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A Pitfall of Unsupervised Pre-Training

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Author Alberti Michele, Seuret Mathias, Ingold Rolf, Liwicki Marcus,
Project HisDoc III : Large-Scale Historical Document Classification
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings arXiv:1703.04332 [cs]

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


The point of this paper is to question typical assumptions in deep learning and suggest alternatives. A particular contribution is to prove that even if a Stacked Convolutional Auto-Encoder is good at reconstructing pictures, it is not necessarily good at discriminating their classes. When using Auto-Encoders, intuitively one assumes that features which are good for reconstruction will also lead to high classification accuracy. Indeed, it became research practice and is a suggested strategy by introductory books. However, we prove that this is not always the case. We thoroughly investigate the quality of features produced by Stacked Convolutional Auto-Encoders when trained to reconstruct their input. In particular, we analyze the relation between the reconstruction and classification capabilities of the network, if we were to use the same features for both tasks. Experimental results suggest that in fact, there is no correlation between the reconstruction score and the quality of features for a classification task. This means, more formally, that the sub-dimension representation space learned from the Stacked Convolutional Auto-Encoder (while being trained for input reconstruction) is not necessarily better separable than the initial input space. Furthermore, we show that the reconstruction error is not a good metric to assess the quality of features, because it is biased by the decoder quality. We do not question the usefulness of pre-training, but we conclude that aiming for the lowest reconstruction error is not necessarily a good idea if afterwards one performs a classification task.