Nature-inspired algorithms have been successfully applied to neural network training [1], [2], [3], [4], neural network architecture optimization [5], [6], and neural network architecture construction [7], [8] in the past. Applications of nature-inspired algorithms to neural networks are diverse and often hybridized with more traditional gradient-descent based methods [9], [10], [11]. Compared to gradient-based methods, nature-inspired algorithms are less sensitive to weight initialisation, less likely to become trapped in local optima, and independent of the activation function gradient [12]. Despite the relative success of nature-inspired algorithms in the neural network context, a solid theoretical foundation for such applications is often lacking. Successful applications of nature-inspired methods to newer neural network paradigms such as deep learning are yet to be seen [13]. Some nature-inspired algorithms were shown to suffer from stagnation when applied to neural networks [14]. Optimizing large real-world neural networks is a challenging task due to the inherent high dimensionality of the weight space, high correlation between the individual weights, and our limited knowledge of the error landscape properties in high dimensions. The proposed nature-inspired methods must scale well to high dimensions to be usable in a real-world context.

The aim of this special session is to investigate the existing nature-inspired approaches to neural network optimization, to encourage discussion of the existing challenges, to identify problems, and to propose solutions. The proposed special session will provide an excellent forum for fellow researchers in this exciting cross-disciplinary field.


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