible learning
TL;DR: We train a feedforward network without backprop by using an energy-based model to provide local targets
Abstract: Deep neural networks are almost universally trained with reverse-mode automatic differentiation (a.k.a. backpropagation). Biological networks, on the other hand, appear to lack any mechanism for sending gradients back to their input neurons, and thus cannot be learning in this way. In response to this, Scellier & Bengio (2017) proposed Equilibrium Propagation - a method for gradient-based train- ing of neural networks which uses only local learning rules and, crucially, does not rely on neurons having a mechanism for back-propagating an error gradient. Equilibrium propagation, however, has a major practical limitation: inference involves doing an iterative optimization of neural activations to find a fixed-point, and the number of steps required to closely approximate this fixed point scales poorly with the depth of the network. In response to this problem, we propose Initialized Equilibrium Propagation, which trains a feedforward network to initialize the iterative inference procedure for Equilibrium propagation. This feed-forward network learns to approximate the state of the fixed-point using a local learning rule. After training, we can simply use this initializing network for inference, resulting in a learned feedforward network. Our experiments show that this network appears to work as well or better than the original version of Equilibrium propagation. This shows how we might go about training deep networks without using backpropagation.