Continual Learning with Deep Architectures

Vincenzo Lomonaco · Irina Rish



Humans have the extraordinary ability to learn continually from experience. Not only we can apply previously learned knowledge and skills to new situations, we can also use these as the foundation for later learning. One of the grand goals of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is building an artificial “continual learning” agent that constructs a sophisticated understanding of the world from its own experience through the autonomous incremental development of ever more complex knowledge and skills (Parisi, 2019).

However, despite early speculations and few pioneering works (Ring, 1998; Thrun, 1998; Carlson, 2010), very little research and effort has been devoted to address this vision. Current AI systems greatly suffer from the exposure to new data or environments which even slightly differ from the ones for which they have been trained for (Goodfellow, 2013). Moreover, the learning process is usually constrained on fixed datasets within narrow and isolated tasks which may hardly lead to the emergence of more complex and autonomous intelligent behaviors. In essence, continual learning and adaptation capabilities, while more than often thought as fundamental pillars of every intelligent agent, have been mostly left out of the main AI research focus.

In this tutorial, we propose to summarize the application of these ideas in light of the more recent advances in machine learning research and in the context of deep architectures for AI (Lomonaco, 2019). Starting from a motivation and a brief history, we link recent Continual Learning advances to previous research endeavours on related topics and we summarize the state-of-the-art in terms of major approaches, benchmarks and key results.

In the second part of the tutorial we plan to cover more exploratory studies about Continual Learning with low supervised signals and the relationships with other paradigms such as Unsupervised, Semi-Supervised and Reinforcement Learning. We will also highlight the impact of recent Neuroscience discoveries in the design of original continual learning algorithms as well as their deployment in real-world applications.

Finally, we will underline the notion of continual learning as a key technological enabler for Sustainable Machine Learning and its societal impact, as well as recap interesting research questions and directions worth addressing in the future.

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