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Workshop: Mathematics of Modern Machine Learning (M3L)

Understanding Transferable Representation Learning and Zero-shot Transfer in CLIP

Zixiang Chen · Yihe Deng · Yuanzhi Li · Quanquan Gu


Multi-modal learning has become increasingly popular due to its ability to leverage information from different data sources. Recently, CLIP has emerged as an effective approach that employs vision-language contrastive pretraining to learn joint image and text representations and exhibits remarkable performance in zero-shot learning and text-guided natural image generation. Despite the huge practical success of CLIP, its theoretical understanding remains elusive. In this paper, we formally study transferrable representation learning underlying CLIP and demonstrate how features from different modalities get aligned. We also analyze its zero-shot transfer performance on the downstream tasks. Inspired by our analysis, we propose a new CLIP-type approach, which achieves better performance than CLIP and other state-of-the-art methods on benchmark datasets.

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