Joint Contrastive Learning with Infinite Possibilities

Joint Contrastive Learning with Infinite Possibilities


This paper explores useful modifications of the recent development in contrastive learning via novel probabilistic modeling. We derive a particular form of contrastive loss named Joint Contrastive Learning (JCL). JCL implicitly involves the simultaneous learning of an infinite number of query-key pairs, which poses tighter constraints when searching for invariant features. We derive an upper bound on this formulation that allows analytical solutions in an end-to-end training manner. While JCL is practically effective in numerous computer vision applications, we also theoretically unveil the certain mechanisms that govern the behavior of JCL. We demonstrate that the proposed formulation harbors an innate agency that strongly favors similarity within each instance-specific class, and therefore remains advantageous when searching for discriminative features among distinct instances. We evaluate these proposals on multiple benchmarks, demonstrating considerable improvements over existing algorithms. Code is publicly available at:

1 Introduction

In recent years, supervised learning has seen tremendous progress and made great success in numerous real-world applications. By heavily relying on human annotations, supervised learning allows for convenient end-to-end training of deep neural networks, and has made human-crafted features the least popular in the machine learning community. However, the underlying feature behind the data potentially has a much richer structure than what the sparse labels or rewards describe, while label acquisition is also time-consuming and economically expensive. In contrast, unsupervised learning uses no manually labeled annotations, and aims to characterize the underlying feature distribution completely depending on the data itself. This overcomes several disadvantages that the supervised learning encounters, including overfitting of the specific tasks-led features that cannot be readily transferred to other objectives. Unsupervised learning therefore is an important stepping stone towards more robust and generic representation learning.

Contrastive learning is at the core of several advances in unsupervised learning. The use of contrastive loss dates back to hadsell2006dimensionality (). In brief, the loss function in hadsell2006dimensionality () runs over pairs of samples, returning low values for similar pairs and high values for dissimilar pairs, which encourages invariant features on the low dimensional manifold. The seminal work Noise Contrastive Estimation (NCE) nce2010noise () then builds up the foundation of the contemporary contrastive learning, as NCE provides rigorous theoretical justification by posing the contrastive learning problem into the “two-class” problem. InfoNCE oord2018cpc () roots in the principles of NCE and links the contrastive formulation with mutual information.

However, most existing contrastive learning methods only consider independently penalizing the incompatibility of each single positive query-key pair at a time. This does not fully leverage the assumption that all augmentations corresponding to a specific image are statistically dependent on each other, and are simultaneously similar to the query. In order to take this advantage of shared similarity across augmentations, we derive a particular form of loss for contrastive learning named Joint Contrastive Learning (JCL). Our launching point is to introduce dependencies among different query-key pairs, so that similarity consistency is encouraged within each instance-specific class. Specifically, our contributions include:

  • We consider simultaneously penalizing multiple positive query-key pairs in regard of their “in-pair” dissimilarity. However, carrying multiple query-key pairs in a mini-batch is beyond the practical computational budget. To mitigate this issue, we push the limit and take the number of pairs to infinity. This novel formulation inherently absorbs the impact of large number of positive pairs via a principled probabilistic modeling. We could therefore approach an analytic form of loss that allows for end-to-end training of the deep network.

  • We also theoretically unveil plenty of interesting interpretations behind the loss. Empirical evidences are presented that strongly echo these hypotheses.

  • Empirical results show that JCL is advantageous when searching for discriminative features and JCL demonstrates considerable boosts over existing algorithms on various benchmarks.

2 Related Work

Self-Supervised Learning. Self-supervised learning is one of the mainstream techniques under the umbrella of unsupervised learning. Self-supervised learning, as its name implies, relies only on the data itself for some form of supervision. For example, one important direction of self-supervised learning focuses on tailoring algorithms for specific pretext tasks. These pretext tasks usually leave out a portion of information from the specific training data and attempt to predict the missing information from the remaining part of the training data itself. Successful representatives along this path include: relative patch prediction carlucci2019domain (); doersch2015unsupervised (); goyal2019scaling (); noroozi2016unsupervised (), rotation prediction gidaris2018unsupervised (), inpainting pathak2016context (), image colorization deshpande2015learning (); iizuka2016let (); larsson2016learning (); larsson2017colorization (); zhang2016colorful (); zhang2017split (), etc. More recently, numerous self-supervised learning approaches capitalizing on contrastive learning techniques start to emerge. These algorithms demonstrate strong advantages in learning invariant features: bachman2019learning (); chen2020simple (); he2019momentum (); henaff2019data (); hjelm2018learning (); laskin2020curl (); misra2019self (); oord2018cpc (); tian2019contrastive (); wu2018unsupervised (); yao2020seco (); ye2019unsupervised (); zhuang2019local (). The central spirit of these approaches aims to maximize the mutual information of latent representations among different views of the images. Different approaches consider different strategies for constructing distinct views. Take for instance, in CMC tian2019contrastive (), RGB images are converted to Lab color space and each channel represents a different view of the original image. In the meanwhile, different approaches also design different policies for effectively generating negative pairs, e.g., the techniques used in chen2020simple (); he2019momentum ().

