Learning from natural instructions

Dan Goldwasser, Dan Roth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Machine learning is traditionally formalized and researched as the study of learning concepts and decision functions from labeled examples, requiring a representation that encodes information about the domain of the decision function to be learned. We are interested in providing a way for a human teacher to interact with an automated learner using natural instructions, thus allowing the teacher to communicate the relevant domain expertise to the learner without necessarily knowing anything about the internal representations used in the learning process. In this paper we suggest to view the process of learning a decision function as a natural language lesson interpretation problem instead of learning from labeled examples. This interpretation of machine learning is motivated by human learning processes, in which the learner is given a lesson describing the target concept directly, and a few instances exemplifying it. We introduce a learning algorithm for the lesson interpretation problem that gets feedback from its performance on the final task, while learning jointly (1) how to interpret the lesson and (2) how to use this interpretation to do well on the final task. This approach alleviates the supervision burden of traditional machine learning by focusing on supplying the learner with only human-level task expertise for learning. We evaluate our approach by applying it to the rules of the Freecell solitaire card game. We show that our learning approach can eventually use natural language instructions to learn the target concept and play the game legally. Furthermore, we show that the learned semantic interpreter also generalizes to previously unseen instructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIJCAI 2011 - 22nd International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
Event22nd International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2011 - Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Duration: Jul 16 2011Jul 22 2011

Publication series

NameIJCAI International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence
ISSN (Print)1045-0823


Other22nd International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, IJCAI 2011
CityBarcelona, Catalonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence

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