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Unit Scaling: Out-of-the-Box Low-Precision Training

Charlie Blake · Douglas Orr · Carlo Luschi

Exhibit Hall 1 #717
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We present unit scaling, a paradigm for designing deep learning models that simplifies the use of low-precision number formats. Training in FP16 or the recently proposed FP8 formats offers substantial efficiency gains, but can lack sufficient range for out-of-the-box training. Unit scaling addresses this by introducing a principled approach to model numerics: seeking unit variance of all weights, activations and gradients at initialisation. Unlike alternative methods, this approach neither requires multiple training runs to find a suitable scale nor has significant computational overhead. We demonstrate the efficacy of unit scaling across a range of models and optimisers. We further show that existing models can be adapted to be unit-scaled, training BERT-Large in FP16 and then FP8 with no degradation in accuracy.

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