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Continual Learning via Sequential Function-Space Variational Inference

Tim G. J Rudner · Freddie Bickford Smith · QIXUAN FENG · Yee-Whye Teh · Yarin Gal

Hall E #533

Keywords: [ PM: Variational Inference ] [ MISC: Transfer, Multitask and Meta-learning ]


Sequential Bayesian inference over predictive functions is a natural framework for continual learning from streams of data. However, applying it to neural networks has proved challenging in practice. Addressing the drawbacks of existing techniques, we propose an optimization objective derived by formulating continual learning as sequential function-space variational inference. In contrast to existing methods that regularize neural network parameters directly, this objective allows parameters to vary widely during training, enabling better adaptation to new tasks. Compared to objectives that directly regularize neural network predictions, the proposed objective allows for more flexible variational distributions and more effective regularization. We demonstrate that, across a range of task sequences, neural networks trained via sequential function-space variational inference achieve better predictive accuracy than networks trained with related methods while depending less on maintaining a set of representative points from previous tasks.

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