Abstract: Current dense text retrieval models face two typical challenges. First, it adopts a siamese dual-encoder architecture to encode query and document independently for fast indexing and searching, whereas neglecting the finer-grained term-wise interactions. This results in a sub-optimal recall performance. Second, it highly relies on a negative sampling technique to build up the negative documents in its contrastive loss. To address these challenges, we present Adversarial Retriever-Ranker (AR2), which consists of a dual-encoder retriever plus a cross-encoder ranker. The two models are jointly optimized according to a minimax adversarial objective: the retriever learns to retrieve negative documents to cheat the ranker, while the ranker learns to rank a collection of candidates including both the ground-truth and the retrieved ones, as well as providing progressive direct feedback to the dual-encoder retriever. Through this adversarial game, the retriever gradually produces harder negative documents to train a better ranker, whereas the cross-encoder ranker provides progressive feedback to improve retriever. We evaluate AR2 on three benchmarks. Experimental results show that AR2 consistently and significantly outperforms existing dense retriever methods and achieves new state-of-the-art results on all of them. This includes the improvements on Natural Questions R@5 to 77.9%(+2.1%), TriviaQA R@5 to 78.2%(+1.4), and MS-MARCO MRR@10 to 39.5%(+1.3%). We will make our code, models, and data publicly available.
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