Shaped Rewards Bias Emergent LanguageDownload PDF


Sep 29, 2021 (edited Oct 05, 2021)ICLR 2022 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
  • Keywords: emergent language, reinforcement learning, neural networks
  • Abstract: One of the primary characteristics of emergent phenomena is that they are determined by the basic properties of the system whence they emerge as opposed to explicitly designed constraints. Reinforcement learning is often used to elicit such phenomena which specifically arise from the pressure to maximize reward. We distinguish two types of rewards. The first is the base reward which is motivated directly by the task being solved. The second is shaped rewards which are designed specifically to make the task easier to learn by introducing biases in the learning process. The inductive bias which reward shaping introduces is problematic for emergent language experimentation because it biases the object of study: the emergent language. The fact that shaped rewards are intentionally designed conflicts with the basic premise of emergent phenomena arising from basic principles. In this paper, we use a simple sender-receiver navigation game to demonstrate how reward shaping can 1) explicitly bias the semantics of the learned language, 2) significantly change the entropy of the learned communication, and 3) mask the potential effects of other environmental variables of interest.
  • One-sentence Summary: Shaped (i.e., auxiliary) rewards bias the structue and representations observed in an emergent language experiment.
  • Supplementary Material: zip
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