Sebastian Ruder recently wrote an article on The Gradient and asserted that the oracle of natural language processing is emerging. While I am not sure such confident statement is overstated, I do look forward to the moment that we will download pre-trained embedded language models and transfer to our use cases, just like we are using pre-trained word-embedding models such as Word2Vec and FastText.
I do not think one can really draw a parallelism between computer vision and natural language processing. Computer vision is challenging, but natural language processing is even more difficult because the tasks regarding linguistics are not limited to object or meaning recognition, but also human psychology, cultures, and linguistic diversities. The objectives are far from being identical.
However, the transferrable use of embedded language models is definitely a big step forward. Ruder quoted three articles, which I would summarize below in a few words.
- Embeddings from Language Models (ELMo, arXiv:1802.05365): based on the successful bidirectional LSTM language models, the authors developed a deep contextualized embedded models by collapses all layers in the neural network architecture.
- Universal Language Model Fine-Tuning for Text Classification (ULMFiT, arXiv:1801.06146): the authors proposed a type of architectures that learn representations for specific tasks, which involve three steps in training: a) LM pre-training: learning through unlabeled corpus with abundant data; b) LM fine-tuning: learning through labeled corpus; and c) classifier fine-tuning: transferred training for specific classification tasks.
- OpenAI Transformer (article still in progress): the author proposed a simple generative language model with the three similar steps in ULMFit: a) unsupervised pre-training: training a language model that maximizes the likelihood of a sequence of tokens within a context window; b) supervised fine-tuning: a supervised classification training that maximizes the likelihood using the Bayesian approach; c) task-specific input transformations: training the classifiers on a specific task.
These three articles are intricately related to each other. Without abundant data and good hardware, it is almost impossible to produce the language models. As Ruder suggested, we will probably have a pre-trained model up to the second step of the ULMFit and OpenAI Transformer papers, but we train our own specific model for our use. We have been doing this for word-embedding models, and this approach has been common in computer vision too.