DSelect-k: Differentiable Selection in the Mixture of Experts with Applications to Multi-Task Learning

Hussein Hazimeh, Zhe Zhao, Aakanksha Chowdhery, Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy, Yihua Chen, Rahul Mazumder, Lichan Hong, Ed H. Chi

The Mixture-of-experts (MoE) architecture is showing promising results in multi-task learning (MTL) and in scaling high-capacity neural networks. State-of-the-art MoE models use a trainable sparse gate to select a subset of the experts for each input example. While conceptually appealing, existing sparse gates, such as Top-k, are not smooth. The lack of smoothness can lead to convergence and statistical performance issues when training with gradient-based methods. In this paper, we develop DSelect-k: the first, continuously differentiable and sparse gate for MoE, based on a novel binary encoding formulation. Our gate can be trained using first-order methods, such as stochastic gradient descent, and offers explicit control over the number of experts to select. We demonstrate the effectiveness of DSelect-k in the context of MTL, on both synthetic and real datasets with up to 128 tasks. Our experiments indicate that MoE models based on DSelect-k can achieve statistically significant improvements in predictive and expert selection performance. Notably, on a real-world large-scale recommender system, DSelect-k achieves over 22% average improvement in predictive performance compared to the Top-k gate. We provide an open-source TensorFlow implementation of our gate.

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