Semantic Data Augmentation. Data augmentation has been extensively explored in the context of feature generalization and overfitting reduction for effective deep network training. Recent works antoniou2017data (); bousmalis2017unsupervised (); jaderberg2016reading (); ratner2017learning () show that semantic data augmentation is able to effectively preserve the class identity. Among these work, one observation is that variances in feature space along some certain directions essentially correspond to implementing semantic data augmentations in the ambient space bengio2013better (); maaten2013learning (). In upchurch2017deep (), interpolation in the embedding space is shown effective in achieving semantic data augmentation. wang2019implicit () estimates the category-wise distribution of deep features and the augmented features are drawn from the estimated distribution.

Comparison to Existing Works. The proposed JCL benefits from an infinite number of positive pairs constructed for each query. ISDA wang2019implicit () also involves the implicit usage of infinite number of augmentations shown to be advantageous. However, both our bounding technique and the motivation fundamentally differ from ISDA. JCL aims to develop an efficient self-supervised learning algorithm in the context of contrastive learning, where no category annotation is available. In contrast, ISDA is completely a supervised algorithm. There is also a concurrent work CMC tian2019contrastive () that involves optimization over multiple positive pairs. However, JCL is distinct from CMC in many aspects. In comparison, we derive a rigorous bound on the loss function that enables practical implementation of backpropagation for JCL, where the number of positive pairs is pushed to the infinity. In addition, our motivation closely follows a statistical perspective in a principled way, where positive pairs are statistically dependent. We also justify the legitimacy of our proposed formulation analytically by unveiling certain mechanisms that govern the behavior of JCL. All these ingredients are absent in CMC and significantly distinguish JCL from CMC.

3 Method

In this section, we explore and develop the theoretical derivation of our algorithm JCL. We also characterize how the loss function behaves in a way that favors feature generalization. The empirical evidence corroborates the relevant hypotheses stemming from our theoretical analyses.

3.1 Preliminaries

Contrastive learning and its recent variants aim to learn an embedding by separating samples from different distributions via a contrastive loss . Assuming we have query vectors , and key vectors , where is the dimension of the embedding space. The objective is a function that aims to reflect incompatibility of each pair. In this regard, the key vector set is constructed as a composition of positive and negative keys, i.e., , where the set comprises of positive keys coming from the same distribution as the specific , whereas represents the set of negative samples from an alternative noise distribution. A desirable usually returns low values when a query is similar to its positive key while it remains distinct to negative keys in the meanwhile.

The theoretical foundation of Noise Contrastive Learning (NCE), where negative samples are viewed as noises with regard to each query, is firstly established in nce2010noise (). In nce2010noise (), the learning problem becomes a “two-class” task, where the goal is to distinguish true samples out of the empirical distribution from the noise distribution. Inspired by nce2010noise (), a prevailing form of is presented in InfoNCE oord2018cpc () based on a softmax formulation:


where is the query in the dataset, is the positive key corresponding to , is the negative key of . The motivation behind Eq.(1) is straightforward: training a network with parameters that could correctly distinguish positive samples from the negative samples, i.e., from the noise set . is the temperature hyperparameter following chen2020simple (); he2019momentum ().

