From OpenCog

Economic Goal and Action Selection

Now we turn to the topic of goal and action selection — the algorithmically subtlest issue addressed in this chapter, which is addressed in OCP via an extension of the artificial-economics approach to attention allocation, discussed above. The main actors (apart from the usual ones like the AtomTable, economic attention allocation, etc.) in the tale to be told here are as follows:

Ubergoal Pool

The Ubergoal Pool contains the Atoms that the system considers as top-level goals. These goals must be treated specially by attention allocation: they must be given funding by the Unit so that they can use it to pay for getting themselves achieved. The weighting among different top-level goals is achieved via giving them differential amounts of currency. STICurrency is the key kind here, but of course ubergoals must also get some LTICurrency so they won't be forgotten. (Inadvertently deleting your top-level supergoals from memory is generally considered to be a bad thing ... it's in a sense a sort of suicide...)

Transfer of STI "Requests for Service" Between Goals

Transfer of 'attentional funds' from goals to subgoals, and schema modules to other schema modules in the same schema, take place via a mechanism of promises of funding (or 'requests for service,' to be called 'RFS's' from here on). This mechanism relies upon and interacts with ordinary economic attention allocation but also has special properties.

The logic of these RFS's is as follows. If agent A issues a RFS of value x to agent B, then

  1. When B judges it appropriate, B may redeem the note and ask A to transfer currency of value x to B.
  2. A may withdraw the note from B at any time.

(There is also a little more complexity here, in that we will shortly introduce the notion of RFS's whose value is defined by a set of constraints. But this complexity does not contradict the two above points.) The total value of the of RFS's possessed by an Atom may be referred to as its 'promise.'

Now we explain how RFS's may be passed between goals. Given two predicates A and B, if A is being considered as a goal, then B may be considered as a subgoal of A (and A the supergoal of B) if there exists a Link of the form

PredictiveImplication B A

I.e., achieving B may help to achieve A. Of course, the strength of this link and the temporal characteristics of this link are important in terms of quantifying how strongly and how usefully B is a subgoal of A.

Supergoals (not only top-level ones, aka ubergoals) allocate RFS's to subgoals as follows. Supergoal A may issue a RFS to subgoal B if it is judged that achievement (i.e., predicate satisfaction) of B implies achievement of A. This may proceed recursively: subgoals may allocate RFS's to subsubgoals according to the same justification.

Unlike actual currency, RFS's are not conserved. However, the actual payment of real currency upon redemption of RFS's obeys the conservation of real currency. This means that agents need to be responsible in issuing and withdrawing RFS's. In practice this may be ensured by having agents follow a couple simple rules in this regard.

  1. If B and C are two alternatives for achieving A, and A has x units of currency, then A may promise both B and C x units of currency. Whomever asks for a redemption of the promise first, will get the money, and then the promise will be rescinded from the other one.
  2. On the other hand, if the achievement of A requires both B and C to be achieved, then B and C may be granted RFS's that are defined by constraints. If A has x units of currency, then B and C receive an RFS tagged with the constraint (B+C<x). This means that in order to redeem the note, either one of B or C must confer with the other one, so that they can simultaneously request constraint-consistent amounts of money from A.

As an example of the role of constraints, consider the goal of playing fetch successfully (a subgoal of "get reward").... Then suppose it is learned that:


Then, if play_fetch has $10 in STICurrency, it may know it has $10 to spend on a combination of get_ball and deliver_ball. In this case both get_ball and deliver_ball would be given RFS's labeled with the contraint:

RFS.get_ball + RFS.deliver_ball <= 10

The issuance of RFS's embodying constraints is different from (and generally carried out prior to) the evaluation of whether the constraints can be fulfilled.

An ubergoal may rescind offers of reward for service at any time. And, generally, if a subgoal gets achieved and has not spent all the money it needed, the supergoal will not offer any more funding to the subgoal (until/unless it needs that subgoal achieved again).

As there are no ultimate sources of RFS in OCP besides ubergoals, promise may be considered as a measure of 'goal-related importance.'

Transfer of RFS's among Atoms is carried out by the GoalAttentionAllocation MindAgent.

