An Imitation Game for Learning Semantic Parsers from User Interaction

Published in EMNLP-2020, 2020

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Despite the widely successful applications, building a semantic parser is still a tedious process in practice with challenges from costly data annotation and privacy risks. We suggest an alternative, human-in-the-loop methodology for learning semantic parsers directly from users. A semantic parser should be introspective of its uncertainties and prompt for user demonstrations when uncertain. In doing so it also gets to imitate the user behavior and continue improving itself autonomously with the hope that eventually it may become as good as the user in interpreting their questions. To combat the sparsity of demonstrations, we propose a novel annotation-efficient imitation learning algorithm, which iteratively collects new datasets by mixing demonstrated states and confident predictions and retrains the semantic parser in a Dataset Aggregation fashion (Ross et al., 2011). We provide a theoretical analysis of its cost bound and also empirically demonstrate its promising performance on the text-to-SQL problem.