Version: v1.3.0

# Differentiable Programming

## Introduction

Differentiable programming proves to be useful in a wide variety of areas such as scientific computing and artificial intelligence. For instance, a controller optimization system equipped with differentiable simulators converges one to four orders of magnitude faster than those using model-free reinforcement learning algorithms.12

Suppose you have the following kernel:

``x = ti.field(float, ())y = ti.field(float, ())@ti.kerneldef compute_y():    y[None] = ti.sin(x[None])``

Now if you want to get the derivative of `y` with respect to `x`: `dy/dx`, it is straightforward to write out the gradient kernel manually:

``x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=())y = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=())dy_dx = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=())@ti.kerneldef compute_dy_dx():    dy_dx[None] = ti.cos(x[None])``

However, as you make a change to `compute_y`, you have to rework the gradient formula by hand and update `compute_dy_dx` accordingly. Apparently, when the kernel becomes larger and gets frequently updated, this manual workflow is really error-prone and hard to maintain.

If you run into this situation, Taichi's handy automatic differentiation (autodiff) system comes to your rescue! Taichi supports gradient evaluation through either `ti.ad.Tape()` or the more flexible `kernel.grad()` syntax.

## Using `ti.ad.Tape()`

Let's still take the `compute_y` kernel above for an explanation. Using `ti.ad.Tape()` is the easiest way to obtain a kernel that computes `dy/dx`:

1. Enable `needs_grad=True` option when declaring fields involved in the derivative chain.
2. Use context manager `with ti.ad.Tape(y):` to capture the kernel invocations which you want to automatically differentiate.
3. Now `dy/dx` value at current `x` is available at `x.grad[None]`.

The following code snippet explains the steps above:

``x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)y = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef compute_y():    y[None] = ti.sin(x[None])with ti.ad.Tape(y):    compute_y()print('dy/dx =', x.grad[None], ' at x =', x[None])``

### Case study: gravity simulation

A common problem in physical simulation is that it is usually easy to compute energy but hard to compute force on every particle, for example Bond bending (and torsion) in molecular dynamics and FEM with hyperelastic energy functions. Recall that we can differentiate (negative) potential energy to get forces: `F_i = -dU / dx_i`. So once you have coded a kernel that computes the potential energy, you may use Taichi's autodiff system to obtain the derivatives and then `F_i` on each particle.

``import taichi as titi.init()N = 8dt = 1e-5x = ti.Vector.field(2, dtype=ti.f32, shape=N, needs_grad=True)  # particle positionsv = ti.Vector.field(2, dtype=ti.f32, shape=N)  # particle velocitiesU = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)  # potential energy@ti.kerneldef compute_U():    for i, j in ti.ndrange(N, N):        r = x[i] - x[j]        # r.norm(1e-3) is equivalent to ti.sqrt(r.norm()**2 + 1e-3)        # This is to prevent 1/0 error which can cause wrong derivative        U[None] += -1 / r.norm(1e-3)  # U += -1 / |r|@ti.kerneldef advance():    for i in x:        v[i] += dt * -x.grad[i]  # dv/dt = -dU/dx    for i in x:        x[i] += dt * v[i]  # dx/dt = vdef substep():    with ti.ad.Tape(loss=U):        # Kernel invocations in this scope will later contribute to partial derivatives of        # U with respect to input variables such as x.        compute_U(        )  # The tape will automatically compute dU/dx and save the results in x.grad    advance()@ti.kerneldef init():    for i in x:        x[i] = [ti.random(), ti.random()]init()gui = ti.GUI('Autodiff gravity')while gui.running:    for i in range(50):        substep()    gui.circles(x.to_numpy(), radius=3)    gui.show()``
##### note

The argument `U` to `ti.ad.Tape(U)` must be a 0D field.

To use autodiff with multiple output variables, see the `kernel.grad()` usage below.

##### note

`ti.ad.Tape(U)` automatically sets `U[None]` to `0` on start up.

