Discovering modular solutions that generalize compositionally

Published: 16 Jan 2024, Last Modified: 11 Feb 2024ICLR 2024 posterEveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
Primary Area: transfer learning, meta learning, and lifelong learning
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Keywords: modularity, compositionality, compositional generalization, teacher-student, meta-learning, hypernetworks
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TL;DR: Meta-learning can discover modular solutions in hypernetworks but not in monolithic architectures.
Abstract: The complexity of many tasks and environments can often be decomposed into simpler, independent modules. Discovering underlying compositional structure has the potential to expedite adaptation and enable _compositional generalization_. Despite progress, our most powerful systems struggle to compose flexibly. While most of these systems are monolithic, modularity promises to allow capturing the compositional nature of many tasks. However, it is unclear under which circumstances modular systems discover this hidden compositional structure. To shed light on this question, we study a teacher-student setting with a modular teacher where we have full control over the composition of ground truth modules. This allows us to relate the problem of compositional generalization to that of identification of the underlying modules. We show theoretically that identification up to linear transformation purely from demonstrations is possible in hypernetworks without having to learn an exponential number of module combinations. While our theory assumes the infinite data limit, in an extensive empirical study we demonstrate how meta-learning from finite data can discover modular solutions that generalize compositionally in modular but not monolithic architectures. We further show that our insights translate outside the teacher-student setting and demonstrate how modularity implemented by hypernetworks allows discovering compositional behavior policies and action-value functions.
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Submission Number: 3724
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