First-order ANIL learns linear representations despite misspecified latent dimension


Due to its empirical success in few-shot classification and reinforcement learning, meta-learning has recently received significant interest. Meta-learning methods leverage data from previous tasks to learn a new task in a sample-efficient manner. In particular, model-agnostic methods look for initialisation points from which gradient descent quickly adapts to any new task. Although it has been empirically suggested that such methods perform well by learning shared representations during pretraining, there is limited theoretical evidence of such behavior. More importantly, it has not been rigorously shown that these methods still learn a shared structure, despite architectural misspecifications. In this direction, this work shows, in the limit of an infinite number of tasks, that first-order ANIL with a linear two-layer network architecture successfully learns linear shared representations. This result even holds with a misspecified network parameterisation; having a width larger than the dimension of the shared representations results in an asymptotically low-rank solution. The learnt solution then yields a good adaptation performance on any new task after a single gradient step. Overall this illustrates how well model-agnostic methods such as first-order ANIL can learn shared representations.