Probing Emergent Semantics in Predictive Agents via Question Answering

Jul 12, 2020



Recent work has demonstrated how predictive modelling can endow agents with rich knowledge of their surroundings, improving their ability to act in complex environments. We propose question-answering as a general paradigm to decode and understand the representations that such agents develop, applying our method to two recent approaches to predictive modelling - action-conditional CPC (Guo et al., 2018) and SimCore (Gregor et al., 2019). After training agents with these predictive objectives in a visually-rich, 3D environment with an assortment of objects, colors, shapes, and spatial configurations, we probe their internal state representations with a host of synthetic (English) questions, without backpropagating gradients from the question-answering decoder into the agent. The performance of different agents when probed in this way reveals that they learn to encode factual, and seemingly compositional, information about objects, properties and spatial relations from their physical environment. Our approach is intuitive, i.e. humans can easily interpret the responses of the model as opposed to inspecting continuous vectors, and model-agnostic, i.e. applicable to any modelling approach. By revealing the implicit knowledge of objects, quantities, properties and relations acquired by agents as they learn, question-conditional agent probing can stimulate the design and development of stronger predictive learning objectives.



About ICML 2020

The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) is the premier gathering of professionals dedicated to the advancement of the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning. ICML is globally renowned for presenting and publishing cutting-edge research on all aspects of machine learning used in closely related areas like artificial intelligence, statistics and data science, as well as important application areas such as machine vision, computational biology, speech recognition, and robotics. ICML is one of the fastest growing artificial intelligence conferences in the world. Participants at ICML span a wide range of backgrounds, from academic and industrial researchers, to entrepreneurs and engineers, to graduate students and postdocs.

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