Pedro A. Ortega

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Research Scientist at DeepMind

  • Meta-learning of Sequential Strategies

    In this report we review memory-based meta-learning as a tool for building sample-efficient strategies that learn from past experience to adapt to any task within a target class. Our goal is to equip the reader with the conceptual foundations of this tool for building new, scalable agents that operate on broad domains. To do so, we present basic algorithmic templates for building near-optimal predictors and reinforcement learners which behave as if they had a probabilistic model that allowed them to efficiently exploit task structure. Furthermore, we recast memory-based meta-learning within a Bayesian framework, showing that the meta-learned strategies are near-optimal because they amortize Bayes-filtered data, where the adaptation is implemented in the memory dynamics as a state-machine of sufficient statistics. Essentially, memory-based meta-learning translates the hard problem of probabilistic sequential inference into a regression problem.

    05/08/2019 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 16 share

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  • Meta reinforcement learning as task inference

    Humans achieve efficient learning by relying on prior knowledge about the structure of naturally occurring tasks. There has been considerable interest in designing reinforcement learning algorithms with similar properties. This includes several proposals to learn the learning algorithm itself, an idea also referred to as meta learning. One formal interpretation of this idea is in terms of a partially observable multi-task reinforcement learning problem in which information about the task is hidden from the agent. Although agents that solve partially observable environments can be trained from rewards alone, shaping an agent's memory with additional supervision has been shown to boost learning efficiency. It is thus natural to ask what kind of supervision, if any, facilitates meta-learning. Here we explore several choices and develop an architecture that separates learning of the belief about the unknown task from learning of the policy, and that can be used effectively with privileged information about the task during training. We show that this approach can be very effective at solving standard meta-RL environments, as well as a complex continuous control environment in which a simulated robot has to execute various movement sequences.

    05/15/2019 ∙ by Jan Humplik, et al. ∙ 5 share

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  • Human Decision-Making under Limited Time

    Subjective expected utility theory assumes that decision-makers possess unlimited computational resources to reason about their choices; however, virtually all decisions in everyday life are made under resource constraints - i.e. decision-makers are bounded in their rationality. Here we experimentally tested the predictions made by a formalization of bounded rationality based on ideas from statistical mechanics and information-theory. We systematically tested human subjects in their ability to solve combinatorial puzzles under different time limitations. We found that our bounded-rational model accounts well for the data. The decomposition of the fitted model parameter into the subjects' expected utility function and resource parameter provide interesting insight into the subjects' information capacity limits. Our results confirm that humans gradually fall back on their learned prior choice patterns when confronted with increasing resource limitations.

    10/06/2016 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Memory shapes time perception and intertemporal choices

    There is a consensus that human and non-human subjects experience temporal distortions in many stages of their perceptual and decision-making systems. Similarly, intertemporal choice research has shown that decision-makers undervalue future outcomes relative to immediate ones. Here we combine techniques from information theory and artificial intelligence to show how both temporal distortions and intertemporal choice preferences can be explained as a consequence of the coding efficiency of sensorimotor representation. In particular, the model implies that interactions that constrain future behavior are perceived as being both longer in duration and more valuable. Furthermore, using simulations of artificial agents, we investigate how memory constraints enforce a renormalization of the perceived timescales. Our results show that qualitatively different discount functions, such as exponential and hyperbolic discounting, arise as a consequence of an agent's probabilistic model of the world.

    04/18/2016 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • An Adversarial Interpretation of Information-Theoretic Bounded Rationality

    Recently, there has been a growing interest in modeling planning with information constraints. Accordingly, an agent maximizes a regularized expected utility known as the free energy, where the regularizer is given by the information divergence from a prior to a posterior policy. While this approach can be justified in various ways, including from statistical mechanics and information theory, it is still unclear how it relates to decision-making against adversarial environments. This connection has previously been suggested in work relating the free energy to risk-sensitive control and to extensive form games. Here, we show that a single-agent free energy optimization is equivalent to a game between the agent and an imaginary adversary. The adversary can, by paying an exponential penalty, generate costs that diminish the decision maker's payoffs. It turns out that the optimal strategy of the adversary consists in choosing costs so as to render the decision maker indifferent among its choices, which is a definining property of a Nash equilibrium, thus tightening the connection between free energy optimization and game theory.

