Helping Humans Master Complex Tasks with AI Tutors

In the ever-evolving world of artificial intelligence, we’ve seen incredible feats achieved by machines. From conquering games like Starcraft, Go, and Chess to tackling complex real-world challenges, artificial intelligence has shown its prowess. But here’s the catch: getting these AI “experts” to teach us mere mortals remains quite the puzzle. Imagine trying to learn how to play chess by talking to AlphaZero—could we really understand all the 1s and 0s? Another approach is to observe how the AI trains, then replicate it for humans. Well, that’s where the “Parameterized Environment Response Model,” or PERM for short, swoops in to save the day.

Imagine you’re trying to teach a robot (or even a fellow human) a new skill, like playing a musical instrument. You don’t want to start with a piece that’s too easy or too hard. Finding that sweet spot—the “Zone of Proximal Development”—where learning is most effective can be tricky. Most methods focus on Reinforcement Learning agents that can utilize parallel processing to speed up training, and hence rely on surrogate measures to track progress. But applying these methods to humans assumes that humans have the time (and patience) to train 1 million times! As the meme puts it succinctly:

PERM isn’t your typical teacher; it’s more like an AI tutor with a superpower for matching the difficulty of a task to your current skill level. Inspired by something called “Item Response Theory,” PERM models the difficulty of tasks and your ability to tackle them directly. Think of it as a personalized learning plan that adapts to you.

Imagine you’re learning to ride a bicycle. At first, PERM starts you off with training wheels because it knows you’re a beginner. As you get better, it gradually removes the training wheels, making things a bit more challenging, but not too hard. It keeps adjusting the difficulty as you improve, ensuring you’re always in the sweet spot for learning.

PERM isn’t just a fancy theory; it’s backed by impressive results. When we used PERM to train AI agents in different environments, they aced it! Imagine teaching a robot to navigate through a maze, and it learns quickly and efficiently. That’s the power of PERM.

What’s even cooler is that PERM isn’t selfish—it can easily share its wisdom. Even when it learns to train a RL student, it can teach a new student that comes through the room! Think about your teacher that is able to train algebra every year, despite having different students. The quality of the training remains top-notch, even as the knowledge spreads.

In the world of AI and learning, PERM is like a superhero teacher, making it easier for robots and humans to learn complex tasks. Whether you’re teaching a robot to clean your room or showing a friend how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, PERM’s got your back. So, next time you’re faced with a challenging learning task, just remember, PERM is here to make it fun, efficient, and tailored just for you. Happy learning!

The full paper can be found here.


  • sidney-tio

    Sidney is currently an AI researcher looking into methods to merge education and Reinforcement Learning together to train better agents and humans. Ex-AISG, Ex-Boyfriend