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Oral Session 8

Moderators: Fernando Perez-Cruz · Aleksandra Faust · Andrew Dai


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Wed 5 May 11:00 - 11:15 PDT

Human-Level Performance in No-Press Diplomacy via Equilibrium Search

Jonathan Gray · Adam Lerer · Anton Bakhtin · Noam Brown

Prior AI breakthroughs in complex games have focused on either the purely adversarial or purely cooperative settings. In contrast, Diplomacy is a game of shifting alliances that involves both cooperation and competition. For this reason, Diplomacy has proven to be a formidable research challenge. In this paper we describe an agent for the no-press variant of Diplomacy that combines supervised learning on human data with one-step lookahead search via regret minimization. Regret minimization techniques have been behind previous AI successes in adversarial games, most notably poker, but have not previously been shown to be successful in large-scale games involving cooperation. We show that our agent greatly exceeds the performance of past no-press Diplomacy bots, is unexploitable by expert humans, and ranks in the top 2% of human players when playing anonymous games on a popular Diplomacy website.

Wed 5 May 11:15 - 11:30 PDT

Learning to Reach Goals via Iterated Supervised Learning

Dibya Ghosh · Abhishek Gupta · Ashwin D Reddy · Justin Fu · Coline M Devin · Benjamin Eysenbach · Sergey Levine

Current reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms can be brittle and difficult to use, especially when learning goal-reaching behaviors from sparse rewards. Although supervised imitation learning provides a simple and stable alternative, it requires access to demonstrations from a human supervisor. In this paper, we study RL algorithms that use imitation learning to acquire goal reaching policies from scratch, without the need for expert demonstrations or a value function. In lieu of demonstrations, we leverage the property that any trajectory is a successful demonstration for reaching the final state in that same trajectory. We propose a simple algorithm in which an agent continually relabels and imitates the trajectories it generates to progressively learn goal-reaching behaviors from scratch. Each iteration, the agent collects new trajectories using the latest policy, and maximizes the likelihood of the actions along these trajectories under the goal that was actually reached, so as to improve the policy. We formally show that this iterated supervised learning procedure optimizes a bound on the RL objective, derive performance bounds of the learned policy, and empirically demonstrate improved goal-reaching performance and robustness over current RL algorithms in several benchmark tasks.

Wed 5 May 11:30 - 11:45 PDT

Learning Invariant Representations for Reinforcement Learning without Reconstruction

Amy Zhang · Rowan T McAllister · Roberto Calandra · Yarin Gal · Sergey Levine

We study how representation learning can accelerate reinforcement learning from rich observations, such as images, without relying either on domain knowledge or pixel-reconstruction. Our goal is to learn representations that provide for effective downstream control and invariance to task-irrelevant details. Bisimulation metrics quantify behavioral similarity between states in continuous MDPs, which we propose using to learn robust latent representations which encode only the task-relevant information from observations. Our method trains encoders such that distances in latent space equal bisimulation distances in state space. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our method at disregarding task-irrelevant information using modified visual MuJoCo tasks, where the background is replaced with moving distractors and natural videos, while achieving SOTA performance. We also test a first-person highway driving task where our method learns invariance to clouds, weather, and time of day. Finally, we provide generalization results drawn from properties of bisimulation metrics, and links to causal inference.

Wed 5 May 11:45 - 12:00 PDT

Evolving Reinforcement Learning Algorithms

John Co-Reyes · Yingjie Miao · Daiyi Peng · Esteban Real · Quoc V Le · Sergey Levine · Honglak Lee · Aleksandra Faust

We propose a method for meta-learning reinforcement learning algorithms by searching over the space of computational graphs which compute the loss function for a value-based model-free RL agent to optimize. The learned algorithms are domain-agnostic and can generalize to new environments not seen during training. Our method can both learn from scratch and bootstrap off known existing algorithms, like DQN, enabling interpretable modifications which improve performance. Learning from scratch on simple classical control and gridworld tasks, our method rediscovers the temporal-difference (TD) algorithm. Bootstrapped from DQN, we highlight two learned algorithms which obtain good generalization performance over other classical control tasks, gridworld type tasks, and Atari games. The analysis of the learned algorithm behavior shows resemblance to recently proposed RL algorithms that address overestimation in value-based methods.

