The More, The Better? Active Silencing of Non-Positive Transfer for Efficient Multi-Domain Few-Shot Classification

Xingxing Zhang1   Zhizhe Liu2   Weikai Yang1   Liyuan Wang1   Jun Zhu1

1Tsinghua University       2Beijing Jiaotong University

Teaser Image
Teaser Image

Functional consistency between biological memory system and our AS3 to learn new concepts from small samples. Of note, machine can also first select base datasets as brain, when the number of base datasets is really large as that of memories.


Few-shot classification refers to recognizing several novel classes given only a few labeled samples. Many recent methods try to gain an adaptation benefit by learning prior knowledge from more base training domains, aka. multi-domain few-shot classification. However, with extensive empirical evidence, we find more is not always better: current models do not necessarily benefit from pre-training on more base classes and domains, since the pre-trained knowledge might be non-positive for a downstream task. In this work, we hypothesize that such redundant pre-training can be avoided without compromising the downstream performance. Inspired by the selective activating/silencing mechanism in the biological memory system, which enables the brain to learn a new concept from a few experiences both quickly and accurately, we propose to actively silence those redundant base classes and domains for efficient multidomain few-shot classification. Then, a novel data-driven approach named Active Silencing with hierarchical Subset Selection (AS3) is developed to address two problems: 1) finding a subset of base classes that adequately represent novel classes for efficient positive transfer; and 2) finding a subset of base learners (i.e., domains) with confident accurate prediction in a new domain. Both problems are formulated as distance-based sparse subset selection. We extensively evaluate AS3 on the recent META-DATASET benchmark as well as MNIST, CIFAR10, and CIFAR100, where AS3 achieves over 100% acceleration while maintaining or even improving accuracy.

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