Lifelong Language Pretraining with Distribution-Specialized Experts


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Pretraining on a large-scale corpus has become a standard method to build general language models (LMs). Adapting a model to new data distributions targeting different downstream tasks poses significant challenges. Naive fine-tuning may incur catastrophic forgetting when the over-parameterized LMs overfit the new data but fail to preserve the pretrained features. Lifelong learning (LLL) aims to enable information systems to learn from a continuous data stream across time. However, most prior work modifies the training recipe assuming a static fixed network architecture. We find that additional model capacity and proper regularization are key elements to achieving strong LLL performance. Thus, we propose Lifelong-MoE, an extensible MoE (Mixture-of-Experts) architecture that dynamically adds model capacity via adding experts with regularized pretraining. Our results show that by only introducing a limited number of extra experts while keeping the computation cost constant, our model can steadily adapt to data distribution shifts while preserving the previous knowledge. Compared to existing lifelong learning approaches, Lifelong-MoE achieves better few-shot performance on 19 downstream NLP tasks.
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