Collaborating Authors

Transfer Learning: Overviews

Towards Knowledgeable Supervised Lifelong Learning Systems

Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research

Learning a sequence of tasks is a long-standing challenge in machine learning. This setting applies to learning systems that observe examples of a range of tasks at different points in time. A learning system should become more knowledgeable as more related tasks are learned. Although the problem of learning sequentially was acknowledged for the first time decades ago, the research in this area has been rather limited. Research in transfer learning, multitask learning, metalearning and deep learning has studied some challenges of these kinds of systems. Recent research in lifelong machine learning and continual learning has revived interest in this problem. We propose Proficiente, a full framework for long-term learning systems. Proficiente relies on knowledge transferred between hypotheses learned with Support Vector Machines. The first component of the framework is focused on transferring forward selectively from a set of existing hypotheses or functions representing knowledge acquired during previous tasks to a new target task. A second component of Proficiente is focused on transferring backward, a novel ability of long-term learning systems that aim to exploit knowledge derived from recent tasks to encourage refinement of existing knowledge. We propose a method that transfers selectively from a task learned recently to existing hypotheses representing previous tasks. The method encourages retention of existing knowledge whilst refining. We analyse the theoretical properties of the proposed framework. Proficiente is accompanied by an agnostic metric that can be used to determine if a long-term learning system is becoming more knowledgeable. We evaluate Proficiente in both synthetic and real-world datasets, and demonstrate scenarios where knowledgeable supervised learning systems can be achieved by means of transfer.

QuantNet: Transferring Learning Across Systematic Trading Strategies Machine Learning

In this work we introduce QuantNet: an architecture that is capable of transferring knowledge over systematic trading strategies in several financial markets. By having a system that is able to leverage and share knowledge across them, our aim is two-fold: to circumvent the so-called Backtest Overfitting problem; and to generate higher risk-adjusted returns and fewer drawdowns. To do that, QuantNet exploits a form of modelling called Transfer Learning, where two layers are market-specific and another one is market-agnostic. This ensures that the transfer occurs across trading strategies, with the market-agnostic layer acting as a vehicle to share knowledge, cross-influence each strategy parameters, and ultimately the trading signal produced. In order to evaluate QuantNet, we compared its performance in relation to the option of not performing transfer learning, that is, using market-specific old-fashioned machine learning. In summary, our findings suggest that QuantNet performs better than non transfer-based trading strategies, improving Sharpe ratio in 15% and Calmar ratio in 41% across 3103 assets in 58 equity markets across the world. Code coming soon.

Environment-agnostic Multitask Learning for Natural Language Grounded Navigation Artificial Intelligence

Recent research efforts enable study for natural language grounded navigation in photo-realistic environments, e.g., following natural language instructions or dialog. However, existing methods tend to overfit training data in seen environments and fail to generalize well in previously unseen environments. In order to close the gap between seen and unseen environments, we aim at learning a generalized navigation model from two novel perspectives: (1) we introduce a multitask navigation model that can be seamlessly trained on both Vision-Language Navigation (VLN) and Navigation from Dialog History (NDH) tasks, which benefits from richer natural language guidance and effectively transfers knowledge across tasks; (2) we propose to learn environment-agnostic representations for the navigation policy that are invariant among the environments seen during training, thus generalizing better on unseen environments. Extensive experiments show that training with environmentagnostic multitask learning objective significantly reduces the performance gap between seen and unseen environments and the navigation agent so trained outperforms the baselines on unseen environments by 16% (relative measure on success rate) on VLN and 120% (goal progress) on NDH. Our submission to the CVDN leaderboard establishes a new state-of-the-art for the NDH task outperforming the existing best model by more than 66% (goal progress) on the holdout test set.

Unsupervised Transfer Learning via BERT Neuron Selection Machine Learning

Recent advancements in language representation models such as BERT have led to a rapid improvement in numerous natural language processing tasks. However, language models usually consist of a few hundred million trainable parameters with embedding space distributed across multiple layers, thus making them challenging to be fine-tuned for a specific task or to be transferred to a new domain. To determine whether there are task-specific neurons that can be exploited for unsupervised transfer learning, we introduce a method for selecting the most important neurons to solve a specific classification task. This algorithm is further extended to multi-source transfer learning by computing the importance of neurons for several single-source transfer learning scenarios between different subsets of data sources. Besides, a task-specific fingerprint for each data source is obtained based on the percentage of the selected neurons in each layer. We perform extensive experiments in unsupervised transfer learning for sentiment analysis, natural language inference and sentence similarity, and compare our results with the existing literature and baselines. Significantly, we found that the source and target data sources with higher degrees of similarity between their task-specific fingerprints demonstrate a better transferability property. We conclude that our method can lead to better performance using just a few hundred task-specific and interpretable neurons.

Towards a General Model of Knowledge for Facial Analysis by Multi-Source Transfer Learning Machine Learning

This paper proposes a step toward obtaining general models of knowledge for facial analysis, by addressing the question of multi-source transfer learning. More precisely, the proposed approach consists in two successive training steps: the first one consists in applying a combination operator to define a common embedding for the multiple sources materialized by different existing trained models. The proposed operator relies on an auto-encoder, trained on a large dataset, efficient both in terms of compression ratio and transfer learning performance. In a second step we exploit a distillation approach to obtain a lightweight student model mimicking the collection of the fused existing models. This model outperforms its teacher on novel tasks, achieving results on par with state-of-the-art methods on 15 facial analysis tasks (and domains), at an affordable training cost. Moreover, this student has 75 times less parameters than the original teacher and can be applied to a variety of novel face-related tasks.

