Unifying and Boosting Gradient-Based Training-Free Neural Architecture Search

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


YAO SHU, Zhongxiang Dai, Zhaoxuan Wu, Bryan Kian Hsiang Low


Neural architecture search (NAS) has gained immense popularity owing to its ability to automate neural architecture design. A number of training-free metrics are recently proposed to realize NAS without training, hence making NAS more scalable. Despite their competitive empirical performances, a unified theoretical understanding of these training-free metrics is lacking. As a consequence, (a) the relationships among these metrics are unclear, (b) there is no theoretical interpretation for their empirical performances, and (c) there may exist untapped potential in existing training-free NAS, which probably can be unveiled through a unified theoretical understanding. To this end, this paper presents a unified theoretical analysis of gradient-based training-free NAS, which allows us to (a) theoretically study their relationships, (b) theoretically guarantee their generalization performances, and (c) exploit our unified theoretical understanding to develop a novel framework named hybrid NAS (HNAS) which consistently boosts training-free NAS in a principled way. Remarkably, HNAS can enjoy the advantages of both training-free (i.e., the superior search efficiency) and training-based (i.e., the remarkable search effectiveness) NAS, which we have demonstrated through extensive experiments.