Working Memory Graphs

Part of Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning 1 pre-proceedings (ICML 2020)

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Ricky Loynd, Roland Fernandez, Asli Celikyilmaz, Adith Swaminathan, Matthew Hausknecht


Transformers have increasingly outperformed gated RNNs in obtaining new state-of-the-art results on supervised tasks involving text sequences. Inspired by this trend, we study the question of how Transformer-based models can improve the performance of sequential decision-making agents. We present the Working Memory Graph (WMG), an agent that employs multi-head self-attention to reason over a dynamic set of vectors representing observed and recurrent state. We evaluate WMG in three environments featuring factored observation spaces: a Pathfinding environment that requires complex reasoning over past observations, BabyAI gridworld levels that involve text instructions, and Sokoban which emphasizes future planning. We find that the combination of WMG's Transformer-based architecture with factored observation spaces leads to significant gains in learning efficiency compared to other architectures across all tasks. Our results imply that for environments where it is possible to factorize environment observations, WMG's Transformer-based architecture can dramatically boost sample efficiency.