Xiujun Li


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Optimus: Organizing Sentences via Pre-trained Modeling of a Latent Space
Chunyuan Li | Xiang Gao | Yuan Li | Baolin Peng | Xiujun Li | Yizhe Zhang | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

When trained effectively, the Variational Autoencoder (VAE) can be both a powerful generative model and an effective representation learning framework for natural language. In this paper, we propose the first large-scale language VAE model Optimus (Organizing sentences via Pre-Trained Modeling of a Universal Space). A universal latent embedding space for sentences is first pre-trained on large text corpus, and then fine-tuned for various language generation and understanding tasks. Compared with GPT-2, Optimus enables guided language generation from an abstract level using the latent vectors. Compared with BERT, Optimus can generalize better on low-resource language understanding tasks due to the smooth latent space structure. Extensive experimental results on a wide range of language tasks demonstrate the effectiveness of Optimus. It achieves new state-of-the-art on VAE language modeling benchmarks.

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Few-shot Natural Language Generation for Task-Oriented Dialog
Baolin Peng | Chenguang Zhu | Chunyuan Li | Xiujun Li | Jinchao Li | Michael Zeng | Jianfeng Gao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

As a crucial component in task-oriented dialog systems, the Natural Language Generation (NLG) module converts a dialog act represented in a semantic form into a response in natural language. The success of traditional template-based or statistical models typically relies on heavily annotated data, which is infeasible for new domains. Therefore, it is pivotal for an NLG system to generalize well with limited labelled data in real applications. To this end, we present FewshotWOZ, the first NLG benchmark to simulate the few-shot learning setting in task-oriented dialog systems. Further, we develop the SC-GPT model. It is pre-trained on a large set of annotated NLG corpus to acquire the controllable generation ability, and fine-tuned with only a few domain-specific labels to adapt to new domains. Experiments on FewshotWOZ and the large Multi-Domain-WOZ datasets show that the proposed SC-GPT significantly outperforms existing methods, measured by various automatic metrics and human evaluations.


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Towards Coherent and Cohesive Long-form Text Generation
Woon Sang Cho | Pengchuan Zhang | Yizhe Zhang | Xiujun Li | Michel Galley | Chris Brockett | Mengdi Wang | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Narrative Understanding

Generating coherent and cohesive long-form texts is a challenging task. Previous works relied on large amounts of human-generated texts to train neural language models. However, few attempted to explicitly improve neural language models from the perspectives of coherence and cohesion. In this work, we propose a new neural language model that is equipped with two neural discriminators which provide feedback signals at the levels of sentence (cohesion) and paragraph (coherence). Our model is trained using a simple yet efficient variant of policy gradient, called ‘negative-critical sequence training’, which is proposed to eliminate the need of training a separate critic for estimating ‘baseline’. Results demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, showing improvements over the strong baseline – recurrent attention-based bidirectional MLE-trained neural language model.

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Robust Navigation with Language Pretraining and Stochastic Sampling
Xiujun Li | Chunyuan Li | Qiaolin Xia | Yonatan Bisk | Asli Celikyilmaz | Jianfeng Gao | Noah A. Smith | Yejin Choi
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Core to the vision-and-language navigation (VLN) challenge is building robust instruction representations and action decoding schemes, which can generalize well to previously unseen instructions and environments. In this paper, we report two simple but highly effective methods to address these challenges and lead to a new state-of-the-art performance. First, we adapt large-scale pretrained language models to learn text representations that generalize better to previously unseen instructions. Second, we propose a stochastic sampling scheme to reduce the considerable gap between the expert actions in training and sampled actions in test, so that the agent can learn to correct its own mistakes during long sequential action decoding. Combining the two techniques, we achieve a new state of the art on the Room-to-Room benchmark with 6% absolute gain over the previous best result (47% -> 53%) on the Success Rate weighted by Path Length metric.

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Budgeted Policy Learning for Task-Oriented Dialogue Systems
Zhirui Zhang | Xiujun Li | Jianfeng Gao | Enhong Chen
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

This paper presents a new approach that extends Deep Dyna-Q (DDQ) by incorporating a Budget-Conscious Scheduling (BCS) to best utilize a fixed, small amount of user interactions (budget) for learning task-oriented dialogue agents. BCS consists of (1) a Poisson-based global scheduler to allocate budget over different stages of training; (2) a controller to decide at each training step whether the agent is trained using real or simulated experiences; (3) a user goal sampling module to generate the experiences that are most effective for policy learning. Experiments on a movie-ticket booking task with simulated and real users show that our approach leads to significant improvements in success rate over the state-of-the-art baselines given the fixed budget.

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ConvLab: Multi-Domain End-to-End Dialog System Platform
Sungjin Lee | Qi Zhu | Ryuichi Takanobu | Zheng Zhang | Yaoqin Zhang | Xiang Li | Jinchao Li | Baolin Peng | Xiujun Li | Minlie Huang | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

We present ConvLab, an open-source multi-domain end-to-end dialog system platform, that enables researchers to quickly set up experiments with reusable components and compare a large set of different approaches, ranging from conventional pipeline systems to end-to-end neural models, in common environments. ConvLab offers a set of fully annotated datasets and associated pre-trained reference models. As a showcase, we extend the MultiWOZ dataset with user dialog act annotations to train all component models and demonstrate how ConvLab makes it easy and effortless to conduct complicated experiments in multi-domain end-to-end dialog settings.