Orthogonal to the design of the formulation itself though, one of the remaining challenges is to construct and efficiently in an unsupervised way. Since no annotation is available in an unsupervised learning setting, one common practice is to generate independent augmented views from each single training sample, e.g., an image , and consider each random pairing of these augmentations as a valid positive pair in Eq.(1). In the meanwhile, augmented views of other samples are seen as the negative keys that form the noise distribution against the query . Under this construction, each image essentially defines an individual class, and each image’s distinct augmentations form the corresponding instance-specific distribution. Take for instance, SimCLR chen2020simple () uses distinct images in current mini-batch as negative keys. MoCo he2019momentum () proposes the use of a queue in order to track negative samples from neighboring mini-batches. During training, each mini-batch is subsequently enqueued into while the oldest batch of samples in are dequeued. In this way, all the currently queuing samples serve as negative keys and effectively decouples the correlation between mini-batch size and the number of negative keys. Correspondingly, MoCo exclusively enjoys an extremely large number of negative samples that best approaches the theoretical bound justified in nce2010noise (). This queuing trick also allows for feasible training on a typical 8-GPU machine and achieves state-of-the-art learning performances. We therefore adopt the MoCo’s approach of constructing negative keys in this paper, owing to its effectiveness and ease of implementation.

(a) MoCo he2019momentum ()
(b) Vanilla multiple keys
(c) JCL
Figure 1: Conceptual comparisons of three contrastive loss mechanisms. (a) In MoCo, a single positive key is paired with a query . (b) A vanilla extension which generates multiple keys and averages losses of all  pairs. (c) JCL implicitly pushes the number of to infinity and minimizes the upper bound of loss expectation.

3.2 Joint Contrastive Learning

Conventional formulation in Eq.(1) independently penalizes the incompatibility within each pair at a time. We instead derive a particular form of the contrastive loss where multiple positive keys are simultaneously involved with regard to . The goal of this modification is to force various positive keys to build up stronger dependencies via the bond with the same . The new objective poses a tighter constraint on instance-specific features, and tends to encourage the consistent representations within each instance-specific class during the search for invariant features.

In our framework, every query now needs to return a low loss value when simultaneously paired with multiple positive keys of its own, where subscript indicates the positive key paired with . Specifically, we define the loss of each pair (, ) as:


Our objective is to penalize the averaged sum of :


with regard to each specific query . This procedure is illustrated in Fig.(1(b)): a specific training sample is firstly augmented in the ambient space into respectively: the query image , and the positive key images . Each of the query image is subsequently mapped into embedding via the query encoder , while each positive key image is mapped into embedding via key encoder . Both functions and are implemented using deep neural networks, of which the network parameters are learned during training. For comparison, Fig.(1(a)) shows the schemes of MoCo where only a single positive key is involved.

A vanilla implementation of would have required the instance to be firstly augmented times ( for positive keys and 1 extra for the query itself), and then to backpropagate the loss Eq.(3) via all the branches in Fig.(1(b)). Unfortunately, this is not computational applicable, as carrying all pairs in a mini-batch would quickly drain the GPU memory when is even moderately small. In order to circumvent this issue, we take an infinity limit on the number , where the effect of is hopefully absorbed in a probabilistic way. Capitalizing on this application of infinity limit, the statistics of the data become sufficient to reach the same goal of multiple pairing. Mathematically, as goes to infinity, becomes the estimate of:


The analytic form of Eq.(4) itself is intractable, but Eq.(4) has a rigorous closed form of upper bound, which can be derived as:


where Eq.(7) upperbounds . The inequality Eq.(7) emerges from the application of Jensen inequality on concave functions, i.e., . This application of Jensen inequality does not interfere with the effectiveness of our algorithm and rather buys us desired optimization advantages. We analyze this part in detail in section 3.3.

To facilitate our formulation, we need some further assumptions on the generative process of in the feature space . Specifically, we assume the variable follows a Gaussian distribution , where and are respectively the mean and the covariance matrix of the positive keys for . This Gaussian assumption explicitly poses statistical dependencies among all the s, and makes the learning process appealing to consistency between positive keys. We argue that this assumption is legitimate as positive keys more or less share similarities in the embedding space around some mean value as they all mirror the nature of the query to some extent. Also there are certainly some reasonable variances expected in each feature dimension that reflects the semantic difference in the ambient space bengio2013better (); maaten2013learning (). In brief, we randomly augment each in the ambient space (e.g., pixel values for images) for times ( is relatively small) and compute the covariance matrix on the fly. Since the statistics are more informative in the later of the training/less informative in the beginning of the training, we scale the influence of by multiplying it with a scalar . This tuning of hopefully stabilizes the training. Under this Gaussian assumption, Eq.(7) eventually reduces to (see supplementary material for more detailed derivations):


The overall loss function with regard to each mini-batch ( is the batch size) therefore boils down to the closed form whose gradients can be analytically solved for:


Algorithm 1 summarizes the algorithmic flow of the JCL procedure. It is important to note that, the computational cost when using number of positive keys to compute the sufficient statistics, is fundamentally different from backpropagating losses of pairs (which vanilla formulation shown as in Fig.(1(b)) would have done) from the perspective of memory schedules and cost (see more detailed comparisons in supplementary material). For comparison, we illustrate the actual JCL computation in Fig.(1(c)).

