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Oral 6 Track 3: Deep Learning and representational learning

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Wed 3 May 6:00 - 6:10 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Agree to Disagree: Diversity through Disagreement for Better Transferability

Matteo Pagliardini · Martin Jaggi · François Fleuret · Sai Karimireddy

Gradient-based learning algorithms have an implicit \emph{simplicity bias} which in effect can limit the diversity of predictors being sampled by the learning procedure. This behavior can hinder the transferability of trained models by (i) favoring the learning of simpler but spurious features --- present in the training data but absent from the test data --- and (ii) by only leveraging a small subset of predictive features. Such an effect is especially magnified when the test distribution does not exactly match the train distribution---referred to as the Out of Distribution (OOD) generalization problem. However, given only the training data, it is not always possible to apriori assess if a given feature is spurious or transferable. Instead, we advocate for learning an ensemble of models which capture a diverse set of predictive features. Towards this, we propose a new algorithm D-BAT (Diversity-By-disAgreement Training), which enforces agreement among the models on the training data, but disagreement on the OOD data. We show how D-BAT naturally emerges from the notion of generalized discrepancy, as well as demonstrate in multiple experiments how the proposed method can mitigate shortcut-learning, enhance uncertainty and OOD detection, as well as improve transferability.

Wed 3 May 6:10 - 6:20 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
What learning algorithm is in-context learning? Investigations with linear models

Ekin Akyürek · Dale Schuurmans · Jacob Andreas · Tengyu Ma · Denny Zhou

Neural sequence models, especially transformers, exhibit a remarkable capacity for in-context learning. They can construct new predictors from sequences of labeled examples $(x, f(x))$ presented in the input without further parameter updates. We investigate the hypothesis that transformer-based in-context learners implement standard learning algorithms implicitly, by encoding context-specific parametric models in their hidden representations, and updating these implicit models as new examples appear in the context. Using linear regression as a model problem, we offer three sources of evidence for this hypothesis. First, we prove by construction that transformers can implement learning algorithms for linear models based on gradient descent and closed-form computation of regression parameters. Second, we show that trained in-context learners closely match the predictors computed by gradient descent, ridge regression, and exact least-squares regression, transitioning between different predictors as transformer depth and dataset noise vary. Third, we present preliminary evidence that in-context learners share algorithmic features with these predictors: learners' late layers encode weight vectors and moment matrices. These results suggest that in-context learning is understandable in algorithmic terms, and that (at least in the linear case) learners may work by rediscovering standard estimation algorithms.

Wed 3 May 6:20 - 6:30 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Addressing Parameter Choice Issues in Unsupervised Domain Adaptation by Aggregation

Marius-Constantin Dinu · Markus Holzleitner · Maximilian Beck · Hoan Nguyen · Andrea Huber · Hamid Eghbalzadeh · Bernhard A. Moser · Sergei Pereverzyev · Sepp Hochreiter · Werner Zellinger

We study the problem of choosing algorithm hyper-parameters in unsupervised domain adaptation, i.e., with labeled data in a source domain and unlabeled data in a target domain, drawn from a different input distribution. We follow the strategy to compute several models using different hyper-parameters, and, to subsequently compute a linear aggregation of the models. While several heuristics exist that follow this strategy, methods are still missing that rely on thorough theories for bounding the target error. In this turn, we propose a method that extends weighted least squares to vector-valued functions, e.g., deep neural networks. We show that the target error of the proposed algorithm is asymptotically not worse than twice the error of the unknown optimal aggregation. We also perform a large scale empirical comparative study on several datasets, including text, images, electroencephalogram, body sensor signals and signals from mobile phones. Our method outperforms deep embedded validation (DEV) and importance weighted validation (IWV) on all datasets, setting a new state-of-the-art performance for solving parameter choice issues in unsupervised domain adaptation with theoretical error guarantees. We further study several competitive heuristics, all outperforming IWV and DEV on at least five datasets. However, our method outperforms each heuristic on at least five of seven datasets.

Wed 3 May 6:30 - 6:40 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Encoding Recurrence into Transformers

Feiqing Huang · Kexin Lu · Yuxi Cai · Zhen Qin · Yanwen Fang · Guangjian Tian · Guodong Li

This paper novelly breaks down with ignorable loss an RNN layer into a sequence of simple RNNs, each of which can be further rewritten into a lightweight positional encoding matrix of a self-attention, named the Recurrence Encoding Matrix (REM). Thus, recurrent dynamics introduced by the RNN layer can be encapsulated into the positional encodings of a multihead self-attention, and this makes it possible to seamlessly incorporate these recurrent dynamics into a Transformer, leading to a new module, Self-Attention with Recurrence (RSA). The proposed module can leverage the recurrent inductive bias of REMs to achieve a better sample efficiency than its corresponding baseline Transformer, while the self-attention is used to model the remaining non-recurrent signals. The relative proportions of these two components are controlled by a data-driven gated mechanism, and the effectiveness of RSA modules are demonstrated by four sequential learning tasks.

