AlphaNet: Improved Training of Supernets with Alpha-Divergence

Dilin Wang, Chengyue Gong, Meng Li, Qiang Liu, Vikas Chandra

Weight-sharing neural architecture search (NAS) is an effective technique for automating efficient neural architecture design. Weight-sharing NAS builds a supernet that assembles all the architectures as its sub-networks and jointly trains the supernet with the sub-networks. The success of weight-sharing NAS heavily relies on distilling the knowledge of the supernet to the sub-networks. However, we find that the widely used distillation divergence, i.e., KL divergence, may lead to student sub-networks that over-estimate or under-estimate the uncertainty of the teacher supernet, leading to inferior performance of the sub-networks. In this work, we propose to improve the supernet training with a more generalized alpha-divergence. By adaptively selecting the alpha-divergence, we simultaneously prevent the over-estimation or under-estimation of the uncertainty of the teacher model. We apply the proposed alpha-divergence based supernets training to both slimmable neural networks and weight-sharing NAS, and demonstrate significant improvements. Specifically, our discovered model family, AlphaNet, outperforms prior-art models on a wide range of FLOPs regimes, including BigNAS, Once-for-All networks, and AttentiveNAS. We achieve ImageNet top-1 accuracy of 80.0% with only 444M FLOPs. Our code and pretrained models are available at https://github.com/facebookresearch/AlphaNet.

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