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Self-supervised Learning: The future of Artificial Intelligence

Concept of Self Supervised Learning

Self-supervised models generate implicit labels from unstructured data rather than relying on labeled datasets for supervisory signals.

Self-supervised learning (SSL), a transformative subset of machine learning, liberates models from the need for manual tagging.

Unlike traditional learning that relies on labeled datasets, SSL leverages the inherent structure and patterns within the data to create pseudo labels. This innovative approach significantly reduces the dependence on costly and time-consuming curation of labeled data, making it a game-changer in AI.

Machine learning techniques that employ unsupervised learning for tasks that typically necessitate supervised learning are called self-supervised learning.

In industries like computer vision and natural language processing (NLP), where cutting-edge AI models demand massive amounts of labeled data, self-supervised learning (SSL) shines.

For instance, in Healthcare, SSL can be used to analyze medical images, reducing the need for manual annotation. Similarly, SSL can help detect fraud in finance by learning from unstructured transaction data.

In robotics, SSL can be used to train robots to perform complex tasks by learning from their own interactions with the environment. These examples illustrate how SSL can be a cost- and time-effective solution in various sectors.

Difference between unsupervised learning, supervised learning, and self-supervised learning

Unsupervised models are employed for tasks such as clustering, anomaly detection, and dimensionality reduction that do not necessitate a loss function. In contrast, self-supervised models are used for classification and regression tasks typical of supervised systems.

Self-supervised learning is crucial in bridging the gap between supervised and unsupervised learning techniques. It often involves pretext tasks derived from the data itself that assist in training models to understand representations.

These representations can then be fine-tuned for functions using a small number of labeled examples. The versatility of self-supervised learning, demonstrated by its potential in various applications, should inspire the audience about its potential.

Self-supervised machine learning has the potential to significantly boost the performance of supervised learning models.

By pretraining them on extensive quantities of unlabeled data, self-supervised learning has enhanced the efficacy and robustness of supervised learning models. This promising potential should instill optimism about the future of AI.

The 'unsupervised' learning technique emphasizes the model rather than the data, whereas the self-supervised learning technique operates oppositely. In unsupervised learning, the model is given unstructured data and is tasked with finding patterns or structures on its own.

Self-supervised learning, on the other hand, is a pretext method for regression and classification tasks, whereas unsupervised learning methods are effective for clustering and dimensionality reduction.

Need for Self-Supervised Learning:

Artificial intelligence has experienced a significant surge in research and development over the past decade, particularly following the 2012 ImageNet Competition results. Supervised learning methods were the primary focus, which necessitated vast quantities of labeled data to train systems for particular applications.

Rather than relying on external labels provided by humans, self-supervised learning (SSL) is a machine learning paradigm in which a model is trained on a task using the data itself to generate supervisory signals.

Self-supervised learning is a training method that utilizes the inherent structures or relationships in the input data to create meaningful signals in the context of neural networks.

The duties of the SSL are intended to be solved by capturing critical features or relationships within the data.

Pairs of related samples are typically generated by augmenting or transforming the input data.

The input is one sample, while the supervisory signal is formulated using the other. This enhancement may entail the implementation of noise, cropping, rotation, or other transformations. How humans learn to classify objects more closely resembles self-supervised learning.

Because of the following issues that persisted in other learning procedures, self-supervised learning was developed:

1. High cost: The majority of learning methods necessitate labeled data. Good quality labeled data is exceedingly costly in terms of time and money.

2. The data preparation lifecycle is a protracted procedure involved in the development of ML models. It requires cleaning, filtering, annotating, evaluating, and reshaping the data using the training framework.

3. General Artificial Intelligence: The self-supervised learning framework is one step closer to integrating human cognition into machines.

As a result of the abundance of unlabeled image data, self-supervised learning has become a widely used technique in computer vision.

The goal is to acquire meaningful representations of images without explicit supervision, such as image annotation.

In computer vision, self-supervised learning algorithms can acquire representations by completing tasks such as image reconstruction, colorization, and video frame prediction.

Promising outcomes have been demonstrated by algorithms such as autoencoding and contrastive learning in the context of representation learning. These potential applications for downstream tasks include semantic segmentation, object detection, and image classification.

Working of self-supervised learning: 

The methodology of self-supervised learning is a deep learning approach that involves pre-training a model with unlabeled data and autonomously generating data labels.

These labels are subsequently employed as 'basic truths' in subsequent iterations.

In the initial iteration, the fundamental concept of self-supervised learning is to create supervisory signals by interpreting the unlabeled data unsupervised.

The model then employs the high-confidence data labels from the generated data to train the model in subsequent iterations, similar to the supervised learning model, through backpropagation. All that differs is that the data identifiers that serve as ground truths in each iteration are altered.

