Natural language understanding (NLU) of text is a fundamental challenge in AI, and it has received significant attention throughout the history of NLP research. This primary goal has been studied under different tasks, such as Question Answering (QA) and Textual Entailment (TE). In this thesis, we investigate the NLU problem through the QA task and focus on the aspects that make it a challenge for the current state-of-the-art technology. This thesis is organized into three main parts: In the first part, we explore multiple formalisms to improve existing machine comprehension systems. We propose a formulation for abductive reasoning in natural language and show its effectiveness, especially in domains with limited training data. Additionally, to help reasoning systems cope with irrelevant or redundant information, we create a supervised approach to learn and detect the essential terms in questions. In the second part, we propose two new challenge datasets. In particular, we create two datasets of natural language questions where (i) the first one requires reasoning over multiple sentences; (ii) the second one requires temporal common sense reasoning. We hope that the two proposed datasets will motivate the field to address more complex problems. In the final part, we present the first formal framework for multi-step reasoning algorithms, in the presence of a few important properties of language use, such as incompleteness, ambiguity, etc. We apply this framework to prove fundamental limitations for reasoning algorithms. These theoretical results provide extra intuition into the existing empirical evidence in the field.
During the past decade, several areas of speech and language understanding have witnessed substantial breakthroughs from the use of data-driven models. In the area of dialogue systems, the trend is less obvious, and most practical systems are still built through significant engineering and expert knowledge. Nevertheless, several recent results suggest that data-driven approaches are feasible and quite promising. To facilitate research in this area, we have carried out a wide survey of publicly available datasets suitable for data-driven learning of dialogue systems. We discuss important characteristics of these datasets, how they can be used to learn diverse dialogue strategies, and their other potential uses. We also examine methods for transfer learning between datasets and the use of external knowledge. Finally, we discuss appropriate choice of evaluation metrics for the learning objective.
Machine learning has become pervasive in multiple domains, impacting a wide variety of applications, such as knowledge discovery and data mining, natural language processing, information retrieval, computer vision, social and health informatics, ubiquitous computing, etc. Two essential problems of machine learning are how to generate features and how to acquire labels for machines to learn. Particularly, labeling large amount of data for each domain-specific problem can be very time consuming and costly. It has become a key obstacle in making learning protocols realistic in applications. In this paper, we will discuss how to use the existing general-purpose world knowledge to enhance machine learning processes, by enriching the features or reducing the labeling work. We start from the comparison of world knowledge with domain-specific knowledge, and then introduce three key problems in using world knowledge in learning processes, i.e., explicit and implicit feature representation, inference for knowledge linking and disambiguation, and learning with direct or indirect supervision. Finally we discuss the future directions of this research topic.
To build Sounding Board, we develop a system architecture that is capable of accommodating dialog strategies that we designed for socialbot conversations. The architecture consists of a multi-dimensional language understanding module for analyzing user utterances, a hierarchical dialog management framework for dialog context tracking and complex dialog control, and a language generation process that realizes the response plan and makes adjustments for speech synthesis. Additionally, we construct a new knowledge base to power the socialbot by collecting social chat content from a variety of sources. An important contribution of the system is the synergy between the knowledge base and the dialog management, i.e., the use of a graph structure to organize the knowledge base that makes dialog control very efficient in bringing related content to the discussion. Using the data collected from Sounding Board during the competition, we carry out in-depth analyses of socialbot conversations and user ratings which provide valuable insights in evaluation methods for socialbots. We additionally investigate a new approach for system evaluation and diagnosis that allows scoring individual dialog segments in the conversation. Finally, observing that socialbots suffer from the issue of shallow conversations about topics associated with unstructured data, we study the problem of enabling extended socialbot conversations grounded on a document. To bring together machine reading and dialog control techniques, a graph-based document representation is proposed, together with methods for automatically constructing the graph. Using the graph-based representation, dialog control can be carried out by retrieving nodes or moving along edges in the graph. To illustrate the usage, a mixed-initiative dialog strategy is designed for socialbot conversations on news articles.
This has led to the development of a plethora of domain-dependent and context-specific methods for dealing with the interpretation of machine learning (ML) models and the formation of explanations for humans. Unfortunately, this trend is far from being over, with an abundance of knowledge in the field which is scattered and needs organisation. The goal of this article is to systematically review research works in the field of XAI and to try to define some boundaries in the field. From several hundreds of research articles focused on the concept of explainability, about 350 have been considered for review by using the following search methodology. In a first phase, Google Scholar was queried to find papers related to "explainable artificial intelligence", "explainable machine learning" and "interpretable machine learning". Subsequently, the bibliographic section of these articles was thoroughly examined to retrieve further relevant scientific studies. The first noticeable thing, as shown in figure 2 (a), is the distribution of the publication dates of selected research articles: sporadic in the 70s and 80s, receiving preliminary attention in the 90s, showing raising interest in 2000 and becoming a recognised body of knowledge after 2010. The first research concerned the development of an explanation-based system and its integration in a computer program designed to help doctors make diagnoses . Some of the more recent papers focus on work devoted to the clustering of methods for explainability, motivating the need for organising the XAI literature [4, 5, 6].