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A Theoretical Study on Solving Continual Learning

Gyuhak Kim · Changnan Xiao · Tatsuya Konishi · Zixuan Ke · Bing Liu

Hall J (level 1) #634

Keywords: [ continual learning ] [ lifelong learning ]


Continual learning (CL) learns a sequence of tasks incrementally. There are two popular CL settings, class incremental learning (CIL) and task incremental learning (TIL). A major challenge of CL is catastrophic forgetting (CF). While a number of techniques are already available to effectively overcome CF for TIL, CIL remains to be highly challenging. So far, little theoretical study has been done to provide a principled guidance on how to solve the CIL problem. This paper performs such a study. It first shows that probabilistically, the CIL problem can be decomposed into two sub-problems: Within-task Prediction (WP) and Task-id Prediction (TP). It further proves that TP is correlated with out-of-distribution (OOD) detection, which connects CIL and OOD detection. The key conclusion of this study is that regardless of whether WP and TP or OOD detection are defined explicitly or implicitly by a CIL algorithm, good WP and good TP or OOD detection are necessary and sufficient for good CIL performances. Additionally, TIL is simply WP. Based on the theoretical result, new CIL methods are also designed, which outperform strong baselines in both CIL and TIL settings by a large margin.

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