The model can be trained by generating false labels for unannotated data and using them as supervision in self-supervised learning.

These methods can be classified into three categories: generative contrast, which involves generating contrasting examples to train the model; contrastive, which involves comparing different parts of the same data to learn its structure; and generative contrast, which involves generating contrasting examples to train the model.

Many studies have concentrated on using self-supervised learning approaches to analyze pathology images in computational pathology, as annotation information is challenging to acquire.

Technological Aspects of Self-Supervised Learning

In machine learning, self-supervised learning is a process in which the model instructs itself to learn a specific portion of the input from another portion of the input. This method, also known as predictive or pretext learning, involves the model predicting a part of the input based on the rest of the input, which serves as a 'pretext' for the learning task.

In this procedure, the unsupervised problem is converted into a supervised problem through the automatic generation of labels. To benefit from the vast amount of unlabeled data, appropriate learning objectives must be established to guide the data.

The self-supervised learning method distinguishes a concealed portion of the input from an unhidden portion.

Self-supervised learning can be employed to conclude the remainder of a sentence in natural language processing, for instance, if only a few words are available.

The same principle applies to video, as it is possible to anticipate future or past frames using the available video data. Using the data structure, self-supervised learning employs diverse supervisory signals across extensive data sets without labels.

Framework of self-supervised learning: 

The framework supporting self-supervised learning comprises several essential elements:

1. Data Augmentation: Methods such as cropping, rotation, and color adjustment generate various perspectives of the same dataset. These augmentations aid in teaching model features that remain stable when input changes occur.

2. Preparatory Assignments: These tasks are what the model tackles to grasp concepts. For instance, predictive context, which involves estimating the context or surroundings of a given data point, and distinctive learning, which involves recognizing similarities and differences between pairs of data points, are common preparatory assignments in self-supervised learning.

3. Predictive Context: Estimating the context or surroundings of a given data point.

4. Distinctive Learning: Recognizing similarities and differences between pairs of data points.

5. Creative Assignments: Crafting data elements from the remaining parts (e.g., filling in missing parts of an image or completing text).

6. Distinguishing Approaches: In learning, the model is taught to bring representations of data points closer together while pushing apart dissimilar ones. Techniques like  SimCLR (Simple Framework for Contrastive Learning of Visual Representations) and MoCo (Momentum Contrast ) are grounded on this principle.

7. Creative Models: Methods like autoencoders and generative adversarial networks (GANs) can be applied for tasks where supervision comes from within, aiming to reconstruct input data or create instances.

8. Transformers: Initially created for natural language processing, transformers have emerged as a tool for self-directed learning across fields such as vision and speech. Models like BERT and GPT employ self-directed goals to undergo pre-training on text collections.

History of Self-supervised Learning

Self-supervised learning has progressed over the decade and has gained interest recently. In the 2000s, advancements in self-supervised learning techniques like autoencoders and sparse coding aimed to acquire valuable representations without explicit labels.

A significant shift occurred in the 2010s with the emergence of learning structures for handling extensive datasets. Innovations such as word2vec (a technique in natural language processing for obtaining vector representations of words) introduced the notion of deriving word representations from text collections through self-supervised objectives.

Towards the end of the 2010s, contrastive learning methodologies like SimCLR (Simple Framework for Contrastive Learning of Visual Representations) and MoCo (Momentum Contrast ) reshaped self-supervised learning within computer vision. These approaches showcased that self-supervised pretraining could match or even outperform methods in tasks.

The rise of transformer models like BERT and GPT 3 highlighted the effectiveness of self-supervised learning in natural language processing. These models undergo pre-training and retraining on quantities of text using self-supervised objectives to achieve leading-edge performance across various tasks.

The use of self-supervised learning spans fields.

In Natural Language Processing (NLP), models such as BERT and GPT leverage self-supervised learning to comprehend and produce language. These models are applied in chatbots, translation services, and content creation.

Within Computer Vision, self-supervised learning is employed to train models on extensive image datasets. These datasets are then adjusted for tasks like recognizing objects, segmenting images, and classifying images. Techniques like SimCLR and MoCo have had an impact in this area.

For Speech Recognition, self-supervised learning plays a role in understanding and producing speech. Models can be pre-trained on large amounts of audio data and then fine-tuned for specific purposes, like transcribing speech or identifying speakers.

In robotics, self-supervised learning enables robots to learn from their interactions with the environment without needing guidance. This method is utilized in activities such as handling objects and navigating autonomously.

Moreover, within Healthcare, self-supervised learning proves beneficial in imaging where labeled data may be limited. Models can be pre-trained on sets of medical scans and adjusted to identify abnormalities or diagnose illnesses.

