Unbiasing Truncated Backpropagation Through Time

Corentin Tallec, Yann Ollivier

Feb 15, 2018 (modified: Feb 15, 2018) ICLR 2018 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: \emph{Truncated Backpropagation Through Time} (truncated BPTT, \cite{jaeger2002tutorial}) is a widespread method for learning recurrent computational graphs. Truncated BPTT keeps the computational benefits of \emph{Backpropagation Through Time} (BPTT \cite{werbos:bptt}) while relieving the need for a complete backtrack through the whole data sequence at every step. However, truncation favors short-term dependencies: the gradient estimate of truncated BPTT is biased, so that it does not benefit from the convergence guarantees from stochastic gradient theory. We introduce \emph{Anticipated Reweighted Truncated Backpropagation} (ARTBP), an algorithm that keeps the computational benefits of truncated BPTT, while providing unbiasedness. ARTBP works by using variable truncation lengths together with carefully chosen compensation factors in the backpropagation equation. We check the viability of ARTBP on two tasks. First, a simple synthetic task where careful balancing of temporal dependencies at different scales is needed: truncated BPTT displays unreliable performance, and in worst case scenarios, divergence, while ARTBP converges reliably. Second, on Penn Treebank character-level language modelling \cite{ptb_proc}, ARTBP slightly outperforms truncated BPTT.
  • TL;DR: Provides an unbiased version of truncated backpropagation by sampling truncation lengths and reweighting accordingly.
  • Keywords: RNN
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