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# Training Binary Neural Networks using the Bayesian Learning Rule

*Proceedings of the 37th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 119:6852-6861, 2020.

#### Abstract

Neural networks with binary weights are computation-efficient and hardware-friendly, but their training is challenging because it involves a discrete optimization problem. Surprisingly, ignoring the discrete nature of the problem and using gradient-based methods, such as the Straight-Through Estimator, still works well in practice. This raises the question: are there principled approaches which justify such methods? In this paper, we propose such an approach using the Bayesian learning rule. The rule, when applied to estimate a Bernoulli distribution over the binary weights, results in an algorithm which justifies some of the algorithmic choices made by the previous approaches. The algorithm not only obtains state-of-the-art performance, but also enables uncertainty estimation and continual learning to avoid catastrophic forgetting. Our work provides a principled approach for training binary neural networks which also justifies and extends existing approaches.