Are Pre-trained Convolutions Better than Pre-trained Transformers?
In the era of pre-trained language models, Transformers are the de facto
choice of model architectures. While recent research has shown promise in
entirely convolutional, or CNN, architectures, they have not been explored
using the pre-train-fine-tune paradigm. In the context of language models, are
convolutional models competitive to Transformers when pre-trained? This paper
investigates this research question and presents several interesting findings.
Across an extensive set of experiments on 8 datasets/tasks, we find that
CNN-based pre-trained models are competitive and outperform their Transformer
counterpart in certain scenarios, albeit with caveats. Overall, the findings
outlined in this paper suggest that conflating pre-training and architectural
advances is misguided and that both advances should be considered
independently. We believe our research paves the way for a healthy amount of
optimism in alternative architectures.