1:Input: batch size , positive key number , queue , query encoder , key encoder ,
2:for sampled mini-batch  do
3:     for each sample  do
4:         randomly augment for times:
5:         compute query representation:
6:         compute key representations:
7:         compute average values of keys:
8:         compute zero centered keys: ,
9:         compute covariance matrix:
10:         compute loss based on Eq.(8)
11:     end for
12:     compute loss in Eq.(9) and update, based on
13:     enqueue and dequeue oldest keys in
14:end for
Algorithm 1 Joint Contrastive Learning

3.3 Analysis

We emphasize that the introduction of Jensen inequality in Eq.(7) actually unveils a number of interesting interpretations behind the loss. Firstly, by virtue of the Jensen inequality, the equality in Eq.(7) holds if and only if the variable is a constant, i.e., when all the positive keys of produce identical embedding . This translates into a desirable incentive: in order to close the gap between Eq.(6) and Eq.(7) so that the loss is decreased, the training process mostly favors invariant representation across different positive keys, i.e., very similar s given different augmentations.

Also, the loss reserves a strong incentive to push queries away from noisy negative samples, as the loss is monotonously decreasing as reduces. Most importantly, after some basic manipulation, it is easy to show that is also monotonously decreasing into the direction where increases, i.e., when and closely resembles each other.

We argue that conventional contrastive loss does not enjoy similar merits. Although as the training proceeds with more epochs, the might be randomly paired with a numerous distinct , the loss Eq.(1) simply goes downhill as long as each aligns independently with each positive key at a time. This likely confuses the learning procedure and sabotage the effectiveness in finding a unified direction for all positive keys.

4 Experiments

In this section, we empirically evaluate and analyze the hypotheses that directly emanated from the design of JCL. One important purpose of unsupervised learning is to pre-train features that can be transferred to downstream tasks. Correspondingly, we demonstrate that in numerous downstream tasks related to classification, detection and segmentation, JCL exhibits strong advantages and surpasses the state-of-the-art approaches. Specifically, we perform the pre-training on ImageNet1K deng2009imagenet () dataset that contains 1.2M images evenly distributed across 1,000 classes. Following the protocols in chen2020simple (); he2019momentum (), we verify the effectiveness of JCL pre-trained features via the following evaluations: 1) Linear classification accuracy on ImageNet1K. 2) Generalization capability of features when transferred to alternative downstream tasks, including object detection cai2020learning (); ren2015faster (), instance segmentation he2017mask () and keypoint detection he2017mask () on the MS COCO lin2014microsoft () dataset. 3) Ablation studies that reveal the effectiveness of each component in our losses. 4) Statistical analysis on features that validates our hypothesis and proposals in the previous sections. For more detailed experimental settings, please refer to the supplementary material.

4.1 Pre-Training Setups

We adopt ResNet-50 he2016deep () as the backbone network for training JCL on the ImageNet1K dataset. For the hyper-parameters, we use positive key number , softmax temperature and in Eq.(8) (see definitions in section 3.2). We also investigate the impact of these hyper-parameters tuning in section 4.4. Other network and parameter settings strictly follow the implementations in MoCo v2 chen2020improved () for fair apple to apple comparisons. We attach a two-layer MLP (Multiple Layer Perceptrons) on top of the global pooling layer of ResNet-50 for generating the final embeddings. The dimension of this embedding is across all experiments. The batch size is set to that enables applicable implementations on an 8-GPU machine. We train JCL for 200 epochs with an initial learning rate of and is gradually annealed following a cosine decay schedule loshchilov2016sgdr ().

