Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
Franz Scherr, Qinghai Guo, Timoleon Moraitis
Self-supervised learning (SSL) methods aim to exploit the abundance of unlabelled data for machine learning (ML), however the underlying principles are often method-specific. An SSL framework derived from biological first principles of embodied learning could unify the various SSL methods, help elucidate learning in the brain, and possibly improve ML. SSL commonly transforms each training datapoint into a pair of views, uses the knowledge of this pairing as a positive (i.e. non-contrastive) self-supervisory sign, and potentially opposes it to unrelated, (i.e. contrastive) negative examples. Here, we show that this type of self-supervision is an incomplete implementation of a concept from neuroscience, the Efference Copy (EC). Specifically, the brain also transforms the environment through efference, i.e. motor commands, however it sends to itself an EC of the full commands, i.e. more than a mere SSL sign. In addition, its action representations are likely egocentric. From such a principled foundation we formally recover and extend SSL methods such as SimCLR, BYOL, and ReLIC under a common theoretical framework, i.e. Self-supervision Through Efference Copies (S-TEC). Empirically, S-TEC restructures meaningfully the within- and between-class representations. This manifests as improvement in recent strong SSL baselines in image classification, segmentation, object detection, and in audio. These results hypothesize a testable positive influence from the brain's motor outputs onto its sensory representations.