Zero-Cost Proxies for Lightweight NAS

Mohamed Abdelfattah · Abhinav Mehrotra · Ɓukasz Dudziak · Nicholas Lane

Keywords: [ proxy ] [ AutoML ] [ NAS ] [ pruning ] [ efficient ]

Abstract: Neural Architecture Search (NAS) is quickly becoming the standard methodology to design neural network models. However, NAS is typically compute-intensive because multiple models need to be evaluated before choosing the best one. To reduce the computational power and time needed, a proxy task is often used for evaluating each model instead of full training. In this paper, we evaluate conventional reduced-training proxies and quantify how well they preserve ranking between neural network models during search when compared with the rankings produced by final trained accuracy. We propose a series of zero-cost proxies, based on recent pruning literature, that use just a single minibatch of training data to compute a model's score. Our zero-cost proxies use 3 orders of magnitude less computation but can match and even outperform conventional proxies. For example, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient between final validation accuracy and our best zero-cost proxy on NAS-Bench-201 is 0.82, compared to 0.61 for EcoNAS (a recently proposed reduced-training proxy). Finally, we use these zero-cost proxies to enhance existing NAS search algorithms such as random search, reinforcement learning, evolutionary search and predictor-based search. For all search methodologies and across three different NAS datasets, we are able to significantly improve sample efficiency, and thereby decrease computation, by using our zero-cost proxies. For example on NAS-Bench-101, we achieved the same accuracy 4$\times$ quicker than the best previous result. Our code is made public at:

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