4.2 Linear Classification on ImageNet1K

Setup. In this section, we follow chen2020simple (); he2019momentum () and train a linear classifier on frozen features extracted from ImageNet1K. Specifically, we initialize the layers before the global poolings of ResNet-50 with the parameter values obtained from our JCL pre-trained model, and then append a fully connected layer on top of the resultant ResNet-50 backbone. During training, the parameters of the backbone network are frozen, while only the last fully connected layer is updated via backpropagation. The batch size is set as and the learning rate at this stage. In this way, we essentially train a linear classifier on frozen features. The classifier is trained for 100 epochs, while the learning rate is decayed by 0.1 at the and the epoch respectively.

Results. Table 1 reports the top-1 accuracy and top-5 accuracy in comparison with the state-of-the-art methods. Existing works differ considerably in model size and the training epochs, which could significantly influence the performance (up to 8% in he2019momentum ()). We therefore only consider comparisons to the published models of similar model size and training epochs. As Table 1 shows, JCL performs the best among all the presented approaches. Particularly, JCL outperforms all non-contrastive learning based counterparts by a large margin, which demonstrates evident advantages brought by the idea of contrastive learning itself. The introduction of positive and negative pairs more effectively recovers each instance-specific distributions. Most notably, JCL remains competitive and surpasses all its contrastive learning based rivals, e.g., MoCo and MoCo v2. This superiority of JCL over its MoCo baselines clearly verifies the advantage of our proposal Eq.(8) via the joint learning process across numerous positive pairs.

Method architecture params (M) accuracy@top1 accuracy@top5
RelativePosition doersch2015unsupervised () ResNet-50(2x) 94 51.4 74.0
Jigsaw noroozi2016unsupervised () ResNet-50(2x) 94 44.6 68.0
Rotation gidaris2018unsupervised () RevNet(4x) 86 55.4 77.9
Colorization zhang2016colorful () ResNet-101 28 39.6 /
DeepCluster caron2018deep () VGG 15 48.4 /
BigBiGAN donahue2019large () RevNet(4x) 86 61.3 81.9
methods based on contrastive learning follow:
InstDisc wu2018unsupervised () ResNet-50 24 54.0 /
LocalAgg zhuang2019local () ResNet-50 24 60.2 /
CPC v1 oord2018cpc () ResNet-101 28 48.7 73.6
CPC v2 henaff2019data () ResNet-50 24 63.8 85.3
CMC tian2019contrastive () ResNet-50 47 64.0 85.5
SimCLR chen2020simple () ResNet-50 24 66.6 /
MoCo he2019momentum () ResNet-50 24 60.6 (60.6) 83.1
MoCo v2 chen2020improved () ResNet-50 24 67.5 (67.6) 88.0
JCL ResNet-50 24 68.7 89.0
Table 1: Accuracy of linear classification model on ImageNet1K. represents results from kolesnikov2019revisiting (), which reports better performances than the original papers. means accuracies of models trained 200 epochs for fair comparisons. denotes results of our re-implemented linear classifier based on pre-trained model from for extracting features.
Faster R-CNN + R-50 Mask R-CNN + R-50 Keypoint R-CNN + R-50
random 30.1 48.6 31.9 28.5 46.8 30.4 63.5 85.3 69.3
supervised 38.2 59.1 41.5 35.4 56.5 38.1 65.4 87.0 71.0
MoCo he2019momentum () 37.1 57.4 40.2 35.1 55.9 37.7 65.6 87.1 71.3
MoCo v2 chen2020improved () 37.6 57.9 40.8 35.3 55.9 37.9 66.0 87.2 71.4
JCL 38.1 58.3 41.3 35.6 56.2 38.3 66.2 87.2 72.3
Table 2: Performance comparisons on downstream tasks: object detection ren2015faster ()(left), instance segmentation he2017mask ()(middle) and keypoint detection he2017mask ()(right). All models are trained with 1 schedule.

4.3 More Downstream Tasks

In this section, we evaluate JCL on a variety of more downstream tasks, i.e., object detection, instance segmentation and keypoint detection. The comparisons presented here cover a wide range of computer vision tasks from box-level to pixel-level, as we aim to challenge JCL from all dimensions.

Setup. For object detection, we adopt Faster R-CNN ren2015faster () with FPN lin2017feature () as the base detector. Following he2019momentum (), we leave the BN trained and add batch normalization on FPN layers. The size of the shorter side of each image is sampled from the range [640, 800] during training and is fixed as 800 at inference time, while the longer side of the image always keeps proportional to the shorter side. The training is performed on a 4-GPU machine and each GPU carries 4 images at a time. This implementation is equivalent to batch size . We train all models for 90k iterations, which is commonly referred to as the 1 schedule in he2019momentum (). For the instance segmentation and keypoint detection tasks, we adopt the same settings as Faster R-CNN ren2015faster () has used. We report the standard COCO metrics including AP (averaged over [0.5:0.95:0.05] s), AP(=0.5) and AP(=0.75).

