On Emergent Communication in Competitive Multi-Agent Teams

Several recent works have found the emergence of grounded compositional language in the communication protocols developed by mostly cooperative multi-agent systems when learned end-to-end to maximize performance on a downstream task. However, human populations learn to solve complex tasks involving communicative behaviors not only in fully cooperative settings but also in scenarios where competition acts as an additional external pressure for improvement. In this work, we investigate whether competition for performance from an external, similar agent team could act as a social influence that encourages multi-agent populations to develop better communication protocols for improved performance, compositionality, and convergence speed. We start from Task & Talk, a previously proposed referential game between two cooperative agents as our testbed and extend it into Task, Talk & Compete, a game involving two competitive teams each consisting of two aforementioned cooperative agents. Using this new setting, we provide an empirical study demonstrating the impact of competitive influence on multi-agent teams. Our results show that an external competitive influence leads to improved accuracy and generalization, as well as faster emergence of communicative languages that are more informative and compositional.

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