Feasibility Structures

Next, there is a numerical data structure associated with goal Atoms, which is called the feasibility structure. The feasibility structure of an Atom G indicates the feasibility of achieving G as a goal using various amounts of effort. It contains triples of the form (t,p,E) indicating the truth value t of achieving goal G to degree p using effort E. Feasibility structures must be updated periodically, via scanning the links coming into an Atom G; this may be done by a FeasibilityUpdating MindAgent. Feasibility may be calculated for any Atom G for which there are links of the form:

    Execution S

for some S. Once a schema has actually been executed on various inputs, its cost of execution on other inputs may be empirically estimated. But this is not the only case in which feasibility may be estimated. For example, if goal G inherits from goal G1,and most children of G1 are achievable with a certain feasibility, then probably G is achievable with that same feasibility as well. This allows feasibility estimation even in cases where no plan for achieving G yet exists, e.g. if the plan can be produced via predicate schematization, but such schematization has not yet been carried out.

Feasibility then connects with importance as follows. Important goals will get more STICurrency to spend, thus will be able to spawn more costly schemata. So, the GoalBasedSchemaSelection MindAgent, when choosing which schemata to push into the ActiveSchemaPool, will be able to choose more costly schemata corresponding to goals with more STICurrency to spend.

Goal Based Schema Selection

Next, the GoalBasedSchemaSelection selects schemata to be placed into the ActiveSchemaPool. It does this by choosing goals G, and then choosing schemata that are alleged to be useful for achieving these goals. It chooses goals via a fitness function that combines promise and feasibility. This involves solving an optimization problem: figuring out how to maximize the odds of getting a lot of goal-important stuff done within the available amount of (memory and space) effort. Potentially this optimization problem can get quite subtle, but initially some simple heuristics are satisfactory. (One subtlety involves handling dependencies between goals, as represented by constraint-bearing RFS's.)

Given a goal, the GBSS MindAgent chooses a schema to achieve that goal via the heuristic of selecting the one that maximizes a fitness function balancing the estimated effort required to achieve the goal via executing the schema, with the estimated probability that executing the schema will cause the goal to be achieved.

When searching for schemata to achieve G, and estimating their effort, one factor to be taken into account is the set of schemata already in the ActiveSchemaPool. Some schemata S may simultaneously achieve two goals; or two schemata achieving different goals may have significant overlap of modules. In this case G may be able to get achieved using very little or no effort (no additional effort, if there is already a schema S in the ActiveSchemaPool that is going to cause G to be achieved). But if G decides it can be achieved via a schema S already in the ActiveSchemaPool, then it should still notify the ActiveSchemaPool of this, so that G can be added to S's index (see below). If the other goal G1 that placed S in the ActiveSchemaPool decides to withdraw S, then S may need to hit up G1 for money, in order to keep itself in the ActiveSchemaPool with enough funds to actually execute.


And what happens with schemata that are actually in the ActiveSchemaPool? Let us assume that each of these schema is a collection of modules, connected via ActivationLinks, which have semantics: (ActivationLink A B) means that if the schema that placed module A in the schema pool is to be completed, then after A is activated, B should be activated. (We will have more to say about schemata, and their modularization, in the following chapter.)

When a goal places a schema in the ActiveSchemaPool, it grants that schema an RFS equal in value to the (some fraction of) the (promissory+real) currency it has in its possession. The heuristics for determining how much currency to grant may become sophisticated; but initially we may just have a goal give a schema all its promissory currency; or in the case of a top-level supergoal, all its actual currency.

When a module within a schema actually executes, then it must redeem some of its promissory currency to turn it into actual currency, because executing costs money (paid to the Lobe). Once a schema is done executing, if it hasn't redeemed all its promissory currency, it gives the remainder back to the goal that placed it in the ActiveSchemaPool.

When a module finishes executing, it passes promissory currency to the other modules to which it points with ActivationLinks.

The network of modules in the ActiveSchemaPool is a digraph (whose links are ActivationLinks), because some modules may be shared within different overall schemata. Each module must be indexed via which schemata contain it, and each schema must be indexed via which goal(s) want it in the Active Schema Pool.


Finally, we have the process of trying to figure out how to achieve goals, i.e. trying to learn links between ExecutionLinks and goals G. This process should be focused on goals that have a high importance but for which feasible achievement-methodologies are not yet known. Predicate schematization is one way of achieving this; another is MOSES procedure evolution.