Rational neural networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Nicolas Boulle, Yuji Nakatsukasa, Alex Townsend


We consider neural networks with rational activation functions. The choice of the nonlinear activation function in deep learning architectures is crucial and heavily impacts the performance of a neural network. We establish optimal bounds in terms of network complexity and prove that rational neural networks approximate smooth functions more efficiently than ReLU networks with exponentially smaller depth. The flexibility and smoothness of rational activation functions make them an attractive alternative to ReLU, as we demonstrate with numerical experiments.