Continual Learning via Local Module Composition

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

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Oleksiy Ostapenko, Pau Rodriguez, Massimo Caccia, Laurent Charlin


Modularity is a compelling solution to continual learning (CL), the problem of modeling sequences of related tasks. Learning and then composing modules to solve different tasks provides an abstraction to address the principal challenges of CL including catastrophic forgetting, backward and forward transfer across tasks, and sub-linear model growth. We introduce local module composition (LMC), an approach to modular CL where each module is provided a local structural component that estimates a module’s relevance to the input. Dynamic module composition is performed layer-wise based on local relevance scores. We demonstrate that agnosticity to task identities (IDs) arises from (local) structural learning that is module-specific as opposed to the task- and/or model-specific as in previous works, making LMC applicable to more CL settings compared to previous works. In addition, LMC also tracks statistics about the input distribution and adds new modules when outlier samples are detected. In the first set of experiments, LMC performs favorably compared to existing methods on the recent Continual Transfer-learning Benchmark without requiring task identities. In another study, we show that the locality of structural learning allows LMC to interpolate to related but unseen tasks (OOD), as well as to compose modular networks trained independently on different task sequences into a third modular network without any fine-tuning. Finally, in search for limitations of LMC we study it on more challenging sequences of 30 and 100 tasks, demonstrating that local module selection becomes much more challenging in presence of a large number of candidate modules. In this setting best performing LMC spawns much fewer modules compared to an oracle based baseline, however, it reaches a lower overall accuracy. The codebase is available under