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Rom N. Parnichkun, Stefano Massaroli, Alessandro Moro, Jimmy T. H. Smith, Ramin Hasani, Mathias Lechner, Qi An, Christopher Ré, Hajime Asama, Stefano Ermon, Taiji Suzuki, Atsushi Yamashita, Michael Poli

We approach designing a state-space model for deep learning applications through its dual representation, the transfer function, and uncover a highly efficient sequence parallel inference algorithm that is state-free: unlike other proposed algorithms, state-free inference does not incur any significant memory or computational cost with an increase in state size. We achieve this using properties of the proposed frequency domain transfer function parametrization, which enables direct computation of its corresponding convolutional kernel's spectrum via a single Fast Fourier Transform. Our experimental results across multiple sequence lengths and state sizes illustrates, on average, a 35% training speed improvement over S4 layers -- parametrized in time-domain -- on the Long Range Arena benchmark, while delivering state-of-the-art downstream performances over other attention-free approaches. Moreover, we report improved perplexity in language modeling over a long convolutional Hyena baseline, by simply introducing our transfer function parametrization. Our code is available at https://github.com/ruke1ire/RTF.

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Michael Poli, Armin W Thomas, Eric Nguyen, Pragaash Ponnusamy, Björn Deiseroth, Kristian Kersting, Taiji Suzuki, Brian Hie, Stefano Ermon, Christopher Ré, Ce Zhang, Stefano Massaroli

The development of deep learning architectures is a resource-demanding process, due to a vast design space, long prototyping times, and high compute costs associated with at-scale model training and evaluation. We set out to simplify this process by grounding it in an end-to-end mechanistic architecture design (MAD) pipeline, encompassing small-scale capability unit tests predictive of scaling laws. Through a suite of synthetic token manipulation tasks such as compression and recall, designed to probe capabilities, we identify and test new hybrid architectures constructed from a variety of computational primitives. We experimentally validate the resulting architectures via an extensive compute-optimal and a new state-optimal scaling law analysis, training over 500 language models between 70M to 7B parameters. Surprisingly, we find MAD synthetics to correlate with compute-optimal perplexity, enabling accurate evaluation of new architectures via isolated proxy tasks. The new architectures found via MAD, based on simple ideas such as hybridization and sparsity, outperform state-of-the-art Transformer, convolutional, and recurrent architectures (Transformer++, Hyena, Mamba) in scaling, both at compute-optimal budgets and in overtrained regimes. Overall, these results provide evidence that performance on curated synthetic tasks can be predictive of scaling laws, and that an optimal architecture should leverage specialized layers via a hybrid topology.

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Simran Arora, Sabri Eyuboglu, Michael Zhang, Aman Timalsina, Silas Alberti, Dylan Zinsley, James Zou, Atri Rudra, Christopher Ré

Recent work has shown that attention-based language models excel at recall, the ability to ground generations in tokens previously seen in context. However, the efficiency of attention-based models is bottle-necked during inference by the KV-cache's aggressive memory consumption. In this work, we explore whether we can improve language model efficiency (e.g. by reducing memory consumption) without compromising on recall. By applying experiments and theory to a broad set of architectures, we identify a key tradeoff between a model's state size and recall ability. We show that efficient alternatives to attention (e.g. H3, Mamba, RWKV) maintain a fixed-size recurrent state, but struggle at recall. We propose BASED a simple architecture combining linear and sliding window attention. By varying BASED window size and linear attention feature dimension, we can dial the state size and traverse the pareto frontier of the recall-memory tradeoff curve, recovering the full quality of attention on one end and the small state size of attention-alternatives on the other. We train language models up to 1.3b parameters and show that BASED matches the strongest sub-quadratic models (e.g. Mamba) in perplexity and outperforms them on real-world recall-intensive tasks by 6.22 accuracy points. Implementations of linear attention are often less efficient than optimized standard attention implementations. To make BASED competitive, we develop IO-aware algorithms that enable 24x higher throughput on language generation than FlashAttention-2, when generating 1024 tokens using 1.3b parameter models. Code for this work is provided at: https://github.com/HazyResearch/based.

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Gautam Machiraju, Alexander Derry, Arjun Desai, Neel Guha, Amir-Hossein Karimi, James Zou, Russ Altman, Christopher Ré, Parag Mallick

Feature attribution, the ability to localize regions of the input data that are relevant for classification, is an important capability for machine learning models in scientific and biomedical domains. Current methods for feature attribution, which rely on "explaining" the predictions of end-to-end classifiers, suffer from imprecise feature localization and are inadequate for use with small sample sizes and high-dimensional datasets due to computational challenges. We introduce prospector heads, an efficient and interpretable alternative to explanation-based methods for feature attribution that can be applied to any encoder and any data modality. Prospector heads generalize across modalities through experiments on sequences (text), images (pathology), and graphs (protein structures), outperforming baseline attribution methods by up to 49 points in mean localization AUPRC. We also demonstrate how prospector heads enable improved interpretation and discovery of class-specific patterns in the input data. Through their high performance, flexibility, and generalizability, prospectors provide a framework for improving trust and transparency for machine learning models in complex domains.

