On Anytime Learning at Macroscale

Classical machine learning frameworks assume access to a possibly large dataset in order to train a predictive model. In many practical applications however, data does not arrive all at once, but in batches over time... This creates a natural trade-off between accuracy of a model and time to obtain such a model. A greedy predictor could produce non-trivial predictions by immediately training on batches as soon as these become available but, it may also make suboptimal use of future data. On the other hand, a tardy predictor could wait for a long time to aggregate several batches into a larger dataset, but ultimately deliver a much better performance. In this work, we consider such a streaming learning setting, which we dub anytime learning at macroscale} (ALMA). It is an instance of anytime learning applied not at the level of a single chunk of data, but at the level of the entire sequence of large batches. We first formalize this learning setting, we then introduce metrics to assess how well learners perform on the given task for a given memory and compute budget, and finally we test about thirty baseline approaches on three standard benchmarks repurposed for anytime learning at macroscale. Our findings indicate that no model strikes the best trade-off across the board. While replay-based methods attain the lowest error rate, they also incur in a 5 to 10 times increase of compute. Approaches that grow capacity over time do offer better scaling in terms of training flops, but they also underperform simpler ensembling methods in terms of error rate. Overall, ALMA offers both a good abstraction of the typical learning setting faced everyday by practitioners, and a set of unsolved modeling problems for those interested in efficient learning of dynamic models. read more

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