Peek-a-Boo: What (More) is Disguised in a Randomly Weighted Neural Network, and How to Find It Efficiently

Xiaohan Chen · Jason Zhang · Zhangyang Wang

Keywords: [ Lottery Ticket Hypothesis ]

[ Abstract ]
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Sparse neural networks (NNs) are intensively investigated in literature due to their appeal in saving storage, memory, and computational costs. A recent work (Ramanujan et al., 2020) showed that, different from conventional pruning-and-finetuning pipeline, there exist hidden subnetworks in randomly initialized NNs that have good performance without training the weights. However, such "hidden subnetworks" have mediocre performances and require an expensive edge-popup algorithm to search for them. In this work, we define an extended class of subnetworks in randomly initialized NNs called disguised subnetworks, which are not only "hidden" in the random networks but also "disguised" -- hence can only be "unmasked" with certain transformations on weights. We argue that the unmasking process plays an important role in enlarging the capacity of the subnetworks and thus grants two major benefits: (i) the disguised subnetworks easily outperform the hidden counterparts; (ii) the unmasking process helps to relax the quality requirement on the sparse subnetwork mask so that the expensive edge-popup algorithm can be replaced with more efficient alternatives. On top of this new concept, we propose a novel two-stage algorithm that plays a Peek-a-Boo (PaB) game to identify the disguised subnetworks with a combination of two operations: (1) searching efficiently for a subnetwork at random initialization; (2) unmasking the disguise by learning to transform the resulting subnetwork's remaining weights. Furthermore, we show that the unmasking process can be efficiently implemented (a) without referring to any latent weights or scores; and (b) by only leveraging approximated gradients, so that the whole training algorithm is computationally light. Extensive experiments with several large models (ResNet-18, ResNet-50, and WideResNet-28) and datasets (CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100 and ImageNet) demonstrate the competency of PaB over edge-popup and other counterparts. Our codes are available at:

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