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J. Schmidhuber (2013)

PowerPlay: training an increasingly general problem solver by continually searching for the simplest still unsolvable problem

Front. Psychol., 4(313).

Most of computer science focuses on automatically solving given computational problems. I focus on automatically inventing or discovering problems in a way inspired by the playful behavior of animals and humans, to train a more and more general problem solver from scratch in an unsupervised fashion. Consider the infinite set of all computable descriptions of tasks with possibly computable solutions. Given a general problem-solving architecture, at any given time, the novel algorithmic framework PowerPlay (Schmidhuber, 2011) searches the space of possible pairs of new tasks and modifications of the current problem solver, until it finds a more powerful problem solver that provably solves all previously learned tasks plus the new one, while the unmodified predecessor does not. Newly invented tasks may require to achieve a wow-effect by making previously learned skills more efficient such that they require less time and space. New skills may (partially) re-use previously learned skills. The greedy search of typical PowerPlay variants uses time-optimal program search to order candidate pairs of tasks and solver modifications by their conditional computational (time and space) complexity, given the stored experience so far. The new task and its corresponding task-solving skill are those first found and validated. This biases the search toward pairs that can be described compactly and validated quickly. The computational costs of validating new tasks need not grow with task repertoire size. Standard problem solver architectures of personal computers or neural networks tend to generalize by solving numerous tasks outside the self-invented training set; PowerPlay’s ongoing search for novelty keeps breaking the generalization abilities of its present solver. This is related to Gödel’s sequence of increasingly powerful formal theories based on adding formerly unprovable statements to the axioms without affecting previously provable theorems. The continually increasing repertoire of problem-solving procedures can be exploited by a parallel search for solutions to additional externally posed tasks. PowerPlay may be viewed as a greedy but practical implementation of basic principles of creativity (Schmidhuber, 2006a, 2010). A first experimental analysis can be found in separate papers (Srivastava et al., 2012a,b, 2013).