On the Stability-Plasticity Dilemma in Continual Meta-Learning: Theory and Algorithm

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Qi CHEN, Changjian Shui, Ligong Han, Mario Marchand


We focus on Continual Meta-Learning (CML), which targets accumulating and exploiting meta-knowledge on a sequence of non-i.i.d. tasks. The primary challenge is to strike a balance between stability and plasticity, where a model should be stable to avoid catastrophic forgetting in previous tasks and plastic to learn generalizable concepts from new tasks. To address this, we formulate the CML objective as controlling the average excess risk upper bound of the task sequence, which reflects the trade-off between forgetting and generalization. Based on the objective, we introduce a unified theoretical framework for CML in both static and shifting environments, providing guarantees for various task-specific learning algorithms. Moreover, we first present a rigorous analysis of a bi-level trade-off in shifting environments. To approach the optimal trade-off, we propose a novel algorithm that dynamically adjusts the meta-parameter and its learning rate w.r.t environment change. Empirical evaluations on synthetic and real datasets illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed theory and algorithm.