An Information-Geometric Distance on the Space of Tasks

Yansong Gao, Pratik Chaudhari

[ Abstract ] [ Livestream: Visit Learning Theory 9 ] [ Paper ]

This paper prescribes a distance between learning tasks modeled as joint distributions on data and labels. Using tools in information geometry, the distance is defined to be the length of the shortest weight trajectory on a Riemannian manifold as a classifier is fitted on an interpolated task. The interpolated task evolves from the source to the target task using an optimal transport formulation. This distance, which we call the "coupled transfer distance" can be compared across different classifier architectures. We develop an algorithm to compute the distance which iteratively transports the marginal on the data of the source task to that of the target task while updating the weights of the classifier to track this evolving data distribution. We develop theory to show that our distance captures the intuitive idea that a good transfer trajectory is the one that keeps the generalization gap small during transfer, in particular at the end on the target task. We perform thorough empirical validation and analysis across diverse image classification datasets to show that the coupled transfer distance correlates strongly with the difficulty of fine-tuning.

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