Google Research

Robust Active Distillation

ICLR (2023)


Distilling knowledge from a large teacher model to a lightweight one is a widely successful approach for generating compact, powerful models in the semi-supervised learning setting where a limited amount of labeled data is available. In large-scale applications, however, the teacher tends to provide a large number of incorrect soft-labels that impairs student performance. The sheer size of the teacher additionally constrains the number of soft-labels that can be queried due to prohibitive computational and/or financial costs. The difficulty in achieving simultaneous efficiency (i.e., minimizing soft-label queries) and robustness (i.e., training with correct soft-labels) hurts the widespread application of knowledge distillation to many modern tasks. In this paper, we present a parameter-free approach with provable guarantees to query the soft-labels of points that are simultaneously informative and correctly labeled by the teacher. At the core of our work lies a game-theoretic formulation that explicitly considers the inherent trade-off between the informativeness and correctness of input instances. We establish bounds on the expected performance of our approach that hold even in worst-case distillation instances. We present empirical evaluations on popular benchmarks that demonstrate the improved distillation performance enabled by our work relative to that of state-of-the-art active learning and active distillation methods.

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