Results. Table 2 shows the results for three downstream tasks on MS COCO. From observation, both supervised pre-trained models (supervised) and unsupervised pre-trained backbones (MoCo, MoCo v2, JCL) exhibit a significant performance boost against the randomly initialized models (random). Our proposed JCL demonstrates clear superiority over the best competitor MoCo v2. When taking a closer inspection, JCL becomes particularly advantageous when a higher threshold criterion is used for object detection. This might attribute to a more precise sampling of positive pairs, under which JCL is able to promote a more accurate positive pairing and joint training. Notably, JCL even successfully surpasses its supervised counterparts in terms of AP, whereas MoCo v2 remains inferior to the supervised pre-training approaches.

In brief, JCL has presented robust performance gain over existing methods across numerous important benchmark tasks. In the following section, we further investigate the impact of hyperparameters and provide validations that closely corroborate our hypothesis pertaining to the design of JCL.

4.4 Ablation Studies

In this section, we perform extensive ablation experiments to inspect the role of each component present in the JCL loss. Specifically, we test JCL on linear classification in ImageNet100 deployed on ResNet-18. For detailed experiment settings, please see supplementary material.

1) : We vary the number of positive keys used for the estimate of and . By definition, larger necessarily corresponds to a better approximation of the required statistics, although at the expense of computational complexity. From Fig.(2(a)), we observe that JCL performs reasonably well when is in the range of [5,11], which allows for applicable GPU implementation. 2) : essentially controls the strength of augmentation diversity in the feature space. Larger tends to inject more diverse features into the effect of positive pairing, but risks confusions with other instance distributions. Here, we vary in the range of [0.0, 10.0]. Notice that in the case when is marginally small, the effect of scaled covariance matrix is diminished and therefore fails to introduce the feature variance among distinct positive samples of the same query. However, an extremely large overstates the effect of diversity that rather confuses the positive sample distribution with the negative samples. As the introduced variance starts to dominate the positive mean value, i.e., when the is large enough to distort the magnitude scale of positive keys, the impact of negative keys in Eq.(8) is diluted. Consequently, the distribution of the and would also significantly be distorted. When grows to infinity, the effect of negative keys completely vanishes owing to the overwhelming and the associated positive keys, and JCL has no motivation to distinguish between positive and negative keys. From Fig.(2(b)), we can see that the performance is relatively stable in a wide range of [0.2,4.0]. 3) : The temperature hinton2015distilling () affects the flatness of softmax function and the confidence of each positive pair. From Fig.(2(c)), the optimal turns out to be around . As increases beyond 0.2, the classification accuracy starts to drop, owing to an increasing uncertainty and reduced confidence of the positive pairs. When the value becomes too small, the algorithm tends to overweight the influence of each positive pair and degrade the pre-training.

(a) Number of positive keys.
(b) Strength of augmentation.
(c) Temperature for softmax.
Figure 2: Performance comparisons with different hyperparameters.
(a) Similarity distribution (b) Variance distribution
Figure 3: Distribution of positive pair similarities and feature variances.

4.5 Feature Distribution

In section 3.3, we hypothesis that JCL favors consistent features across distinct owing to the application of Jensen inequality, and therefore would force the network to find invariant representation across different positive keys. These invariant features are the core mechanism that makes JCL a good pre-training candidate for obtaining good generalization capabilities. To validate this hypothesis, we qualitatively measure and visualize the similarities of positive samples within each positive pair. To be more concrete, we randomly sample 32,768 images from ImageNet100, and generate 32 different augmentations for each image (see supplementary material for more detailed settings). We feed these images respectively into the JCL pre-trained and MoCo v2 pre-trained ResNet-18 network and then directly extract the features out of each ResNet-18 network. Firstly, we use these features for calculating the cosine similarities of each pair of features (every pair of 2 out of 32 augmentations) belonging to the same identity image. In other words, 32 32 cosine similarities for each image are averaged into a single sample point (therefore, 32,768 points in total). Fig.(3(a)) illustrates the histogram of these cosine similarities. It is clear that JCL achieves much more samples with higher similarity scores than that of the MoCo v2. This implies that JCL indeed tends to favor a more consistent feature invariance within each instance-specific distribution. We also extract the diagonal entries from and display the histogram in Fig.(3(b)). Accordingly, the variance of the obtained features belonging to the same image is much smaller, as shown in Fig.(3(b)). This also aligns with our hypothesis that JCL favors consistent representations across different positive keys.

