Finbarr Timbers



The paper got a lot of attention as it won ILSVRC 2017. I was surprised to see no Google employees as coauthors- they've been dominant historically in the ILSVRC competitions.

The paper presents a new way to modify convolutional networks by focusing on channels and their dependencies. The work on based on recent results, such as the Inception architectures, that have demonstrated that including multiple learning mechanisms (i.e. layers) that work on different spatial scales improves performance.

The Squeeze-and-Excitation Networks (SEN networks) work by implementing a seires of blocks composed of a Squeeze operation, which learns a description of the channel, influence an Excitation operation, where each channel gets a different output depending on the description. This is then composed with more layers similar to the traditional deep network.


Effectively, they create a squeeze block as a means of attempting to embed global spatial information into a channel. They do this by calculating the global average of the entire channel for each channel, to create a C dimensional vector of real numbers, $z_c$. This vector is then used in a layer that is the composition of a ReLU layer with a sigmoid layer:

\[s = \sigma(W_2 \delta(W_1 z)),\]

where $\sigma$ is a sigmoid activation, $\delta$ is a ReLU layer, and $W_i$ is a standard weight matrix. The weight matrices are reduced dimensionality, and the reduction ratio $r$ is a hyper-parameter which needs to be chosen carefully. The output of the Excitation layer, $s$, is then used to scale the preceding convolutional layer by channel-wise multiplication:

\[\tilde{x} = s \cdot u,\]

where is equal to $v * X$, X being the input, and v being the learned set of convolutional filter kernels.

As a result, the SE layer is scaling the output of the convolutional layers to incorporate global spatial information, choosing what to emphasize and de-emphasize.


The authors achieve a (relatively) dramatic increase in SOTA for ILSVRC, going from a previous best of 5.12%, to 4.47%.


The results of the work make it interesting. My prior would have been that such a mechanism wouldn't have worked— it seems too simple. This makes me wonder if there's some way that this can be used to product networks that are more robust to adversarial perturbation.

The root cause of adversarial perturbations is that minor changes in the input can lead to dramatic changes in the output. If this work can scale the outputs of convolutional networks, it might be able to remove that propensity by noting that the global state hasn't changed much.