Continual Learning with Evolving Class OntologiesDownload PDF

Published: 31 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022NeurIPS 2022 AcceptReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Lifelong Learning, Visual Recognition, Continual Learning, Semi-Supervised Learning
Abstract: Lifelong learners must recognize concept vocabularies that evolve over time. A common yet underexplored scenario is learning with class labels that continually refine/expand old classes. For example, humans learn to recognize ${\tt dog}$ before dog breeds. In practical settings, dataset ${\it versioning}$ often introduces refinement to ontologies, such as autonomous vehicle benchmarks that refine a previous ${\tt vehicle}$ class into ${\tt school-bus}$ as autonomous operations expand to new cities. This paper formalizes a protocol for studying the problem of ${\it Learning with Evolving Class Ontology}$ (LECO). LECO requires learning classifiers in distinct time periods (TPs); each TP introduces a new ontology of "fine" labels that refines old ontologies of "coarse" labels (e.g., dog breeds that refine the previous ${\tt dog}$). LECO explores such questions as whether to annotate new data or relabel the old, how to exploit coarse labels, and whether to finetune the previous TP's model or train from scratch. To answer these questions, we leverage insights from related problems such as class-incremental learning. We validate them under the LECO protocol through the lens of image classification (on CIFAR and iNaturalist) and semantic segmentation (on Mapillary). Extensive experiments lead to some surprising conclusions; while the current status quo in the field is to relabel existing datasets with new class ontologies (such as COCO-to-LVIS or Mapillary1.2-to-2.0), LECO demonstrates that a far better strategy is to annotate ${\it new}$ data with the new ontology. However, this produces an aggregate dataset with inconsistent old-vs-new labels, complicating learning. To address this challenge, we adopt methods from semi-supervised and partial-label learning. We demonstrate that such strategies can surprisingly be made near-optimal, in the sense of approaching an "oracle" that learns on the aggregate dataset exhaustively labeled with the newest ontology.
TL;DR: We formalize a protocol for exploring the problem of Learning with Evolving Class Ontology (LECO), develop approaches to LECO, extensively benchmark them and draw surprising and insightful conclusions.
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