Emergence of Machine Language: Towards Symbolic Intelligence with Neural Networks

14 Jan 2022  ·  Yuqi Wang, Xu-Yao Zhang, Cheng-Lin Liu, Zhaoxiang Zhang ·

Representation is a core issue in artificial intelligence. Humans use discrete language to communicate and learn from each other, while machines use continuous features (like vector, matrix, or tensor in deep neural networks) to represent cognitive patterns. Discrete symbols are low-dimensional, decoupled, and have strong reasoning ability, while continuous features are high-dimensional, coupled, and have incredible abstracting capabilities. In recent years, deep learning has developed the idea of continuous representation to the extreme, using millions of parameters to achieve high accuracies. Although this is reasonable from the statistical perspective, it has other major problems like lacking interpretability, poor generalization, and is easy to be attacked. Since both paradigms have strengths and weaknesses, a better choice is to seek reconciliation. In this paper, we make an initial attempt towards this direction. Specifically, we propose to combine symbolism and connectionism principles by using neural networks to derive a discrete representation. This process is highly similar to human language, which is a natural combination of discrete symbols and neural systems, where the brain processes continuous signals and represents intelligence via discrete language. To mimic this functionality, we denote our approach as machine language. By designing an interactive environment and task, we demonstrated that machines could generate a spontaneous, flexible, and semantic language through cooperation. Moreover, through experiments we show that discrete language representation has several advantages compared with continuous feature representation, from the aspects of interpretability, generalization, and robustness.

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