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Adams, Ryan P.


Why Generalization in RL is Difficult: Epistemic POMDPs and Implicit Partial Observability

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Generalization is a central challenge for the deployment of reinforcement learning (RL) systems in the real world. In this paper, we show that the sequential structure of the RL problem necessitates new approaches to generalization beyond the well-studied techniques used in supervised learning. While supervised learning methods can generalize effectively without explicitly accounting for epistemic uncertainty, we show that, perhaps surprisingly, this is not the case in RL. We show that generalization to unseen test conditions from a limited number of training conditions induces implicit partial observability, effectively turning even fully-observed MDPs into POMDPs. Informed by this observation, we recast the problem of generalization in RL as solving the induced partially observed Markov decision process, which we call the epistemic POMDP. We demonstrate the failure modes of algorithms that do not appropriately handle this partial observability, and suggest a simple ensemble-based technique for approximately solving the partially observed problem. Empirically, we demonstrate that our simple algorithm derived from the epistemic POMDP achieves significant gains in generalization over current methods on the Procgen benchmark suite.


Amortized Synthesis of Constrained Configurations Using a Differentiable Surrogate

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

In design, fabrication, and control problems, we are often faced with the task of synthesis, in which we must generate an object or configuration that satisfies a set of constraints while maximizing one or more objective functions. The synthesis problem is typically characterized by a physical process in which many different realizations may achieve the goal. This many-to-one map presents challenges to the supervised learning of feed-forward synthesis, as the set of viable designs may have a complex structure. In addition, the non-differentiable nature of many physical simulations prevents direct optimization. We address both of these problems with a two-stage neural network architecture that we may consider to be an autoencoder. We first learn the decoder: a differentiable surrogate that approximates the many-to-one physical realization process. We then learn the encoder, which maps from goal to design, while using the fixed decoder to evaluate the quality of the realization. We evaluate the approach on two case studies: extruder path planning in additive manufacturing and constrained soft robot inverse kinematics. We compare our approach to direct optimization of design using the learned surrogate, and to supervised learning of the synthesis problem. We find that our approach produces higher quality solutions than supervised learning, while being competitive in quality with direct optimization, at a greatly reduced computational cost.


Active multi-fidelity Bayesian online changepoint detection

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Online algorithms for detecting changepoints, or abrupt shifts in the behavior of a time series, are often deployed with limited resources, e.g., to edge computing settings such as mobile phones or industrial sensors. In these scenarios it may be beneficial to trade the cost of collecting an environmental measurement against the quality or "fidelity" of this measurement and how the measurement affects changepoint estimation. For instance, one might decide between inertial measurements or GPS to determine changepoints for motion. A Bayesian approach to changepoint detection is particularly appealing because we can represent our posterior uncertainty about changepoints and make active, cost-sensitive decisions about data fidelity to reduce this posterior uncertainty. Moreover, the total cost could be dramatically lowered through active fidelity switching, while remaining robust to changes in data distribution. We propose a multi-fidelity approach that makes cost-sensitive decisions about which data fidelity to collect based on maximizing information gain with respect to changepoints. We evaluate this framework on synthetic, video, and audio data and show that this information-based approach results in accurate predictions while reducing total cost.


Randomized Automatic Differentiation

arXiv.org Machine Learning

The successes of deep learning, variational inference, and many other fields have been aided by specialized implementations of reverse-mode automatic differentiation (AD) to compute gradients of mega-dimensional objectives. The AD techniques underlying these tools were designed to compute exact gradients to numerical precision, but modern machine learning models are almost always trained with stochastic gradient descent. Why spend computation and memory on exact (minibatch) gradients only to use them for stochastic optimization? We develop a general framework and approach for randomized automatic differentiation (RAD), which allows unbiased gradient estimates to be computed with reduced memory in return for variance. We examine limitations of the general approach, and argue that we must leverage problem specific structure to realize benefits. We develop RAD techniques for a variety of simple neural network architectures, and show that for a fixed memory budget, RAD converges in fewer iterations than using a small batch size for feedforward networks, and in a similar number for recurrent networks. We also show that RAD can be applied to scientific computing, and use it to develop a low-memory stochastic gradient method for optimizing the control parameters of a linear reaction-diffusion PDE representing a fission reactor.


