Linear Mode Connectivity and the Lottery Ticket Hypothesis

ICML 2020

We introduce "instability analysis," a framework for assessing whether the outcome of optimizing a neural network is robust to SGD noise. It entails training two copies of a network on different random data orders. If error does not increase along the linear path between the trained parameters, we say the network is "stable." Instability analysis reveals new properties of neural networks. For example, standard vision models are initially unstable but become stable early in training; from then on, the outcome of optimization is determined up to linear interpolation. We leverage instability analysis to examine iterative magnitude pruning (IMP), the procedure underlying the lottery ticket hypothesis. On small vision tasks, IMP finds sparse "matching subnetworks" that can train in isolation from initialization to full accuracy, but it fails to do so in more challenging settings. We find that IMP subnetworks are matching only when they are stable. In cases where IMP subnetworks are unstable at initialization, they become stable and matching early in training. We augment IMP to rewind subnetworks to their weights early in training, producing sparse subnetworks of large-scale networks, including Resnet-50 for ImageNet, that train to full accuracy. This submission subsumes 1903.01611 ("Stabilizing the Lottery Ticket Hypothesis" and "The Lottery Ticket Hypothesis at Scale"). Speakers: Jonathan Frankle, Gintare Karolina Dziugaite, Dan Roy, Michael Carbin