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Mike Young
Mike Young

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A decoder-only foundation model for time-series forecasting

This is a Plain English Papers summary of a research paper called A decoder-only foundation model for time-series forecasting. If you like these kinds of analysis, you should subscribe to the newsletter or follow me on Twitter.


  • Presents a "decoder-only" transformer model for time-series forecasting
  • Aims to address limitations of existing sequence-to-sequence models
  • Demonstrates strong performance on several benchmark datasets

Plain English Explanation

This paper introduces a new type of machine learning model called a "decoder-only" transformer for forecasting future values in time-series data. Time-series forecasting is the task of predicting what will happen next in a sequence of data points collected over time, such as stock prices or weather measurements.

Existing models for this task often use a "sequence-to-sequence" approach, where the model first encodes the input data into a compressed representation, and then decodes that representation to generate the forecast. The authors argue that this encoding step can limit the model's ability to capture long-range dependencies in the data.

In contrast, the "decoder-only" model presented in this paper is able to directly generate forecasts by attending to relevant parts of the input sequence, without first encoding it. This allows the model to better understand the underlying patterns and relationships in the data, leading to more accurate predictions.

The researchers evaluated their model on several standard time-series forecasting benchmarks and found that it outperformed other state-of-the-art approaches. This suggests that the "decoder-only" architecture could be a promising alternative to traditional sequence-to-sequence models for this type of task.

Technical Explanation

The key innovation of this work is the use of a decoder-only transformer architecture for time-series forecasting. Unlike typical sequence-to-sequence models, which first encode the input data and then decode the output, this model directly generates the forecast by attending to relevant parts of the input sequence.

The model consists of multiple transformer decoder layers, which use self-attention mechanisms to capture long-range dependencies in the data. The input to the model is a sequence of past observations, and the output is a sequence of predicted future values. The authors also incorporate various positional encoding schemes to capture the temporal structure of the data.

The researchers evaluated their model on several standard time-series forecasting benchmarks, including ETTH1, M4, and TA-MSTANL. They found that the decoder-only transformer outperformed other state-of-the-art models, such as LFTSformer and Informer, in terms of forecasting accuracy.

Critical Analysis

The authors acknowledge that their decoder-only transformer model may have limitations in handling complex, high-dimensional time-series data, as it relies solely on self-attention mechanisms without any explicit encoding step. This could potentially make the model less robust to noisy or irrelevant inputs.

Additionally, the paper does not provide a detailed analysis of the model's performance on different types of time-series data, such as those with strong seasonality or non-stationarity. It would be valuable to see how the decoder-only approach compares to other models in these more challenging scenarios.

Furthermore, the authors do not discuss the computational efficiency of their model, which is an important consideration for real-world deployment, especially in applications with strict latency requirements. A comparison to more lightweight time-series models, such as Tiny Time Mixers (TTMs), would help contextualize the tradeoffs between model complexity and forecasting performance.

Overall, the paper presents a promising new direction for time-series forecasting, but further research is needed to fully understand the strengths, weaknesses, and practical implications of the decoder-only transformer approach.


This paper introduces a novel "decoder-only" transformer model for time-series forecasting, which aims to address the limitations of traditional sequence-to-sequence architectures. The key idea is to directly generate forecasts by attending to relevant parts of the input sequence, without first encoding it into a compressed representation.

The authors demonstrate that this approach can outperform other state-of-the-art models on several benchmark datasets, suggesting that the decoder-only transformer could be a valuable tool for a wide range of time-series forecasting applications. However, the paper also highlights areas for further research, such as exploring the model's performance on more challenging data types and assessing its computational efficiency.

As the field of time-series forecasting continues to evolve, innovative architecture designs like the one presented in this paper will play an important role in pushing the boundaries of what's possible and helping to unlock new opportunities for practical applications.

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