Large deep learning models have achieved remarkable success in many scenarios. However, training large models is usually challenging, e.g., due to the high computational cost, the unstable and painfully slow optimization procedure, and the vulnerability to overfitting. To alleviate these problems, this work studies a divide-and-conquer strategy, i.e., dividing a large model into smaller modules, training them independently, and reassembling the trained modules to obtain the target model. This approach is promising since it avoids directly training large models from scratch. Nevertheless, implementing this idea is non-trivial, as it is difficult to ensure the compatibility of the independently trained modules. In this paper, we present an elegant solution to address this issue, i.e., we introduce a global, shared meta model to implicitly link all the modules together. This enables us to train highly compatible modules that collaborate effectively when they are assembled together. We further propose a module incubation mechanism that enables the meta model to be designed as an extremely shallow network. As a result, the additional overhead introduced by the meta model is minimalized. Though conceptually simple, our method significantly outperforms end-to-end (E2E) training in terms of both final accuracy and training efficiency. For example, on top of ViT-Huge, it improves the accuracy by 2.7% compared to the E2E baseline on ImageNet-1K, while saving the training cost by 43% in the meantime. Code is available at https://github.com/LeapLabTHU/Model-Assembling.
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