RobustFill: Neural Program Learning under Noisy I/O


Jacob Devlin, Jonathan Uesato, Surya Bhupatiraju, Rishabh Singh, Abdel-rahman Mohamed, Pushmeet Kohli ;
Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 70:990-998, 2017.


The problem of automatically generating a computer program from some specification has been studied since the early days of AI. Recently, two competing approaches for `automatic program learning’ have received significant attention: (1) `neural program synthesis’, where a neural network is conditioned on input/output (I/O) examples and learns to generate a program, and (2) `neural program induction’, where a neural network generates new outputs directly using a latent program representation. Here, for the first time, we directly compare both approaches on a large-scale, real-world learning task and we additionally contrast to rule-based program synthesis, which uses hand-crafted semantics to guide the program generation. Our neural models use a modified attention RNN to allow encoding of variable-sized sets of I/O pairs, which achieve 92\% accuracy on a real-world test set, compared to the 34\% accuracy of the previous best neural synthesis approach. The synthesis model also outperforms a comparable induction model on this task, but we more importantly demonstrate that the strength of each approach is highly dependent on the evaluation metric and end-user application. Finally, we show that we can train our neural models to remain very robust to the type of noise expected in real-world data (e.g., typos), while a highly-engineered rule-based system fails entirely.

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