PromptCast: A New Prompt-based Learning Paradigm for Time Series Forecasting

by   Hao Xue, et al.

This paper studies the time series forecasting problem from a whole new perspective. In the existing SOTA time-series representation learning methods, the forecasting models take a sequence of numerical values as input and yield numerical values as output. The existing SOTA models are largely based on Transformer architecture, modified with multiple encoding mechanisms to incorporate the context and semantics around the historical data. In this paper, we approach representation learning of time-series from the paradigm of prompt-based natural language modeling. Inspired by the successes of pre-trained language foundation models, we pose a question about whether these models can also be adapted to solve time-series forecasting. Thus, we propose a new forecasting paradigm: prompt-based time series forecasting (PromptCast). In this novel task, the numerical input and output are transformed into prompts. We frame the forecasting task in a sentence-to-sentence manner which makes it possible to directly apply language models for forecasting purposes. To support and facilitate the research of this task, we also present a large-scale dataset (PISA) that includes three real-world forecasting scenarios. We evaluate different SOTA numerical-based forecasting methods and language generation models such as Bart. The benchmark results with single- and multi-step forecasting settings demonstrate that the proposed prompt-based time series forecasting with language generation models is a promising research direction. In addition, in comparison to conventional numerical-based forecasting, PromptCast shows a much better generalization ability under the zero-shot setting. We believe that the proposed PromptCast task as well as our PISA dataset could provide novel insights and further lead to new research directions in the domain of time-series representation learning and forecasting.


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