Efficiently applying attention to sequential data with the Recurrent Discounted Attention unit

Brendan Maginnis, Pierre Richemond

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Oct 27, 2017) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: Recurrent Neural Networks architectures excel at processing sequences by modelling dependencies over different timescales. The recently introduced Recurrent Weighted Average (RWA) unit captures long term dependencies far better than an LSTM on several challenging tasks. The RWA achieves this by applying attention to each input and computing a weighted average over the full history of its computations. Unfortunately, the RWA cannot change the attention it has assigned to previous timesteps, and so struggles with carrying out consecutive tasks or tasks with changing requirements. We present the Recurrent Discounted Attention (RDA) unit that builds on the RWA by additionally allowing the discounting of the past. We empirically compare our model to RWA, LSTM and GRU units on several challenging tasks. On tasks with a single output the RWA, RDA and GRU units learn much quicker than the LSTM and with better performance. On the multiple sequence copy task our RDA unit learns the task three times as quickly as the LSTM or GRU units while the RWA fails to learn at all. On the Wikipedia character prediction task the LSTM performs best but it followed closely by our RDA unit. Overall our RDA unit performs well and is sample efficient on a large variety of sequence tasks.
  • TL;DR: We introduce the Recurrent Discounted Unit which applies attention to any length sequence in linear time
  • Keywords: RNNs
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