Poster
Efficient Training of BERT by Progressively Stacking
Linyuan Gong · Di He · Zhuohan Li · Tao Qin · Liwei Wang · Tie-Yan Liu

Thu Jun 13th 06:30 -- 09:00 PM @ Pacific Ballroom #50

Unsupervised pre-training is popularly used in natural language processing. By designing proper unsupervised prediction tasks, a deep neural network can be trained and shown to be effective in many downstream tasks. As the data is usually adequate, the model for pre-training is generally huge and contains millions of parameters. Therefore, the training efficiency becomes a critical issue even when using high-performance hardware. In this paper, we explore an efficient training method for the state-of-the-art bidirectional Transformer (BERT) model. By visualizing the self-attention distribution of different layers at different positions in a well-trained BERT model, we find that in most layers, the self-attention distribution will concentrate locally around its position and the start-of-sentence token. Motivating from this, we propose the stacking algorithm to transfer knowledge from a shallow model to a deep model; then we apply stacking progressively to accelerate BERT training. The experimental results showed that the models trained by our training strategy achieve similar performance to models trained from scratch, but our algorithm is much faster.

Author Information

Linyuan Gong (Peking University)
Di He (Peking University)
Zhuohan Li (Peking University)
Tao Qin (Microsoft Research Asia)
Liwei Wang (Peking University)
Tie-Yan Liu (Microsoft Research Asia)

Tie-Yan Liu is a principal researcher of Microsoft Research Asia, leading the research on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is very well known for his pioneer work on learning to rank and computational advertising, and his recent research interests include deep learning, reinforcement learning, and distributed machine learning. Many of his technologies have been transferred to Microsoft’s products and online services (such as Bing, Microsoft Advertising, and Azure), and open-sourced through Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), Microsoft Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMTK), and Microsoft Graph Engine. On the other hand, he has been actively contributing to academic communities. He is an adjunct/honorary professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), University of Nottingham, and several other universities in China. His papers have been cited for tens of thousands of times in refereed conferences and journals. He has won quite a few awards, including the best student paper award at SIGIR (2008), the most cited paper award at Journal of Visual Communications and Image Representation (2004-2006), the research break-through award (2012) and research-team-of-the-year award (2017) at Microsoft Research, and Top-10 Springer Computer Science books by Chinese authors (2015), and the most cited Chinese researcher by Elsevier (2017). He has been invited to serve as general chair, program committee chair, local chair, or area chair for a dozen of top conferences including SIGIR, WWW, KDD, ICML, NIPS, IJCAI, AAAI, ACL, ICTIR, as well as associate editor of ACM Transactions on Information Systems, ACM Transactions on the Web, and Neurocomputing. Tie-Yan Liu is a fellow of the IEEE, a distinguished member of the ACM, and a vice chair of the CIPS information retrieval technical committee.

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