Keywords: [ transfer learning ] [ priors ] [ foundation models ] [ Bayesian Neural Networks ]
Deep learning is increasingly moving towards a transfer learning paradigm whereby large foundation models are fine-tuned on downstream tasks, starting from an initialization learned on the source task. But an initialization contains relatively little information about the source task, and does not reflect the belief that our knowledge of the source task should affect the locations and shape of optima on the downstream task.Instead, we show that we can learn highly informative posteriors from the source task, through supervised or self-supervised approaches, which then serve as the basis for priors that modify the whole loss surface on the downstream task. This simple modular approach enables significant performance gains and more data-efficient learning on a variety of downstream classification and segmentation tasks, serving as a drop-in replacement for standard pre-training strategies. These highly informative priors also can be saved for future use, similar to pre-trained weights, and stand in contrast to the zero-mean isotropic uninformative priors that are typically used in Bayesian deep learning.