EarlyBERT: Efficient BERT Training via Early-bird Lottery Tickets


Heavily overparameterized language models such as BERT, XLNet and T5 have achieved impressive success in many NLP tasks. However, their high model complexity requires enormous computation resources and extremely long training time for both pre-training and fine-tuning. Many works have studied model compression on large NLP models, but only focusing on reducing inference time while still requiring an expensive training process. Other works use extremely large batch sizes to shorten the pre-training time, at the expense of higher computational resource demands. In this paper, inspired by the Early-Bird Lottery Tickets recently studied for computer vision tasks, we propose EarlyBERT, a general computationally-efficient training algorithm applicable to both pre-training and fine-tuning of large-scale language models. By slimming the self-attention and fully-connected sub-layers inside a transformer, we are the first to identify structured winning tickets in the early stage of BERT training. We apply those tickets towards efficient BERT training, and conduct comprehensive pre-training and fine-tuning experiments on GLUE and SQuAD downstream tasks. Our results show that EarlyBERT achieves comparable performance to standard BERT, with 35~45% less training time. Code is available at https://github.com/VITA-Group/EarlyBERT

The Joint Conference of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing