NeurIPS 2023
Workshop paper

TCNCA: Temporal Convolution Network with Chunked Attention for Scalable Sequence Processing

Download paper


MEGA is a recent transformer-based architecture, which utilizes a linear recurrent operator whose parallel computation, based on the FFT, scales as O(LlogL), with L being the sequence length. We build upon their approach by replacing the linear recurrence with a special temporal convolutional network which permits larger receptive field size with shallower networks, and reduces the computational complexity to O(L). The resulting model is called TCNCA, a Temporal Convolutional Network with Chunked Attention. We evaluate TCNCA on EnWik8 language modeling, long-range-arena (LRA) sequence classification, as well as a synthetic reasoning benchmark associative recall. On EnWik8, TCNCA outperforms MEGA, reaching a lower loss with 1.37×/1.24× faster forward/backward pass during training. The dilated convolutions used in TCNCA are consistently and significantly faster operations than the FFT-based parallelized recurrence in GPUs, making them a scalable candidate for handling very large sequence lengths: they are up to 7.07×/2.86× faster in the forward/backward pass for sequences up to 131 k. Further on LRA, TCNCA achieves, on average, 1.28× speed-up during inference with similar accuracy to what MEGA achieves. On associative recall, we find that even a simplified version of TCNCA, without excessive multiplicative and additive interactions, remains superior or competitive to MEGA on a range of sequence lengths and vocabulary sizes.