Out-of-distribution forgetting: vulnerability of continual learning to intra-class distribution shift

by   Liangxuan Guo, et al.

Continual learning (CL) is an important technique to allow artificial neural networks to work in open environments. CL enables a system to learn new tasks without severe interference to its performance on old tasks, i.e., overcome the problems of catastrophic forgetting. In joint learning, it is well known that the out-of-distribution (OOD) problem caused by intentional attacks or environmental perturbations will severely impair the ability of networks to generalize. In this work, we reported a special form of catastrophic forgetting raised by the OOD problem in continual learning settings, and we named it out-of-distribution forgetting (OODF). In continual image classification tasks, we found that for a given category, introducing an intra-class distribution shift significantly impaired the recognition accuracy of CL methods for that category during subsequent learning. Interestingly, this phenomenon is special for CL as the same level of distribution shift had only negligible effects in the joint learning scenario. We verified that CL methods without dedicating subnetworks for individual tasks are all vulnerable to OODF. Moreover, OODF does not depend on any specific way of shifting the distribution, suggesting it is a risk for CL in a wide range of circumstances. Taken together, our work identified an under-attended risk during CL, highlighting the importance of developing approaches that can overcome OODF.


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