Quantization, knowledge distillation, and magnitude pruning are among the most popular methods for neural network compression in NLP. Independently, these methods reduce model size and can accelerate inference, but their relative benefit and combinatorial interactions have not been rigorously studied. For each of the eight possible subsets of these techniques, we compare accuracy vs. model size tradeoffs across six BERT architecture sizes and eight GLUE tasks. We find that quantization and distillation consistently provide greater benefit than pruning. Surprisingly, except for the pair of pruning and quantization, using multiple methods together rarely yields diminishing returns. Instead, we observe complementary and super-multiplicative reductions to model size. Our work quantitatively demonstrates that combining compression methods can synergistically reduce model size, and that practitioners should prioritize (1) quantization, (2) knowledge distillation, and (3) pruning to maximize accuracy vs. model size tradeoffs.
Recent work on the lottery ticket hypothesis has produced highly sparse Transformers for NMT while maintaining BLEU. However, it is unclear how such pruning techniques affect a model’s learned representations. By probing Transformers with more and more low-magnitude weights pruned away, we find that complex semantic information is first to be degraded. Analysis of internal activations reveals that higher layers diverge most over the course of pruning, gradually becoming less complex than their dense counterparts. Meanwhile, early layers of sparse models begin to perform more encoding. Attention mechanisms remain remarkably consistent as sparsity increases.