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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Causality is Important for Machine Learning

Have always thought causal thinking and learning was a major consideration for the future of AI in general.  Here a step in the right direction.  But overall its still a hard question.

Understanding Causality Is the Next Challenge for Machine Learning

Teaching robots to understand "why" could help them transfer their knowledge to other environments  By Payal Dhar

“Causality is very important for the next steps of progress of machine learning,” said Yoshua Bengio, a Turing Award-wining scientist known for his work in deep learning, in an interview with IEEE Spectrum in 2019. So far, deep learning has comprised learning from static datasets, which makes AI really good at tasks related to correlations and associations. However, neural nets do not interpret cause-and effect, or why these associations and correlations exist. Nor are they particularly good at tasks that involve imagination, reasoning, and planning. This, in turn, limits AI from being able to generalize their learning and transfer their skills to another related environment.

The lack of generalization is a big problem, says Ossama Ahmed, a master’s student at ETH Zurich who has worked with Bengio’s team to develop a robotic benchmarking tool for causality and transfer learning. “Robots are [often] trained in simulation, and then when you try to deploy [them] in the real world…they usually fail to transfer their learned skills. One of the reasons is that the physical properties of the simulation are quite different from the real world,” says Ahmed. The group’s tool, called CausalWorld, demonstrates that with some of the methods currently available, the generalization capabilities of robots aren’t good enough—at least not to the extent that “we can deploy [them] safely in any arbitrary situation in the real world,” says Ahmed.

The paper on CausalWorld   , available as a preprint, describes benchmarks in a simulated robotics manipulation environment using the open-source TriFinger robotics platform. The main purpose of CausalWorld is to accelerate research in causal structure and transfer learning using this simulated environment, where learned skills could potentially be transferred to the real world. Robotic agents can be given tasks that comprise pushing, stacking, placing, and so on, informed by how children have been observed to play with blocks and learn to build complex structures. There is a large set of parameters, such as weight, shape, and appearance of the blocks and the robot itself, on which the user can intervene at any point to evaluate the robot’s generalization capabilities. ...  '

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