Wed 5 May 12:00 - 12:10 PDT

Image Augmentation Is All You Need: Regularizing Deep Reinforcement Learning from Pixels

Denis Yarats · Ilya Kostrikov · Rob Fergus

We propose a simple data augmentation technique that can be applied to standard model-free reinforcement learning algorithms, enabling robust learning directly from pixels without the need for auxiliary losses or pre-training. The approach leverages input perturbations commonly used in computer vision tasks to transform input examples, as well as regularizing the value function and policy. Existing model-free approaches, such as Soft Actor-Critic (SAC), are not able to train deep networks effectively from image pixels. However, the addition of our augmentation method dramatically improves SAC’s performance, enabling it to reach state-of-the-art performance on the DeepMind control suite, surpassing model-based (Hafner et al., 2019; Lee et al., 2019; Hafner et al., 2018) methods and recently proposed contrastive learning (Srinivas et al., 2020). Our approach, which we dub DrQ: Data-regularized Q, can be combined with any model-free reinforcement learning algorithm. We further demonstrate this by applying it to DQN and significantly improve its data-efficiency on the Atari 100k benchmark.

Wed 5 May 12:10 - 12:23 PDT


Wed 5 May 12:23 - 12:38 PDT

Coupled Oscillatory Recurrent Neural Network (coRNN): An accurate and (gradient) stable architecture for learning long time dependencies

T. Konstantin Rusch · Siddhartha Mishra

Circuits of biological neurons, such as in the functional parts of the brain can be modeled as networks of coupled oscillators. Inspired by the ability of these systems to express a rich set of outputs while keeping (gradients of) state variables bounded, we propose a novel architecture for recurrent neural networks. Our proposed RNN is based on a time-discretization of a system of second-order ordinary differential equations, modeling networks of controlled nonlinear oscillators. We prove precise bounds on the gradients of the hidden states, leading to the mitigation of the exploding and vanishing gradient problem for this RNN. Experiments show that the proposed RNN is comparable in performance to the state of the art on a variety of benchmarks, demonstrating the potential of this architecture to provide stable and accurate RNNs for processing complex sequential data.

Wed 5 May 12:38 - 12:48 PDT

Sequential Density Ratio Estimation for Simultaneous Optimization of Speed and Accuracy

Akinori Ebihara · Taiki Miyagawa · Kazuyuki Sakurai · Hitoshi Imaoka

Classifying sequential data as early and as accurately as possible is a challenging yet critical problem, especially when a sampling cost is high. One algorithm that achieves this goal is the sequential probability ratio test (SPRT), which is known as Bayes-optimal: it can keep the expected number of data samples as small as possible, given the desired error upper-bound. However, the original SPRT makes two critical assumptions that limit its application in real-world scenarios: (i) samples are independently and identically distributed, and (ii) the likelihood of the data being derived from each class can be calculated precisely. Here, we propose the SPRT-TANDEM, a deep neural network-based SPRT algorithm that overcomes the above two obstacles. The SPRT-TANDEM sequentially estimates the log-likelihood ratio of two alternative hypotheses by leveraging a novel Loss function for Log-Likelihood Ratio estimation (LLLR) while allowing correlations up to $N (\in \mathbb{N})$ preceding samples. In tests on one original and two public video databases, Nosaic MNIST, UCF101, and SiW, the SPRT-TANDEM achieves statistically significantly better classification accuracy than other baseline classifiers, with a smaller number of data samples. The code and Nosaic MNIST are publicly available at

