# Hyperparameter Search: Population-based training¶

Population-based training (PBT) is loosely based on genetic algorithms; see the original paper or blog post for details. The motivation is that it makes sense to explore hyperparameter configurations that are known to perform well, since the performance of a model as a function of the hyperparameters is likely to show some continuity. The algorithm works by repeatedly replacing low-performing hyperparameter configurations with modified versions of high-performing ones.

## Quick start¶

A typical set of configuration values for PBT:

`population_size`

: 40`num_rounds`

,`length_per_round`

: The product of these values is the total training length for a trial that survives to the end of the experiment; it should be chosen similarly to the value of`max_length`

for Hyperparameter Search: Adaptive (Asynchronous). For a given value of the product, decreasing`length_per_round`

creates more opportunity for evaluation and selection of good configurations at the cost of higher variance and computational overhead.`replace_function`

:`truncate_fraction`

: 0.2

`explore_function`

:`resample_probability`

: 0.2`perturb_factor`

: 0.2

## Details¶

At any time, the searcher maintains a fixed number of active trials (the
*population*). Initially, each trial uses a randomly chosen
hyperparameter configuration, just as with the `random`

searcher. The
difference is that, periodically, every trial stops training and
evaluates the validation metric for the trial’s current state; some of
the worst-performing trials are closed, while an equal number of the
best-performing trials are *cloned* to replace them. Cloning a trial
involves checkpointing it and creating a new trial that continues
training from that checkpoint. The hyperparameters of the new trial are
not generally equal to those of the original trial, but are derived from
them in a particular way; see the description of available
parameters for details.

There is an important constraint on the hyperparameters that are allowed to vary when PBT is in use: it must always be possible to load a checkpoint from a model that was created with any potential hyperparameter configuration into a model using any other configuration; otherwise, the cloning process could fail. This means that, for instance, the number of hidden units in a neural network layer cannot be such a hyperparameter. If it were, the models for different configurations could have weight matrices of different dimensions, so their checkpoints would not be compatible.

## Parameters¶

One *round* consists of a period of training followed by a
validate/close/clone phase. During each round, each running trial does a
fixed amount of training, determined by the experiment configuration.

`population_size`

: The number of trials that should run at the same time.`num_rounds`

: The total number of rounds to run.`length_per_round`

: The training units to train each trial for during around, in terms of records, batches or epochs (see Training Units).

The parameters for the cloning process are also configurable using two
nested objects, called `replace_function`

and `explore_function`

,
within the searcher fields of the experiment configuration file.

`replace_function`

: The configuration for deciding which trials to close.`truncate_fraction`

: The fraction of the population that is closed and replaced by clones at the end of each round.

`explore_function`

: The configuration for modifying hyperparameter configurations when cloning. Each hyperparameter is either*resampled*, meaning that it is replaced by a value drawn independently from the original configuration, or*perturbed*, meaning that it is multiplied by a configurable factor.`resample_probability`

: The probability that a hyperparameter is replaced with a new value sampled from the original distribution specified in the configuration.`perturb_factor`

: The amount by which hyperparameters that are not resampled are perturbed: each numerical hyperparameter is multiplied by either`1 + perturb_factor`

or`1 - perturb_factor`

with equal probability;`categorical`

and`const`

hyperparameters are left unchanged.