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Deep Dyna-Q: Integrating Planning for Task-Completion Dialogue Policy Learning
Baolin Peng | Xiujun Li | Jianfeng Gao | Jingjing Liu | Kam-Fai Wong
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Training a task-completion dialogue agent via reinforcement learning (RL) is costly because it requires many interactions with real users. One common alternative is to use a user simulator. However, a user simulator usually lacks the language complexity of human interlocutors and the biases in its design may tend to degrade the agent. To address these issues, we present Deep Dyna-Q, which to our knowledge is the first deep RL framework that integrates planning for task-completion dialogue policy learning. We incorporate into the dialogue agent a model of the environment, referred to as the world model, to mimic real user response and generate simulated experience. During dialogue policy learning, the world model is constantly updated with real user experience to approach real user behavior, and in turn, the dialogue agent is optimized using both real experience and simulated experience. The effectiveness of our approach is demonstrated on a movie-ticket booking task in both simulated and human-in-the-loop settings.

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Subgoal Discovery for Hierarchical Dialogue Policy Learning
Da Tang | Xiujun Li | Jianfeng Gao | Chong Wang | Lihong Li | Tony Jebara
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Developing agents to engage in complex goal-oriented dialogues is challenging partly because the main learning signals are very sparse in long conversations. In this paper, we propose a divide-and-conquer approach that discovers and exploits the hidden structure of the task to enable efficient policy learning. First, given successful example dialogues, we propose the Subgoal Discovery Network (SDN) to divide a complex goal-oriented task into a set of simpler subgoals in an unsupervised fashion. We then use these subgoals to learn a multi-level policy by hierarchical reinforcement learning. We demonstrate our method by building a dialogue agent for the composite task of travel planning. Experiments with simulated and real users show that our approach performs competitively against a state-of-the-art method that requires human-defined subgoals. Moreover, we show that the learned subgoals are often human comprehensible.

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Discriminative Deep Dyna-Q: Robust Planning for Dialogue Policy Learning
Shang-Yu Su | Xiujun Li | Jianfeng Gao | Jingjing Liu | Yun-Nung Chen
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

This paper presents a Discriminative Deep Dyna-Q (D3Q) approach to improving the effectiveness and robustness of Deep Dyna-Q (DDQ), a recently proposed framework that extends the Dyna-Q algorithm to integrate planning for task-completion dialogue policy learning. To obviate DDQ’s high dependency on the quality of simulated experiences, we incorporate an RNN-based discriminator in D3Q to differentiate simulated experience from real user experience in order to control the quality of training data. Experiments show that D3Q significantly outperforms DDQ by controlling the quality of simulated experience used for planning. The effectiveness and robustness of D3Q is further demonstrated in a domain extension setting, where the agent’s capability of adapting to a changing environment is tested.


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Composite Task-Completion Dialogue Policy Learning via Hierarchical Deep Reinforcement Learning
Baolin Peng | Xiujun Li | Lihong Li | Jianfeng Gao | Asli Celikyilmaz | Sungjin Lee | Kam-Fai Wong
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Building a dialogue agent to fulfill complex tasks, such as travel planning, is challenging because the agent has to learn to collectively complete multiple subtasks. For example, the agent needs to reserve a hotel and book a flight so that there leaves enough time for commute between arrival and hotel check-in. This paper addresses this challenge by formulating the task in the mathematical framework of options over Markov Decision Processes (MDPs), and proposing a hierarchical deep reinforcement learning approach to learning a dialogue manager that operates at different temporal scales. The dialogue manager consists of: (1) a top-level dialogue policy that selects among subtasks or options, (2) a low-level dialogue policy that selects primitive actions to complete the subtask given by the top-level policy, and (3) a global state tracker that helps ensure all cross-subtask constraints be satisfied. Experiments on a travel planning task with simulated and real users show that our approach leads to significant improvements over three baselines, two based on handcrafted rules and the other based on flat deep reinforcement learning.

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End-to-End Task-Completion Neural Dialogue Systems
Xiujun Li | Yun-Nung Chen | Lihong Li | Jianfeng Gao | Asli Celikyilmaz
Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

One of the major drawbacks of modularized task-completion dialogue systems is that each module is trained individually, which presents several challenges. For example, downstream modules are affected by earlier modules, and the performance of the entire system is not robust to the accumulated errors. This paper presents a novel end-to-end learning framework for task-completion dialogue systems to tackle such issues.Our neural dialogue system can directly interact with a structured database to assist users in accessing information and accomplishing certain tasks. The reinforcement learning based dialogue manager offers robust capabilities to handle noises caused by other components of the dialogue system. Our experiments in a movie-ticket booking domain show that our end-to-end system not only outperforms modularized dialogue system baselines for both objective and subjective evaluation, but also is robust to noises as demonstrated by several systematic experiments with different error granularity and rates specific to the language understanding module.

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Towards End-to-End Reinforcement Learning of Dialogue Agents for Information Access
Bhuwan Dhingra | Lihong Li | Xiujun Li | Jianfeng Gao | Yun-Nung Chen | Faisal Ahmed | Li Deng
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

This paper proposes KB-InfoBot - a multi-turn dialogue agent which helps users search Knowledge Bases (KBs) without composing complicated queries. Such goal-oriented dialogue agents typically need to interact with an external database to access real-world knowledge. Previous systems achieved this by issuing a symbolic query to the KB to retrieve entries based on their attributes. However, such symbolic operations break the differentiability of the system and prevent end-to-end training of neural dialogue agents. In this paper, we address this limitation by replacing symbolic queries with an induced “soft” posterior distribution over the KB that indicates which entities the user is interested in. Integrating the soft retrieval process with a reinforcement learner leads to higher task success rate and reward in both simulations and against real users. We also present a fully neural end-to-end agent, trained entirely from user feedback, and discuss its application towards personalized dialogue agents.