When trained effectively, the Variational Autoencoder (VAE) can be both a powerful generative model and an effective representation learning framework for natural language. In this paper, we propose the first large-scale language VAE model Optimus (Organizing sentences via Pre-Trained Modeling of a Universal Space). A universal latent embedding space for sentences is first pre-trained on large text corpus, and then fine-tuned for various language generation and understanding tasks. Compared with GPT-2, Optimus enables guided language generation from an abstract level using the latent vectors. Compared with BERT, Optimus can generalize better on low-resource language understanding tasks due to the smooth latent space structure. Extensive experimental results on a wide range of language tasks demonstrate the effectiveness of Optimus. It achieves new state-of-the-art on VAE language modeling benchmarks.
In cross-lingual transfer, NLP models over one or more source languages are applied to a low-resource target language. While most prior work has used a single source model or a few carefully selected models, here we consider a “massive” setting with many such models. This setting raises the problem of poor transfer, particularly from distant languages. We propose two techniques for modulating the transfer, suitable for zero-shot or few-shot learning, respectively. Evaluating on named entity recognition, we show that our techniques are much more effective than strong baselines, including standard ensembling, and our unsupervised method rivals oracle selection of the single best individual model.
Active learning aims to select a small subset of data for annotation such that a classifier learned on the data is highly accurate. This is usually done using heuristic selection methods, however the effectiveness of such methods is limited and moreover, the performance of heuristics varies between datasets. To address these shortcomings, we introduce a novel formulation by reframing the active learning as a reinforcement learning problem and explicitly learning a data selection policy, where the policy takes the role of the active learning heuristic. Importantly, our method allows the selection policy learned using simulation to one language to be transferred to other languages. We demonstrate our method using cross-lingual named entity recognition, observing uniform improvements over traditional active learning algorithms.