Wed 5 May 12:48 - 12:58 PDT

LambdaNetworks: Modeling long-range Interactions without Attention

Irwan Bello

We present lambda layers -- an alternative framework to self-attention -- for capturing long-range interactions between an input and structured contextual information (e.g. a pixel surrounded by other pixels). Lambda layers capture such interactions by transforming available contexts into linear functions, termed lambdas, and applying these linear functions to each input separately. Similar to linear attention, lambda layers bypass expensive attention maps, but in contrast, they model both content and position-based interactions which enables their application to large structured inputs such as images. The resulting neural network architectures, LambdaNetworks, significantly outperform their convolutional and attentional counterparts on ImageNet classification, COCO object detection and instance segmentation, while being more computationally efficient. Additionally, we design LambdaResNets, a family of hybrid architectures across different scales, that considerably improves the speed-accuracy tradeoff of image classification models. LambdaResNets reach excellent accuracies on ImageNet while being 3.2 - 4.4x faster than the popular EfficientNets on modern machine learning accelerators. In large-scale semi-supervised training with an additional 130M pseudo-labeled images, LambdaResNets achieve up to 86.7% ImageNet accuracy while being 9.5x faster than EfficientNet NoisyStudent and 9x faster than a Vision Transformer with comparable accuracies.

Wed 5 May 12:58 - 13:08 PDT

Grounded Language Learning Fast and Slow

Felix Hill · Olivier Tieleman · Tamara von Glehn · Nathaniel Wong · Hamza Merzic · Stephen Clark

Recent work has shown that large text-based neural language models acquire a surprising propensity for one-shot learning. Here, we show that an agent situated in a simulated 3D world, and endowed with a novel dual-coding external memory, can exhibit similar one-shot word learning when trained with conventional RL algorithms. After a single introduction to a novel object via visual perception and language ("This is a dax"), the agent can manipulate the object as instructed ("Put the dax on the bed"), combining short-term, within-episode knowledge of the nonsense word with long-term lexical and motor knowledge. We find that, under certain training conditions and with a particular memory writing mechanism, the agent's one-shot word-object binding generalizes to novel exemplars within the same ShapeNet category, and is effective in settings with unfamiliar numbers of objects. We further show how dual-coding memory can be exploited as a signal for intrinsic motivation, stimulating the agent to seek names for objects that may be useful later. Together, the results demonstrate that deep neural networks can exploit meta-learning, episodic memory and an explicitly multi-modal environment to account for 'fast-mapping', a fundamental pillar of human cognitive development and a potentially transformative capacity for artificial agents.

Wed 5 May 13:08 - 13:18 PDT


Wed 5 May 13:18 - 13:28 PDT

Unsupervised Object Keypoint Learning using Local Spatial Predictability

Anand Gopalakrishnan · Sjoerd van Steenkiste · Jürgen Schmidhuber

We propose PermaKey, a novel approach to representation learning based on object keypoints. It leverages the predictability of local image regions from spatial neighborhoods to identify salient regions that correspond to object parts, which are then converted to keypoints. Unlike prior approaches, it utilizes predictability to discover object keypoints, an intrinsic property of objects. This ensures that it does not overly bias keypoints to focus on characteristics that are not unique to objects, such as movement, shape, colour etc. We demonstrate the efficacy of PermaKey on Atari where it learns keypoints corresponding to the most salient object parts and is robust to certain visual distractors. Further, on downstream RL tasks in the Atari domain we demonstrate how agents equipped with our keypoints outperform those using competing alternatives, even on challenging environments with moving backgrounds or distractor objects.

