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Workshop: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better (ICBINB): Failure Modes in the Age of Foundation Models

A Negative Result on Gradient Matching for Selective Backprop

Lukas Balles · Cedric Archambeau · Giovanni Zappella


With increasing scale in model and dataset size, the training of deep neural networks becomes a massive computational burden. One approach to speed up the training process is Selective Backprop. For this approach, we perform a forward pass to obtain a loss value for each data point in a minibatch. The backward pass is then restricted to a subset of that minibatch, prioritizing high-loss examples.We build on this approach, but seek to improve the subset selection mechanism by choosing the (weighted) subset which best matches the mean gradient over the entire minibatch. We use the gradients w.r.t. the model's last layer as a cheap proxy, resulting in virtually no overhead in addition to the forward pass. At the same time, for our experiments we add a simple random selection baseline which has been absent from prior work. Surprisingly, we find that both the loss-based as well as the gradient-matching strategy fail to consistently outperform the random baseline.

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