Collecting data for training dialog systems can be extremely expensive due to the involvement of human participants and the need for extensive annotation. Especially in document-grounded dialog systems, human experts need to carefully read the unstructured documents to answer the users’ questions. As a result, existing document-grounded dialog datasets are relatively small-scale and obstruct the effective training of dialogue systems. In this paper, we propose an automatic data augmentation technique grounded on documents through a generative dialogue model. The dialogue model consists of a user bot and agent bot that can synthesize diverse dialogues given an input document, which is then used to train a downstream model. When supplementing the original dataset, our method achieves significant improvement over traditional data augmentation methods. We also achieve great performance in the low-resource setting.
Transformers have reached remarkable success in sequence modeling. However, these models have efficiency issues as they need to store all the history token-level representations as memory. We present Memformer, an efficient neural network for sequence modeling, that utilizes an external dynamic memory to encode and retrieve past information. Our model achieves linear time complexity and constant memory space complexity when processing long sequences. We also propose a new optimization scheme, memory replay back-propagation (MRBP), which promotes long-range back-propagation through time with a significantly reduced memory requirement. Experimental results show that Memformer has achieved comparable performance compared against the baselines by using 8.1x less memory space and 3.2x faster on inference. Analysis of the attention pattern shows that our external memory slots can encode and retain important information through timesteps.
Existing dialog system models require extensive human annotations and are difficult to generalize to different tasks. The recent success of large pre-trained language models such as BERT and GPT-2 (Devlin et al., 2019; Radford et al., 2019) have suggested the effectiveness of incorporating language priors in down-stream NLP tasks. However, how much pre-trained language models can help dialog response generation is still under exploration. In this paper, we propose a simple, general, and effective framework: Alternating Recurrent Dialog Model (ARDM). ARDM models each speaker separately and takes advantage of the large pre-trained language model. It requires no supervision from human annotations such as belief states or dialog acts to achieve effective conversations. ARDM outperforms or is on par with state-of-the-art methods on two popular task-oriented dialog datasets: CamRest676 and MultiWOZ. Moreover, we can generalize ARDM to more challenging, non-collaborative tasks such as persuasion. In persuasion tasks, ARDM is capable of generating human-like responses to persuade people to donate to a charity.
Large pre-trained language generation models such as GPT-2 have demonstrated their effectiveness as language priors by reaching state-of-the-art results in various language generation tasks. However, the performance of pre-trained models on task-oriented dialog tasks is still under-explored. We propose a Pre-trainedRole Alternating Language model (PRAL), explicitly designed for task-oriented conversational systems. We design several techniques: start position randomization, knowledge distillation, and history discount to improve pre-training performance. In addition, we introduce a high-quality large-scale task-oriented dialog pre-training dataset by post-prossessing13 dialog datasets. We effectively adapt PRALon three downstream tasks. The results show that PRAL outperforms or is on par with state-of-the-art models.
Under the pandemic of COVID-19, people experiencing COVID19-related symptoms have a pressing need to consult doctors. Because of the shortage of medical professionals, many people cannot receive online consultations timely. To address this problem, we aim to develop a medical dialog system that can provide COVID19-related consultations. We collected two dialog datasets – CovidDialog – (in English and Chinese respectively) containing conversations between doctors and patients about COVID-19. While the largest of their kind, these two datasets are still relatively small compared with general-domain dialog datasets. Training complex dialog generation models on small datasets bears high risk of overfitting. To alleviate overfitting, we develop a multi-task learning approach, which regularizes the data-deficient dialog generation task with a masked token prediction task. Experiments on the CovidDialog datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach. We perform both human evaluation and automatic evaluation of dialogs generated by our method. Results show that the generated responses are promising in being doctor-like, relevant to conversation history, clinically informative and correct. The code and the data are available at https://github.com/UCSD-AI4H/COVID-Dialogue.