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Jon Saad-Falcon, Daniel Y. Fu, Simran Arora, Neel Guha, Christopher Ré

Retrieval pipelines-an integral component of many machine learning systems-perform poorly in domains where documents are long (e.g., 10K tokens or more) and where identifying the relevant document requires synthesizing information across the entire text. Developing long-context retrieval encoders suitable for these domains raises three challenges: (1) how to evaluate long-context retrieval performance, (2) how to pretrain a base language model to represent both short contexts (corresponding to queries) and long contexts (corresponding to documents), and (3) how to fine-tune this model for retrieval under the batch size limitations imposed by GPU memory constraints. To address these challenges, we first introduce LoCoV1, a novel 12 task benchmark constructed to measure long-context retrieval where chunking is not possible or not effective. We next present the M2-BERT retrieval encoder, an 80M parameter state-space encoder model built from the Monarch Mixer architecture, capable of scaling to documents up to 32K tokens long. We describe a pretraining data mixture which allows this encoder to process both short and long context sequences, and a finetuning approach that adapts this base model to retrieval with only single-sample batches. Finally, we validate the M2-BERT retrieval encoder on LoCoV1, finding that it outperforms competitive Transformer-based models by at least 23.3 points, despite containing upwards of 90x fewer parameters.

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Jordan Juravsky, Bradley Brown, Ryan Ehrlich, Daniel Y. Fu, Christopher Ré, Azalia Mirhoseini

Transformer-based large language models (LLMs) are now deployed to hundreds of millions of users. LLM inference is commonly performed on batches of sequences that share a prefix, such as few-shot examples or a chatbot system prompt. Decoding in this large-batch setting can be bottlenecked by the attention operation, which reads large key-value (KV) caches from memory and computes inefficient matrix-vector products for every sequence in the batch. In this work, we introduce Hydragen, a hardware-aware exact implementation of attention with shared prefixes. Hydragen computes attention over the shared prefix and unique suffixes separately. This decomposition enables efficient prefix attention by batching queries together across sequences, reducing redundant memory reads and enabling the use of hardware-friendly matrix multiplications. Our method can improve end-to-end LLM throughput by up to 32x against competitive baselines, with speedup growing with the batch size and shared prefix length. Hydragen also enables the use of very long shared contexts: with a high batch size, increasing the prefix length from 1K to 16K tokens decreases Hydragen throughput by less than 15%, while the throughput of baselines drops by over 90%. Hydragen generalizes beyond simple prefix-suffix decomposition and can be applied to tree-based prompt sharing patterns, allowing us to further reduce inference time on competitive programming problems by 55%.

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Michael Zhang, Kush Bhatia, Hermann Kumbong, Christopher Ré

Linear attentions have shown potential for improving Transformer efficiency, reducing attention's quadratic complexity to linear in sequence length. This holds exciting promise for (1) training linear Transformers from scratch, (2) "finetuned-conversion" of task-specific Transformers into linear versions that recover task performance, and (3) "pretrained-conversion" of Transformers such as large language models into linear versions finetunable on downstream tasks. However, linear attentions often underperform standard softmax attention in quality. To close this performance gap, we find prior linear attentions lack key properties of softmax attention tied to good performance: low-entropy (or "spiky") weights and dot-product monotonicity. We further observe surprisingly simple feature maps that retain these properties and match softmax performance, but are inefficient to compute in linear attention. We thus propose Hedgehog, a learnable linear attention that retains the spiky and monotonic properties of softmax attention while maintaining linear complexity. Hedgehog uses simple trainable MLPs to produce attention weights mimicking softmax attention. Experiments show Hedgehog recovers over 99% of standard Transformer quality in train-from-scratch and finetuned-conversion settings, outperforming prior linear attentions up to 6 perplexity points on WikiText-103 with causal GPTs, and up to 8.7 GLUE score points on finetuned bidirectional BERTs. Hedgehog also enables pretrained-conversion. Converting a pretrained GPT-2 into a linear attention variant achieves state-of-the-art 16.7 perplexity on WikiText-103 for 125M subquadratic decoder models. We finally turn a pretrained Llama-2 7B into a viable linear attention Llama. With low-rank adaptation, Hedgehog-Llama2 7B achieves 28.1 higher ROUGE-1 points over the base standard attention model, where prior linear attentions lead to 16.5 point drops.

