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Unsupervised Learning of Temporal Abstractions with Slot-based Transformers

Anand Gopalakrishnan
Jürgen Schmidhuber
Kazuki Irie
Neural Computation, vol. 35 (2023), pp. 593-626


The discovery of reusable sub-routines simplifies decision-making and planning in complex reinforcement learning problems. Previous approaches propose to learn such temporal abstractions in an unsupervised fashion through observing state-action trajectories gathered from executing a policy. However, a current limitation is that they process each trajectory in an entirely sequential manner, which prevents them from revising earlier decisions about sub-routine boundary points in light of new incoming information. In this work we propose SloTTAr, a fully parallel approach that integrates sequence processing Transformers with a Slot Attention module to discover sub-routines in an unsupervised fashion, while leveraging adaptive computation for learning about the number of such sub-routines solely based on their empirical distribution. We demonstrate how SloTTAr is capable of outperforming strong baselines in terms of boundary point discovery, even for sequences containing variable amounts of sub-routines, while being up to 7x faster to train on existing benchmarks.

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