Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 31 (NeurIPS 2018)
Chelsea Finn, Kelvin Xu, Sergey Levine
Meta-learning for few-shot learning entails acquiring a prior over previous tasks and experiences, such that new tasks be learned from small amounts of data. However, a critical challenge in few-shot learning is task ambiguity: even when a powerful prior can be meta-learned from a large number of prior tasks, a small dataset for a new task can simply be too ambiguous to acquire a single model (e.g., a classifier) for that task that is accurate. In this paper, we propose a probabilistic meta-learning algorithm that can sample models for a new task from a model distribution. Our approach extends model-agnostic meta-learning, which adapts to new tasks via gradient descent, to incorporate a parameter distribution that is trained via a variational lower bound. At meta-test time, our algorithm adapts via a simple procedure that injects noise into gradient descent, and at meta-training time, the model is trained such that this stochastic adaptation procedure produces samples from the approximate model posterior. Our experimental results show that our method can sample plausible classifiers and regressors in ambiguous few-shot learning problems. We also show how reasoning about ambiguity can also be used for downstream active learning problems.