##### tip

See examples/simulation/mpm_lagrangian_forces.py and examples/simulation/fem99.py for examples on using autodiff-based force evaluation MPM and FEM.

## Using `kernel.grad()`

As mentioned above, `ti.ad.Tape()` can only track a 0D field as the output variable. If there are multiple output variables that you want to back-propagate gradients to inputs, call `kernel.grad()` instead of `ti.ad.Tape()`. Different from using `ti.ad.Tape()`, you need to set the `grad` of the output variables themselves to `1` manually before calling `kernel.grad()`. The reason is that the `grad` of the output variables themselves will always be multiplied to the `grad` with respect to the inputs at the end of the back-propagation. By calling `ti.ad.Tape()`, you have the program do this under the hood.

``import taichi as titi.init()N = 16x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N, needs_grad=True)loss = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)loss2 = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef func():    for i in x:       loss[None] += x[i] ** 2       loss2[None] += x[i]for i in range(N):    x[i] = i# Set the `grad` of the output variables to `1` before calling `func.grad()`.loss.grad[None] = 1loss2.grad[None] = 1func()func.grad()for i in range(N):    assert x.grad[i] == i * 2 + 1``
##### tip

It may be tedius to write out `need_grad=True` for every input in a complicated use case. Alternatively, Taichi provides an API `ti.root.lazy_grad()` that automatically places the gradient fields following the layout of their primal fields.

##### caution

When using `kernel.grad()`, it is recommended that you always run forward kernel before backward, for example `kernel(); kernel.grad()`. If global fields used in the derivative calculation get mutated in the forward run, skipping `kernel()` breaks global data access rule #1 below and may produce incorrect gradients.

## Limitations of Taichi autodiff system

Unlike tools such as TensorFlow where immutable output buffers are generated, the imperative programming paradigm adopted by Taichi allows programmers to freely modify global fields.

To make automatic differentiation well-defined under this setting, the following rules are enforced when writing differentiable programs in Taichi:

### Global Data Access Rules

Currently Taichi's autodiff implementation does not save intermediate results of global fields which might be used in the backward pass. Therefore mutation is forbidden once you've read from a global field.

##### Global Data Access Rule #1

Once you read an element in a field, the element cannot be mutated anymore.

``import taichi as titi.init()N = 16x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N, needs_grad=True)loss = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)b = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef func_broke_rule_1():    # BAD: broke global data access rule #1, reading global field and before mutation is done.    loss[None] = x[1] * b[None]    b[None] += 100@ti.kerneldef func_equivalent():    loss[None] = x[1] * 10for i in range(N):    x[i] = ib[None] = 10loss.grad[None] = 1with ti.ad.Tape(loss):    func_broke_rule_1()# Call func_equivalent to see the correct result# with ti.ad.Tape(loss):    # func_equivalent()assert x.grad[1] == 10.0``
##### Global Data Access Rule #2

If a global field element is written more than once, then starting from the second write, the write must come in the form of an atomic add ("accumulation", using `ti.atomic_add` or simply `+=`). Although `+=` violates rule #1 above since it reads the old value before computing the sum, it is the only special case of "read before mutation" that Taichi allows in the autodiff system.

``import taichi as titi.init()N = 16x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N, needs_grad=True)loss = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef func_break_rule_2():    loss[None] += x[1] ** 2    # Bad: broke global data access rule #2, it's not an atomic_add.    loss[None] *= x[2]@ti.kerneldef func_equivalent():    loss[None] = (2 + x[1] ** 2) * x[2]for i in range(N):    x[i] = iloss.grad[None] = 1loss[None] = 2func_break_rule_2()func_break_rule_2.grad()# Call func_equivalent to see the correct result# func_equivalent()# func_equivalent.grad()assert x.grad[1] == 4.0assert x.grad[2] == 3.0``

### Global data access rule violation checker

A checker is provided for detecting potential violations of global data access rules.

