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Composed Fine-Tuning: Freezing Pre-Trained Denoising Autoencoders for Improved Generalization

Sang Michael Xie · Tengyu Ma · Percy Liang


Keywords: [ Multitask, Transfer, and Meta Learning ] [ Algorithms ]


We focus on prediction problems with structured outputs that are subject to output validity constraints, e.g. pseudocode-to-code translation where the code must compile. While labeled input-output pairs are expensive to obtain, "unlabeled" outputs, i.e. outputs without corresponding inputs, are freely available (e.g. code on GitHub) and provide information about output validity. Pre-training captures this structure by training a denoiser to denoise corrupted versions of unlabeled outputs. We first show that standard fine-tuning after pre-training destroys some of this structure. We then propose composed fine-tuning, which trains a predictor composed with the pre-trained denoiser. Importantly, the denoiser is fixed to preserve output structure. Like standard fine-tuning, the predictor is also initialized with the pre-trained denoiser. We prove for two-layer ReLU networks that composed fine-tuning significantly reduces the complexity of the predictor, thus improving generalization. Empirically, we show that composed fine-tuning improves over standard fine-tuning on two pseudocode-to-code translation datasets (3% and 6% relative). The improvement is magnified on out-of-distribution (OOD) examples (4% and 25% relative), suggesting that reducing predictor complexity improves OOD extrapolation.

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