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Simran Arora, Sabri Eyuboglu, Aman Timalsina, Isys Johnson, Michael Poli, James Zou, Atri Rudra, Christopher Ré

Attention-free language models that combine gating and convolutions are growing in popularity due to their efficiency and increasingly competitive performance. To better understand these architectures, we pretrain a suite of 17 attention and "gated-convolution" language models, finding that SoTA gated-convolution architectures still underperform attention by up to 2.1 perplexity points on the Pile. In fine-grained analysis, we find 82% of the gap is explained by each model's ability to recall information that is previously mentioned in-context, e.g. "Hakuna Matata means no worries Hakuna Matata it means no" $\rightarrow$ "??". On this task, termed "associative recall", we find that attention outperforms gated-convolutions by a large margin: a 70M parameter attention model outperforms a 1.4 billion parameter gated-convolution model on associative recall. This is surprising because prior work shows gated convolutions can perfectly solve synthetic tests for AR capability. To close the gap between synthetics and real language, we develop a new formalization of the task called multi-query associative recall (MQAR) that better reflects actual language. We perform an empirical and theoretical study of MQAR that elucidates differences in the parameter-efficiency of attention and gated-convolution recall. Informed by our analysis, we evaluate simple convolution-attention hybrids and show that hybrids with input-dependent sparse attention patterns can close 97.4% of the gap to attention, while maintaining sub-quadratic scaling. Our code is accessible at: https://github.com/HazyResearch/zoology.

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Daniel Y. Fu, Hermann Kumbong, Eric Nguyen, Christopher Ré

Convolution models with long filters have demonstrated state-of-the-art reasoning abilities in many long-sequence tasks but lag behind the most optimized Transformers in wall-clock time. A major bottleneck is the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT)--which allows long convolutions to run in $O(N logN)$ time in sequence length $N$ but has poor hardware utilization. In this paper, we study how to optimize the FFT convolution. We find two key bottlenecks: the FFT does not effectively use specialized matrix multiply units, and it incurs expensive I/O between layers of the memory hierarchy. In response, we propose FlashFFTConv. FlashFFTConv uses a matrix decomposition that computes the FFT using matrix multiply units and enables kernel fusion for long sequences, reducing I/O. We also present two sparse convolution algorithms--1) partial convolutions and 2) frequency-sparse convolutions--which can be implemented simply by skipping blocks in the matrix decomposition, enabling further opportunities for memory and compute savings. FlashFFTConv speeds up exact FFT convolutions by up to 7.93$\times$ over PyTorch and achieves up to 4.4$\times$ speedup end-to-end. Given the same compute budget, FlashFFTConv allows Hyena-GPT-s to achieve 2.3 points better perplexity on the PILE and M2-BERT-base to achieve 3.3 points higher GLUE score--matching models with twice the parameter count. FlashFFTConv also achieves 96.1% accuracy on Path-512, a high-resolution vision task where no model had previously achieved better than 50%. Furthermore, partial convolutions enable longer-sequence models--yielding the first DNA model that can process the longest human genes (2.3M base pairs)--and frequency-sparse convolutions speed up pretrained models while maintaining or improving model quality.

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Daniel Y. Fu, Simran Arora, Jessica Grogan, Isys Johnson, Sabri Eyuboglu, Armin W. Thomas, Benjamin Spector, Michael Poli, Atri Rudra, Christopher Ré

Machine learning models are increasingly being scaled in both sequence length and model dimension to reach longer contexts and better performance. However, existing architectures such as Transformers scale quadratically along both these axes. We ask: are there performant architectures that can scale sub-quadratically along sequence length and model dimension? We introduce Monarch Mixer (M2), a new architecture that uses the same sub-quadratic primitive along both sequence length and model dimension: Monarch matrices, a simple class of expressive structured matrices that captures many linear transforms, achieves high hardware efficiency on GPUs, and scales sub-quadratically. As a proof of concept, we explore the performance of M2 in three domains: non-causal BERT-style language modeling, ViT-style image classification, and causal GPT-style language modeling. For non-causal BERT-style modeling, M2 matches BERT-base and BERT-large in downstream GLUE quality with up to 27% fewer parameters, and achieves up to 9.1$\times$ higher throughput at sequence length 4K. On ImageNet, M2 outperforms ViT-b by 1% in accuracy, with only half the parameters. Causal GPT-style models introduce a technical challenge: enforcing causality via masking introduces a quadratic bottleneck. To alleviate this bottleneck, we develop a novel theoretical view of Monarch matrices based on multivariate polynomial evaluation and interpolation, which lets us parameterize M2 to be causal while remaining sub-quadratic. Using this parameterization, M2 matches GPT-style Transformers at 360M parameters in pretraining perplexity on The PILE--showing for the first time that it may be possible to match Transformer quality without attention or MLPs.

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