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Bad Students Make Great Teachers: Active Learning Accelerates Large Scale Visual Understanding

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Power-law scaling indicates that large-scale training with uniform sampling is prohibitively slow. Active learning methods aim to increase data efficiency by prioritizing learning on the most relevant examples. Despite their appeal, these methods have yet to be widely adopted since no one algorithm has been shown to a) generalize across models and tasks b) scale to large datasets and c) yield overall FLOP savings when accounting for the overhead of data selection. In this work we propose a method which satisfies these three properties, leveraging small, cheap proxy models to estimate "learnability" scores for datapoints, which are used to prioritize data for the training of much larger models. As a result, our models require 46% and 51% fewer training updates and up to 25% less total computation to reach the same performance as uniformly trained visual classifiers on JFT and multimodal models on ALIGN. Finally, we find our data-prioritization scheme to be complementary with recent data-curation and learning objectives, yielding a new state-of-the-art in several multimodal transfer tasks.


Talfan Evans, Shreya Pathak, Ryutaro Tanno, Hamza Merzic, Olivier Henaff