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Zero-TPrune: Zero-Shot Token Pruning through Leveraging of the Attention Graph in Pre-Trained Transformers

Hongjie Wang · Bhishma Dedhia · Niraj Jha

Arch 4A-E Poster #140
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Thu 20 Jun 5 p.m. PDT — 6:30 p.m. PDT


Deployment of Transformer models on edge devices is becoming increasingly challenging due to the exponentially growing inference cost that scales quadratically with the number of tokens in the input sequence. Token pruning is an emerging solution to address this challenge due to its ease of deployment on various Transformer backbones. However, most token pruning methods require computationally expensive fine-tuning, which is undesirable in many edge deployment cases. In this work, we propose Zero-TPrune, the first zero-shot method that considers both the importance and similarity of tokens in performing token pruning. It leverages the attention graph of pre-trained Transformer models to produce an importance distribution for tokens via our proposed Weighted Page Rank (WPR) algorithm. This distribution further guides token partitioning for efficient similarity-based pruning. Due to the elimination of the fine-tuning overhead, Zero-TPrune can prune large models at negligible computational cost, switch between different pruning configurations at no computational cost, and perform hyperparameter tuning efficiently. We evaluate the performance of Zero-TPrune on vision tasks by applying it to various vision Transformer backbones and testing them on ImageNet. Without any fine-tuning, Zero-TPrune reduces the FLOPs cost of DeiT-S by 34.7\% and improves its throughput by 45.3\% with only 0.4\% accuracy loss. Compared with state-of-the-art pruning methods that require fine-tuning, Zero-TPrune not only eliminates the need for fine-tuning after pruning but also does so with only 0.1\% accuracy loss. Compared with state-of-the-art fine-tuning-free pruning methods, Zero-TPrune reduces accuracy loss by up to 49\% with the same or higher throughput.

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