MinTL: Minimalist Transfer Learning for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems

09/25/2020 ∙ by Zhaojiang Lin, et al. ∙ 10

In this paper, we propose Minimalist Transfer Learning (MinTL) to simplify the system design process of task-oriented dialogue systems and alleviate the over-dependency on annotated data. MinTL is a simple yet effective transfer learning framework, which allows us to plug-and-play pre-trained seq2seq models, and jointly learn dialogue state tracking and dialogue response generation. Unlike previous approaches, which use a copy mechanism to "carryover" the old dialogue states to the new one, we introduce Levenshtein belief spans (Lev), that allows efficient dialogue state tracking with a minimal generation length. We instantiate our learning framework with two pre-trained backbones: T5 and BART, and evaluate them on MultiWOZ. Extensive experiments demonstrate that: 1) our systems establish new state-of-the-art results on end-to-end response generation, 2) MinTL-based systems are more robust than baseline methods in the low resource setting, and they achieve competitive results with only 20% training data, and 3) Lev greatly improves the inference efficiency.

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