A Comprehensive Survey on Transfer Learning Machine Learning

Transfer learning aims at improving the performance of target learners on target domains by transferring the knowledge contained in different but related source domains. In this way, the dependence on a large number of target domain data can be reduced for constructing target learners. Due to the wide application prospects, transfer learning has become a popular and promising area in machine learning. Although there are already some valuable and impressive surveys on transfer learning, these surveys introduce approaches in a relatively isolated way and lack the recent advances in transfer learning. As the rapid expansion of the transfer learning area, it is both necessary and challenging to comprehensively review the relevant studies. This survey attempts to connect and systematize the existing transfer learning researches, as well as to summarize and interpret the mechanisms and the strategies in a comprehensive way, which may help readers have a better understanding of the current research status and ideas. Different from previous surveys, this survey paper reviews over forty representative transfer learning approaches from the perspectives of data and model. The applications of transfer learning are also briefly introduced. In order to show the performance of different transfer learning models, twenty representative transfer learning models are used for experiments. The models are performed on three different datasets, i.e., Amazon Reviews, Reuters-21578, and Office-31. And the experimental results demonstrate the importance of selecting appropriate transfer learning models for different applications in practice.

Exploring the Limits of Transfer Learning with a Unified Text-to-Text Transformer Machine Learning

Transfer learning, where a model is first pre-trained on a data-rich task before being fine-tuned on a downstream task, has emerged as a powerful technique in natural language processing (NLP). The effectiveness of transfer learning has given rise to a diversity of approaches, methodology, and practice. In this paper, we explore the landscape of transfer learning techniques for NLP by introducing a unified framework that converts every language problem into a text-to-text format. Our systematic study compares pre-training objectives, architectures, unlabeled datasets, transfer approaches, and other factors on dozens of language understanding tasks. By combining the insights from our exploration with scale and our new "Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus", we achieve state-of-the-art results on many benchmarks covering summarization, question answering, text classification, and more. To facilitate future work on transfer learning for NLP, we release our dataset, pre-trained models, and code.

Transfer learning for Remaining Useful Life Prediction Based on Consensus Self-Organizing Models Machine Learning

The traditional paradigm for developing machine prognostics usually relies on generalization from data acquired in experiments under controlled conditions prior to deployment of the equipment. Detecting or predicting failures and estimating machine health in this way assumes that future field data will have a very similar distribution to the experiment data. However, many complex machines operate under dynamic environmental conditions and are used in many different ways. This makes collecting comprehensive data very challenging, and the assumption that pre-deployment data and post-deployment data follow very similar distributions is unlikely to hold. Transfer Learning (TL) refers to methods for transferring knowledge learned in one setting (the source domain) to another setting (the target domain). In this work, we present a TL method for predicting Remaining Useful Life (RUL) of equipment, under the assumption that labels are available only for the source domain and not the target domain. This setting corresponds to generalizing from a limited number of run-to-failure experiments performed prior to deployment into making prognostics with data coming from deployed equipment that is being used under multiple new operating conditions and experiencing previously unseen faults. We employ a deviation detection method, Consensus Self-Organizing Models (COSMO), to create transferable features for building the RUL regression model. These features capture how different target equipment is in comparison to its peers. The efficiency of the proposed TL method is demonstrated using the NASA Turbofan Engine Degradation Simulation Data Set. Models using the COSMO transferable features show better performance than other methods on predicting RUL when the target domain is more complex than the source domain.

Transfer Learning with Dynamic Distribution Adaptation Machine Learning

Transfer learning aims to learn robust classifiers for the target domain by leveraging knowledge from a source domain. Since the source and the target domains are usually from different distributions, existing methods mainly focus on adapting the cross-domain marginal or conditional distributions. However, in real applications, the marginal and conditional distributions usually have different contributions to the domain discrepancy. Existing methods fail to quantitatively evaluate the different importance of these two distributions, which will result in unsatisfactory transfer performance. In this paper, we propose a novel concept called Dynamic Distribution Adaptation (DDA), which is capable of quantitatively evaluating the relative importance of each distribution. DDA can be easily incorporated into the framework of structural risk minimization to solve transfer learning problems. On the basis of DDA, we propose two novel learning algorithms: (1) Manifold Dynamic Distribution Adaptation (MDDA) for traditional transfer learning, and (2) Dynamic Distribution Adaptation Network (DDAN) for deep transfer learning. Extensive experiments demonstrate that MDDA and DDAN significantly improve the transfer learning performance and setup a strong baseline over the latest deep and adversarial methods on digits recognition, sentiment analysis, and image classification. More importantly, it is shown that marginal and conditional distributions have different contributions to the domain divergence, and our DDA is able to provide good quantitative evaluation of their relative importance which leads to better performance. We believe this observation can be helpful for future research in transfer learning.

The State of Transfer Learning in NLP


This post expands on the NAACL 2019 tutorial on Transfer Learning in NLP. The tutorial was organized by Matthew Peters, Swabha Swayamdipta, Thomas Wolf, and me. In this post, I highlight key insights and takeaways and provide updates based on recent work. The slides, a Colaboratory notebook, and code of the tutorial are available online. For an overview of what transfer learning is, have a look at this blog post. Transfer learning is a means to extract knowledge from a source setting and apply it to a different target setting. In the span of little more than a year, transfer learning in the form of pretrained language models has become ubiquitous in NLP and has contributed to the state of the art on a wide range of tasks.