Implicit Communication as Minimum Entropy Coupling

Samuel Sokota, Christian Schroeder de Witt, Maximilian Igl, Luisa Zintgraf, Philip Torr, Shimon Whiteson, Jakob Foerster

In many common-payoff games, achieving good performance requires players to develop protocols for communicating their private information implicitly -- i.e., using actions that have non-communicative effects on the environment. Multi-agent reinforcement learning practitioners typically approach this problem using independent learning methods in the hope that agents will learn implicit communication as a byproduct of expected return maximization. Unfortunately, independent learning methods are incapable of doing this in many settings. In this work, we isolate the implicit communication problem by identifying a class of partially observable common-payoff games, which we call implicit referential games, whose difficulty can be attributed to implicit communication. Next, we introduce a principled method based on minimum entropy coupling that leverages the structure of implicit referential games, yielding a new perspective on implicit communication. Lastly, we show that this method can discover performant implicit communication protocols in settings with very large spaces of messages.

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