On sensitivity of meta-learning to support data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Mayank Agarwal, Mikhail Yurochkin, Yuekai Sun


Meta-learning algorithms are widely used for few-shot learning. For example, image recognition systems that readily adapt to unseen classes after seeing only a few labeled examples. Despite their success, we show that modern meta-learning algorithms are extremely sensitive to the data used for adaptation, i.e. support data. In particular, we demonstrate the existence of (unaltered, in-distribution, natural) images that, when used for adaptation, yield accuracy as low as 4\% or as high as 95\% on standard few-shot image classification benchmarks. We explain our empirical findings in terms of class margins, which in turn suggests that robust and safe meta-learning requires larger margins than supervised learning.