Oral 3: Learning from distribution shift

Moderators : Dustin Tran · Zsolt Kira

Wed 27 Apr 9 a.m. PDT — 10:30 a.m. PDT


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Wed 27 April 9:00 - 9:15 PDT

Fine-Tuning can Distort Pretrained Features and Underperform Out-of-Distribution

Ananya Kumar · Aditi Raghunathan · Robbie Jones · Tengyu Ma · Percy Liang

When transferring a pretrained model to a downstream task, two popular methods are full fine-tuning (updating all the model parameters) and linear probing (updating only the last linear layer---the "head"). It is well known that fine-tuning leads to better accuracy in-distribution (ID). However, in this paper, we find that fine-tuning can achieve worse accuracy than linear probing out-of-distribution (OOD) when the pretrained features are good and the distribution shift is large. On 10 distribution shift datasets (BREEDS-Living17, BREEDS-Entity30, DomainNet, CIFAR $\to$ STL, CIFAR-10.1, FMoW, ImageNetV2, ImageNet-R, ImageNet-A, ImageNet-Sketch), fine-tuning obtains on average 2% higher accuracy ID but 7% lower accuracy OOD than linear probing. We show theoretically that this tradeoff between ID and OOD accuracy arises even in a simple setting: fine-tuning overparameterized two-layer linear networks. We prove that the OOD error of fine-tuning is high when we initialize with a fixed or random head---this is because while fine-tuning learns the head, the lower layers of the neural network change simultaneously and distort the pretrained features. Our analysis suggests that the easy two-step strategy of linear probing then full fine-tuning (LP-FT), sometimes used as a fine-tuning heuristic, combines the benefits of both fine-tuning and linear probing. Empirically, LP-FT outperforms both fine-tuning and linear probing on the above datasets (1% better ID, 10% better OOD than full fine-tuning).

Wed 27 April 9:15 - 9:30 PDT

Asymmetry Learning for Counterfactually-invariant Classification in OOD Tasks

S Chandra Mouli · Bruno Ribeiro

Generalizing from observed to new related environments (out-of-distribution) is central to the reliability of classifiers. However, most classifiers fail to predict label $Y$ from input $X$ when the change in environment is due a (stochastic) input transformation $T^\text{te} \circ X'$ not observed in training, as in training we observe $T^\text{tr} \circ X'$, where $X'$ is a hidden variable. This work argues that when the transformations in train $T^\text{tr}$ and test $T^\text{te}$ are (arbitrary) symmetry transformations induced by a collection of known $m$ equivalence relations, the task of finding a robust OOD classifier can be defined as finding the simplest causal model that defines a causal connection between the target labels and the symmetry transformations that are associated with label changes. We then propose a new learning paradigm, asymmetry learning, that identifies which symmetries the classifier must break in order to correctly predict $Y$ in both train and test. Asymmetry learning performs a causal model search that, under certain identifiability conditions, finds classifiers that perform equally well in-distribution and out-of-distribution. Finally, we show how to learn counterfactually-invariant representations with asymmetry learning in two physics tasks.

Wed 27 April 9:30 - 9:45 PDT

A Fine-Grained Analysis on Distribution Shift

Olivia Wiles · Sven Gowal · Florian Stimberg · Sylvestre-Alvise Rebuffi · Ira Ktena · Krishnamurthy Dvijotham · Ali Taylan Cemgil

Robustness to distribution shifts is critical for deploying machine learning models in the real world. Despite this necessity, there has been little work in defining the underlying mechanisms that cause these shifts and evaluating the robustness of algorithms across multiple, different distribution shifts. To this end, we introduce a framework that enables fine-grained analysis of various distribution shifts. We provide a holistic analysis of current state-of-the-art methods by evaluating 19 distinct methods grouped into five categories across both synthetic and real-world datasets. Overall, we train more than 85K models. Our experimental framework can be easily extended to include new methods, shifts, and datasets. We find, unlike previous work (Gulrajani & Lopez-Paz, 2021), that progress has been made over a standard ERM baseline; in particular, pretraining and augmentations (learned or heuristic) offer large gains in many cases. However, the best methods are not consistent over different datasets and shifts. We will open source our experimental framework, allowing future work to evaluate new methods over multiple shifts to obtain a more complete picture of a method's effectiveness. Code is available at

