Given the generational gap in available hardware between lay practitioners and the most endowed institutions, LLMs are becoming increasingly inaccessible as they grow in size. Whilst many approaches have been proposed to compress LLMs to make their resource consumption manageable, these methods themselves tend to be resource intensive, putting them out of the reach of the very user groups they target. In this work, we explore the problem of structured pruning of LLMs using only forward passes. We seek to empower practitioners to prune models so large that their available hardware has just enough memory to run inference. We develop Bonsai, a gradient-free, perturbative pruning method capable of delivering small, fast, and accurate pruned models. We observe that Bonsai outputs pruned models that (i) outperform those generated by more expensive gradient-based structured pruning methods, and (ii) are twice as fast (with comparable accuracy) as those generated by semi-structured pruning methods requiring comparable resources as Bonsai. We also leverage Bonsai to produce a new sub-2B model using a single A6000 that yields state-of-the-art performance on 4/6 tasks on the Huggingface Open LLM leaderboard.
Motivated by the recent empirical success of incorporating public data into differentially private learning, we theoretically investigate how a shared representation learned from public data can improve private learning. We explore two common scenarios of transfer learning for linear regression, both of which assume the public and private tasks (regression vectors) share a low-rank subspace in a high-dimensional space. In the first single-task transfer scenario, the goal is to learn a single model shared across all users, each corresponding to a row in a dataset. We provide matching upper and lower bounds showing that our algorithm achieves the optimal excess risk within a natural class of algorithms that search for the linear model within the given subspace estimate. In the second scenario of multitask model personalization, we show that with sufficient public data, users can avoid private coordination, as purely local learning within the given subspace achieves the same utility. Taken together, our results help to characterize the benefits of public data across common regimes of private transfer learning.
Self-training and contrastive learning have emerged as leading techniques for incorporating unlabeled data, both under distribution shift (unsupervised domain adaptation) and when it is absent (semi-supervised learning). However, despite the popularity and compatibility of these techniques, their efficacy in combination remains unexplored. In this paper, we undertake a systematic empirical investigation of this combination, finding that (i) in domain adaptation settings, self-training and contrastive learning offer significant complementary gains; and (ii) in semi-supervised learning settings, surprisingly, the benefits are not synergistic. Across eight distribution shift datasets (e.g., BREEDs, WILDS), we demonstrate that the combined method obtains 3--8% higher accuracy than either approach independently. We then theoretically analyze these techniques in a simplified model of distribution shift, demonstrating scenarios under which the features produced by contrastive learning can yield a good initialization for self-training to further amplify gains and achieve optimal performance, even when either method alone would fail.
Online evolution strategies have become an attractive alternative to automatic differentiation (AD) due to their ability to handle chaotic and black-box loss functions, while also allowing more frequent gradient updates than vanilla Evolution Strategies (ES). In this work, we propose a general class of unbiased online evolution strategies. We analytically and empirically characterize the variance of this class of gradient estimators and identify the one with the least variance, which we term Noise-Reuse Evolution Strategies (NRES). Experimentally, we show that NRES results in faster convergence than existing AD and ES methods in terms of wall-clock speed and total number of unroll steps across a variety of applications, including learning dynamical systems, meta-training learned optimizers, and reinforcement learning.
We study the problem of progressive distillation: Given a large, pre-trained teacher model $g$, we seek to decompose the model into an ensemble of smaller, low-inference cost student models $f_i$. The resulting ensemble allows for flexibly tuning accuracy vs. inference cost, which is useful for a number of applications in on-device inference. The method we propose, B-DISTIL, relies on an algorithmic procedure that uses function composition over intermediate activations to construct expressive ensembles with similar performance as $g$, but with much smaller student models. We demonstrate the effectiveness of \algA by decomposing pretrained models across standard image, speech, and sensor datasets. We also provide theoretical guarantees for our method in terms of convergence and generalization.
Federated Learning (FL) aims to foster collaboration among a population of clients to improve the accuracy of machine learning without directly sharing local data. Although there has been rich literature on designing federated learning algorithms, most prior works implicitly assume that all clients are willing to participate in a FL scheme. In practice, clients may not benefit from joining in FL, especially in light of potential costs related to issues such as privacy and computation. In this work, we study the clients' incentives in federated learning to help the service provider design better solutions and ensure clients make better decisions. We are the first to model clients' behaviors in FL as a network effects game, where each client's benefit depends on other clients who also join the network. Using this setup we analyze the dynamics of clients' participation and characterize the equilibrium, where no client has incentives to alter their decision. Specifically, we show that dynamics in the population naturally converge to equilibrium without needing explicit interventions. Finally, we provide a cost-efficient payment scheme that incentivizes clients to reach a desired equilibrium when the initial network is empty.
Training machine learning models robust to distribution shifts is critical for real-world applications. Some robust training algorithms (e.g., Group DRO) specialize to group shifts and require group information on all training points. Other methods (e.g., CVaR DRO) that do not need group annotations can be overly conservative, since they naively upweight high loss points which may form a contrived set that does not correspond to any meaningful group in the real world (e.g., when the high loss points are randomly mislabeled training points). In this work, we address limitations in prior approaches by assuming a more nuanced form of group shift: conditioned on the label, we assume that the true group function (indicator over group) is simple. For example, we may expect that group shifts occur along low bitrate features (e.g., image background, lighting). Thus, we aim to learn a model that maintains high accuracy on simple group functions realized by these low bitrate features, that need not spend valuable model capacity achieving high accuracy on contrived groups of examples. Based on this, we consider the two-player game formulation of DRO where the adversary's capacity is bitrate-constrained. Our resulting practical algorithm, Bitrate-Constrained DRO (BR-DRO), does not require group information on training samples yet matches the performance of Group DRO on datasets that have training group annotations and that of CVaR DRO on long-tailed distributions. Our theoretical analysis reveals that in some settings BR-DRO objective can provably yield statistically efficient and less conservative solutions than unconstrained CVaR DRO.
Hyperparameter tuning is critical to the success of federated learning applications. Unfortunately, appropriately selecting hyperparameters is challenging in federated networks. Issues of scale, privacy, and heterogeneity introduce noise in the tuning process and make it difficult to evaluate the performance of various hyperparameters. In this work, we perform the first systematic study on the effect of noisy evaluation in federated hyperparameter tuning. We first identify and rigorously explore key sources of noise, including client subsampling, data and systems heterogeneity, and data privacy. Surprisingly, our results indicate that even small amounts of noise can significantly impact tuning methods-reducing the performance of state-of-the-art approaches to that of naive baselines. To address noisy evaluation in such scenarios, we propose a simple and effective approach that leverages public proxy data to boost the evaluation signal. Our work establishes general challenges, baselines, and best practices for future work in federated hyperparameter tuning.