Functional Ensemble Distillation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Coby Penso, Idan Achituve, Ethan Fetaya


Bayesian models have many desirable properties, most notable is their ability to generalize from limited data and to properly estimate the uncertainty in their predictions. However, these benefits come at a steep computational cost as Bayesian inference, in most cases, is computationally intractable. One popular approach to alleviate this problem is using a Monte-Carlo estimation with an ensemble of models sampled from the posterior. However, this approach still comes at a significant computational cost, as one needs to store and run multiple models at test time. In this work, we investigate how to best distill an ensemble's predictions using an efficient model. First, we argue that current approaches are limited as they are constrained to classification and the Dirichlet distribution. Second, in many limited data settings, all ensemble members achieve nearly zero training loss, namely, they produce near-identical predictions on the training set which results in sub-optimal distilled models. To address both problems, we propose a novel and general distillation approach, named Functional Ensemble Distillation (FED), and we investigate how to best distill an ensemble in this setting. We find that learning the distilled model via a simple augmentation scheme in the form of mixup augmentation significantly boosts the performance. We evaluated our method on several tasks and showed that it achieves superior results in both accuracy and uncertainty estimation compared to current approaches.