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On the Critical Role of Conventions in Adaptive Human-AI Collaboration

Andy Shih · Arjun Sawhney · Jovana Kondic · Stefano Ermon · Dorsa Sadigh

Keywords: [ human-AI collaboration ] [ emergent behavior ] [ Multi-agent games ] [ transfer learning ]


Humans can quickly adapt to new partners in collaborative tasks (e.g. playing basketball), because they understand which fundamental skills of the task (e.g. how to dribble, how to shoot) carry over across new partners. Humans can also quickly adapt to similar tasks with the same partners by carrying over conventions that they have developed (e.g. raising hand signals pass the ball), without learning to coordinate from scratch. To collaborate seamlessly with humans, AI agents should adapt quickly to new partners and new tasks as well. However, current approaches have not attempted to distinguish between the complexities intrinsic to a task and the conventions used by a partner, and more generally there has been little focus on leveraging conventions for adapting to new settings. In this work, we propose a learning framework that teases apart rule-dependent representation from convention-dependent representation in a principled way. We show that, under some assumptions, our rule-dependent representation is a sufficient statistic of the distribution over best-response strategies across partners. Using this separation of representations, our agents are able to adapt quickly to new partners, and to coordinate with old partners on new tasks in a zero-shot manner. We experimentally validate our approach on three collaborative tasks varying in complexity: a contextual multi-armed bandit, a block placing task, and the card game Hanabi.

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