Recurrent Neural Networks in the Eye of Differential Equations

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To understand the fundamental trade-offs between training stability, temporal dynamics and architectural complexity of recurrent neural networks~(RNNs), we directly analyze RNN architectures using numerical methods of ordinary differential equations~(ODEs). We define a general family of RNNs--the ODERNNs--by relating the composition rules of RNNs to integration methods of ODEs at discrete time steps. We show that the degree of RNN's functional nonlinearity n and the range of its temporal memory t can be mapped to the corresponding stage of Runge-Kutta recursion and the order of time-derivative of the ODEs. We prove that popular RNN architectures, such as LSTM and URNN, fit into different orders of n-t-ODERNNs. This exact correspondence between RNN and ODE helps us to establish the sufficient conditions for RNN training stability and facilitates more flexible top-down designs of new RNN architectures using large varieties of toolboxes from numerical integration of ODEs. We provide such an example: Quantum-inspired Universal computing Neural Network~(QUNN), which reduces the required number of training parameters from polynomial in both data length and temporal memory length to only linear in temporal memory length.