1. The checker only works in debug mode. To enable it, set `debug=True` when calling `ti.init()`.
2. Set `validation=True` when using `ti.ad.Tape()` to validate the kernels captured by `ti.ad.Tape()`. The checker pinpoints the line of code breaking the rules, if a violation occurs.

For example:

``import taichi as titi.init(debug=True)N = 5x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N, needs_grad=True)loss = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)b = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef func_1():    for i in range(N):        loss[None] += x[i] * b[None]@ti.kerneldef func_2():    b[None] += 100b[None] = 10with ti.ad.Tape(loss, validation=True):    func_1()    func_2()"""taichi.lang.exception.TaichiAssertionError:(kernel=func_2_c78_0) Breaks the global data access rule. Snode S10 is overwritten unexpectedly.File "across_kernel.py", line 16, in func_2:    b[None] += 100    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^"""``

### Avoid mixed usage of parallel for-loop and non-for statements

Mixed usage of parallel for-loops and non-for statements are not supported in the autodiff system. Please split the two kinds of statements into different kernels.

##### note

Kernel body must only consist of either multiple for-loops or non-for statements.

Example:

``@ti.kerneldef differentiable_task():    # Bad: mixed usage of a parallel for-loop and a statement without looping. Please split them into two kernels.    loss[None] += x[0]    for i in range(10):        ...``

Violation of this rule results in an error.

##### DANGER

Violation of rules above might result in incorrect gradient result without a proper error. We're actively working on improving the error reporting mechanism for it. Please feel free to open a github issue if you see any silent wrong results.

### Write differentiable code inside a Taichi kernel

Taichi's compiler only captures the code in the Taichi scope when performing the source code transformation for autodiff. Therefore, only the code written in Taichi scope is auto-differentiated. Although you can modify the `grad` of a field in python scope manually, the code is not auto-differentiated.

Example:

``import taichi as titi.init()x = ti.field(dtype=float, shape=(), needs_grad=True)loss = ti.field(dtype=float, shape=(), needs_grad=True)@ti.kerneldef differentiable_task():    for l in range(3):        loss[None] += ti.sin(x[None]) + 1.0@ti.kerneldef manipulation_in_kernel():    loss[None] += ti.sin(x[None]) + 1.0x[None] = 0.0with ti.ad.Tape(loss=loss):    # The line below in python scope only contribute to the forward pass    # but not the backward pass i.e., not auto-differentiated.    loss[None] += ti.sin(x[None]) + 1.0    # Code in Taichi scope i.e. inside Taichi kernels, is auto-differentiated.    manipulation_in_kernel()    differentiable_task()# The outputs are 5.0 and 4.0print(loss[None], x.grad[None])# You can modify the grad of a field manually in python scope, e.g., clear the grad.x.grad[None] = 0.0# The output is 0.0print(x.grad[None])``

## Extending Taichi Autodiff system

Sometimes user may want to override the gradients provided by the Taichi autodiff system. For example, when differentiating a 3D singular value decomposition (SVD) used in an iterative solver, it is preferred to use a manually engineered SVD derivative subroutine for better numerical stability. Taichi provides two decorators `ti.ad.grad_replaced` and `ti.ad.grad_for` to overwrite the default automatic differentiation behavior.

The following is a simple example to use customized gradient function in autodiff:

``import taichi as titi.init()x = ti.field(ti.f32)total = ti.field(ti.f32)n = 128ti.root.dense(ti.i, n).place(x)ti.root.place(total)ti.root.lazy_grad()@ti.kerneldef func(mul: ti.f32):    for i in range(n):        ti.atomic_add(total[None], x[i] * mul)@ti.ad.grad_replaceddef forward(mul):    func(mul)    func(mul)@ti.ad.grad_for(forward)def backward(mul):    func.grad(mul)with ti.ad.Tape(loss=total):    forward(4)assert x.grad[0] == 4``

Customized gradient function works with both `ti.ad.Tape()` and `kernel.grad()`. More examples can be found at `test_customized_grad.py`.

