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Training Binary Neural Networks using the Bayesian Learning Rule

Xiangming Meng · Roman Bachmann · Mohammad Emtiyaz Khan


Keywords: [ Approximate Inference ] [ Bayesian Deep Learning ] [ Deep Learning - General ]


Neural networks with binary weights are computation-efficient and hardware-friendly, but their training is challenging because it involves a discrete optimization problem. Surprisingly, ignoring the discrete nature of the problem and using gradient-based methods, such as Straight-Through Estimator, still works well in practice. This raises the question: are there principled approaches which justify such methods? In this paper, we propose such an approach using the Bayesian learning rule. The rule, when applied to estimate a Bernoulli distribution over the binary weights, results in an algorithm which justifies some of the algorithmic choices made by the previous approaches. The algorithm not only obtains state-of-the-art performance, but also enables uncertainty estimation and continual learning to avoid catastrophic forgetting. Our work provides a principled approach for training binary neural networks which also justifies and extends existing approaches.

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