Leveraging Unstructured Statistical Knowledge in a Probabilistic Language of Thought

AbstractOne hallmark of human reasoning is that we can bring to bear a diverse web of common-sense knowledge in any situation. The vastness of our knowledge poses a challenge for the practical implementation of reasoning systems as well as for our cognitive theories – how do people represent their commonsense knowledge? On the one hand, our best models of sophisticated reasoning are top-down, making use primarily of symbolically-encoded knowledge. On the other, much of our understanding of the statistical properties of our environment may arise in a bottom-up fashion, for example through associationist learning mechanisms. Indeed, recent advances in AI have enabled the development of billion-parameter language models that can scour for patterns in gigabytes of text from the web, picking up a surprising amount of common-sense knowledge along the way—but they fail to learn the structure of coherent reasoning. We propose combining these approaches, by em- bedding language-model-backed primitives into a state-of-the-art probabilistic programming language (PPL). On two open-ended reasoning tasks, we show that our PPL models with neural knowledge components characterize the distribution of human responses more accurately than the neural language models alone, raising interesting questions about how people might use language as an interface to common-sense knowledge, and suggesting that building probabilistic models with neural language-model components may be a promising approach for more human-like AI.

Return to previous page