Risk Bounds for Transferring Representations With and Without Fine-Tuning


Daniel McNamara, Maria-Florina Balcan ;
Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 70:2373-2381, 2017.


A popular machine learning strategy is the transfer of a representation (i.e. a feature extraction function) learned on a source task to a target task. Examples include the re-use of neural network weights or word embeddings. We develop sufficient conditions for the success of this approach. If the representation learned from the source task is fixed, we identify conditions on how the tasks relate to obtain an upper bound on target task risk via a VC dimension-based argument. We then consider using the representation from the source task to construct a prior, which is fine-tuned using target task data. We give a PAC-Bayes target task risk bound in this setting under suitable conditions. We show examples of our bounds using feedforward neural networks. Our results motivate a practical approach to weight transfer, which we validate with experiments.

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