The cornerstone of neural algorithmic reasoning is the ability to solve algorithmic tasks, especially in a way that generalises out of distribution. While recent years have seen a surge in methodological improvements in this area, they mostly focused on building specialist models. Specialist models are capable of learning to neurally execute either only one algorithm or a collection of algorithms with identical control-flow backbone. Here, instead, we focus on constructing a generalist neural algorithmic learner -- a single graph neural network processor capable of learning to execute a wide range of algorithms, such as sorting, searching, dynamic programming, path-finding and geometry. We leverage the CLRS benchmark to empirically show that, much like recent successes in the domain of perception, generalist algorithmic learners can be built by "incorporating" knowledge. That is, it is possible to effectively learn algorithms in a multi-task manner, so long as we can learn to execute them well in a single-task regime. Motivated by this, we present a series of improvements to the input representation, training regime and processor architecture over CLRS, improving average single-task performance by over 20% from prior art. We then conduct a thorough ablation of multi-task learners leveraging these improvements. Our results demonstrate a generalist learner that effectively incorporates knowledge captured by specialist models.
In this report, we summarize the takeaways from the first NeurIPS 2021 NetHack Challenge. Participants were tasked with developing a program or agent that can win (i.e., 'ascend' in) the popular dungeon-crawler game of NetHack by interacting with the NetHack Learning Environment (NLE), a scalable, procedurally generated, and challenging Gym environment for reinforcement learning (RL). The challenge showcased community-driven progress in AI with many diverse approaches significantly beating the previously best results on NetHack. Furthermore, it served as a direct comparison between neural (e.g., deep RL) and symbolic AI, as well as hybrid systems, demonstrating that on NetHack symbolic bots currently outperform deep RL by a large margin. Lastly, no agent got close to winning the game, illustrating NetHack's suitability as a long-term benchmark for AI research.
* Under review at PMLR for the NeuRIPS 2021 Competition Workshop Track,
10 pages + 10 in appendices
Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO) methods learn a policy by iteratively performing multiple mini-batch optimization epochs of a surrogate objective with one set of sampled data. Ratio clipping PPO is a popular variant that clips the probability ratios between the target policy and the policy used to collect samples. Ratio clipping yields a pessimistic estimate of the original surrogate objective, and has been shown to be crucial for strong performance. We show in this paper that such ratio clipping may not be a good option as it can fail to effectively bound the ratios. Instead, one can directly optimize the original surrogate objective for multiple epochs; the key is to find a proper condition to early stop the optimization epoch in each iteration. Our theoretical analysis sheds light on how to determine when to stop the optimization epoch, and call the resulting algorithm Early Stopping Policy Optimization (ESPO). We compare ESPO with PPO across many continuous control tasks and show that ESPO significantly outperforms PPO. Furthermore, we show that ESPO can be easily scaled up to distributed training with many workers, delivering strong performance as well.
Recent multi-task learning research argues against unitary scalarization, where training simply minimizes the sum of the task losses. Several ad-hoc multi-task optimization algorithms have instead been proposed, inspired by various hypotheses about what makes multi-task settings difficult. The majority of these optimizers require per-task gradients, and introduce significant memory, runtime, and implementation overhead. We present a theoretical analysis suggesting that many specialized multi-task optimizers can be interpreted as forms of regularization. Moreover, we show that, when coupled with standard regularization and stabilization techniques from single-task learning, unitary scalarization matches or improves upon the performance of complex multi-task optimizers in both supervised and reinforcement learning settings. We believe our results call for a critical reevaluation of recent research in the area.
