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X-Pruner: eXplainable Pruning for Vision Transformers

Lu Yu · Wei Xiang

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 359


Recently vision transformer models have become prominent models for a range of tasks. These models, however, usually suffer from intensive computational costs and heavy memory requirements, making them impractical for deployment on edge platforms. Recent studies have proposed to prune transformers in an unexplainable manner, which overlook the relationship between internal units of the model and the target class, thereby leading to inferior performance. To alleviate this problem, we propose a novel explainable pruning framework dubbed X-Pruner, which is designed by considering the explainability of the pruning criterion. Specifically, to measure each prunable unit’s contribution to predicting each target class, a novel explainability-aware mask is proposed and learned in an end-to-end manner. Then, to preserve the most informative units and learn the layer-wise pruning rate, we adaptively search the layer-wise threshold that differentiates between unpruned and pruned units based on their explainability-aware mask values. To verify and evaluate our method, we apply the X-Pruner on representative transformer models including the DeiT and Swin Transformer. Comprehensive simulation results demonstrate that the proposed X-Pruner outperforms the state-of-the-art black-box methods with significantly reduced computational costs and slight performance degradation.

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