Population-Based Evolution Optimizes a Meta-Learning Objective

Kevin Frans, Olaf Witkowski

Meta-learning models, or models that learn to learn, have been a long-desired target for their ability to quickly solve new tasks. Traditional meta-learning methods can require expensive inner and outer loops, thus there is demand for algorithms that discover strong learners without explicitly searching for them. We draw parallels to the study of evolvable genomes in evolutionary systems -- genomes with a strong capacity to adapt -- and propose that meta-learning and adaptive evolvability optimize for the same objective: high performance after a set of learning iterations. We argue that population-based evolutionary systems with non-static fitness landscapes naturally bias towards high-evolvability genomes, and therefore optimize for populations with strong learning ability. We demonstrate this claim with a simple evolutionary algorithm, Population-Based Meta Learning (PBML), that consistently discovers genomes which display higher rates of improvement over generations, and can rapidly adapt to solve sparse fitness and robotic control tasks.

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