Distilling the Knowledge in a Neural Network

This is a PyTorch implementation/tutorial of the paper Distilling the Knowledge in a Neural Network.

It's a way of training a small network using the knowledge in a trained larger network; i.e. distilling the knowledge from the large network.

A large model with regularization or an ensemble of models (using dropout) generalizes better than a small model when trained directly on the data and labels. However, a small model can be trained to generalize better with help of a large model. Smaller models are better in production: faster, less compute, less memory.

The output probabilities of a trained model give more information than the labels because it assigns non-zero probabilities to incorrect classes as well. These probabilities tell us that a sample has a chance of belonging to certain classes. For instance, when classifying digits, when given an image of digit 7, a generalized model will give a high probability to 7 and a small but non-zero probability to 2, while assigning almost zero probability to other digits. Distillation uses this information to train a small model better.

Soft Targets

The probabilities are usually computed with a softmax operation,

where is the probability for class and is the logit.

We train the small model to minimize the Cross entropy or KL Divergence between its output probability distribution and the large network's output probability distribution (soft targets).

One of the problems here is that the probabilities assigned to incorrect classes by the large network are often very small and don't contribute to the loss. So they soften the probabilities by applying a temperature ,

where higher values for will produce softer probabilities.


Paper suggests adding a second loss term for predicting the actual labels when training the small model. We calculate the composite loss as the weighted sum of the two loss terms: soft targets and actual labels.

The dataset for distillation is called the transfer set, and the paper suggests using the same training data.

Our experiment

We train on CIFAR-10 dataset. We train a large model that has parameters with dropout and it gives an accuracy of 85% on the validation set. A small model with parameters gives an accuracy of 80%.

We then train the small model with distillation from the large model, and it gives an accuracy of 82%; a 2% increase in the accuracy.

72import torch
73import torch.nn.functional
74from torch import nn
76from labml import experiment, tracker
77from labml.configs import option
78from labml_helpers.train_valid import BatchIndex
79from labml_nn.distillation.large import LargeModel
80from labml_nn.distillation.small import SmallModel
81from labml_nn.experiments.cifar10 import CIFAR10Configs


This extends from CIFAR10Configs which defines all the dataset related configurations, optimizer, and a training loop.

84class Configs(CIFAR10Configs):

The small model

92    model: SmallModel

The large model

94    large: LargeModel

KL Divergence loss for soft targets

96    kl_div_loss = nn.KLDivLoss(log_target=True)

Cross entropy loss for true label loss

98    loss_func = nn.CrossEntropyLoss()


100    temperature: float = 5.

Weight for soft targets loss.

The gradients produced by soft targets get scaled by . To compensate for this the paper suggests scaling the soft targets loss by a factor of

106    soft_targets_weight: float = 100.

Weight for true label cross entropy loss

108    label_loss_weight: float = 0.5

Training/validation step

We define a custom training/validation step to include the distillation

110    def step(self, batch: any, batch_idx: BatchIndex):

Training/Evaluation mode for the small model

118        self.model.train(self.mode.is_train)

Large model in evaluation mode

120        self.large.eval()

Move data to the device

123        data, target = batch[0].to(self.device), batch[1].to(self.device)

Update global step (number of samples processed) when in training mode

126        if self.mode.is_train:
127            tracker.add_global_step(len(data))

Get the output logits, , from the large model

130        with torch.no_grad():
131            large_logits = self.large(data)

Get the output logits, , from the small model

134        output = self.model(data)

Soft targets

138        soft_targets = nn.functional.log_softmax(large_logits / self.temperature, dim=-1)

Temperature adjusted probabilities of the small model

141        soft_prob = nn.functional.log_softmax(output / self.temperature, dim=-1)

Calculate the soft targets loss

144        soft_targets_loss = self.kl_div_loss(soft_prob, soft_targets)

Calculate the true label loss

146        label_loss = self.loss_func(output, target)

Weighted sum of the two losses

148        loss = self.soft_targets_weight * soft_targets_loss + self.label_loss_weight * label_loss

Log the losses

150        tracker.add({"loss.kl_div.": soft_targets_loss,
151                     "loss.nll": label_loss,
152                     "loss.": loss})

Calculate and log accuracy

155        self.accuracy(output, target)
156        self.accuracy.track()

Train the model

159        if self.mode.is_train:

Calculate gradients

161            loss.backward()

Take optimizer step

163            self.optimizer.step()

Log the model parameters and gradients on last batch of every epoch

165            if batch_idx.is_last:
166                tracker.add('model', self.model)

Clear the gradients

168            self.optimizer.zero_grad()

Save the tracked metrics

171        tracker.save()

Create large model

175def _large_model(c: Configs):
179    return LargeModel().to(c.device)

Create small model

183def _small_student_model(c: Configs):
187    return SmallModel().to(c.device)
190def get_saved_model(run_uuid: str, checkpoint: int):
195    from labml_nn.distillation.large import Configs as LargeConfigs

In evaluation mode (no recording)

198    experiment.evaluate()

Initialize configs of the large model training experiment

200    conf = LargeConfigs()

Load saved configs

202    experiment.configs(conf, experiment.load_configs(run_uuid))

Set models for saving/loading

204    experiment.add_pytorch_models({'model': conf.model})

Set which run and checkpoint to load

206    experiment.load(run_uuid, checkpoint)

Start the experiment - this will load the model, and prepare everything

208    experiment.start()

Return the model

211    return conf.model

Train a small model with distillation

214def main(run_uuid: str, checkpoint: int):

Load saved model

219    large_model = get_saved_model(run_uuid, checkpoint)

Create experiment

221    experiment.create(name='distillation', comment='cifar10')

Create configurations

223    conf = Configs()

Set the loaded large model

225    conf.large = large_model

Load configurations

227    experiment.configs(conf, {
228        'optimizer.optimizer': 'Adam',
229        'optimizer.learning_rate': 2.5e-4,
230        'model': '_small_student_model',
231    })

Set model for saving/loading

233    experiment.add_pytorch_models({'model': conf.model})

Start experiment from scratch

235    experiment.load(None, None)

Start the experiment and run the training loop

237    with experiment.start():
238        conf.run()

242if __name__ == '__main__':
243    main('d46cd53edaec11eb93c38d6538aee7d6', 1_000_000)