Recon: Reducing Conflicting Gradients From the Root For Multi-Task LearningDownload PDF

Published: 01 Feb 2023, Last Modified: 12 Mar 2024ICLR 2023 posterReaders: Everyone
Keywords: Multi-task Learning, Conflicting Gradients
Abstract: A fundamental challenge for multi-task learning is that different tasks may conflict with each other when they are solved jointly, and a cause of this phenomenon is conflicting gradients during optimization. Recent works attempt to mitigate the influence of conflicting gradients by directly altering the gradients based on some criteria. However, our empirical study shows that ``gradient surgery'' cannot effectively reduce the occurrence of conflicting gradients. In this paper, we take a different approach to reduce conflicting gradients from the root. In essence, we investigate the task gradients w.r.t. each shared network layer, select the layers with high conflict scores, and turn them to task-specific layers. Our experiments show that such a simple approach can greatly reduce the occurrence of conflicting gradients in the remaining shared layers and achieve better performance, with only a slight increase in model parameters in many cases. Our approach can be easily applied to improve various state-of-the-art methods including gradient manipulation methods and branched architecture search methods. Given a network architecture (e.g., ResNet18), it only needs to search for the conflict layers once, and the network can be modified to be used with different methods on the same or even different datasets to gain performance improvement. The source code is available at
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TL;DR: We propose a very simple yet effective approach to reduce the occurrence of conflicting gradients for multi-task learning.
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