The Natural Language Decathlon: Multitask Learning as Question Answering

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Bryan McCann is a research scientist at Salesforce. He earned his undergraduate and masters degrees from Stanford University.

In August 2018, Bryan McCann of Salesforce made the trip from Palo Alto, Calif. to Atlanta, Ga. as a part of the Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech’s Seminar Series.

Students and faculty packed the room to hear McCann present his talk, “The Natural Language Decathlon: Multitask Learning as Question Answering”.

Abstract

Deep learning has improved performance for many natural language processing (NLP) tasks individually. However, general NLP models cannot emerge within a paradigm that focuses on the particularities of a single metric, dataset, and task. We introduce the Natural Language Decathlon (decaNLP), a challenge that spans ten tasks: question answering, machine translation, summarization, natural language inference, sentiment analysis, semantic role labeling, zero-shot relation extraction, goal-oriented dialogue, semantic parsing, and commonsense pronoun resolution. We cast all tasks as question answering over a context. Furthermore, we present a new Multitask Question Answering Network (MQAN) jointly learns all tasks in decaNLP without any task-specific modules or parameters in the multitask setting. MQAN shows improvements in transfer learning for machine translation and named entity recognition, domain adaptation for sentiment analysis and natural language inference, and zero-shot capabilities for text classification. We demonstrate that the MQAN’s multi-pointer-generator decoder is key to this success and performance further improves with an anti-curriculum training strategy. Though designed for decaNLP, MQAN also achieves state of the art results on the WikiSQL semantic parsing task in the single-task setting. We release code for procuring and processing data, training and evaluating models, and reproducing all experiments for decaNLP.

To see a recording of McCann’s talk, please click here.

To see a list of ML@GT’s fall seminars, please visit our website.

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