Transfer Meta-Learning: Information-Theoretic Bounds and Information Meta-Risk Minimization
Journal article, 2021

Meta-learning automatically infers an inductive bias by observing data from a number of related tasks. The inductive bias is encoded by hyperparameters that determine aspects of the model class or training algorithm, such as initialization or learning rate. Meta-learning assumes that the learning tasks belong to a task environment, and that tasks are drawn from the same task environment both during meta-training and meta-testing. This, however, may not hold true in practice. In this paper, we introduce the problem of transfer meta-learning, in which tasks are drawn from a target task environment during meta-testing that may differ from the source task environment observed during meta-training. Novel information-theoretic upper bounds are obtained on the transfer meta-generalization gap, which measures the difference between the meta-training loss, available at the meta-learner, and the average loss on meta-test data from a new, randomly selected, task in the target task environment. The first bound, on the average transfer meta-generalization gap, captures the meta-environment shift between source and target task environments via the KL divergence between source and target data distributions. The second, PAC-Bayesian bound, and the third, single-draw bound, account for this shift via the log-likelihood ratio between source and target task distributions. Furthermore, two transfer meta-learning solutions are introduced. For the first, termed Empirical Meta-Risk Minimization (EMRM), we derive bounds on the average optimality gap. The second, referred to as Information Meta-Risk Minimization (IMRM), is obtained by minimizing the PAC-Bayesian bound. IMRM is shown via experiments to potentially outperform EMRM.

Risk management

Task analysis

information risk minimization

information-theoretic generalization bounds

single-draw bounds

PAC-Bayesian bounds

Transfer learning



Transfer meta-learning

Upper bound

Loss measurement


Sharu Theresa Jose

King's College London

Osvaldo Simeone

King's College London

Giuseppe Durisi

Chalmers, Electrical Engineering, Communication, Antennas and Optical Networks, Communication Systems

IEEE Transactions on Information Theory

0018-9448 (ISSN)

Vol. 68 1 474-501

Subject Categories

Other Computer and Information Science

Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology



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