5 Conclusions

We propose a particular form of contrastive loss named joint contrastive learning (JCL). JCL implicitly involves the joint learning of an infinite number of query-key pairs for each instance. By applying rigorous bounding techniques on the proposed formulation, we transfer the originally intractable loss function into practical implementations. We empirically demonstrate the correctness of our bounding technique along with the superiority of JCL on various benchmarks. These empirical evidences also qualitatively support our theoretical hypothesis behind the central mechanism of JCL. Most notably, although JCL is an unsupervised algorithm, the JCL pre-trained networks even outperform its supervised counterparts in many scenarios.

6 Broader Impact

Supervised learning has seen tremendous success in the AI community. By heavily relying on human annotations, supervised learning allows for convenient end-to-end training of deep neural networks. However, label acquisition is usually time-consuming and economically expensive. Particularly, when the algorithm needs to pre-train on massive datasets such as ImageNet, obtaining the labels for millions of data becomes an extremely tedious and expensive prerequisite that hinders one from trying out interesting ideas. This significantly limits and discourages the motivations for relatively small research communities without adequate financial supports. Another concern is the accuracy of the annotations, as labeling millions of data might very likely induce noisy and wrong labels owing to mistakes. What we have proposed in this paper is an unsupervised algorithm called JCL that solely depends on data itself without human annotations. JCL offers an alternative way to more efficiently exploit the pre-training dataset in an unsupervised way. One can even build up his/her own pre-training dataset by crawling data randomly from internet without any labeling efforts. However, one potential risk lies in the fact that if the usage of unsupervised visual representation learning aims at visual understanding systems (e.g., image classification and object detection), these systems may now be easily approached by those with lower levels of domain knowledge or machine learning expertise. This could expose the visual understanding model to some inappropriate usage and occasions without proper regulation or expertise.


The supplementary material contains: 1) the theoretical derivation of Eq.(M.8); 2) the computational complexity analysis of JCL; 3) the implementation details of pre-training on ImageNet1K ( as in Section (M.4.1)); 4) the experimental settings of the ablation studies (as in Section (M.4.4)); 5) the details for visualizing similarities and variances distributions (as in Fig.(M.3)).

Note: We use notation Eq.(M.xx) to refer to the equation Eq.(xx) presented in the main paper, and use Eq.(S.xx) to indicate the equation Eq.(xx) in this supplementary material. Similarly, we use Fig./Section/Table (M.xx) and Fig./Section/Table (S.xx) to respectively indicate a certain figure/section/table in the main paper (M.xx) or supplementary material (S.xx).

Appendix A Theoretical Derivation of Eq.(M.8)

Firstly, for any random variable that follows Gaussian distribution , where is the expectation of , is the variance of , we have the moment generation function that satisfies:


Under the Gaussian assumption , along with Eq.(S.9), we find that Eq.(M.7) immediately reduces to:


Since the statistics are more/less informative in the later/beginning of the training, we scale the influence of by multiplying it with a scalar . Such tuning of hopefully stabilizes the training, leading to a modified version of Eq.(S.10):


This resembles our derivation of Eq.(M.8) in the main paper.

Appendix B Computational complexity

Regarding the GPU memory cost, the vanilla formulation explicitly involves a batchsize that is times larger than the conventional contrastive learning. In contrast, the batchsize for JCL remains the same as the conventional contrastive learning. Although positive keys are required to compute the sufficient statistics for JCL, the batchsize and the incurred multiplications (between query and key) are reduced. Particularly, JCL utilizes multiple keys merely to reflect the statistics, which helps JCL more efficiently exploit these samples. Therefore, JCL is more memory efficient than vanilla when they achieve the same performance, and JCL always offers better performance when the both cost similar memories.

