CLUSTERING LEARNING TASKS AND THE SELECTIVE CROSS-TASK TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE
by Sebastian Thrun and Joseph O'Sullivan
Recently, there has been an increased interest in machine learning methods that transfer knowledge across multiple learning tasks and "learn to learn." Such methods have repeatedly been found to outperform conventional, single-task learning algorithms when the learning tasks are appropriately related. To increase robustness of such approaches, methods are desirable that can reason about the relatedness of individual learning tasks, in order to avoid the danger arising from tasks that are unrelated and thus potentially misleading.
This paper describes the task-clustering (TC) algorithm. TC clusters learning tasks into classes of mutually related tasks. When facing a new learning task, TC first determines the most related task cluster, then exploits information selectively from this task cluster only. An empirical study carried out in a mobile robot domain shows that TC outperforms its non-selective counterpart in situations where only a small number of tasks is relevant.