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# Sparse linear networks with a fixed butterfly structure: theory and practice

*Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence*, PMLR 161:1174-1184, 2021.

#### Abstract

A butterfly network consists of logarithmically many layers, each with a linear number of non-zero weights (pre-specified). The fast Johnson-Lindenstrauss transform (FJLT) can be represented as a butterfly network followed by a projection onto a random subset of the coordinates. Moreover, a random matrix based on FJLT with high probability approximates the action of any matrix on a vector. Motivated by these facts, we propose to replace a dense linear layer in any neural network by an architecture based on the butterfly network. The proposed architecture significantly improves upon the quadratic number of weights required in a standard dense layer to nearly linear with little compromise in expressibility of the resulting operator. In a collection of wide variety of experiments, including supervised prediction on both the NLP and vision data, we show that this not only produces results that match and at times outperform existing well-known architectures, but it also offers faster training and prediction in deployment. To understand the optimization problems posed by neural networks with a butterfly network, we also study the optimization landscape of the encoder-decoder network, where the encoder is replaced by a butterfly network followed by a dense linear layer in smaller dimension. Theoretical result presented in the paper explains why the training speed and outcome are not compromised by our proposed approach.