SketchGraphs: A Large-Scale Dataset for Modeling Relational Geometry in Computer-Aided Design

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Parametric computer-aided design (CAD) is the dominant paradigm in mechanical engineering for physical design. Distinguished by relational geometry, parametric CAD models begin as two-dimensional sketches consisting of geometric primitives (e.g., line segments, arcs) and explicit constraints between them (e.g., coincidence, perpendicularity) that form the basis for three-dimensional construction operations. Training machine learning models to reason about and synthesize parametric CAD designs has the potential to reduce design time and enable new design workflows. Additionally, parametric CAD designs can be viewed as instances of constraint programming and they offer a well-scoped test bed for exploring ideas in program synthesis and induction. To facilitate this research, we introduce SketchGraphs, a collection of 15 million sketches extracted from real-world CAD models coupled with an open-source data processing pipeline. Each sketch is represented as a geometric constraint graph where edges denote designer-imposed geometric relationships between primitives, the nodes of the graph. We demonstrate and establish benchmarks for two use cases of the dataset: generative modeling of sketches and conditional generation of likely constraints given unconstrained geometry.


Learning Composable Energy Surrogates for PDE Order Reduction

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Meta-materials are an important emerging class of engineered materials in which complex macroscopic behaviour--whether electromagnetic, thermal, or mechanical--arises from modular substructure. Simulation and optimization of these materials are computationally challenging, as rich substructures necessitate high-fidelity finite element meshes to solve the governing PDEs. To address this, we leverage parametric modular structure to learn component-level surrogates, enabling cheaper high-fidelity simulation. We use a neural network to model the stored potential energy in a component given boundary conditions. This yields a structured prediction task: macroscopic behavior is determined by the minimizer of the system's total potential energy, which can be approximated by composing these surrogate models. Composable energy surrogates thus permit simulation in the reduced basis of component boundaries. Costly ground-truth simulation of the full structure is avoided, as training data are generated by performing finite element analysis with individual components. Using dataset aggregation to choose training boundary conditions allows us to learn energy surrogates which produce accurate macroscopic behavior when composed, accelerating simulation of parametric meta-materials.


SUMO: Unbiased Estimation of Log Marginal Probability for Latent Variable Models

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Standard variational lower bounds used to train latent variable models produce biased estimates of most quantities of interest. We introduce an unbiased estimator of the log marginal likelihood and its gradients for latent variable models based on randomized truncation of infinite series. If parameterized by an encoder-decoder architecture, the parameters of the encoder can be optimized to minimize its variance of this estimator. We show that models trained using our estimator give better test-set likelihoods than a standard importance-sampling based approach for the same average computational cost. This estimator also allows use of latent variable models for tasks where unbiased estimators, rather than marginal likelihood lower bounds, are preferred, such as minimizing reverse KL divergences and estimating score functions.


Discrete Object Generation with Reversible Inductive Construction

Neural Information Processing Systems

The success of generative modeling in continuous domains has led to a surge of interest in generating discrete data such as molecules, source code, and graphs. However, construction histories for these discrete objects are typically not unique and so generative models must reason about intractably large spaces in order to learn. Additionally, structured discrete domains are often characterized by strict constraints on what constitutes a valid object and generative models must respect these requirements in order to produce useful novel samples. Here, we present a generative model for discrete objects employing a Markov chain where transitions are restricted to a set of local operations that preserve validity. Building off of generative interpretations of denoising autoencoders, the Markov chain alternates between producing 1) a sequence of corrupted objects that are valid but not from the data distribution, and 2) a learned reconstruction distribution that attempts to fix the corruptions while also preserving validity.


SpArSe: Sparse Architecture Search for CNNs on Resource-Constrained Microcontrollers

Neural Information Processing Systems

The vast majority of processors in the world are actually microcontroller units (MCUs), which find widespread use performing simple control tasks in applications ranging from automobiles to medical devices and office equipment. The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to inject machine learning into many of these every-day objects via tiny, cheap MCUs. However, these resource-impoverished hardware platforms severely limit the complexity of machine learning models that can be deployed. For example, although convolutional neural networks (CNNs) achieve state-of-the-art results on many visual recognition tasks, CNN inference on MCUs is challenging due to severe memory limitations. To circumvent the memory challenge associated with CNNs, various alternatives have been proposed that do fit within the memory budget of an MCU, albeit at the cost of prediction accuracy.


Slice sampling covariance hyperparameters of latent Gaussian models

Neural Information Processing Systems

The Gaussian process (GP) is a popular way to specify dependencies between random variables in a probabilistic model. In the Bayesian framework the covariance structure can be specified using unknown hyperparameters. Integrating over these hyperparameters considers different possible explanations for the data when making predictions. This integration is often performed using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling. However, with non-Gaussian observations standard hyperparameter sampling approaches require careful tuning and may converge slowly.