Wed 5 May 13:28 - 13:38 PDT

VAEBM: A Symbiosis between Variational Autoencoders and Energy-based Models

Zhisheng Xiao · Karsten Kreis · Jan Kautz · Arash Vahdat

Energy-based models (EBMs) have recently been successful in representing complex distributions of small images. However, sampling from them requires expensive Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) iterations that mix slowly in high dimensional pixel space. Unlike EBMs, variational autoencoders (VAEs) generate samples quickly and are equipped with a latent space that enables fast traversal of the data manifold. However, VAEs tend to assign high probability density to regions in data space outside the actual data distribution and often fail at generating sharp images. In this paper, we propose VAEBM, a symbiotic composition of a VAE and an EBM that offers the best of both worlds. VAEBM captures the overall mode structure of the data distribution using a state-of-the-art VAE and it relies on its EBM component to explicitly exclude non-data-like regions from the model and refine the image samples. Moreover, the VAE component in VAEBM allows us to speed up MCMC updates by reparameterizing them in the VAE's latent space. Our experimental results show that VAEBM outperforms state-of-the-art VAEs and EBMs in generative quality on several benchmark image datasets by a large margin. It can generate high-quality images as large as 256$\times$256 pixels with short MCMC chains. We also demonstrate that VAEBM provides complete mode coverage and performs well in out-of-distribution detection.

Wed 5 May 13:38 - 13:48 PDT

Dynamic Tensor Rematerialization

Marisa Kirisame · Steven S. Lyubomirsky · Altan Haan · Jennifer Brennan · Mike He · Jared G Roesch · Tianqi Chen · Zachary Tatlock

Checkpointing enables the training of deep learning models under restricted memory budgets by freeing intermediate activations from memory and recomputing them on demand. Current checkpointing techniques statically plan these recomputations offline and assume static computation graphs. We demonstrate that a simple online algorithm can achieve comparable performance by introducing Dynamic Tensor Rematerialization (DTR), a greedy online algorithm for checkpointing that is extensible and general, is parameterized by eviction policy, and supports dynamic models. We prove that DTR can train an $N$-layer linear feedforward network on an $\Omega(\sqrt{N})$ memory budget with only $\mathcal{O}(N)$ tensor operations. DTR closely matches the performance of optimal static checkpointing in simulated experiments. We incorporate a DTR prototype into PyTorch merely by interposing on tensor allocations and operator calls and collecting lightweight metadata on tensors.

Wed 5 May 13:48 - 13:58 PDT

A Gradient Flow Framework For Analyzing Network Pruning

Ekdeep Singh Lubana · Robert Dick

Recent network pruning methods focus on pruning models early-on in training. To estimate the impact of removing a parameter, these methods use importance measures that were originally designed to prune trained models. Despite lacking justification for their use early-on in training, such measures result in surprisingly low accuracy loss. To better explain this behavior, we develop a general framework that uses gradient flow to unify state-of-the-art importance measures through the norm of model parameters. We use this framework to determine the relationship between pruning measures and evolution of model parameters, establishing several results related to pruning models early-on in training: (i) magnitude-based pruning removes parameters that contribute least to reduction in loss, resulting in models that converge faster than magnitude-agnostic methods; (ii) loss-preservation based pruning preserves first-order model evolution dynamics and its use is therefore justified for pruning minimally trained models; and (iii) gradient-norm based pruning affects second-order model evolution dynamics, such that increasing gradient norm via pruning can produce poorly performing models. We validate our claims on several VGG-13, MobileNet-V1, and ResNet-56 models trained on CIFAR-10/CIFAR-100.

Wed 5 May 13:58 - 14:08 PDT

Differentially Private Learning Needs Better Features (or Much More Data)

Florian Tramer · Dan Boneh

We demonstrate that differentially private machine learning has not yet reached its ''AlexNet moment'' on many canonical vision tasks: linear models trained on handcrafted features significantly outperform end-to-end deep neural networks for moderate privacy budgets. To exceed the performance of handcrafted features, we show that private learning requires either much more private data, or access to features learned on public data from a similar domain. Our work introduces simple yet strong baselines for differentially private learning that can inform the evaluation of future progress in this area.

Wed 5 May 14:08 - 14:21 PDT