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In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper

Sparsity May Cry: Let Us Fail (Current) Sparse Neural Networks Together!

Shiwei Liu · Tianlong Chen · Zhenyu Zhang · Xuxi Chen · Tianjin Huang · AJAY JAISWAL · Zhangyang Wang



Sparse Neural Networks (SNNs) have received voluminous attention predominantly due to growing computational and memory footprints of consistently exploding parameter count in large-scale models. Similar to their dense counterparts, recent SNNs generalize just as well and are equipped with numerous favorable benefits (e.g., low complexity, high scalability, and robustness), sometimes even better than the original dense networks. As research effort is focused on developing increasingly sophisticated sparse algorithms, it is startling that a comprehensive benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of these algorithms has been highly overlooked. In absence of a carefully crafted evaluation benchmark, most if not all, sparse algorithms are evaluated against fairly simple and naive tasks (eg. CIFAR-10/100, ImageNet, GLUE, etc.), which can potentially camouflage many advantages as well unexpected predicaments of SNNs. In pursuit of a more general evaluation and unveiling the true potential of sparse algorithms, we introduce “Sparsity May Cry” Benchmark (SMC-Bench), a collection of carefully-curated 4 diverse tasks with 10 datasets, that accounts for capturing a wide range of domain-specific and sophisticated knowledge. Our systemic evaluation of the most representative sparse algorithms reveals an important obscured observation: the state-of-the-art magnitude- and/or gradient-based sparse algorithms seemingly fail to perform on SMC-Bench when applied out-of-the-box, sometimes at significantly trivial sparsity as low as 5%. The observations seek the immediate attention of the sparsity research community to reconsider the highly proclaimed benefits of SNNs. We further conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons for the failure of common SNNs. Our analysis points out that such failure is intimately related to the “lazy regime” of large model training, which hints us with stronger pruning recipes that alleviate the failure on SMC-Bench (though still more or less suffering). By incorporating these well-thought and diverse tasks, SMC-Bench is designed to favor and encourage the development of more scalable and generalizable sparse algorithms. We open-source SMC-Bench to assist researchers in building next-generation sparse algorithms that scale and generalize:

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