Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)
Ting Chen, Simon Kornblith, Kevin Swersky, Mohammad Norouzi, Geoffrey E. Hinton
One paradigm for learning from few labeled examples while making best use of a large amount of unlabeled data is unsupervised pretraining followed by supervised fine-tuning. Although this paradigm uses unlabeled data in a task-agnostic way, in contrast to common approaches to semi-supervised learning for computer vision, we show that it is surprisingly effective for semi-supervised learning on ImageNet. A key ingredient of our approach is the use of big (deep and wide) networks during pretraining and fine-tuning. We find that, the fewer the labels, the more this approach (task-agnostic use of unlabeled data) benefits from a bigger network. After fine-tuning, the big network can be further improved and distilled into a much smaller one with little loss in classification accuracy by using the unlabeled examples for a second time, but in a task-specific way. The proposed semi-supervised learning algorithm can be summarized in three steps: unsupervised pretraining of a big ResNet model using SimCLRv2, supervised fine-tuning on a few labeled examples, and distillation with unlabeled examples for refining and transferring the task-specific knowledge. This procedure achieves 73.9% ImageNet top-1 accuracy with just 1% of the labels ($\le$13 labeled images per class) using ResNet-50, a 10X improvement in label efficiency over the previous state-of-the-art. With 10% of labels, ResNet-50 trained with our method achieves 77.5% top-1 accuracy, outperforming standard supervised training with all of the labels.