Online platforms leverage self-supervised learning techniques to improve recommendation systems by analyzing user behavior patterns gathered from interaction data.

Examples from the Industry for the usage of Self-supervised Learning

Hate speech detection on Facebook.

Facebook is using this in production to rapidly enhance the accuracy of content understanding systems in its products, designed to ensure users' safety on its platforms.

Facebook AI's XLM enhances hate speech detection by training language systems across multiple languages without relying on hand-labeled datasets.

The medical domain has consistently faced challenges in training deep learning models due to the limited labeled data and the time-consuming and costly annotation process.

Google's research team introduced a novel Multi-Instance Contrastive Learning (MICLe) method to address this issue. This method utilizes multiple images of the underlying pathology per patient case to construct more informative results.

Industries Leveraging Self-Supervised Learning

Self-supervised learning (SSL) is making an impact across sectors by empowering the creation of models that can learn from extensive amounts of unlabeled data.

Here are some key industries reaping the benefits of SSL:

1. Healthcare

In Healthcare, self-supervised learning plays a role in examining images and electronic health records (EHRs). Models that have been pre-trained on datasets of medical images can be fine-tuned to detect irregularities, aid in diagnosis, and anticipate patient outcomes.

This diminishes the need for data, often limited in the domain. SSL is also applied in drug discovery to forecast interactions between compounds and biological targets.

2. Automotive

The automotive Industry utilizes SSL to advance autonomous vehicle technology. Self-supervised models learn from amounts of driving data, enabling vehicles to recognize and anticipate road conditions, traffic patterns, and pedestrian movements.

This innovation enhances the safety and dependability of driving systems by improving their decision-making capabilities.

3. Finance

Within finance, self-supervised learning models analyze quantities of transaction data to identify behavior, forecast market trends, and optimize trading approaches.

By studying data from the past, these models can recognize patterns and irregularities that signal fraud or changes in the market, giving institutions valuable insights and boosting security measures.

4. Language Understanding Technology (LUT)

The field of LUT extensively utilizes SSL for training language models such as BERT and GPT. These models undergo training on amounts of text data without labels, which can then be fine-tuned for various purposes like analyzing sentiments, translating languages, and answering questions.

SSL empowers these models to grasp context and generate text that resembles writing, significantly enhancing the performance of chatbots, virtual assistants, and content creation tools.

5. Retail and Online Shopping

Retailers and online shopping platforms leverage SSL to improve recommendation systems and tailor customer experiences.

By examining user behavior data like browsing habits and purchasing trends, self-supervised models can suggest products that align with customers' preferences. This personalized approach boosts customer satisfaction levels and sales.

6. Automation in Robotics

In robotics, SSL aids machines in learning through their interactions with their surroundings. Robots can be prepped on datasets containing sensory information, enabling them to carry out tasks such as recognizing objects, handling them effectively, and navigating with increased accuracy and independence.

This feature is convenient for manufacturing, logistics, and everyday household uses.

The Future of Self-Supervised Learning

The future of self-supervised learning shows potential as advancements in this field progress. Several key trends and advancements are expected to influence its path;

1. Integration with Learning Approaches

Self-supervised learning will likely integrate more with machine learning approaches such as reinforcement learning and transfer learning. This integration will result in adaptable models that can handle various tasks and adjust to environments with minimal supervision.

2. Enhanced Model Architectures

The development of advanced model architectures, like transformer-based models, will boost the capabilities of self-supervised learning. These architectures can process datasets effectively and extract more detailed features, enhancing performance across various applications.

3. Expansion into New Fields

As self-supervised learning techniques progress, they will be applied in sectors and industries. For example, self-supervised learning can be utilized in monitoring to analyze data from sensors and satellite imagery, offering insights for climate change research and natural disaster management.

4. Ethical Considerations in AI

Given the increasing emphasis on AI practices, self-supervised learning will address biases and ensure fairness in machine learning models.

Using a variety of datasets, self-supervised models can help decrease the chances of perpetuating biases and enhance the inclusivity of AI systems.

5. Real-Time Learning

Advancements in self-supervised learning may allow models to learn and adjust over time. This feature is essential for settings like driving, where models must constantly update their knowledge with new data.


Self-supervised learning marks a shift in machine learning, offering benefits such as data efficiency and flexibility. By utilizing the data structure, self-supervised learning enables the creation of robust models customized for various uses with minimal supervision. Its impact is already evident across multiple industries, including Healthcare, automotive, finance, and retail.

As technology progresses, self-supervised learning is set to lead to innovations by addressing issues, enhancing model designs, and expanding into new areas. The future looks promising for self-supervised learning as it opens up possibilities and transforms the landscape of AI and machine learning.




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Raktim Singh
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Raktim Singh

Senior Industry Principal


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07 Nov 2023



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