Google Research

Factorizing declarative and procedural knowledge in structured, dynamic environments

  • Anirudh Goyal
  • Alex Lamb
  • Phanideep Gampa
  • Philippe Beaudoin
  • Sergey Levine
  • Charles Blundell
  • Yoshua Bengio
  • Michael Mozer
International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) (2021) (to appear)


Modeling a structured, dynamic environment like a video game requires keeping track of the objects and their states (declarative knowledge) as well as predicting how objects behave (procedural knowledge). Black-box models with a monolithic hidden state often lack systematicity: they fail to apply procedural knowledge consistently and uniformly. For example, in a video game, correct prediction of one enemy's trajectory does not ensure correct prediction of another's. We address this issue via an architecture that factorizes declarative and procedural knowledge and that imposes modularity within each form of knowledge. The architecture consists of active modules called object files that maintain the state of a single object and invoke passive external knowledge sources called schemata that prescribe state updates. To use a video game as an illustration, two enemies of the same type will share schemata but will each have its own object file to encode its distinct state (e.g., health, position). We propose to use attention to control the determination of which object files update, the selection of schemata, and the propagation of information between object files. The resulting architecture is a drop-in replacement conforming to the same input-output interface as normal recurrent networks (e.g., LSTM, GRU) yet achieves substantially better generalization on environments like Atari, rolling balls, and visual reasoning.

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