Disentangling Categorization in Multi-agent Emergent Communication

The emergence of language between artificial agents is a recent focus of computational linguistics, as it offers a synthetic substrate for reasoning about human language evolution. From the perspective of cognitive science, sophisticated categorization in humans is thought to enable reasoning about novel observations, and thus compose old information to describe new phenomena. Unfortunately, the literature to date has not managed to isolate the effect of categorization power in artificial agents on their inter-communication ability, particularly on novel, unseen objects. In this work, we propose the use of disentangled representations from representation learning to quantify the categorization power of agents, enabling a differential analysis between combinations of heterogeneous systems, e.g., pairs of agents which learn to communicate despite mismatched concept realization. Through this approach, we observe that agent heterogeneity can cut signaling accuracy by up to 40%, despite encouraging compositionality in the artificial language. We conclude that the reasoning process of agents plays a key role in their communication, with unexpected benefits arising from their mixing, such as better language compositionality.

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