Appendix C Implementation Details of Pre-Training on ImageNet1K

For all the experiments, we generate augmentations in the same way as in MoCo v2 [9] for pre-training. First, a 224224 patch is randomly cropped from the resized images. Then color jittering, random grayscale, Gaussian blur, and random horizontal flip are sequentially applied to each patch. We implement ShuffleBN in [18] by concatenating positive keys in the batch dimension and shuffling the data before feeding them into the network. In regard of negative samples presented in Eq.(M.8), we update the queue following the design in [18]. In detail, we enqueue the average values of keys during training and dequeue the oldest (256 number of) keys in . The momentum value [18] for updating the key encoder is 0.999 and the queue size is 65,536. For pre-training, we use SGD with 0.9 momentum and 0.0001 weight decay. The pre-trained weights of query encoder are extracted as network initialization for downstream tasks.

Appendix D Experimental Settings of Ablation Studies

The ablation experiments are conducted on a subset of ImageNet1K (i.e., ImageNet100) following [40]. Specifically, 100 classes are randomly sampled from the primary ImageNet1K dataset, which are utilized for both pre-training and linear classification. The exact classes include:

n02869837, n01749939, n02488291, n02107142, n13037406, n02091831, n04517823, n04589890, n03062245, n01773797, n01735189, n07831146, n07753275, n03085013, n04485082, n02105505, n01983481, n02788148, n03530642, n04435653, n02086910, n02859443, n13040303, n03594734, n02085620, n02099849, n01558993, n04493381, n02109047, n04111531, n02877765, n04429376, n02009229, n01978455, n02106550, n01820546, n01692333, n07714571, n02974003, n02114855, n03785016, n03764736, n03775546, n02087046, n07836838, n04099969, n04592741, n03891251, n02701002, n03379051, n02259212, n07715103, n03947888, n04026417, n02326432, n03637318, n01980166, n02113799, n02086240, n03903868, n02483362, n04127249, n02089973, n03017168, n02093428, n02804414, n02396427, n04418357, n02172182, n01729322, n02113978, n03787032, n02089867, n02119022, n03777754, n04238763, n02231487, n03032252, n02138441, n02104029, n03837869, n03494278, n04136333, n03794056, n03492542, n02018207, n04067472, n03930630, n03584829, n02123045, n04229816, n02100583, n03642806, n04336792, n03259280, n02116738, n02108089, n03424325, n01855672, n02090622

For ablation studies, we adopt ResNet-18 as the backbone and all models are trained for 100 epochs with a batch size of at the pre-training stage. The learning rate is set to and is gradually annealed following a cosine decay schedule [32]. For linear classification, all models are trained for 100 epochs with a learning rate of . The learning rate is decreased by 0.1 at 60 and 80 epochs, and the batch size is . Table 3 shows the detailed settings of hyper-parameters for three ablation experiments of the main paper.

Ablation Studies Number of positive keys Strength of augmentation Temperature for softmax
Fig.(M.2(a)) / 4.0 0.2
Fig.(M.2(b)) 5 / 0.2
Fig.(M.2(c)) 5 4.0 /
Table 3: Hyper-parameters for ablation studies in Section (M.4.4) of the main paper. “ / ” indicates non-applicable, since the corresponding hyper-parameter is varied for ablation study.

Appendix E Details for Visualizing Similarities and Variances Distributions

For the experiments that visualize the distributions of similarities and variances in Section (M.4.5), we respectively extract features from pre-trained ResNet-18 models of JCL and MoCo v2. At the pre-training stage, the hyper-parameters are set as = 0.2, = 9 and = 4.0 for JCL. For MoCo v2, we use the released code from to train a ResNet-18 model. Both JCL and MoCo v2 are trained on the ImageNet100 dataset for 100 epochs. Other hyper-parameters are exactly the same as the settings used in ablation studies. In total, we sample 32,768 images for depicting the histograms in Fig.(M.3). For each image, we randomly generate 32 augmented images and feed these images into the pre-trained network to extract features. The feature vectors are normalized before computing similarities and variances. For the similarity visualization in Fig.(M.3(a)), cosine similarities of all pairs (32 32 in total) are averaged into a single sample point used for drawing the histogram (hence 32,768 points in Fig.(M.3(a))). Similarly, for visualizing feature variances Fig.(M.3(b)), we use the normalized features to compute the covariance matrix of augmented images belonging to the same source image, and we average the diagonal values of covariance matrix for each source image into a single sample point to draw the histogram (hence 32,768 points in Fig.(M.3(b))). Note that only using diagonal values of the covariance matrix respects our primary purpose of computing the feature correlations between feature vectors.


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