Training Recurrent Neural Networks via Forward Propagation Through Time

Anil Kag · Venkatesh Saligrama

Keywords: [ Algorithms ] [ Supervised Learning ]

Abstract: Back-propagation through time (BPTT) has been widely used for training Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs). BPTT updates RNN parameters on an instance by back-propagating the error in time over the entire sequence length, and as a result, leads to poor trainability due to the well-known gradient explosion/decay phenomena. While a number of prior works have proposed to mitigate vanishing/explosion effect through careful RNN architecture design, these RNN variants still train with BPTT. We propose a novel forward-propagation algorithm, FPTT, where at each time, for an instance, we update RNN parameters by optimizing an instantaneous risk function. Our proposed risk is a regularization penalty at time $t$ that evolves dynamically based on previously observed losses, and allows for RNN parameter updates to converge to a stationary solution of the empirical RNN objective. We consider both sequence-to-sequence as well as terminal loss problems. Empirically FPTT outperforms BPTT on a number of well-known benchmark tasks, thus enabling architectures like LSTMs to solve long range dependencies problems.

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