    04/22/2014 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Information-Theoretic Bounded Rationality

    Bounded rationality, that is, decision-making and planning under resource limitations, is widely regarded as an important open problem in artificial intelligence, reinforcement learning, computational neuroscience and economics. This paper offers a consolidated presentation of a theory of bounded rationality based on information-theoretic ideas. We provide a conceptual justification for using the free energy functional as the objective function for characterizing bounded-rational decisions. This functional possesses three crucial properties: it controls the size of the solution space; it has Monte Carlo planners that are exact, yet bypass the need for exhaustive search; and it captures model uncertainty arising from lack of evidence or from interacting with other agents having unknown intentions. We discuss the single-step decision-making case, and show how to extend it to sequential decisions using equivalence transformations. This extension yields a very general class of decision problems that encompass classical decision rules (e.g. EXPECTIMAX and MINIMAX) as limit cases, as well as trust- and risk-sensitive planning.

    12/21/2015 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Belief Flows of Robust Online Learning

    This paper introduces a new probabilistic model for online learning which dynamically incorporates information from stochastic gradients of an arbitrary loss function. Similar to probabilistic filtering, the model maintains a Gaussian belief over the optimal weight parameters. Unlike traditional Bayesian updates, the model incorporates a small number of gradient evaluations at locations chosen using Thompson sampling, making it computationally tractable. The belief is then transformed via a linear flow field which optimally updates the belief distribution using rules derived from information theoretic principles. Several versions of the algorithm are shown using different constraints on the flow field and compared with conventional online learning algorithms. Results are given for several classification tasks including logistic regression and multilayer neural networks.

    05/26/2015 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Subjectivity, Bayesianism, and Causality

    Bayesian probability theory is one of the most successful frameworks to model reasoning under uncertainty. Its defining property is the interpretation of probabilities as degrees of belief in propositions about the state of the world relative to an inquiring subject. This essay examines the notion of subjectivity by drawing parallels between Lacanian theory and Bayesian probability theory, and concludes that the latter must be enriched with causal interventions to model agency. The central contribution of this work is an abstract model of the subject that accommodates causal interventions in a measure-theoretic formalisation. This formalisation is obtained through a game-theoretic Ansatz based on modelling the inside and outside of the subject as an extensive-form game with imperfect information between two players. Finally, I illustrate the expressiveness of this model with an example of causal induction.

    07/15/2014 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • A Nonparametric Conjugate Prior Distribution for the Maximizing Argument of a Noisy Function

    We propose a novel Bayesian approach to solve stochastic optimization problems that involve finding extrema of noisy, nonlinear functions. Previous work has focused on representing possible functions explicitly, which leads to a two-step procedure of first, doing inference over the function space and second, finding the extrema of these functions. Here we skip the representation step and directly model the distribution over extrema. To this end, we devise a non-parametric conjugate prior based on a kernel regressor. The resulting posterior distribution directly captures the uncertainty over the maximum of the unknown function. We illustrate the effectiveness of our model by optimizing a noisy, high-dimensional, non-convex objective function.

    06/09/2012 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Information, Utility & Bounded Rationality

    Perfectly rational decision-makers maximize expected utility, but crucially ignore the resource costs incurred when determining optimal actions. Here we employ an axiomatic framework for bounded rational decision-making based on a thermodynamic interpretation of resource costs as information costs. This leads to a variational "free utility" principle akin to thermodynamical free energy that trades off utility and information costs. We show that bounded optimal control solutions can be derived from this variational principle, which leads in general to stochastic policies. Furthermore, we show that risk-sensitive and robust (minimax) control schemes fall out naturally from this framework if the environment is considered as a bounded rational and perfectly rational opponent, respectively. When resource costs are ignored, the maximum expected utility principle is recovered.

    07/28/2011 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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  • Generalized Thompson Sampling for Sequential Decision-Making and Causal Inference

    Recently, it has been shown how sampling actions from the predictive distribution over the optimal action-sometimes called Thompson sampling-can be applied to solve sequential adaptive control problems, when the optimal policy is known for each possible environment. The predictive distribution can then be constructed by a Bayesian superposition of the optimal policies weighted by their posterior probability that is updated by Bayesian inference and causal calculus. Here we discuss three important features of this approach. First, we discuss in how far such Thompson sampling can be regarded as a natural consequence of the Bayesian modeling of policy uncertainty. Second, we show how Thompson sampling can be used to study interactions between multiple adaptive agents, thus, opening up an avenue of game-theoretic analysis. Third, we show how Thompson sampling can be applied to infer causal relationships when interacting with an environment in a sequential fashion. In summary, our results suggest that Thompson sampling might not merely be a useful heuristic, but a principled method to address problems of adaptive sequential decision-making and causal inference.

    03/18/2013 ∙ by Pedro A. Ortega, et al. ∙ 0 share

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