Language Model Agents Suffer from Compositional Generalization in Web Automation


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Language model agents (LMA) recently emerged as a promising paradigm on muti-step decision making tasks, often outperforming humans and other reinforcement learning agents. Despite the promise, their performance on real-world applications that often involve combinations of tasks is still underexplored. In this work, we introduce a new benchmark, called CompWoB -- 50 new compositional web automation tasks reflecting more realistic assumptions. We show that while existing prompted LMAs (gpt-3.5-turbo or gpt-4) achieve 94.0% average success rate on base tasks, their performance degrades to 24.9% success rate on compositional tasks. On the other hand, transferred LMAs (finetuned only on base tasks) show less generalization gap, dropping from 85.4% to 54.8%. By balancing data distribution across tasks, we train a new model, HTML-T5++, that surpasses human-level performance (95.2%) on MiniWoB, and achieves the best zero-shot performance on CompWoB (61.5%). While these highlight the promise of small-scale finetuned and transferred models for compositional generalization, their performance further degrades under different instruction compositions changing combinational order. In contrast to the recent remarkable success of LMA, our benchmark and detailed analysis emphasize the necessity of building LMAs that are robust and generalizable to task compositionality for real-world deployment.
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