Generalization of Model-Agnostic Meta-Learning Algorithms: Recurring and Unseen Tasks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Alireza Fallah, Aryan Mokhtari, Asuman Ozdaglar


In this paper, we study the generalization properties of Model-Agnostic Meta-Learning (MAML) algorithms for supervised learning problems. We focus on the setting in which we train the MAML model over $m$ tasks, each with $n$ data points, and characterize its generalization error from two points of view: First, we assume the new task at test time is one of the training tasks, and we show that, for strongly convex objective functions, the expected excess population loss is bounded by $\mathcal{O}(1/mn)$. Second, we consider the MAML algorithm's generalization to an unseen task and show that the resulting generalization error depends on the total variation distance between the underlying distributions of the new task and the tasks observed during the training process. Our proof techniques rely on the connections between algorithmic stability and generalization bounds of algorithms. In particular, we propose a new definition of stability for meta-learning algorithms, which allows us to capture the role of both the number of tasks $m$ and number of samples per task $n$ on the generalization error of MAML.