A Mean Field Theory of Quantized Deep Networks: The Quantization-Depth Trade-Off

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Yaniv Blumenfeld, Dar Gilboa, Daniel Soudry


Reducing the precision of weights and activation functions in neural network training, with minimal impact on performance, is essential for the deployment of these models in resource-constrained environments. We apply mean field techniques to networks with quantized activations in order to evaluate the degree to which quantization degrades signal propagation at initialization. We derive initialization schemes which maximize signal propagation in such networks, and suggest why this is helpful for generalization. Building on these results, we obtain a closed form implicit equation for $L_{\max}$, the maximal trainable depth (and hence model capacity), given $N$, the number of quantization levels in the activation function. Solving this equation numerically, we obtain asymptotically: $L_{\max}\propto N^{1.82}$.