Getting aligned on representational alignment.


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Biological and artificial information processing systems form representations of the world that they can use to categorize, reason, plan, navigate, and make decisions. To what extent do the representations formed by these diverse systems agree? Can diverging representations still lead to the same behaviors? And how can systems modify their representations to better match those of another system? These questions pertaining to the study of \textbf{\emph{representational alignment}} are at the heart of some of the most active research areas in contemporary cognitive science, neuroscience, and machine learning. Unfortunately, there is limited knowledge-transfer between research communities interested in representational alignment, and much of the progress in one field ends up being rediscovered independently in another, when greater cross-field communication would be advantageous. To improve communication between fields, we propose a unifying framework that can serve as a common language between researchers studying representational alignment. We survey the literature from the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience, and machine learning, and demonstrate how prior work fits into this framework. Finally, we lay out open problems in representational alignment where progress can benefit all three fields. We hope that our work can catalyze cross-disciplinary collaboration and accelerate progress for all communities studying and developing information processing systems. We note that this is a working paper and encourage readers to reach out with their suggestions for future revisions.
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