### Checkpointing

Another use case of customized gradient function is checkpointing. We can use recomputation to save memory space through a user-defined gradient function. diffmpm.py demonstrates that by defining a customized gradient function that recomputes the grid states during backward, we can reuse the grid states and allocate only one copy compared to `O(n)` copies in a native implementation without customized gradient function.

## DiffTaichi

The DiffTaichi repo contains 10 differentiable physical simulators built with Taichi differentiable programming. A few examples with neural network controllers optimized using differentiable simulators and brute-force gradient descent:

## Forward-Mode Autodiff

Automatic differentiation (Autodiff) has two modes, reverse mode and forward mode.

• Reverse mode computes Vector-Jacobian Product (VJP), which means computing one row of the Jacobian matrix at a time. Therefore, reverse mode is more efficient for functions, which have more inputs than outputs. `ti.ad.Tape()` and `kernel.grad()` are for reverse-mode autodiff.
• Forward mode computes Jacobian-Vector Product (JVP), which means computing one column of the Jacobian matrix at a time. Therefore, forward mode is more efficient for functions, which have more outputs than inputs. As of v1.1.0, Taichi supports forward-mode autodiff. `ti.ad.FwdMode()` and `ti.root.lazy_dual()` are for forward-mode autodiff.

### Using `ti.ad.FwdMode()`

The usage of `ti.ad.FwdMode()` is similar to that of `ti.ad.Tape()`. Here we reuse the example for reverse mode above for `ti.ad.FwdMode()`.

1. Set `needs_dual=True` when declaring fields involved in a derivative chain.

The `dual` here indicates `dual number` in math. This is because forward-mode autodiff is equivalent to evaluating a function with dual numbers.

2. Use context manager with `ti.ad.FwdMode(loss=y, param=x)` to capture the kernel invocations to automatically differentiate.

Now dy/dx value at the current x is available at function output `y.dual[None]`.

The following code snippet explains the steps above:

``import taichi as titi.init()x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_dual=True)y = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=(), needs_dual=True)@ti.kerneldef compute_y():    y[None] = ti.sin(x[None])# `loss`: The function's output# `param`: The input of the functionwith ti.ad.FwdMode(loss=y, param=x):    compute_y()print('dy/dx =', y.dual[None], ' at x =', x[None])``
##### note

`ti.ad.FwdMode()` automatically clears the dual field of `loss`.

`ti.ad.FwdMode()` supports multiple inputs and outputs:

• `param` can be an N-D field.
• `loss` can be an individual N-D field or a list of N-D fields.
• `seed` is the 'vector' in Jacobian-vector product, which controls the parameter that is computed derivative with respect to. `seed` is required if `param` is not a scalar field.

The following code snippet shows another two cases with multiple inputs and outputs: With `seed=[1.0, 0.0] `or `seed=[0.0, 1.0]` , we can compute derivatives solely with respect to `x_0` or `x_1`.

``import taichi as titi.init()N_param = 2N_loss = 5x = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N_param, needs_dual=True)y = ti.field(dtype=ti.f32, shape=N_loss, needs_dual=True)@ti.kerneldef compute_y():    for i in range(N_loss):        for j in range(N_param):            y[i] += i * ti.sin(x[j])# Compute derivatives with respect to x_0# `seed` is required if `param` is not a scalar fieldwith ti.ad.FwdMode(loss=y, param=x, seed=[1.0, 0.0]):    compute_y()print('dy/dx_0 =', y.dual, ' at x_0 =', x[0])# Compute derivatives with respect to x_1# `seed` is required if `param` is not a scalar fieldwith ti.ad.FwdMode(loss=y, param=x, seed=[0.0, 1.0]):    compute_y()print('dy/dx_1 =', y.dual, ' at x_1 =', x[1])``
##### tip

Just as reverse-mode autodiff, Taichi's forward-mode autodiff provides `ti.root.lazy_dual()`, which automatically places the dual fields following the layout of their primal fields.