Continual learning under domain transfer with sparse synaptic bursting [article]

Shawn L. Beaulieu, Jeff Clune, Nick Cheney
2022 arXiv   pre-print
Existing machines are functionally specific tools that were made for easy prediction and control. Tomorrow's machines may be closer to biological systems in their mutability, resilience, and autonomy. But first they must be capable of learning and retaining new information without being exposed to it arbitrarily often. Past efforts to engineer such systems have sought to build or regulate artificial neural networks using disjoint sets of weights that are uniquely sensitive to specific tasks or
more » ... nputs. This has not yet enabled continual learning over long sequences of previously unseen data without corrupting existing knowledge: a problem known as catastrophic forgetting. In this paper, we introduce a system that can learn sequentially over previously unseen datasets (ImageNet, CIFAR-100) with little forgetting over time. This is done by controlling the activity of weights in a convolutional neural network on the basis of inputs using top-down regulation generated by a second feed-forward neural network. We find that our method learns continually under domain transfer with sparse bursts of activity in weights that are recycled across tasks, rather than by maintaining task-specific modules. Sparse synaptic bursting is found to balance activity and suppression such that new functions can be learned without corrupting extant knowledge, thus mirroring the balance of order and disorder in systems at the edge of chaos. This behavior emerges during a prior pre-training (or 'meta-learning') phase in which regulated synapses are selectively disinhibited, or grown, from an initial state of uniform suppression through prediction error minimization.
arXiv:2108.12056v8 fatcat:3gmokutrzzc2bf3jfy6ucj345i