Learning to Resolve Alliance Dilemmas in Many-Player Zero-Sum Games

27 Feb 2020  ·  Edward Hughes, Thomas W. Anthony, Tom Eccles, Joel Z. Leibo, David Balduzzi, Yoram Bachrach ·

Zero-sum games have long guided artificial intelligence research, since they possess both a rich strategy space of best-responses and a clear evaluation metric. What's more, competition is a vital mechanism in many real-world multi-agent systems capable of generating intelligent innovations: Darwinian evolution, the market economy and the AlphaZero algorithm, to name a few... In two-player zero-sum games, the challenge is usually viewed as finding Nash equilibrium strategies, safeguarding against exploitation regardless of the opponent. While this captures the intricacies of chess or Go, it avoids the notion of cooperation with co-players, a hallmark of the major transitions leading from unicellular organisms to human civilization. Beyond two players, alliance formation often confers an advantage; however this requires trust, namely the promise of mutual cooperation in the face of incentives to defect. Successful play therefore requires adaptation to co-players rather than the pursuit of non-exploitability. Here we argue that a systematic study of many-player zero-sum games is a crucial element of artificial intelligence research. Using symmetric zero-sum matrix games, we demonstrate formally that alliance formation may be seen as a social dilemma, and empirically that na\"ive multi-agent reinforcement learning therefore fails to form alliances. We introduce a toy model of economic competition, and show how reinforcement learning may be augmented with a peer-to-peer contract mechanism to discover and enforce alliances. Finally, we generalize our agent model to incorporate temporally-extended contracts, presenting opportunities for further work. read more

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