Keywords: task-oriented dialogue, pre-trained language model, offline reinforcement learning
Abstract: Training a task-oriented dialogue agent can be naturally formulated as offline reinforcement learning (RL) problem, where the agent aims to learn a conversational strategy to achieve user goals, only from a dialogue corpus. It is very challenging in terms of RL since the natural language action space is astronomical, while feasible (syntactically and semantically correct) actions are very sparse. Thus, standard RL methods easily fail and generate responses diverging from human language, even when fine-tuning a powerful pre-trained language model. In this paper, we introduce GPT-Critic, an offline RL method for task-oriented dialogue. GPT-Critic is built upon GPT-2, fine-tuning the language model through behavior cloning of the critic-guided self-generated sentences. GPT-Critic is essentially free from the issue of diverging from human language since it learns from the sentences sampled from the pre-trained language model. In the experiments, we demonstrate that our algorithm outperforms the state-of-the-art in the task-oriented dialogue benchmarks including MultiWOZ 2.0 and ConvLab.