After spending several decades on the margin of AI, reinforcement learning has recently emerged as a powerful framework for developing intelligent systems that can solve complex tasks in real-world environments. This has had a tremendous impact on a wide range of tasks ranging from playing games such as Go and StarCraft to learning dexterity. However, one attribute of intelligence that still eludes modern learning systems is generalizability. Until very recently, the majority of reinforcement learning research involved training and testing algorithms on the same, sometimes deterministic, environment. This has resulted in algorithms that learn policies that typically perform poorly when deployed in environments that differ, even slightly, from those they were trained on. Even more importantly, the paradigm of task-specific training results in learning systems that scale poorly to a large number of (even interrelated) tasks.
Recently there has been a re-invigorated interest in developing learning systems that can learn transferable skills. This could mean robustness to changing environment dynamics, the ability to quickly adapt to environment and task variations or the ability to learn to perform multiple tasks at once (or any combination thereof). This interest has also resulted in a number of new data sets and challenges (e.g. Obstacle Tower Environment, Animal-AI, CoinRun) and an urgency to standardize the metrics and evaluation protocols to better assess the generalization abilities of novel algorithms. We expect this area to continue to increase in popularity and importance, but this can only happen if we manage to build consensus on which approaches are promising, and, equally important, how to test and evaluate them.
We are excited to organize the NeurIPS 2019 Workshop on Learning Transferable Skills. It will be a full-day workshop that includes a mix of invited speakers, peer-reviewed papers (talks and poster sessions) and a panel discussion.
We hope to see you in Vancouver.
Marwan, Arthur, Danny, Matt and Ben