Wed 3 May 6:40 - 6:50 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Outstanding Paper
Universal Few-shot Learning of Dense Prediction Tasks with Visual Token Matching

Donggyun Kim · Jinwoo Kim · Seongwoong Cho · Chong Luo · Seunghoon Hong

Dense prediction tasks are a fundamental class of problems in computer vision. As supervised methods suffer from high pixel-wise labeling cost, a few-shot learning solution that can learn any dense task from a few labeled images is desired. Yet, current few-shot learning methods target a restricted set of tasks such as semantic segmentation, presumably due to challenges in designing a general and unified model that is able to flexibly and efficiently adapt to arbitrary tasks of unseen semantics. We propose Visual Token Matching (VTM), a universal few-shot learner for arbitrary dense prediction tasks. It employs non-parametric matching on patch-level embedded tokens of images and labels that encapsulates all tasks. Also, VTM flexibly adapts to any task with a tiny amount of task-specific parameters that modulate the matching algorithm. We implement VTM as a powerful hierarchical encoder-decoder architecture involving ViT backbones where token matching is performed at multiple feature hierarchies. We experiment VTM on a challenging variant of Taskonomy dataset and observe that it robustly few-shot learns various unseen dense prediction tasks. Surprisingly, it is competitive with fully supervised baselines using only 10 labeled examples of novel tasks ($0.004\%$ of full supervision) and sometimes outperforms using $0.1\%$ of full supervision. Codes are available at

Wed 3 May 6:50 - 7:00 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Simplified State Space Layers for Sequence Modeling

Jimmy Smith · andrew warrington · Scott Linderman

Models using structured state space sequence (S4) layers have achieved state-of-the-art performance on long-range sequence modeling tasks. An S4 layer combines linear state space models (SSMs), the HiPPO framework, and deep learning to achieve high performance. We build on the design of the S4 layer and introduce a new state space layer, the S5 layer. Whereas an S4 layer uses many independent single-input, single-output SSMs, the S5 layer uses one multi-input, multi-output SSM. We establish a connection between S5 and S4, and use this to develop the initialization and parameterization used by the S5 model. The result is a state space layer that can leverage efficient and widely implemented parallel scans, allowing S5 to match the computational efficiency of S4, while also achieving state-of-the-art performance on several long-range sequence modeling tasks. S5 averages $87.4\%$ on the long range arena benchmark, and $98.5\%$ on the most difficult Path-X task.

Wed 3 May 7:00 - 7:10 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 25% paper
Relational Attention: Generalizing Transformers for Graph-Structured Tasks

Cameron Diao · Ricky Loynd

Transformers flexibly operate over sets of real-valued vectors representing task-specific entities and their attributes, where each vector might encode one word-piece token and its position in a sequence, or some piece of information that carries no position at all. As set processors, transformers are at a disadvantage in reasoning over more general graph-structured data where nodes represent entities and edges represent relations between entities. To address this shortcoming, we generalize transformer attention to consider and update edge vectors in each transformer layer. We evaluate this relational transformer on a diverse array of graph-structured tasks, including the large and challenging CLRS Algorithmic Reasoning Benchmark. There, it dramatically outperforms state-of-the-art graph neural networks expressly designed to reason over graph-structured data. Our analysis demonstrates that these gains are attributable to relational attention's inherent ability to leverage the greater expressivity of graphs over sets.

Wed 3 May 7:10 - 7:20 PDT

In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper
Sparse Mixture-of-Experts are Domain Generalizable Learners

Bo Li · Yifei Shen · Jingkang Yang · Yezhen Wang · Jiawei Ren · Tong Che · Jun Zhang · Ziwei Liu

Human visual perception can easily generalize to out-of-distributed visual data, which is far beyond the capability of modern machine learning models. Domain generalization (DG) aims to close this gap, with existing DG methods mainly focusing on the loss function design. In this paper, we propose to explore an orthogonal direction, i.e., the design of the backbone architecture. It is motivated by an empirical finding that transformer-based models trained with empirical risk minimization (ERM) outperform CNN-based models employing state-of-the-art (SOTA) DG algorithms on multiple DG datasets. We develop a formal framework to characterize a network's robustness to distribution shifts by studying its architecture's alignment with the correlations in the dataset. This analysis guides us to propose a novel DG model built upon vision transformers, namely \emph{Generalizable Mixture-of-Experts (GMoE)}. Extensive experiments on DomainBed demonstrate that GMoE trained with ERM outperforms SOTA DG baselines by a large margin. Moreover, GMoE is complementary to existing DG methods and its performance is substantially improved when trained with DG algorithms.