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DNN pruning is a popular way to reduce the size of a model, improve the inference latency, and minimize the power consumption on DNN accelerators. However, existing approaches might be too complex, expensive or ineffective to apply to a variety of vision/language tasks, DNN architectures and to honor structured pruning constraints. In this paper, we propose an efficient yet effective train-time pruning scheme, Parameter-free Differentiable Pruning (PDP), which offers state-of-the-art qualities in model size, accuracy, and training cost. PDP uses a dynamic function of weights during training to generate soft pruning masks for the weights in a parameter-free manner for a given pruning target. While differentiable, the simplicity and efficiency of PDP make it universal enough to deliver state-of-the-art random/structured/channel pruning results on various vision and natural language tasks. For example, for MobileNet-v1, PDP can achieve 68.2% top-1 ImageNet1k accuracy at 86.6% sparsity, which is 1.7% higher accuracy than those from the state-of-the-art algorithms. Also, PDP yields over 83.1% accuracy on Multi-Genre Natural Language Inference with 90% sparsity for BERT, while the next best from the existing techniques shows 81.5% accuracy. In addition, PDP can be applied to structured pruning, such as N:M pruning and channel pruning. For 1:4 structured pruning of ResNet18, PDP improved the top-1 ImageNet1k accuracy by over 3.6% over the state-of-the-art. For channel pruning of ResNet50, PDP reduced the top-1 ImageNet1k accuracy by 0.6% from the state-of-the-art.

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