Wed 27 April 9:45 - 10:00 PDT

Sparse Communication via Mixed Distributions

António Farinhas · Wilker Aziz · Vlad Niculae · Andre Martins

Neural networks and other machine learning models compute continuous representations, while humans communicate mostly through discrete symbols. Reconciling these two forms of communication is desirable for generating human-readable interpretations or learning discrete latent variable models, while maintaining end-to-end differentiability. Some existing approaches (such as the Gumbel-Softmax transformation) build continuous relaxations that are discrete approximations in the zero-temperature limit, while others (such as sparsemax transformations and the Hard Concrete distribution) produce discrete/continuous hybrids. In this paper, we build rigorous theoretical foundations for these hybrids, which we call "mixed random variables.'' Our starting point is a new "direct sum'' base measure defined on the face lattice of the probability simplex. From this measure, we introduce new entropy and Kullback-Leibler divergence functions that subsume the discrete and differential cases and have interpretations in terms of code optimality. Our framework suggests two strategies for representing and sampling mixed random variables, an extrinsic ("sample-and-project'’) and an intrinsic one (based on face stratification). We experiment with both approaches on an emergent communication benchmark and on modeling MNIST and Fashion-MNIST data with variational auto-encoders with mixed latent variables.

Wed 27 April 10:00 - 10:15 PDT

Frame Averaging for Invariant and Equivariant Network Design

Omri Puny · Matan Atzmon · Edward Smith · Ishan Misra · Aditya Grover · Heli Ben-Hamu · Yaron Lipman

Many machine learning tasks involve learning functions that are known to be invariant or equivariant to certain symmetries of the input data. However, it is often challenging to design neural network architectures that respect these symmetries while being expressive and computationally efficient. For example, Euclidean motion invariant/equivariant graph or point cloud neural networks. We introduce Frame Averaging (FA), a highly general purpose and systematic framework for adapting known (backbone) architectures to become invariant or equivariant to new symmetry types. Our framework builds on the well known group averaging operator that guarantees invariance or equivariance but is intractable. In contrast, we observe that for many important classes of symmetries, this operator can be replaced with an averaging operator over a small subset of the group elements, called a frame. We show that averaging over a frame guarantees exact invariance or equivariance while often being much simpler to compute than averaging over the entire group. Furthermore, we prove that FA-based models have maximal expressive power in a broad setting and in general preserve the expressive power of their backbone architectures. Using frame averaging, we propose a new class of universal Graph Neural Networks (GNNs), universal Euclidean motion invariant point cloud networks, and Euclidean motion invariant Message Passing (MP) GNNs. We demonstrate the practical effectiveness of FA on several applications including point cloud normal estimation, beyond $2$-WL graph separation, and $n$-body dynamics prediction, achieving state-of-the-art results in all of these benchmarks.

Wed 27 April 10:15 - 10:30 PDT

F8Net: Fixed-Point 8-bit Only Multiplication for Network Quantization

Qing Jin · Jian Ren · Richard Zhuang · Sumant Hanumante · Zhengang Li · Zhiyu Chen · Yanzhi Wang · Kaiyuan Yang · Sergey Tulyakov

Neural network quantization is a promising compression technique to reduce memory footprint and save energy consumption, potentially leading to real-time inference. However, there is a performance gap between quantized and full-precision models. To reduce it, existing quantization approaches require high-precision INT32 or full-precision multiplication during inference for scaling or dequantization. This introduces a noticeable cost in terms of memory, speed, and required energy. To tackle these issues, we present F8Net, a novel quantization framework consisting in only fixed-point 8-bit multiplication. To derive our method, we first discuss the advantages of fixed-point multiplication with different formats of fixed-point numbers and study the statistical behavior of the associated fixed-point numbers. Second, based on the statistical and algorithmic analysis, we apply different fixed-point formats for weights and activations of different layers. We introduce a novel algorithm to automatically determine the right format for each layer during training. Third, we analyze a previous quantization algorithm—parameterized clipping activation (PACT)—and reformulate it using fixed-point arithmetic. Finally, we unify the recently proposed method for quantization fine-tuning and our fixed-point approach to show the potential of our method. We verify F8Net on ImageNet for MobileNet V1/V2 and ResNet18/50. Our approach achieves comparable and better performance, when compared not only to existing quantization techniques with INT32 multiplication or floating point arithmetic, but also to the full-precision counterparts, achieving state-of-the-art performance.