Towards A Unified View of Sparse Feed-Forward Network in Pretraining Large Language Model

Leo Z. Liu, Tim Dettmers, Xi Victoria Lin, Veselin Stoyanov, Xian Li

Large and sparse feed-forward networks (S-FFN) such as Mixture-of-Experts (MoE) have demonstrated to be an efficient approach for scaling up Transformers model size for pretraining large language models. By only activating part of the FFN parameters conditioning on input, S-FFN improves generalization performance while keeping training and inference costs (in FLOPs) fixed. In this work, we analyzed the two major design choices of S-FFN: the memory block (or expert) size and the memory block selection method under a general conceptual framework of sparse neural memory. Using this unified framework, we compare several S-FFN architectures for language modeling and provide insights into their relative efficacy and efficiency. From our analysis results, we found a simpler selection method -- Avg-K that selects blocks through their mean aggregated hidden states, achieves lower perplexity in language modeling pretraining compared to existing MoE architectures.

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