The ability for a machine learning model to cope with differences in training and deployment conditions--e.g. in the presence of distribution shift or the generalization to new classes altogether--is crucial for real-world use cases. However, most empirical work in this area has focused on the image domain with artificial benchmarks constructed to measure individual aspects of generalization. We present BIRB, a complex benchmark centered on the retrieval of bird vocalizations from passively-recorded datasets given focal recordings from a large citizen science corpus available for training. We propose a baseline system for this collection of tasks using representation learning and a nearest-centroid search. Our thorough empirical evaluation and analysis surfaces open research directions, suggesting that BIRB fills the need for a more realistic and complex benchmark to drive progress on robustness to distribution shifts and generalization of ML models.
Learning from human feedback (LHF) -- and in particular learning from pairwise preferences -- has recently become a crucial ingredient in training large language models (LLMs), and has been the subject of much research. Most recent works frame it as a reinforcement learning problem, where a reward function is learned from pairwise preference data and the LLM is treated as a policy which is adapted to maximize the rewards, often under additional regularization constraints. We propose an alternative interpretation which centers on the generative process for pairwise preferences and treats LHF as a density estimation problem. We provide theoretical and empirical results showing that for a family of generative processes defined via preference behavior distribution equations, training a reward function on pairwise preferences effectively models an annotator's implicit preference distribution. Finally, we discuss and present findings on "annotator misspecification" -- failure cases where wrong modeling assumptions are made about annotator behavior, resulting in poorly-adapted models -- suggesting that approaches that learn from pairwise human preferences could have trouble learning from a population of annotators with diverse viewpoints.
Modeling attacks, in which an adversary uses machine learning techniques to model a hardware-based Physically Unclonable Function (PUF) pose a great threat to the viability of these hardware security primitives. In most modeling attacks, a random subset of challenge-response-pairs (CRPs) are used as the labeled data for the machine learning algorithm. Here, for the arbiter-PUF, a delay based PUF which may be viewed as a linear threshold function with random weights (due to manufacturing imperfections), we investigate the role of active learning in Support Vector Machine (SVM) learning. We focus on challenge selection to help SVM algorithm learn ``fast'' and learn ``slow''. Our methods construct challenges rather than relying on a sample pool of challenges as in prior work. Using active learning to learn ``fast'' (less CRPs revealed, higher accuracies) may help manufacturers learn the manufactured PUFs more efficiently, or may form a more powerful attack when the attacker may query the PUF for CRPs at will. Using active learning to select challenges from which learning is ``slow'' (low accuracy despite a large number of revealed CRPs) may provide a basis for slowing down attackers who are limited to overhearing CRPs.
Source-free domain adaptation (SFDA) is compelling because it allows adapting an off-the-shelf model to a new domain using only unlabelled data. In this work, we apply existing SFDA techniques to a challenging set of naturally-occurring distribution shifts in bioacoustics, which are very different from the ones commonly studied in computer vision. We find existing methods perform differently relative to each other than observed in vision benchmarks, and sometimes perform worse than no adaptation at all. We propose a new simple method which outperforms the existing methods on our new shifts while exhibiting strong performance on a range of vision datasets. Our findings suggest that existing SFDA methods are not as generalizable as previously thought and that considering diverse modalities can be a useful avenue for designing more robust models.
A common practice in transfer learning is to initialize the downstream model weights by pre-training on a data-abundant upstream task. In object detection specifically, the feature backbone is typically initialized with Imagenet classifier weights and fine-tuned on the object detection task. Recent works show this is not strictly necessary under longer training regimes and provide recipes for training the backbone from scratch. We investigate the opposite direction of this end-to-end training trend: we show that an extreme form of knowledge preservation -- freezing the classifier-initialized backbone -- consistently improves many different detection models, and leads to considerable resource savings. We hypothesize and corroborate experimentally that the remaining detector components capacity and structure is a crucial factor in leveraging the frozen backbone. Immediate applications of our findings include performance improvements on hard cases like detection of long-tail object classes and computational and memory resource savings that contribute to making the field more accessible to researchers with access to fewer computational resources.
Transfer-learning methods aim to improve performance in a data-scarce target domain using a model pretrained on a data-rich source domain. A cost-efficient strategy, linear probing, involves freezing the source model and training a new classification head for the target domain. This strategy is outperformed by a more costly but state-of-the-art method -- fine-tuning all parameters of the source model to the target domain -- possibly because fine-tuning allows the model to leverage useful information from intermediate layers which is otherwise discarded by the later pretrained layers. We explore the hypothesis that these intermediate layers might be directly exploited. We propose a method, Head-to-Toe probing (Head2Toe), that selects features from all layers of the source model to train a classification head for the target-domain. In evaluations on the VTAB-1k, Head2Toe matches performance obtained with fine-tuning on average while reducing training and storage cost hundred folds or more, but critically, for out-of-distribution transfer, Head2Toe outperforms fine-tuning.
We investigate the impact of aliasing on generalization in Deep Convolutional Networks and show that data augmentation schemes alone are unable to prevent it due to structural limitations in widely used architectures. Drawing insights from frequency analysis theory, we take a closer look at ResNet and EfficientNet architectures and review the trade-off between aliasing and information loss in each of their major components. We show how to mitigate aliasing by inserting non-trainable low-pass filters at key locations, particularly where networks lack the capacity to learn them. These simple architectural changes lead to substantial improvements in generalization on i.i.d. and even more on out-of-distribution conditions, such as image classification under natural corruptions on ImageNet-C  and few-shot learning on Meta-Dataset . State-of-the art results are achieved on both datasets without introducing additional trainable parameters and using the default hyper-parameters of open source codebases.
Learning guarantees often rely on assumptions of i.i.d. data, which will likely be violated in practice once predictors are deployed to perform real-world tasks. Domain adaptation approaches thus appeared as a useful framework yielding extra flexibility in that distinct train and test data distributions are supported, provided that other assumptions are satisfied such as covariate shift, which expects the conditional distributions over labels to be independent of the underlying data distribution. Several approaches were introduced in order to induce generalization across varying train and test data sources, and those often rely on the general idea of domain-invariance, in such a way that the data-generating distributions are to be disregarded by the prediction model. In this contribution, we tackle the problem of generalizing across data sources by approaching it from the opposite direction: we consider a conditional modeling approach in which predictions, in addition to being dependent on the input data, use information relative to the underlying data-generating distribution. For instance, the model has an explicit mechanism to adapt to changing environments and/or new data sources. We argue that such an approach is more generally applicable than current domain adaptation methods since it does not require extra assumptions such as covariate shift and further yields simpler training algorithms that avoid a common source of training instabilities caused by minimax formulations, often employed in domain-invariant methods.
Few-shot dataset generalization is a challenging variant of the well-studied few-shot classification problem where a diverse training set of several datasets is given, for the purpose of training an adaptable model that can then learn classes from new datasets using only a few examples. To this end, we propose to utilize the diverse training set to construct a universal template: a partial model that can define a wide array of dataset-specialized models, by plugging in appropriate components. For each new few-shot classification problem, our approach therefore only requires inferring a small number of parameters to insert into the universal template. We design a separate network that produces an initialization of those parameters for each given task, and we then fine-tune its proposed initialization via a few steps of gradient descent. Our approach is more parameter-efficient, scalable and adaptable compared to previous methods, and achieves the state-of-the-art on the challenging Meta-Dataset benchmark.