The progress in deep reinforcement learning (RL) is heavily driven by the availability of challenging benchmarks used for training agents. However, benchmarks that are widely adopted by the community are not explicitly designed for evaluating specific capabilities of RL methods. While there exist environments for assessing particular open problems in RL (such as exploration, transfer learning, unsupervised environment design, or even language-assisted RL), it is generally difficult to extend these to richer, more complex environments once research goes beyond proof-of-concept results. We present MiniHack, a powerful sandbox framework for easily designing novel RL environments. MiniHack is a one-stop shop for RL experiments with environments ranging from small rooms to complex, procedurally generated worlds. By leveraging the full set of entities and environment dynamics from NetHack, one of the richest grid-based video games, MiniHack allows designing custom RL testbeds that are fast and convenient to use. With this sandbox framework, novel environments can be designed easily, either using a human-readable description language or a simple Python interface. In addition to a variety of RL tasks and baselines, MiniHack can wrap existing RL benchmarks and provide ways to seamlessly add additional complexity.
Recent research has shown that Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) can learn policies for locomotion control that are as effective as a typical multi-layer perceptron (MLP), with superior transfer and multi-task performance (Wang et al., 2018; Huang et al., 2020). Results have so far been limited to training on small agents, with the performance of GNNs deteriorating rapidly as the number of sensors and actuators grows. A key motivation for the use of GNNs in the supervised learning setting is their applicability to large graphs, but this benefit has not yet been realised for locomotion control. We identify the weakness with a common GNN architecture that causes this poor scaling: overfitting in the MLPs within the network that encode, decode, and propagate messages. To combat this, we introduce Snowflake, a GNN training method for high-dimensional continuous control that freezes parameters in parts of the network that suffer from overfitting. Snowflake significantly boosts the performance of GNNs for locomotion control on large agents, now matching the performance of MLPs, and with superior transfer properties.
Multitask Reinforcement Learning is a promising way to obtain models with better performance, generalisation, data efficiency, and robustness. Most existing work is limited to compatible settings, where the state and action space dimensions are the same across tasks. Graph Neural Networks (GNN) are one way to address incompatible environments, because they can process graphs of arbitrary size. They also allow practitioners to inject biases encoded in the structure of the input graph. Existing work in graph-based continuous control uses the physical morphology of the agent to construct the input graph, i.e., encoding limb features as node labels and using edges to connect the nodes if their corresponded limbs are physically connected. In this work, we present a series of ablations on existing methods that show that morphological information encoded in the graph does not improve their performance. Motivated by the hypothesis that any benefits GNNs extract from the graph structure are outweighed by difficulties they create for message passing, we also propose Amorpheus, a transformer-based approach. Further results show that, while Amorpheus ignores the morphological information that GNNs encode, it nonetheless substantially outperforms GNN-based methods.
This paper introduces the deep coordination graph (DCG) for collaborative multi-agent reinforcement learning. DCG strikes a flexible trade-off between representational capacity and generalization by factorizing the joint value function of all agents according to a coordination graph into payoffs between pairs of agents. The value can be maximized by local message passing along the graph, which allows training of the value function end-to-end with Q-learning. Payoff functions are approximated with deep neural networks and parameter sharing improves generalization over the state-action space. We show that DCG can solve challenging predator-prey tasks that are vulnerable to the relative overgeneralization pathology and in which all other known value factorization approaches fail.
We present GQSAT, a branching heuristic in a Boolean SAT solver trained with value-based reinforcement learning (RL) using Graph Neural Networks for function approximation. Solvers using GQSAT are complete SAT solvers that either provide a satisfying assignment or a proof of unsatisfiability, which is required for many SAT applications. The branching heuristic commonly used in SAT solvers today suffers from bad decisions during their warm-up period, whereas GQSAT has been trained to examine the structure of the particular problem instance to make better decisions at the beginning of the search. Training GQSAT is data efficient and does not require elaborate dataset preparation or feature engineering to train. We train GQSAT on small SAT problems using RL interfacing with an existing SAT solver. We show that GQSAT is able to reduce the number of iterations required to solve SAT problems by 2-3X, and it generalizes to unsatisfiable SAT instances, as well as to problems with 5X more variables than it was trained on. We also show that, to a lesser extent, it generalizes to SAT problems from different domains by evaluating it on graph coloring. Our experiments show that augmenting SAT solvers with agents trained with RL and graph neural networks can improve performance on the SAT search problem.