Keywords: deep convolutional network, dynamic system, ordinary differential equations, stochastic process
TL;DR: This paper bridges deep convolutional network architecture with numerical (stochastic) differential equations, which brings new insights on deep networks and new architectures for image classification
Abstract: Deep neural networks have become the state-of-the-art models in numerous machine learning tasks. However, general guidance to network architecture design is still missing. In our work, we bridge deep neural network design with numerical differential equations. We show that many effective networks, such as ResNet, PolyNet, FractalNet and RevNet, can be interpreted as different numerical discretizations of differential equations. This finding brings us a brand new perspective on the design of effective deep architectures. We can take advantage of the rich knowledge in numerical analysis to guide us in designing new and potentially more effective deep networks. As an example, we propose a linear multi-step architecture (LM-architecture) which is inspired by the linear multi-step method solving ordinary differential equations. The LM-architecture is an effective structure that can be used on any ResNet-like networks. In particular, we demonstrate that LM-ResNet and LM-ResNeXt (i.e. the networks obtained by applying the LM-architecture on ResNet and ResNeXt respectively) can achieve noticeably higher accuracy than ResNet and ResNeXt on both CIFAR and ImageNet with comparable numbers of trainable parameters. In particular, on both CIFAR and ImageNet, LM-ResNet/LM-ResNeXt can significantly compress (>50%) the original networks while maintaining a similar performance. This can be explained mathematically using the concept of modified equation from numerical analysis. Last but not least, we also establish a connection between stochastic control and noise injection in the training process which helps to improve generalization of the networks. Furthermore, by relating stochastic training strategy with stochastic dynamic system, we can easily apply stochastic training to the networks with the LM-architecture. As an example, we introduced stochastic depth to LM-ResNet and achieve significant improvement over the original LM-ResNet on CIFAR10.