Keywords: collective innovation, social network, multi-agent model, collective dynamics, communication topology, collective cognition
TL;DR: We show that a group's ability to collectively solve tasks depends on the social network structure that determines who shares information with whom, with dynamically changing structures performing best..
Abstract: The human cultural repertoire relies on innovation: our ability to continuously explore how existing elements can be combined to create new ones. Innovation is not solitary, it relies on collective accumulation and merging of previous solutions. Machine learning approaches commonly assume that fully connected multi-agent networks are best suited for innovation. However, human laboratory and field studies have shown that hierarchical innovation is more robustly achieved by dynamic social network structures. In dynamic settings, humans oscillate between innovating individually or in small clusters, and then sharing outcomes with others. To our knowledge, the role of multi-agent topology on innovation has not been systematically studied in machine learning. It remains unclear a) which social network topologies are optimal for which innovation tasks, and b) which properties of experience sharing improve multi-level innovation. Here we use a multi-level hierarchical problem setting (WordCraft), with three different innovation tasks. We systematically design networks of DQNs sharing experiences from their replay buffers in varying topologies (fully connected, small world, dynamic, ring). Comparing the level of innovation achieved by different experience-sharing topologies across different tasks shows that, first, consistent with human findings, experience sharing within a dynamic topology achieves the highest level of innovation across tasks. Second, experience sharing is not as helpful when there is a single clear path to innovation. Third, two metrics we propose, conformity and diversity of shared experience, can explain the success of different topologies on different tasks. These contributions can advance our understanding of optimal AI-AI, human-human, and human-AI collaborative networks, inspiring future tools for fostering collective innovation in large organizations.
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