Discovering Adaptable Symbolic Algorithms from Scratch

Stephen Kelly, Daniel S. Park, Xingyou Song, Mitchell McIntire, Pranav Nashikkar, Ritam Guha, Wolfgang Banzhaf, Kalyanmoy Deb, Vishnu Boddeti, Jie Tan and Esteban Real
IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2023 (Best Paper Award Finalist).


Autonomous robots deployed in the real world will need control policies that rapidly adapt to environmental changes. To this end, we propose AutoRobotics-Zero (ARZ), a method based on AutoML-Zero that discovers zero-shot adaptable policies from scratch. In contrast to neural network adaption policies, where only model parameters are optimized, ARZ can build control algorithms with the full expressive power of a linear register machine. We evolve modular policies that tune their model parameters and alter their inference algorithm on-the-fly to adapt to sudden environmental changes. We demonstrate our method on a realistic simulated quadruped robot, for which we evolve safe control policies that avoid falling when individual limbs suddenly break. This is a challenging task in which two popular neural network baselines fail. Finally, we conduct a detailed analysis of our method on a novel and challenging non-stationary control task dubbed Cataclysmic Cartpole. Results confirm our findings that ARZ is significantly more robust to sudden environmental changes and can build simple, interpretable control policies.